Letters to Jerry: writing about music

Everett True, his son and a stormtrooper

Dear Jerry

Re: My Advice For Aspiring Music Critics

Yet again, I disagree with some of what you say.

First off, number 3: “Most musicians are c***s.”

I have met several hundred (maybe more) musicians in my life, and most of them were not c***s: I’d struggle to come up with more than a handful of people I didn’t like. Some I really, really loved – hell, I even married one of them. Some are vain, self-centred and occasionally deluded, but most are honest and passionate about music.

By contrast, 4 I mostly agree with. Most people in the music industry are like hotel staff – they say “have a nice day”, but they don’t really give a s***. It’s not like they’re mean or that they hate you, they’re just completely indifferent and only nice to you if they think you can help them in some way.

Number 13: “Don’t ever try to describe the music.”

Wait, what? How is “the skewed angry f***-you attitude, and wonderful abrasive guitar sound, and vaguely tortured vocal” not describing the music? How is that not conjuring sounds from my imagination that tempt me into clicking on the link? Your job is to describe the music. It isn’t really anything else.

Number 14: “If you have to resort to lists to make your point, you probably shouldn’t be writing.”

For some reason, I noticed that posts with numbers are more popular than posts without, so I use more lists. Ever find yourself watching those cheap TV shows about 100 Greatest Lists of All Time? [Yes, I get that he's saying that in the context of a list, but it is weird how lists are more popular than non-lists.]

Number 25: “F*** hyphens.”

My colleague used to have a post-it note pinned to his cube wall: “James is not authorised to sign for this amount. Please resign below.”

Number 26: “Think a band sounds like another band? You’re probably right. So what?”

A fair number of the bands I like are acts I’ve investigated because someone said they sounded like someone else I like. It’s the easiest way to perform that magic trick to turn words into memories of sounds. You do it all the time – because it works.

Number 40. “Radiohead no longer make good records. Get over it.”

In Rainbows mattered.

Hope you’re feeling better

Jo x

:edit: On reflection, and in light of some of the responses to the piece, it just reminds me why I got the hell out. If you ever become that bitter and cynical, it will destroy any love you ever had of music. How Everett True retains any liking for music at all is one of life’s mysteries.

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3 comments on “Letters to Jerry: writing about music

  1. Yeah, I was a bit weird about the “don’t ever try to describe the music” one but decided to interpret it to mean “rather than just saying what the music is doing, describe why it is good/bad for doing so”. People will be able to hear the music for themselves to hear what the music actually is.

    PS Nice blog – I’m enjoying reading through it :)

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Posts 2010 « Reinspired

  3. Pingback: Everett True’s advice for aspiring music critics (revised and expanded) | Collapse Board

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