What’s the point of writing a thousand or more word review of a record, examining its flaws and its merits in great detail, and then coming to no definitive conclusion for the reader to firmly know where you stand on it and measure their own opinion of the song against?   While the bulk of this website is based on objective fact, the heart of all reviews is subjective opinion and that requires a clearly defined system to ensure uniformity when it comes to weighing in on a record’s score.

There will be ten grades available which are based on the following definitions as to their respective value:

An Awful Record. One that shouldn’t have been made, let alone released.  These are mostly comprised of the all-but unlistenable songs through the years but also will occasionally include a few sides whose musical competence was completely overshadowed by the cynical and exploitative nature of artists or producers who shamelessly attempted to cash in on a better idea without regard to originality, creativity or artistic self-respect, which is a sin particularly worthy of condemnation.  While you may only want to listen to all of the songs at the bottom of the musical barrel at your own risk they can be a lot of fun to pick apart and often make for the most interesting and entertaining reviews.

A Creative Failure. These are bad records but not quite so excruciating to deserve the lowest score. Either the artist themselves are lacking in talent and can’t overcome their own shortcomings no matter how hard they may try, or in the case of more skilled artists who land here there’s usually a noticeable lack of any real effort or conviction in the material, almost as if they’re going through the motions. These records generally don’t have you questioning their reason for existing as the 1’s do, but all still have glaring musical weaknesses that make listening a chore.  These deserved to flop.

An Uninspired Record. Not terrible, just largely uninteresting.  These are the probably the lowest level of records that you can hear without being offended and may even contain some decent attributes buried in the mix somewhere.  Either these were ideas that simply weren’t fleshed out enough in the writing or arranging stage, or maybe the band wasn’t tight, the singer was off or the production was botched along the way without making it completely unlistenable, just rather unmemorable.  They at least had some semblance of effort however and are songs you may wish to give another chance, hoping their good attributes will somehow outweigh the bad on second listen while knowing all the time they probably won’t.  These are records that merely fizzled rather than flopped creatively.

Slightly Below Average.  But by no means “bad”.  Think of these as underachievers, a C- student who is smarter than that but doesn’t do their homework or pay attention in class and hopes to just skate by.  These records tend to be more generic in nature, thus easily forgettable, and suffer mostly from the lack of any key attributes to make them stand out more.  Maybe the best way to put it is these are records whose goal it was to just be average and in the process somehow luck into some spins, yet they fall short due to that lack of ambition.  Still these are songs that can be modestly enjoyed as long as you don’t pay too close attention to be bothered by their shortcomings.

Average. The single most important grade on the site, the score off which everything else is based and the one that is sure to be the most misunderstood.  Average is NOT an insult.  Average means that, in the year it came out, or if you prefer, the style the record fits into, it is representative of that ideal.  Put that song into a shuffle play for the year in question and it will fit perfectly and won’t stand out for good or for bad.  It won’t be a track you’ll skip, but nor will it be a track you’ll hit repeat for.  Fives are simply a decent example of rock music of that period, nothing more, nothing less.  If there aren’t enough fives being handed out (by the reviewer or the readers in response) then something is drastically wrong, because statistically they should dominate the release rolls, after all, average isn’t average anymore when it’s not the median. Failure to comprehend the meaning of this grade (and to apply it accurately) will probably result in an undue amount of outrage or disappointment in the scoring system in general, so be forewarned that you’ll be referred back here to refresh your understanding of the value of five.

Better Than Average.    Probably the other grade most likely to be criticized when it’s handed out, thinking it a backhanded compliment.  It’s not.  These are GOOD records, ones which deserved to make the Top 40 when they came out, meaning they should’ve been legitimate hits, regularly heard and appreciated, but just not quite ones that have you cranking up the volume when they come on.  If someone asks you what you think of a certain record and you answer with a casual “I like it” without adding anything more emphatic to the response, then chances are it’s a six.

A Very Good Record.   If a five is sort of a non-committal “it’s ok” and a six evokes a measured “I like it” response, then seven is the dividing line where the person starts to really like something.  These are songs that you’ll actively seek out and add to playlists and ones you turn the volume up for. These records deserved to make the Top 25 and be heard a lot and ideally even years later will be still instantly identifiable and enjoyed by most who came of age during that era.  Everything about these songs works, they’re well-written, played, produced and sung, with good lyrics, melody and beat with no notable flaws, but not quite transcendent.  An artist with a steady string of sevens is a star in their day. Just so there’s no doubt, these are records I’m strongly urging everyone to hear.

A Great Record.   Worthy of being a legitimate smash, something that should sit in the Top Ten when it came out and by all rights should help to define that era years later.  The eights are the neighborhood where the superstar artists reside.  These are records which leap out of the speakers the first time you hear them and when it ends you immediately want to hear it again.  You rarely grow tired of hearing these songs no matter how many times they’re played as they retain their special qualities long past their expiration date.  When you enthusiastically say upon hearing it, “I love this song!”, then that’s an eight.  The litmus test for this grade should be if you had just one song to use to try and convince someone of  the merits of your tastes in music and put all of your eights in a hat and pulled one out at random, no matter what 8 you grab you can’t wince and wish you chose something else instead, fearing that it might miss the mark with them.  If that’d be your reaction then you gave it too high a score.  The eights are for the ones you WANT to play for someone who’s slightly skeptical of your tastes because you’re absolutely convinced it will win them over.

A Brilliant Record.   Perfection.  A song you think should not have stopped until it hit #1 on the charts and stayed there until something just as good came along to knock it off its perch.  One of the top records of all-time, not just the era in which it was released, a song that should be known by everybody, regardless of their level of musical interest.  Think of these as you would tens with other reviewers because the tens here are reserved for something a little different in nature, so if a song gets a 9 I’m stating unequivocally that it is a stone cold classic and can’t be recommended any more highly. In other words these are the universal gold standard for quality.

Beyond Perfect. These are your favorite records ever, a small hallowed ground reserved for your own idiosyncratic choices.  When I stated that five was average, the median score, most math whizzes reading probably wanted to say that technically 5 wasn’t the midway point between 1 and 10 (since no zeroes are used), but in my grades five IS the midway point because tens aren’t part of the normal grading curve.  That’s why the 9’s are the perfect records for this site while the tens are something more personally special, thus not something that can even be used by others to grade their scores against.  The tens should be each person’s OWN so-called “desert island discs”, the records that connect with them in a way that even the greatest, most flawless records of all-time (the 9’s) do not.  These are the songs that if you were told you could never hear again life would lose significant meaning.  The tens in effect define who you are as a music fan and each person’s choices are unique to them.

 

DISSENT IS ENCOURAGED!

It should go without saying that the scores given reflect only my views, they’re not meant to be a universally applied definitive assessment of value that everybody should agree upon.  Most people are intelligent enough to understand this but in the heat of the moment when they’ve just read a review that criticizes a record they hold dear, or praises a record they can’t stand, that’s often when people shut off their common sense and react with passionate vengeance, taking it upon themselves to defend the honor of their chosen tastes that they feel have been slandered, or to criticize the perceived lack of taste of the reviewer who dares praise a record that they find personally repugnant.

In those instances, where impulse overrules levelheadedness, things have a tendency to quickly become personal, which has been the downfall of many a website, attracting those who only want to validate their tastes through argument while driving away everybody else in the process.  That type of open hostility is never good and yet nothing comes from bland agreement either, where nobody voices their opinions for fear of offending others.  So to avoid both of those outcomes this is a notice to encourage dissenting views by all readers in the hopes that it will show the vast range of opinions that exists when it comes to musical taste and bring about more interesting discussions.

The best way to go about this is never to focus on somebody else’s opinion and try to refute that, which is impossible anyway because you can’t argue taste, but rather to just state your OWN opinion and try to explain why you feel that way. Not only is that far more interesting to read and offers a unique insight into each person’s own methods of musical appraisal, but it also may in fact wind up getting somebody else, including me, to hear a song in a way they’d never considered before, thereby opening up the possibility for reassessment that other methods universally fail to accomplish.

Remember, don’t ever take a difference of opinion personally, there’s a huge difference between criticizing a song and criticizing a person for liking (or disliking) it and that needs to always be kept in mind.  Everybody’s opinions are equal so one can never outweigh your own, just as yours can never outweigh someone else’s. 

Besides, I’ll have just spent 2,000+ words detailing MY thoughts on a record, so don’t waste the comparatively smaller platform you have in the comments by focusing on my views, instead use that opportunity to share YOUR views.