[WWTAWWTAM]: Amanda Petrusich on Music Criticism & the Age of the Insta-Release


With the insta-drop of Kanye, Rihanna, & Kendrick Lamar, in the past few weeks, everyone has jumped to the genius button and clicked, clicked, clicked. Recency biases aside -- it's hard not to think of a comparison between music & sports here, just because something just happened doesn't mean that it's the greatest ever -- Amanda Petrusich, writing in The New Yorker, wonders about what these insta-releases have done to music criticism:
No one wants to be a doddering relic, squawking about the glory of olden times, when we churned fresh butter and listened to new records for a couple of weeks before bestowing numerical scores upon them. But, for me, the idea that the culture is now not merely accepting but, in fact, demanding instantaneous critical evaluations of major works of art feels plainly insane. 
In fact, there's a sense in which the whole industry has gone insane. As if Kanye, Rihanna, & Lamar's releases are knee-jerk FUs to the traditional releasing system made out of ego (in the case of Kanye) or impulse. Both those things, are what most critics are against in making their judgments. Which, Petrusich rightly points out. Indeed, it's hard not to think of these tweetable records -- hitting social media to a flurry of tweets and retweets -- as eschewing something fundamental about the nature of art, that is it's permanence. As Petrusich wonders:
Who hasn’t lived with a record for weeks, only to wake up one morning and find that it has suddenly unlocked a whole new suite of rooms deep in one’s subconscious?
That deeper connection, where music creates spaces in your mind, doesn't just pop up one day when a message flashes across the screen. It's an experience that takes time and attention. Two things that we should be focusing more on as critics and listeners.

Read Amanda Petrusich's article at The New Yorker here.


  1. Ennnnghhh...

    Sure, "something is lost," but so what? Something is gained, too. The hive-mind, live-tweeted, deeply socially-networked consumption of new music is its own kind of criticism. It's not a "descending" of "insta-critics" so much as it's an unboxing en masse with everyone. And the ephemeral nature of social media postings takes the bite out of the fact the reactions are knee-jerk. They don't preclude great long form writing from ever happening.

    The insane lengths and logical knots old media goes to justify its existence, on the other hand...

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