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Music Critics Love Albums That The Public Hates


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From The Sunday Times:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle3492137.ece

Critics love albums that the public hates – and vice versa. It's a

bout between Trouts and Bats

Mark Edwards

All right, it probably won't ever happen, but in the unlikely event

that someone, one day, bets you a large amount of money that you

won't be able to identify which person in a crowd of strangers is a

music journalist - without asking them directly what they do for a

living - here's how you win the bet. Go up to each person in turn and

ask them to name their favourite Beatles track. The music journalist

is the one who chooses Tomorrow Never Knows.

You can be sure of two things. First, nobody who doesn't listen to

music for a living will choose the final track on Revolver. An early

pop gem such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand, perhaps, or a psychedelic

masterpiece such as Strawberry Fields Forever, or a late-period sing-

along such as Hey Jude, but not Tomorrow Never Knows. Second, the

music critic has to say Tomorrow Never Knows. It's the law. If they

choose Penny Lane or Let It Be, they'll be drummed out of the union.

Like the rich, music journalists are different. Crucially, we hear

music differently. Obviously, we shouldn't. In an ideal world, music

critics would be a simple conduit between great music and the wider

public. "Here you go," we should say, "you'll love this" - and you

would love it. The truth is a little different. While there is a

large amount of music that is loved by critics and embraced by the

record-buying/downloading public, and a similar amount that is

shunned by both, there are albums that are adored by critics, but

firmly resisted by almost everyone else, and albums that sell

shedloads despite being ravaged by every critic in the land. The

former group is epitomised by Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica,

the latter by Bat out of Hell - so let's call them Trouts and Bats.

There are different kinds of Trouts. Some are surely just about music

critics showing off. Even if you admire the artistic intent behind

Metal Machine Music, would you really want to listen to it? Then

there are Trouts that are genuinely wonderful works, and critics

shake their heads in sorrow that more people don't appreciate them,

although we kind of understand why. Robert Wyatt typifies this group.

Critics love him, but realise that his voice will strike most

listeners as a bit odd on first hearing. In fact, "Wyatting" has

gained currency as a term describing the act of playing a song on a

pub jukebox that you know will unsettle and annoy other customers.

Fortunately, as well as being a brilliant songwriter and singer,

Wyatt is also a thoroughly nice chap, with a great sense of humour,

and professes himself "honoured" by the association.

You might think that music critics would give up on these Trouts as

lost causes, but no. We dig in our heels because we know we're right.

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is one of the best albums ever made;

nobody much bought it, but critics never shut up about it.

Eventually, 33 years later, it finally went gold. Okay, a lot of

those sales will have been to music journalists replacing yet another

worn-out copy, but still.

If Wyatt's voice or Morrison's masterpiece are far enough away from

the musical mainstream to make their commercial limitations

understandable, another batch of Trouts - wonderful pop music by

Aimee Mann, Brendan Benson and one-non-hit-wonders Cardinal,

masterful songwriting by John Hiatt or Randy Newman - seems to have

all the necessary ingredients for commercial success, but never broke

through beyond the "critically acclaimed" level.

In part, this is explained by the importance of image in commercial

success. Even in their younger days, Hiatt and Newman didn't carry

themselves like pop stars, and while Mann gave it a go, she always

looked uncomfortable in the role. Mainly, though, the discrepancy

between Trouts and Bats is due to the fact that music critics are

assessing music using different criteria than the rest of the world.

Or, perhaps more accurately, we're using roughly the same criteria,

but giving greater weight to some of them. Critics are particularly

keen on authenticity, innovation, great lyrics and - most of all - a

direct and identifiable connection between the emotions of the

songwriter and the finished work. We're looking for the musical

equivalent of a Jackson Pollock - it doesn't have to be pretty, but

it must be genuine. If you take a look at the list of Bats, you'll

note the almost complete absence of these qualities, in favour of

attributes that critics often downweight – melody, entertainment

value, immediacy, escapism, image.

Of course, these lists are merely the extremes. There is an awful lot

of shared ground. If you think of some of the biggest hits of the

past few years - the songs that were "everywhere", such as Hey Ya,

Crazy, Umbrella, Rehab - they tick all the boxes. Critics adored them

as much as the millions who bought them. We don't just like

the "difficult" stuff - although, saying that, you really ought to

find room for a little Wyatt in your life.

CRITICS' FAVOURITES THAT THE PUBLIC HATES

1 Captain Beefheart, Trout Mask Replica

2 The Fall, Hex Enduction Hour

3 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tender Prey

4 The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin

5 Robert Wyatt, Dondestan

6 Ron Sexsmith, Other Songs

7 Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music

8 Dexy's Midnight Runners, Don't Stand Me Down

9 Palace Music, Viva Last Blues

10 Scott Walker, Tilt

11 Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand

12 Slint, Spiderland

13 Aimee Mann, Whatever

14 Randy Newman, Sail Away

15 Brendan Benson, Alternative to Love

16 Cardinal, Cardinal

17 Van Morrison, Astral Weeks

18 Love, Forever Changes

19 Big Star, Radio City

20 Vic Chesnutt, Is the Actor Happy?

PUBLIC FAVOURITES THAT THE CRITICS HATE

1 Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell

2 Eagles, Hotel California

3 Norah Jones, Come Away with Me

4 James Blunt, Back to Bedlam

5 Céline Dion, Falling into You

6 Mariah Carey, Music Box

7 Shania Twain, Come on Over

8 Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet

9 Billy Joel, Greatest Hits

10 Cher, Believe

11 Dido, No Angel

12 Lionel Richie, Can't Slow Down

13 Ricky Martin, Ricky Martin

14 Cranberries, No Need to Argue

15 Genesis, We Can't Dance

16 Pearl Jam, Vs

17 Supertramp, Breakfast in America

18 Simply Red, Stars

19 Robbie Williams, Swing When You're Winning

20 Jeff Wayne, War of the Worlds

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From The Sunday Times:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle3492137.ece

Critics love albums that the public hates – and vice versa. It's a

bout between Trouts and Bats

Mark Edwards

All right, it probably won't ever happen, but in the unlikely event

that someone, one day, bets you a large amount of money that you

won't be able to identify which person in a crowd of strangers is a

music journalist - without asking them directly what they do for a

living - here's how you win the bet. Go up to each person in turn and

ask them to name their favourite Beatles track. The music journalist

is the one who chooses Tomorrow Never Knows.

You can be sure of two things. First, nobody who doesn't listen to

music for a living will choose the final track on Revolver. An early

pop gem such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand, perhaps, or a psychedelic

masterpiece such as Strawberry Fields Forever, or a late-period sing-

along such as Hey Jude, but not Tomorrow Never Knows. Second, the

music critic has to say Tomorrow Never Knows. It's the law. If they

choose Penny Lane or Let It Be, they'll be drummed out of the union.

Like the rich, music journalists are different. Crucially, we hear

music differently. Obviously, we shouldn't. In an ideal world, music

critics would be a simple conduit between great music and the wider

public. "Here you go," we should say, "you'll love this" - and you

would love it. The truth is a little different. While there is a

large amount of music that is loved by critics and embraced by the

record-buying/downloading public, and a similar amount that is

shunned by both, there are albums that are adored by critics, but

firmly resisted by almost everyone else, and albums that sell

shedloads despite being ravaged by every critic in the land. The

former group is epitomised by Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica,

the latter by Bat out of Hell - so let's call them Trouts and Bats.

There are different kinds of Trouts. Some are surely just about music

critics showing off. Even if you admire the artistic intent behind

Metal Machine Music, would you really want to listen to it? Then

there are Trouts that are genuinely wonderful works, and critics

shake their heads in sorrow that more people don't appreciate them,

although we kind of understand why. Robert Wyatt typifies this group.

Critics love him, but realise that his voice will strike most

listeners as a bit odd on first hearing. In fact, "Wyatting" has

gained currency as a term describing the act of playing a song on a

pub jukebox that you know will unsettle and annoy other customers.

Fortunately, as well as being a brilliant songwriter and singer,

Wyatt is also a thoroughly nice chap, with a great sense of humour,

and professes himself "honoured" by the association.

You might think that music critics would give up on these Trouts as

lost causes, but no. We dig in our heels because we know we're right.

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is one of the best albums ever made;

nobody much bought it, but critics never shut up about it.

Eventually, 33 years later, it finally went gold. Okay, a lot of

those sales will have been to music journalists replacing yet another

worn-out copy, but still.

If Wyatt's voice or Morrison's masterpiece are far enough away from

the musical mainstream to make their commercial limitations

understandable, another batch of Trouts - wonderful pop music by

Aimee Mann, Brendan Benson and one-non-hit-wonders Cardinal,

masterful songwriting by John Hiatt or Randy Newman - seems to have

all the necessary ingredients for commercial success, but never broke

through beyond the "critically acclaimed" level.

In part, this is explained by the importance of image in commercial

success. Even in their younger days, Hiatt and Newman didn't carry

themselves like pop stars, and while Mann gave it a go, she always

looked uncomfortable in the role. Mainly, though, the discrepancy

between Trouts and Bats is due to the fact that music critics are

assessing music using different criteria than the rest of the world.

Or, perhaps more accurately, we're using roughly the same criteria,

but giving greater weight to some of them. Critics are particularly

keen on authenticity, innovation, great lyrics and - most of all - a

direct and identifiable connection between the emotions of the

songwriter and the finished work. We're looking for the musical

equivalent of a Jackson Pollock - it doesn't have to be pretty, but

it must be genuine. If you take a look at the list of Bats, you'll

note the almost complete absence of these qualities, in favour of

attributes that critics often downweight – melody, entertainment

value, immediacy, escapism, image.

Of course, these lists are merely the extremes. There is an awful lot

of shared ground. If you think of some of the biggest hits of the

past few years - the songs that were "everywhere", such as Hey Ya,

Crazy, Umbrella, Rehab - they tick all the boxes. Critics adored them

as much as the millions who bought them. We don't just like

the "difficult" stuff - although, saying that, you really ought to

find room for a little Wyatt in your life.

CRITICS' FAVOURITES THAT THE PUBLIC HATES

1 Captain Beefheart, Trout Mask Replica

2 The Fall, Hex Enduction Hour

3 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tender Prey

4 The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin

5 Robert Wyatt, Dondestan

6 Ron Sexsmith, Other Songs

7 Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music

8 Dexy's Midnight Runners, Don't Stand Me Down

9 Palace Music, Viva Last Blues

10 Scott Walker, Tilt

11 Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand

12 Slint, Spiderland

13 Aimee Mann, Whatever

14 Randy Newman, Sail Away

15 Brendan Benson, Alternative to Love

16 Cardinal, Cardinal

17 Van Morrison, Astral Weeks

18 Love, Forever Changes

19 Big Star, Radio City

20 Vic Chesnutt, Is the Actor Happy?

PUBLIC FAVOURITES THAT THE CRITICS HATE

1 Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell

2 Eagles, Hotel California

3 Norah Jones, Come Away with Me

4 James Blunt, Back to Bedlam

5 Céline Dion, Falling into You

6 Mariah Carey, Music Box

7 Shania Twain, Come on Over

8 Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet

9 Billy Joel, Greatest Hits

10 Cher, Believe

11 Dido, No Angel

12 Lionel Richie, Can't Slow Down

13 Ricky Martin, Ricky Martin

14 Cranberries, No Need to Argue

15 Genesis, We Can't Dance

16 Pearl Jam, Vs

17 Supertramp, Breakfast in America

18 Simply Red, Stars

19 Robbie Williams, Swing When You're Winning

20 Jeff Wayne, War of the Worlds

One song jumps off this list and I say Bullshit. It is Hotel California. Nobody in their right mind hates this song. And the guitar work is as good as it gets. It is classic to the extreme. Ill take anyone on on this. Fucking Hotel California. Boss fucking tunes!!!!! Boss!!!!

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One song jumps off this list and I say Bullshit. It is Hotel California. Nobody in their right mind hates this song. And the guitar work is as good as it gets. It is classic to the extreme. Ill take anyone on on this. Fucking Hotel California. Boss fucking tunes!!!!! Boss!!!!

Is there any need to quote the entire post just to make that comment?

I don't hate Hotel California but I could also go the rest of my life without hearing it ever again and be perfectly happy.

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The Fall are Great, Hex Induction hour is not one of their great albums, Same with Nick Cave, Tender prey is not Nick at his best.

Now then, Trout Mask Replica..............have owned it for about 30 years, even replaced it on CD. No matter how stoned or drunk I have been, have never made it all the way through, maybe a retirement project.

Bloody critics.

Edited by Northern Monkey
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I remember a guy once did a show about Movie critics and why they always vote Citizen Kane as the best movie of all time. He said it's because talking about Citizen Kane allows movie critics to show off how much they know about film making.

But nothing is ever really liked when it first comes out. Time and perspective is what usually establishes something's repuation. Dark Side Of The Moon wasn't particularly well-received by the critics on its initial release. Sgt Pepper too was reviewed as "A good album, but probably not worth the 5 months it took to record it". But the trouble is, because those albums are still around, still selling, the criticisms become irrelevant.

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  • 11 years later...

That article is an oversimplification at best, annoying generic click-bait at worst. I know music critics. Some of my friends are music critics. Mark Edwards sounds like a hack.

I'll take the albums on that critics list over the public favourites list any day.

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