The other day my editor told me not to use a particular word in a story because he was "allergic to clichés." (The word was


Words No Music Writer Should Ever Use Again


The other day my editor told me not to use a particular word in a story because he was "allergic to clichés." (The word was "magic.") After I finished crying and soaking my head in a warm bucket of Epsom salt, I started thinking about what else should be retired from music writing. This is my partial list of overused words and phrases that make everyone sound like everyone else:

  • "Sophomore effort"

    This synonym for "second album" has become an irritating tic.

  • "Songwriting duties."

    Also: Lead guitar duties, drumming duties, and weed procurement duties. Duties of all kinds are hereby banished.

  • "Drops"

    As in, "The album drops this Tuesday." This expression has such a shrill air of inside information and clubbiness. So up-to-the-minute is the writer, so tuned in to the fast pace of dramatic music industry developments, that commonly understood expressions such as "goes on sale" or "is released" become impossibly mundane.

  • "By turns"

    "Their music is by turns funky, dissonant, and waffle-twatty."

    It's hard to resist this phrase because it makes you feel so New York Times-y and gives you cover to pile on a bunch of adjectives instead of finding a more distinctive way of describing something. It has to go. Not only because it's overused, but also because there is in fact nothing surprising or unusual about an artist with contrasting qualities.

  • "Genre-busting," "genre-defying," "genre-hopping," and all variations thereof.

    Usually used as if the brave musician in question were risking attack by an angry mob of musical purists.

  • "Experimental," "Avant"

    Sure, some music really is experimental, but the word is usually used in reference to an imitation of Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, John Cage, or some other artist who was experimental 40 or 50 years ago. Experiments are overrated anyway. It's not that hard to come up with some idiotic thing that no one has done before. I'll take "good" over "innovative" any day.

    And a couple more tropes I'd like to see end:

  • Beginning an article with a description of where the band is during the interview and whatever trivial thing it is they're doing at that moment. "Speaking to me on the phone from Iowa City, [Bearded Indie Rock Man] is enthusing over the fantastic fish taco he's just had. 'Fish tacos!' he exclaims. 'In Iowa, can you believe it?'"

    This isn't "setting the scene," it's "boring the shit out of the readers."

  • Talking about punk rock as if it were the gold standard of authenticity and passion. I hate being told that honky tonk was the punk rock of its time, or bebop was the punk rock of its time. Country and jazz do not need validation from petulant, musically illiterate adolescents.

    This attitude is particularly unbearable when it takes the form of spooging over some singer-songwriter/alt country/acoustic whatever musician because of his or her punk rock past. Bah! Who fucking cares if they "played in a series of punk rock bands"? Fuck your series of punk rock bands!

    OK, what did I miss?

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