So you wanna know what we mean when we review some artist’s latest brain fart and assign a “3” rating, do ya? Oh, you are so gonna regret asking….
By Thee Editors
Ed. note: Awhile back, we published the FIRST Blurt Guide to CD Ratings in which official Blurt meta-critic Bill Holmes, having asked us why we assigned starred ratings—at the time, from 1 to 10 stars; no fractions or half stars—to the CDs we review (our kneejerk response ran along lines of, “Somebody eventually had to assign a one-star rating to John Mayer’s last album…”) offered a remarkably lucid breakdown of what one star versus ten stars means, and all those pesky stars in between. In that manner, you, dear readers, were finally able to know what we REALLY thought when you spotted a review on the site or in the magazine without every bothering to read the actual review. In this TMI, OMG, LOL era of 8-second-attention-span Millennials, those so-called “meaningless” stars actually mean something, eh? Why read when you can graze?
Truth be told, however, star ratings sucked then, and they still suck, and we only do it because we have to if we wanna get picked up by aggregators. Although we did take some of the hurt out of it around 2012 when we decided to ditch the unwieldy 10 possibilities and just go with a solid 5. Below, you can see what 1 through 5 mean in the present scheme of things—with a knowing nod and a tip of the critical hat to Holmes, of course, whose original list we have hereby adapted. Enjoy!
5—An essential classic that will transcend its era. Think BLONDE ON BLONDE or STICKY FINGERS. You’d get in a bar fight to defend your rating years later. (Would you really do that to defend that 5 you gave Lorde?). You consider getting a tattoo of the album title on your bicep. And it’s possibly the apex of an artist’s career (assuming the artist is great – Kenny G’s best album could be a 1), and a no-brainer purchase for fanatics of the genre. Lands on your Best of the Year list without hesitation. And critics: it is understood that you stake your reputation on your choice of ratings, and that 20 years from now, you will still give it a “5” or you’ll otherwise offer to buy back every copy that was purchased during those 20 years on your recommendation.
4—Among the best of the artist/genre; you’d definitely refer to this album when trying to convince someone to give the artist a shot. Not perfect, but the good outweighs the momentary bad parts, and you will never feel like you wasted your money on the purchase. And critics: speaking of money, by giving it a “4” you pledge to hang on to this record regardless of what financial condition you ever find yourself in, and no matter how much it may one day go for on eBay.
3—Enjoyable for fans of the genre, but average for others. Not going to convert the skeptical, but a fan will be glad you made them aware of it. Yes, it’s “average,” but you keep it even though you probably only play it when you come across it in the stack. You won’t look for
it on purpose that often. And critics: by giving it a “3” it is understood that you are hedging your bets and not being too harsh on the artist because you know that at some point in the future you will either encounter the artist (and don’t want to get punched out), or you’ll want to score some more freebies from his publicist or label (so you want to stay on their good side).
2—Momentary pleasures, won’t last – not awful, but in no way memorable. Gathers dust. Borderline bland, dull, or nondescript. You’d sell it if you could only find a sucker. And critics: You are essentially announcing to the world that by giving it a “2” you immediately listed it on Discogs, or you put it in that box you use to collect stuff for taking down to the local used record store in hopes of getting at least 25 cents for it.
1—Real problems, poor effort, lazy release. You are pissed that you spent the money and/or wasted your time, and you make a point to tell everyone it sucks. In fact, you will even label it horrible, embarrassing, and vapid. Hire a lawyer and sue the artist for damages. And critics: On that rare occasion that you actually grow a set of balls and tell it like it is by giving it a “1” you are making it clear that you are either (a) nursing a personal beef with the artist and defiantly using your bully pulpit to get back at him; or (b) you are finally retiring from the music journalism business because after giving enough “1” ratings no record label on the planet would be dumb enough to keep sending you free swag. Forget ever scoring concert tickets, too.