Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Greening of Music


Musical grade inflation is a real thing, and it's a real problem. The only real explanation: music critics in the 21st Century don't know what the hell they're doing.

Whenever I'm mulling between purchasing Album A and Album B, Metacritic is my favorite stop. Like Rotten Tomatoes except branching beyond movies to music, TV and video games, Metacritic compiles and approximates all critical reviews of a single entity into scores from 1-100. They also break down scores into Green ("Positive"), Yellow ("Mixed") and Red ("Negative").

You have to scroll down to the 101st album listed on Metacritic (37 most recent included in screenshot graphic below) to find the first album to receive mostly negative reviews. Only seven albums in that stretch earned "Mixed" ratings. The other 93 releases received positive reviews. Only 16 received scores of 81 or higher. Only one, The Complete Columbia Album Collection by Johnny Cash -- a friggin' career compilation from a friggin' legend -- scored above a 90.

What ails music in the 21st Century? This: Nothing is all that mind-blowingly great (except reissues), and far too little is (apparently) all that terrible.

Is that true?? Does 85% of everything in music fall somewhere in the "good but not great" category? More importantly, are music critics -- people who, by their name, oughtta be fairly friggin' critical -- that easily impressed? It's one thing to impress me, because I'm a pushover. It should be a different matter to impress critics.

This isn't Metacritic's fault. They're just compiling. But what a damning, depressing graphic, a sea of Meh Green, where everything in music falls inside 20 points of a 100-point scale, where almost every album is a B, where one act out of 101 fails the class.

Maybe music has been that pigeonholed into predictable categories and sounds. Maybe critics have gotten lazy. Maybe the Science Of Decent has been perfected. I don't know for sure. I only know that, until we see more yellow and red on this list, music fans will suffer with an onslaught of underwhelming, vanilla malaise.

Here's what's certain: Only artists and critics can rescue us from this grade-inflated mediocrity. Oh dear God in Heaven help us.

1 comment:

G. B. Miller said...

I don't think that's gonna change anytime soon.

I hear more jocks on commercial and college radio rave about a slew of artists new and semi-new releases, and I take all of it with a grain of salt.

I mean, seriously, is everyone coming out with a be all to end all c.d. that will knock your socks off?

I think not.