Monday, September 11, 2006

Music for the Masses.

I was just browsing through Amazon reviews for some of my favorite albums, which I often do while I have tests running and have a couple minutes of free time. Today, I perused the reviews for OK Computer, typically referred to as Radiohead’s masterpiece, to see what others had to say. Apparently there is a bit of a tiff going on in those forums at present because the former 5/5 rating got knocked down to 4.5 by some detractors that gave the album bad ratings. It’s a bit interesting to observe people’s vigilance about other people’s opinions, but even more interesting is when I also feel vigilance about other people’s opinions. Because hey, it’s their opinion, right? They can feel however they want to feel, right?

The issue lies in how such feelings are expressed. If I were to read a lengthy, thoughtful review that asserted that Radiohead’s music isn’t any good because it rehashes soundscapes that have been previously been dreamt up by other artists, or that Yorke’s vocals are perhaps too simplistic or scatterbrained, it would be hard to argue with such an opinion. But it’s fairly difficult not to be irked by mindless dribble such as “I have tried and tried but I just can’t enjoy this boring album. After the first half of Karma Police I just get bored and don’t want to listen to it anymore.” If you think OK Computer is boring, I question your definition of entertainment. Plus, if you bought it just to listen to “Karma Police” you are missing the point.

Bob Dylan recently came out with a new album and I’ve been a little surprised by how much love it’s getting. I think its current Metacritic score (which compiles most available critics’ reviews) is the highest ever. However, I think the impetus behind such praise is that Dylan has transcended beyond the poseur audience and landed strictly with the purists. Those that “get it” hear his stuff and think it’s great. Those that don’t – and they include me to a certain extent – have respect for him and otherwise move on to other music they find more appealing at this point in their life.

I have no doubt that someday Radiohead will reach “legend” status, if they don’t break up and go out in a blaze of glory first. I’m definitely looking forward to that day. In the meantime, if you think that OK Computer is boring but have no rationale at all behind your opinion, you’re probably better off keeping your baseless comments to yourself. Otherwise you’re going to hear a loud response from those that “get it.”


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