In Defense of the Critic

Just as there have never been so many opinions at your disposal as a listener, there have never been so many quality opinions at your disposal. There have never been so many well-informed and well-articulated opinions at your disposal, and the barrier to entry is no longer employment at a newspaper or magazine but the bloody-minded determination and audacity required to start a blog. But taking advantage of all those sources to guide your own buying and listening habits requires a degree of effort that audiences of previous generations didn’t have to worry about. You can find critics whose tastes and values mirror your own to a degree that a listener even 20 years ago could not have imagined, but you’ll have to do a lot of clicking and reading to figure out just which ones are for you.

No matter whom you wind up trusting or rejecting, I can assure you that the goal from this side of the computer screen remains the same as it ever was. This particular critic, at heart, just wants to connect you with music that will enrich your life the way my favorite music has enriched mine. For each of those consumers who read Coyne’s Sugarland review and elected to keep their money in their pockets, there are others who will respond positively to the album’s more sympathetic critics and part with that cash with a satisfied mind. I still recall how a decade ago, just after I moved to Nashville, I wrote a review of Steve Holy’s Blue Moon album. I was charmed by its mix of contemporary country and old-school Roy Orbison operatic touches, and described what I liked about it as best I could. A few weeks later I got a letter from a reader who said she had bought Blue Moon based strictly on that review, and was elated to have discovered her new favorite album. Each piece of music we love is like a dear friend, and to introduce someone to a new friend is an honor indeed.

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