My older brother is a very talented individual. He’s both an incredible writer, and musician, and all around a great guy who knows just a little bit about everything. Throughout my formative years, my brother played a large role in shaping the person I am today, helping me to appreciate things like music, film, and literature, as art rather than simply entertainment, as well as influencing my specific tastes. If it wasn’t for my brother’s influence, I probably wouldn’t be at university studying film. I probably wouldn’t have such a love of all things creative. I probably wouldn’t be here writing, reviewing, and critiquing. His guidance taught me to not only listen to, watch, or read something and base its quality on whether or not I enjoyed it, but to deconstruct it, analyse the elements, the parts which make up the whole, and then decide whether they are good, and if they in turn create a cohesive and impressive final product. He instilled in me a belief which I carry to this day, that there exists objectively good, and bad creations in all art forms, but for the most part, art is subjective and open to interpretation.
This is one of the major issues associated with the concept of reviewing and critiquing. Alongside the rise of the Internet, came the ever increasing ease with which an individual can share their views and opinions with a massive audience; the self became more important than any other time in history. Now, there are countless websites, blogs, YouTube channels and more solely dedicated to expressing the opinions of journalists, creative practitioners, or absolute nobodies. While some are renowned for their humour, intellect, or insightfulness, and some, it could be argued, have a more legitimate view than others; the scores they give, and opinions they state, are just that, opinions. Far too much value is placed on what Anthony Fantano (TheNeedleDrop), or Pitchfork, or Rolling Stone, or NME have to say about a particular album or artist. Just because they didn’t care for one of your favourite albums, or loved a new release which you couldn’t stand doesn’t make them any less legitimate, nor does it make your views any less valid. Art is massively subjective, and your reasons for liking something may be completely unrelated to the reasons someone else has for disliking that very same thing, and that’s okay.
The reviews I write and then post on this blog are not intended to be read by anyone, or rather, I do not expect anyone to read them. I write for myself, aiming to improve my critical analysis of music, film, and literature, whilst also doing my best to better my creative writing skills. My opinions are my own. I’m not attempting to impress anyone, or seem better than others for my particular tastes, no-one is better than anyone else for the genres, bands, directors, or authors they enjoy, no matter what some people might tell you. These pieces of writing are simply made available to the public purely on the off chance that someone cares enough about either myself, or the piece I review to find out my thoughts on it.
Another point which a lot of people, especially those involved with critiquing seem to miss, is that their is a key difference between something being good, and something being enjoyable. One of my absolute favourite bands are Blink-182, who, yes, are still a thing. I’m under absolutely no illusion that Blink-182 are what most critics would consider “good” music, they write fairly simple, and straightforward riffs and melodies, with lyrics that are easy to remember, easy to sing along to, and above all, catchy. If you judge their music on how innovative it is to the broader music community, or how substantial it is culturally, or how well crafted their writing is, then of course your views will return negative, but if what they set out to do was release songs which make people dance, which make people sing, which make people happy, and on the odd occasion feel emotional or inspired, then they absolutely nailed it. It’s all about perspective, and you cannot use the same set of criteria for each and every artist, each and every album, each and every movie that comes out.
No single reviewer is ever truly objective. Not one. All are swayed by a variety of factors, whether that be how well something is performing critically or commercially, how well the artists’ prior filmography or discography has been received amongst the community, or whether or not the critic in question has a soft spot for someone in particular. I know myself am more inclined to overlook flaws of new releases from a writer, director, or band which I have enjoyed in the past, and while it is entirely possible to acknowledge when someone whose work you enjoy might be lacklustre, it at the same time, is very easy be more forgiving than you would of someone who you are unfamiliar with. In the end, perhaps the most important part in all of this is understanding that there is no authoritative opinion on anything, other than your own. By all means, read and watch all the reviews you want, I do, but take them with a grain of salt. Just because they have a degree, just because they play some instruments, just because they own a nice camera, doesn’t mean they’re right. Enjoy the things you enjoy for your own reasons, and let idiots like me argue over the technicalities.
– Kieran Griffiths