A Special BLURT Reprint, By Popular Demand: Or, How Numerology Saved My
Reputation as a Critic: “Too many superlatives,
not enough truth.”
By Bill Holmes
[Ed. note: Awhile back, official Blurt meta-critic Bill Holmes asked us
why we assigned starred ratings (from 1 to 10 stars; no fractions or half
stars) to the CDs we review. While our kneejerk response ran along lines of,
“Somebody eventually had to assign a one-star rating to John Mayer’s
last album…”, in truth, we don’t know! Everyone else does it,
though, and Blurt is nothing if not all about following the crowd and never
marching to a different drummer. At any rate, Holmes spent the past month pouring
over our CD reviews (at last count, we’d published 2,680 since June of 2008),
running percentages, creating spread sheets, parsing mixed metaphors and
simplistic similes, and generally laughing himself silly, in order to come up
with a coherent guide to our ratings. You, dear readers, can now know what we
REALLY think when you spot a review on the site or in the magazine without
every bothering to read the actual review! Take it away, Brother Holmes…]
10 – 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 10 you gave No Doubt?). You consider getting a tattoo of the album title
on your bicep.
09 – Possibly the apex of an artist’s career (assuming the
artist is great – Kenny G’s best album could be a 3) and a no-brainer purchase
for fanatics of the genre. Lands on your Best of the Year list without
08 – 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.
07 – Not perfect, but the good outweighs the bad. You wish
it were better but there are enough enjoyable elements to spend your money and
06 – 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.
05 – Average, some good but not most. You keep it but
probably only play it when you come across it in the stack. You won’t look for
it on purpose that often.
04 – Momentary pleasures, won’t last – not bad but not
memorable. Gathers dust.
03 – Bland, dull, nondescript. You’d sell it if you could
only find a sucker.
02 – 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.
01 – Horrible. Embarrassing. Vapid. Hire a lawyer and sue
the artist for damages.
[I hate assigning numerical value to art, but rules are rules; after
having to do so for several publications I think this is a good
overall barometer even though I still screw it up on occasion. – BH]