How to Review an Album Part. 1
If you have a serious commitment to music and like to listen with awareness and analysis of what you are hearing, than you have the potential to be a music critic. In this day and age, published critique has transformed from a privilege to a few to an opportunity for any intelligent and motivated listener. These instructions will explain how to write an album review and begin competing in the industry.
Pick an Album and Research: When deciding on what album you’d like to review, the most important factor to consider is how much you know about the artist(s) who made the album and the genre of music the album falls under. An expert in a particular genre or artist will have a very different opinion than someone who’s unfamiliar with the genre or artist. How much knowledge you have about the topic will limit your writing. To become an expert, you must do the research. Listen to artists and genres you aren’t familiar with and gain deep understandings of as many artists as you can, not just your favorites. Here are two steps that will engross you in the music and give you the insight to begin writing.
- Listen, Re-listen and Listen Again. Sounds simple enough but listening to an album is something that should not be taken lightly as it is the most important part of the making of the review. Listen to the album as much as you can and as often as you can and in as many circumstances as possible. Music is a fluid that runs through every part of our lives and an album should be experienced the same way. Listen alone and take notes, listen on the daily commute, listen to it as background music, and listen to it with other people too. Ask a person who you respect what they think about the album and understand their opinion. Music is a social medium and your readers may not have the same opinion as you. Understanding other points of view will help you engage with those readers of differing opinions.
- Take Notes and Ask Questions. Be sure to write down your initial thoughts to the album when you first start listening. A large majority of publications want reviews the moment an album comes out so you may have to rely on gut instinct to get you by. If you do have the time to really sit down and digest a record, a recording of your gut instinct will help you stay on track to your true opinion without being swayed by outside forces like other reviews or popularity. Ask questions like “What do I like or dislike?” and “What stands out to me?” to understand your own opinion. Don’t stop asking questions. Ask things like: “How does this album compare and contrast to the artist’s last album?”, “What is the album’s influences?” and “How does this album fit in it’s larger genres and subgenres?.” One method is taking notes track-by-track, recording all the different elements you notice throughout. This is a good strategy but don’t forget to look at the album as whole and not as just a collection of tracks you are reviewing individually.
Note: A common mistake many new critics make is being too negative or too positive. Above everything, an album review is meant to be critical so either completely shutting down an artist or blowing smoke in the artist’s face won’t accomplish anything. If you can’t find anything to like or there are just a few small problems in an amazing record, make suggestions on how the album or a part could have been done differently.
A lot of writing a review requires work before the actual act of pen meeting paper.. or fingers hitting keys. Next Monday, I will have a detailed instructional on this process and some of the other processes out there and why some work for me while others don’t. Stay tuned and start listening to an album you want to review today!