Do Music Critics Even Matter?
I always wonder how artists take critics, bad critics. You’re gonna say, it depends, some probably refuse to read anything or at least say so, but it’s really hard to imagine you can ignore everything that people say and write about you! I am sure I won’t never be able to do so. I stumbled on this old recording on Facebook, Ryan Adams’ furious message that he left on the answering machine of Chicago music critic Jim DeRogatis, after the publication of his review of the alt-rocker’s gig at the Riviera Theater in Chicago in 2003. If you read the review you will see it was a complete character assassination, a point by point dismantlement of a show, which ends up with this: ‘Absent an historical musical context or a functioning b.s. detector, it is possible to mistake Adams for being as talented and clever as he thinks he is. But then there are plenty of people who can’t tell the difference between plastic flowers and real ones, until they bend over to take a whiff.’ Ouch! No matter how bad the show was — and it can’t have been that bad – it is obvious that DeRogatis hates Adams, so why even bother going and writing a review?
As much as I hate critics who kiss everyone’s ass, sentences like this one or many others in the review are totally unfair: ‘The concert was proof once more that Adams is his own worst enemy, detracting from his modest talent by thinking that every idea he has is a good one, and thereby giving us as much garbage as greatness.’ That’s why it is easy to understand Ryan’s reaction and his very angry message,… but what was his point? In a petty move, DeRogatis posted the message on YouTube and won again while making Ryan look like an angry and immature guy who couldn’t take some harsh critic. Whatever you think of Ryan Adams, this rant has to affect your idea of him,… he sounds a bit like a poor cry baby.
Critics always have the bad role, if they rave about a show, they have to be sellout whores, but if they honestly write about a show they didn’t like, suddenly they are gonna be some fat losers (and DeRogatis is kind of fat) some envious critics or failed musicians who are jealous of the success of real artists. Do even critics matter? I am certain that Adams’ fans are gonna defend him as they should, and his detractors are gonna agree with DeRogatis about Wilco being a much better band… So what’s the point? There is hardly a point to write a review, especially for well-established artists with a fan base as large as Ryan Adams’. At the end DeRogatis’s review is just this, a review, an opinion from a single guy. Why does it matter so much to Ryan Adams that a fat guy sitting behind his computer doesn’t like him? DeRogatis is just writing some blurb for some dark corner of the internet, making a living out of others’ arts, while Adams is the artist in the story, the one who creates in the spotlight, and brings all this music to the world.
But listen to Ryan’s rant, that line about ‘Jeff Tweedy, who could burn holes through his shoes just by staring at them’, is hilarious.