Saturday, June 18, 2005

Everyone's a Critic...

There’s been some interesting discussion about reviews in my LDS Musicians email group. It’s very interesting to me, because I’ve been thinking so much about my own reviews.

I get some really mixed feelings when I review a CD.

I like reviewing CD’s in my blog (and at because I get to hear lots of new LDS music. It keeps me aware

I also like helping keep others aware. It’s been cool to get some feedback comments from some of you kind folks out there that have appreciated the reviews. Some have sparked some other conversations, too, and that’s cool. I want to see the LDS music scene grow, and so one good way I know how is to share news of new music.

I get really nervous, though, when I start judging the “quality” of a CD. It feels very strange to me that I would somehow have the right, or the authority to tell someone else how good their work is. Especially someone like Greg Hansen (I reviewed a CD he produced recently). He’s been working in LDS music as a full-time job for years. He’s got awards and credits all over the place. What about me? Do I have the right to judge his work?

Well, on one level I do. As a listener. The bottom line is that everyone who listens is judging it. With or without technical expertise. Someone buys it and listens to it, and judges whether or not they like it. On that level, I am qualified to express my own opinions.

Another reason I get nervous is when I review someone’s work from the opposite end of the spectrum. Someone who’s just beginning. I worry about saying things that could hurt someone and damage their progress. I keep thinking of how I reacted to some of the reviews and comments I received early on in my “career”. I keep thinking of the Harry Chapin song, “Mr Tanner” That song can still make me cry when I read the last verse.

I remember attending a presentation at one of the lds film festivals, where someone presented a paper and talked about the lofty and noble role of the critic in improving art.


History remembers artists, and forgets critics. How often do you read an interview with an artist and he or she will say how they have to train themselves to ignore the critics, both good and bad? How often have you heard an academy award winner give an acceptance speech and say, “…And finally, I’d like to thank all the critics who panned my work. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be half as good an actor as I am today…”

So, With all that baggage, why do I write reviews?

Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I’ve come up with two big reasons why I’m going to keep on doing reviews at Mo’ Boy:

1. So that you, the reader, can decide what you might like enough to buy. That means that I’ll approach my reviews not so much from the point of view of: “Is it any good”, but rather, “If you listen to it, you’ll hear this kind of music”. Whether or not it’s any good in your ears will be up to you. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep my own opinions out of it, but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to sort through it and arrive at a conclusion about the music.
2. So that you, the reader, can be exposed to the wide variety of the undercurrent of LDS music. Songs that aren’t in the mainstream. CD’s that aren’t being heard in Deseret Book. Music that is fresh and new, made by people who’s names are fresh and new.

That, plus, I get a lot of cool music in the mail!

Mark Hansen


  1. I think there is a difference between, say, a critic like, oh, Ebert and well, me.

    I am not being paid to offer an opinion. When your job is to review things, you become involved and view things through a different prism than the person is... the end user er viewer er listener.

    Your opinion of a cd would carry more weight in my mind than that of an entertainment news staffer for DesNews.

    Does that make sense? I don't know. But that's how I feel. And here's the thing - a musician, an actor, and artist might not care what a critic thinks but history will not remember them at all if the average joe doesn't like their work. In that sense, we are all critics - the difference being the former gets paid to criticize while the latter (day saint HAR HAR) pays for the privilege.

  2. Mark,

    I agree with renee. Your opinion would carry a LOT more weight with me, than an entertainment news staffer.

    I love that you have helped me find other venues of music that I wouldn't have otherwise found.

    I appreciate your efforts.


  3. I look for critics who share my tastes (because what they like, I will like) and those who can teach me.

    As for Mr. Tanner, I've met scores of people who weren't good enough and should have figured it out twenty years ago -- and very, very, very few who would have had a critic's opinion make any difference to them.

    My two bits -- I'm glad you are here.

  4. Well, thanks. I appreciate your support in my own moments of self-doubt. Or at least, self-confusion! :-)


  5. There's also another reason to write reviews: for the entertainment. Well written reviews, even if its on something I don't care about, can still be worth reading.



Related Posts with Thumbnails