Ever read a music review and thought, “Well, the article was nice, but why did they give it that score?”
No one will argue that subjective experience is a defining element of art, and putting a quantitative measure on an inherently qualitative subject can seem counterintuitive, if not damaging to the experience.
Therefore, as I decided to put numerical ratings on my reviews, I figured that a qualification of my measures would be helpful. Granted, I still reach these numbers based on my subjective experience, and two albums with the same score may reach that place for different reasons. However, here are some general definitions for my point system.
For singles, I have two measures: LISTEN or DON’T LISTEN. Seems pretty self-explanatory. I use this metric because, most of the time, a single ends up being a part of a larger, complete work. The song’s context within this work will ultimately determine my rating of that song. Until that context is established, I only give out a positive or negative recommendation.
For albums, I rate on a scale from 0-10 in increments of 0.5. I’ve found this to be the best way to provide a nuanced rating without the units being so small that they lose meaning (What even is the difference between a 7.7 and a 7.8?). Here is the detailed breakdown:
- Less than 5 = I disliked it and would not recommend it.
The lower the number, the worse I think it is. I try not to review records that I feel are less than a 5, and I certainly would never publish a review in this category of a young, inexperienced artist. These scores are saved for the big boys (and girls) who made big mistakes and can take the criticism (and deserve it publicly).
- 5.5-6.5 = I liked it, but it has notable problems.
These are records that I enjoyed somewhat, but found significant enough flaws that make me less eager to revisit the album. However, I still recommend following the artist based on their trajectory and/or demonstrated talent.
- 7.0-8.0 = I liked this record.
These are records that I liked that may have some minor flaws that don’t detract much from my overall enjoyment of the album. These albums may not be game changers, but I will listen to them more than once and even perhaps pick them up on vinyl or another physical format.
- 8.5-9.5 = This album is essential listening.
These are records that are significantly better than the rest. I will definitely buy them on vinyl, I will listen to them often, and I will likely put them on my end-of-year list. Regarding criticism, I will have little-to-no nitpicking to offer about this album.
- 10 = This is a perfect album.
Yes, I think they exist, and I’m not opposed to giving them out to new records either. There are obviously classics that fall under this category, and I may end up doing some classic reviews in the future.