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National Public Radio Pay Rock Critics To Lie For Them


Here is a question:  Jason Isbell’s management company calls Nation Public Radio and says “Hey NPR?  Wanna stream Jason’s new album a week before its release…?

What does NPR reply?  Do they say,

1 – Maybe, let’s give it a listen first and see if it is any good?

Or do they say

2 –Hot diggity, darn tootin’ we do.

I think we can all agree # 2 happens, right?  I mean, maybe a smaller band might be dependent upon approval but an Alan Jackson? Or Laura Marling or Dawes? These guys aren’t auditioning, these gives are offering and NPR are jumping at the opportunity.

So every week five new albums are streamed before their official release and in all these years NPR haven’t had one bad word to say about any of them. The top rock critics of the world all get together and put their bylines on lies. They must be doing so: How is it possible that on 250 albums a year for five years (say), they couldn’t find one bad thing to say?

The only possible answer is: the writers aren’t writing what they believe.

In the immediate past, both Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson released meh albums to raves from NPR -it is like everybody has become Peter Travers. Neither album is terrible; they are OK, a little bit better than OK here and there. So here is Jason Heller on the new Jason Isbell album: “the album balances clarity and grit in a way that highlights Isbell’s competing halves: On one side, he’s an immaculate songsmith of the old-school tradition; on the other, he’s a rebel with ragged edges.” Perhaps, but  he is not an immaculate tunesmith on this album, some of the the songs here are weak and that review isn’t truth, it is public relations. Look, I am willing to give the “ Pitchfork, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Weird Tales,, Alternative Press, Decibel, and others” writer the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Heller and I simply disagree. But how much can NPR writers and I disagree over thousands of albums? They can’t all be great and they aren’t all great so why are writers like Ann Powers claiming they are all great?

I am not taking a scalpel to fine writers, just to their fine writing on “First Run”. Why are they saying stuff we can’t possibly believe? Or are we to believe that NPR vet their writers reviews and only post the positive ones? Which is, of course, censorship.

The message here is NPR are paying people to be professional liars. Joy Williams, Houndmouth, Jenny Lewis, Trampled By Turtles, the godawful new Veruca Salt, on and on and on  -an endless list of fair to middling (to bad) albums, sucked dry of any truth in false reviews.

Perhaps more distractingly, NPR is a publicly funded entity answerable to the people, why are they paying off rock stars by writing PR blurbs. How little integrity can they possibly have?

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