Haters Gonna Hate, Critics Gotta Criticize

Tom Dougherty
With all due respect to my esteemed colleague John Roderick, hating on hating is the most tired kind of hating there is. Especially when it's the complaint, commonly leveled, that music critics should be more positive and just promote what's good instead of critiquing what's bad. Critique . . . what does that word sound like? Oh, yeah: critic. It's the nature of the job to criticize, to have opinions positive and negative, and to express both in a way that makes for good reading. Especially in this day and age, if people only want recommendation--not critique or discussion--there are plenty more efficient avenues for that than finding a writer whose tastes align with their own. Algorithms can do that. What algorithms can't do (yet) is crack jokes, express joy, and wallow in rage and apoplexy at the state of some musical abomination--that's what critics are for. "People don't want to learn the reasons to hate something, they want to be turned on to something good"--tell that to Lester Bangs (and, yes, I realize we can't all be Lester Bangs).

I bring this up because I read Roderick's piece and instantly thought, "Oh, someone's shown him a draft of my piece about Macklemore and the Head and the Heart." Respect due as well to Nick Feldman's fine (and fairly effusive) profile of Macklemore last week, but my take is that Macklemore, along with those Sub Pop folkies, represents a troubling appetite for schmaltzy, over-enunciated "sincerity" in Seattle, and that it leaves us all looking kind of cheeseball. One tangent I didn't have room to pursue in that piece: I mention British dopes Mumford and Sons in comparison to The Head and the Heart, and I wanted to include the well-reported story about how, at some festival last year, irascible Fall frontman Mark E. Smith heard Mumford and Sons warming up and threw a bottle at them, later explaining, "I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers." This is the thing: There are the people who think that everyone should just say something nice, and then there are the people who chuck bottles at shit that sounds like rubbish. I'll side with the bottle-throwers every time.

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