On Music Criticism

What is music criticism? What has it been? What is it now? Music criticism is tied into social class, race, and politics as much as it is tied into novelty and modernity. So, in one word, music criticism is, has been and always will be convoluted.

Case in point: I once criticized the song “Mr. November” by The National as being “bad.” I didn’t give any reason. The next thing I knew, I was being called a right-leaning moderate who was criticizing a song that was, among many, an anthem of change for the Obama/Biden elections. It was an honest mistake; in truth, I just disapproved of the excessive screaming and profanity.

At this point, no one cares about my opinions on “Mr. November.” In fact, I would guess that most would agree with me in saying that the song is not one of The National’s best — I should know; I’m one of their biggest fans. The funniest part of this entire episode: I am a moderate who often leans right on economic policy, and The National is a band that leans hard left. Classifying me based on the music I like and dislike is not entirely inappropriate.

Now, I don’t know how I feel about being so easily labeled by genre. I really hate being labeled a hipster for liking indie music, but I am pretty hip.

I would like to blame this all on an opportunistic and exploitative music industry, but that excuse has run its course with the meteoric rise in independent labels. What we accomplish now by criticizing music is anybody’s guess.

What is music criticism? What has it been? What is it now?

-Stephen Epple


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