Have you ever bought an album you were looking forward to, and it didn’t live up to your expectations? Perhaps before you bought that album, you went and checked Rolling Stone for their review? You check, and the big name website/magazine gives the album an excellent review. What is the problem? Do you just have a bad ear for music, or are the major magazines the one at fault? This has happened to me before, and I’m starting to look into the truth.
This has happened to me on numerous occasions, and most of the problem comes from the fact that I don’t just visit major sites for reviews. The site I visit most is a user site known as Sputnik music, and I find it filled with hipsters who will condemn any album that is looked by the mainstream media as good. They praise bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Flaming Lips, and strike down the major pop stars like Justin Bieber and, most recently, Will.i.am. who released a new (and awful) album this past week. For me, the bands I like have changed their sound recently and are belittled by Sputnik and its users.
There are points some of the reviewers make, and after I take those into account, I visit Rolling Stone to find them giving praise and critical acclaim for an album that I honestly just find decent; I like the album, but it doesn’t deserve a 3.5 or 4 out of 5. I looked at the recent reviews of RS and found that there have been no reviews below a 2 in the 2013 year, and that’s a load of crap.
I’ve done thinking, and come to a realization: Rolling Stone and other major sites are “Brand loyal.”
You can see it anywhere on RS. Any popular band that has been around a while never has a bad review. Rolling Stone just isn’t a reliable source because they have a brand loyalty to the artists people have loved for years; they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Unfortunately, there is rarely any middle ground between user sites and major sites. You either have hipsters who hate mainstream who tear albums to shreds, or you go with overly hyped brand loyalty. You may find that occasional review that actually is well written and gives a good and honest opinion. But those are hard to find. Sadly, middle ground will always be difficult to see.