Car Critics vs. Rock Critics

I will spare myself no embarrassment. Like William Safire, to whom I credit the idea of an annual mea culpa, I will not attempt to save face retroactively. These are not typos, transpositions of numbers or other copy-editing errors (although I had a few of those too). These are errors of substance and judgment. I can be such an idiot sometimes.

– Dan Neal, What I Got Wrong (and Right) in 2012

Link submitted by a new convert to (they all come around eventually), who adds, “Dan Neil is a treasure. I’m hardly a car buff, but I read his columns religiously. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some music critics do this?”

I don’t know much about cars other than how to drive and play music really loud in them, and I agree, the article’s terrific. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this in music criticism, too, though I’m not sure what the criteria would be (critiquing a car being somewhat different than critiquing a piece of music; the former is more reliant on objective metrics, no?). Still, it’s a fetching idea.

Does anyone in music criticism do this? Is it a good idea?


2 thoughts on “Car Critics vs. Rock Critics

  1. Long-time rock critic fan, new rockcritics fan I should have added! And I’m glad you liked the article!

    While there are some errors of fact in the Neil article, he starts off with acknowledging he was far too forgiving of a car maker [i]because he wanted to like it[/i]:
    “First and worst: I was too easy on the Fisker Karma, a range-extended plug-in electric luxury sedan built in Finland and imported by the Orange County, Calif.-based company. I really wanted this car to be great…But in the end, I see in hindsight, the car is too heavy, too overpromised in terms of performance and efficiency, and it is just too durably weird-looking to love.”

    So sure, at it’s basis a car review is critical assessment of fuel efficiency, power, and design, it’s the sum of those parts that is the car, and thus, pretty subjective.

    Or, put another way: frequently you see a rock critic acknowledge that great albums reveal themselves over time, but then, isn’t the converse true as well. That sometimes records reveal themselves to be merely good over time?

  2. What I think might be an interesting equivalent is to have a music or movie critic who has reviewed a lot of albums or movies in a given year, do a December or January recap of everything they raved about and everything they panned, and see if their initial judgements still hold (and why or why not). This, to me, might be more interesting than yet another year-end favourites list where they only highlight the cream of the crop. Plus — and the link you sent bears this out somewhat — it is a way to get writers to think about and challenge their own taste and their own assumptions more. One of the inherent problems of criticism, especially these days, is that things get reviewed and then never discussed again, until (unless) they’re ready to be canonized.

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