If you want to write about music, have no friends.
Not self-pitying, just a warning about what it takes to do this job correctly. If you want to be an assassin, you can’t get easily distracted by compassion. Same for record reviewers: you must be ready to kill, rape, sodomize, and write accurately about the value of music in its own right and in context:
I wrote this in an email to someone whose opinion of me I respect, but wanted to be very clear about what my obligations can and cannot be in reviewing a submitted work. I figured I’d elaborate, because these words should exist somewhere:
This will sound like horseshit, but it’s not: a really good reviewer has no friends, and isn’t nice. He must be honest, brutal and quite honestly biased AGAINST most of what he or she hears. It’s not a job for people who like people, which is why I’m only partially good at it.
If you send anything here, keep in mind that it’s my job to be harsh
A good reviewer walks alone. If your dedication is to the music, a subset of art, and thus to the integrity of individual works and their genres, you have to be a real critic. That does not mean someone who is blanket negative, but someone who is able to look into the purpose a work serves and comment on it. Your job is to find artistic vitality only if it exists. 99% of reviewers do not understand this and either approve of everything (which makes them popular with labels and fans, who have short attention spans) or are poseurish negatives who hate everything even if it’s good.
The problem is this: there are many more good people out there than there are musicians who express something profound. Our time on life is short, and we only want the great music, because anything else is filling your time with something relatively inconsequential. Great art requires natural talent, discipline to get control of it, and finally, some stirring in the soul that gives you some content. What passion of life, what conflict and what love, do you express? Most bands express nothing more than wanting to be a band.
Even many good people just want to participate, and so make worshipful but contentless tributes to their favorite genres.
The above makes me sound like Satan or Stalin, but it’s all true. To be a good reviewer, you cannot be a friend to anyone. You must be a reviewer and you must be cynical. Most music is passing in its value, and will be forgotten before the ink dries… your job is to pull out the eternal, and in so doing, you need high standards, and in doing that, you will alienate almost everyone you know and become a leper-like pariah who wanders the earth alone, scorned even by his cats. – Facerook