Ed Sheeran Couldn’t Be More Wrong About Music Critics
Sure. In one respect, Ed Sheeran is right. Recently in a Rolling Stone spread, the British pop star said music critics are useless in the age of streaming. “Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It’s freely available! Make up your own mind.” Due to streaming, you don’t have to stand in the lobby of the record store clutching your $20.00 allowance, wondering apprehensively what two precious albums you should purchase after reading the review section of Rolling Stone or Spin.
With every single piece of recorded music now right at your fingertips, spending time reading professional reviews may seem silly. But the problem is that you have every single piece of recorded music right at your fingertips, which means we’ve gone from not enough options, to way too many. An average of 60,000 new tracks are uploaded to the Spotify platform every day, meaning a new song goes live every 1.4 seconds, and around 22 million new tracks are being added each year. Oh, and those numbers are increasing over time. In 2019 for example, it was 40,000 new tracks going live each day.
So sure, if you want to hear the new Ed Sheeran album, you can queue it up and see for yourself if it’s something that resonates with you. But what if you think Ed Sheeran and most popular music sucks, and don’t know what you want to listen to. What if you want to find the music that most suits you? 17 years ago before streaming was a thing and anyone could produce an album in their bedroom on an iPhone, finding your favorite music was less daunting of a task. Now it’s virtually impossible without some guidance, and it’s getting more impossible every single day.
Just take the tiny little corner of the music universe where independent country, good mainstream country, and Americana/roots fans hang out. Just last week on March 24th, 22 albums were released, and that was the list of ones personally curated by a music critic. The full number was over 30. Also appreciate that these albums aren’t getting shorter. One of those March 24th albums was Gettin’ Old by Luke Comes that had a whopping 18 tracks. That’s paltry though compared to Zach Bryan’s American Heartbreak with 34 tracks, or Morgan Wallen’s 36-track One Thing At A Time. We’re in the middle of a musical arms race, with listeners getting so buried in a dizzying sea of options, it’s hard to breathe.
This is where the music critic comes into play in 2023. Sure, with playlists, recommendation algorithms, social media, and other curation points, the role of the professional critic has diminished to an extent, and evolved. But someone has to actually get out there into the real world and discover the next Ed Sheeran. With so much music and so many holes in people’s perspectives created by algorithmic experiences, critics out there digging through reams of submissions and watching many hours of live performances to find what everyone else is missing is an essential part of the musical environment.
Take Saving Country Music for example. This place should no longer exist according to conventional wisdom. This is a web 1.0 property in a web 2.5 world. Who reads blogs anymore, or even goes to standalone websites? Tons of people do actually, and one of the reasons Saving Country Music has thrived is very specifically because it’s one of the few places where you can find actual music criticism as opposed to musical lifestyle reporting presented as criticism.
Music criticism is dead in many respects, but it’s not for the reasons Ed Sheeran cites. It’s because in music coverage today, seldom is heard a discouraging word as Twitter types with inferiority complexes suck up obsequiously to their favorite artists, similar to the puff piece spread on Ed Sheeran in Rolling Stone where his quote about critics came from. Oh sure, you can still find many music journalists lashing out at artists on social media or in certain articles, but it’s rarely or ever for their musical output. It’s for the political stances they take, words they said in the past, and other such pearl-clutching nonsense that has nothing to do with the music itself.
It’s extremely rare to see a review these days that takes a critical turn, constructively or otherwise. Editors won’t approve it, and many journalists won’t participate in it, because ultimately the journalist or outlet doesn’t want to lose access to the performer for future coverage. This is completely opposite to how it is in the movie realm where 50% of professional reviews are negative.
Similar to movie criticism though, music criticism now is often centered around identity vectors, while the artistic merit of a work is barely mentioned if not off-limits. Instead, attention is lavished on a performer for the level of vitctimhood they can cite, or the political beliefs they espouse, which ultimately is an insult to both the art and the artist, while strong, honest, and constructive criticism is a sign of respect, even if many of today’s self-absorbed artists raised in environments where they were babied find it foreign, if not outright verboten.
Ever since there has been art, there has been artistic criticism, dating all the way back to Greek society. True artists should embrace the criticism process, and encourage and foster it, irrespective of the curation qualities of the practice. Riffing about music at bars, barbecues, baseball games, water coolers, etc. is a part of life. Music means something to people, and they want to actively participate in it by sharing their opinions. Supporting artists, and engaging in coverage of them is one way to do that.
Make no mistake though, with Chat GPT, the proliferation of social media, and other emerging challenges, music criticism is under threat, and on the wane. Last week, NPR Music laid off 10% of its staff and discontinued numerous podcasts. Other outlets are cutting back as well as the bottom has fallen out of the ad revenue market in the current economic downturn. Even if an outlet is attracting readers or listeners, it’s still tough to turn that into revenue.
There are not nearly as many people reporting on music or art in general in both local and national publications as there were even just a few years ago, mostly due to the focus of journalism gravitating more toward politics and other culture war issues that generate more clicks. But artistic criticism will endure, at least it will for the ones who do it from the passion of wanting to leave the musical world in better shape than where they found it, damn the clicks and revenue. Critics have to work harder, dig deeper, and do more to prove their worth. Their role in music is not guaranteed. Just like every occupation—including being a musician—it must be earned.
Ed Sheeran has his. He’s a multi-millionaire performer that doesn’t need some music critic taking a chance on his album submission in a huge stack of them to hopefully help light the initial spark of interest in his music that may launch a career. When Saving Country Music was the very first outlet to review Sturgill Simpson, interview Zach Bryan, or report on Sierra Ferrell, who knew where they would go? Was it these reviews or articles that made their careers? Of course not. It was their talent, and the timing of their art that filled the appetite that was presented in that moment. But maybe it helped a little.
This is what motivates the critic—finding the next Sturgill Simpson or Ed Sheeran. And as long as there are artists to discover and careers to launch, there will be albums and songs to criticize. Because even when you have something negative to say, it still symbolizes that you care, and that you’re listening, even if the rest of the world isn’t. And that is why music criticism has value. Still.
March 29, 2023 @ 8:27 am
Cheers to you Trigger. You have opened my eyes to scores of artists I would have never found on my own. Thats the reason I come here, music moves the soul, and good country music should always be a part of the mix.
April 1, 2023 @ 3:06 am
Sheeran’s advice….. listen and decide for yourself, wasn’t directed at Trigger or any other respected, informational or educated discussions about music.
Every album that Sheeran has released, critics have ravaged and dismissed. Yet, mass public opinion has consistently disagreed with the critics and each of his albums has been wildly successful. Hence, the context of his advice…listen and decide for yourself. He is simply asking people to have an open mind and listen.
April 2, 2023 @ 3:54 pm
Maybe so but most people it seems are too exhausted for even that and just take what they are fed OR just sit back and play the same songs they have heard 20,000 times.
April 4, 2023 @ 8:38 am
It’s funny how many articles have been spawned over Ed Sheeran’s comment. Critics criticizing Ed Sheeran for having an opinion about criticism. Isn’t that a bit ironic? The fact is there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to think independently and make up there own minds, without this incessant need for validation from someone else’s opinion. I’m 64 years old and though my first choice is country music, I do enjoy some of Ed Sheeran’s music because he reminds me a bit of John Denver and music of the 70’s, it’s kinda nostalgic to me. But, do I really need some junior pinhead tabloid writer telling me I can’t like Ed Sheeran because “I don’t know what good music is” ? , or because his music is popular and it’s not cool to like music that is popular ? or it’s Pop …yeah so what? and a plethora of other lame unsupported ridicule. I’ve raised a family of independent thinkers and experienced a lot in my life, I can think for myself , I can explore new music for myself, I can choose for myself. I like educational discussions, sure. but do I need to depend on other’s to tell me what I should like? Hell no.
April 4, 2023 @ 9:23 am
I like a balance of both personally. And yeah critics have always been kinda assholes towards pop. Paula Abdul was my first musical obsession and while I still like many of her song just fine as pop songs I did have recognize at some point she didn’t exactly record masterpieces. Hell, she didn’t even sing on some of her hits.
It is similar to love love for overblown 80s actions romps. Critics hated most of these movies but so what I LOVE them. But I also know critics help me better understand film as art and that I can like popcorn movies and “high art” at the same time. I just feel like most people are content with one or the other and rarely both. And the masses like the popcorn.
But yeah I agree with most of what you said. I still think critics have a role.
March 29, 2023 @ 8:34 am
Agree on all points. True music critics are the way of the dinosaur and the dodo. We are long in the day of participation trophys for all, and no artist wants to hear anything remotely negative about themselves.Then you have the stan/ fan phenomena. How dare you criticize my guy….how dare you…..in fact, if you do, we are gonna take you down…it’s become a perilous task to give a real nuanced opinion these days. My hometown newspaper had a true music critic who would go to live shows and review them. He gave often unpopular opinions about bands and artists people liked. He once notoriously gave the Eagles a horrible review and incurred the wrath of many. Today he no longer works in that industry.
But, I appreciate that sort of thing. Like Jim Rome used to say about sports talk, have an opinion and don’t suck. In other words, be able to back your belief with substance. We don’t have to agree, but let’s have fun disagreeing. Kyle is definitely last man standing in this realm, and he doesn’t always get it right, but he doesn’t suck, and he brings reason and substance into his reviews, something we desperately need.
March 29, 2023 @ 9:03 am
My favorite example of this is Adeem The Artist. The first time I talked about his music, it was to nominate his song “Middle of a Heart” as Song of the Year. Shortly thereafter, he took to Twitter to say how I would never talk about his music because I was too closed-minded (paraphrasing). So I had to point out he was nominated for Song of the Year. “Middle of a Heart” ended up at #2 for Song of the Year in 2023.
I also reviewed his album. It was a mostly positive review, but I said that perhaps him equating Christianity with white supremecy and some other assertions may turn off the audience he was looking to assuage. For sharing such an opinion, I have since had a long-time friend and publicist blackball me, numerous others in the industry do the same, and Adeem has been obsessed with shitting all over this site since with false claims, including that I characterized him as a “coastal elitist” when in truth I went in-depth into his backstory about growing up in the review itself. He’s posted videos, gone on Twitter rants about me. Right now the guy’s Twitter handle is “Adeem The Kyleist.” I guess no good deed is left unpunished.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:15 am
Gotta say trig, that album review and the resulting fallout made me gain quite a bit of respect for what you do, even more than i already had. I disagreed with a couple portions of your review but felt it was mostly fair (the Columbine reference was maybe a miss lol). But it was insane to see you get absolutely torn to shreds by so many people for giving a pretty understandable and reasonable opinion. Idk i guess that’s pretty commonplace for twitter, which i never go on except for that instance. Pretty big bummer. Anyways thanks for what you do and yeah, there’s so much (GOOD) music out there i need this site to narrow it all down for me.
Can’t wait for the vintage jeremy pinnell review coming October 2031. His album “goodbye LA” rips.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:47 am
The idea that I was comparing Adeem the Artist to a mass murdering school shooter was such an unbelievably asinine and ludicrous notion, it didn’t even deserve a rebuttal. Clearly if I thought that Adeem was comparative to a mass murderer, I wouldn’t be reviewing his music at all, let alone nominating him for Song of the Year, especially for the song “Middle of a Heart.” It really speaks to the bad faith of today’s supposed intellectual rhetoric, and ironically, that mischaracterization came from music critics specifically who felt my entire credibility needed to be undermined because I had the audacity to offer up some constructive criticism of Adeem’s music.
For the record, I told an anecdote about how Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been called “queers” in the school lunchroom at Columbine High School, which ultimately resulted in them deciding to move forward with the school massacre, and then talked about how today, “queer” is actively used to market music like with Adeem The Artist. I did this as an illustration of just how far society has come, not some comparison of Adeem to the Columbine killers. Any rational person could understand that. Unfortunately, the people forwarding that idea were not rational. They opportunistically looked to twist my words. But the public knows better. That is why these ad hominem attacks do more to undermine their own credibility than they do my own, despite their Twitter echo chambers and their positive feedback loops making them believe otherwise.
March 29, 2023 @ 11:18 am
Definitely never thought you were comparing him to a school shooter. Just thought the reference was a bit of a miss and didn’t really illustrate the point you’re describing effectively.
March 29, 2023 @ 11:50 am
That’s a criticism I will take.
March 29, 2023 @ 1:01 pm
“Adeem the Kyleist” The hell? Why someone that can express themselves so artistically lack the self-awareness to realize they sound like petty children. It reminds of Jason Isbell calling you an “incel”. I like both of them musically, but what insufferable douchebags. Even if everything they say you said was true (it isn’t), why give a shit? Ignore it. Adults acting like teenagers. Drives me crazy.
March 29, 2023 @ 2:04 pm
Look, I don’t want to turn this into an Adeem The Artist thread, but I felt the same way. Both Adeem and Jason Isbell seem like thoughtful people and artists. And for them to just sort of devolve into petty name calling was really disappointing, and it’s disappointing to see them take that same tact with others. I’m all up for a good intellectual row or argument. A lot of wisdom and understanding can come from them. But when you resort to base name calling, it really speaks to the weakness in your argument.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:37 pm
@Trig–I think you’re in the same boat here as artists who get ripped by critics. Getting ripped by Adeem or Isbel is better than being ignored.
March 30, 2023 @ 9:05 am
Sounds like Kyle is their legal first name and nothing more.
April 1, 2023 @ 8:03 am
Might be, or may be a double entendre. After I reviewed their album, they changed the name of their record label “Four Quarters Records” to “Saving Country Music” on Twitter for an extended period.
March 29, 2023 @ 9:03 am
I remember buying commercial country CDs with one great radio single and the other 9 tracks were bland. I, also, remember trading a lot in for pennies at FYE. FYE was my first retail experience with independent music. I guess what we call Americana.
There are a couple blogs I go to regularly. This is one. There are a couple music journalists I really miss reading. There is so much we all miss. I spend a significant amount of time on deep tracks from Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, Gene Watson, etc. Albums on streaming that were probably never released on CD. I’m so far behind on podcasts I enjoy. I seem to stream more 90’s tv than new things. I try to always check out recommendations from my music friends, though.
March 29, 2023 @ 9:18 am
Basically in the world of fandom, politics is the only acceptable reason to criticize an artist so it’s the one people gravitate towards. What’s annoying to me isn’t so much I don’t wanna listen to an artist because of their politics (a reasonable stance I think) is that their dislike of the aesthetics of someone has to be couched in a political argument because saying I don’t like the aesthetics isn’t really an acceptable opinion in many spaces. You can’t say I don’t like Taylor swifts music you have to say Taylor swifts music has some negative political impact.
The biggest issue with this I think is it’s fundamentally dishonest. People don’t like artists for endless reasons and that’s fine. But a good critic has to be honest because art is not objectively good or bad, it’s an experience. What was experiencing this art like for you? Anything less than total honesty in answering that question is worthless. And I don’t think I disliked the album because it reinforced some negative political idea is honest except in cases where overt politics is in fact the point of the art.
Kids today though don’t know what it was like buying an album simply off the strength of being a fan of the artist and having it suck.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:27 am
This is so true, and it’s definitely true for critics. To many, the only plausible reason you could not like the music of Maren Morris is because you’re a misogynist. The only reason you can not like Lil Nas X is because you’re a racist. The only way you could ever say that Jason Isbell is on the decline or say that Aaron Lewis is a good songwriter is because you’re a right wing extremist. And ironically, a lot of the folks sharing these opinions are in the journalism/criticism space, which ultimately is undercutting and devaluing their own profession. This makes it compulsory to compliment these artists because you don’t want to be accused of being sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic, etc.
We’ve created an environment in music media where fealty to the zeitgeist of prevailing thoughts in elitist discourse is the only acceptable course of action. But like you say, this is fundamentally dishonest, and the public knows that. THIS is the reason critics are losing their value, because fans know in their heart these critics are saying what they have to say about music, as opposed to what they want to say. The disconnect between the media and their constituents is growing as Twitter and other forums for elite discourse create echo chambers of thought and opinions that are completely detached from honesty and the reality of things, and what the public feels in their hearts. Critics are losing their ability to persuade the public in certain directions because the public feels opinions are often being shared for ulterior purposes, often ones that are politically motivated.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:36 am
Echo chambers! Exactly.
March 30, 2023 @ 6:09 am
I think the artists themselves are a large reason for this. Many are on social media making their political agendas part of their identity. They stand on their soap boxes, then decry anyone who criticizes them as judging their work for their opinions. Journalists with similar opinions feature them as heroes taking a stand, and labels anyone who doesn’t like them as the enemy.
It makes it difficult for listeners of differing opinions to separate the art from the artist. And while political expression has always been a part of art in general, the subtleties of expressing these opinions in a manner in which all may get the message has been replaced with a more in your face lecturing. Agree with me or piss off. Many fans are choosing to piss off and take their dollars elsewhere.
March 29, 2023 @ 9:48 am
As you touch on, criticism of music or any other art form isn’t just about “this is good” or “this is bad.” At its best, it is a collaborative effort among people who appreciate the art form to look deeper into it, unpack what is going on, share theories and interpretations, etc. That is fun and enriching, and is what makes art really worthwhile. That’s why this site’s comments section is so important!
March 29, 2023 @ 1:37 pm
100% agree, and this is why I not only host a comments section, but why I read and respond. I may disagree with people, or sometimes comes across as too defensive. But I believe that EVERYONE has the right to an opinion about music, and I want to read it. I want to know what other people’s perspectives are too. I learn so much about music and peoples perspectives on it from this comments section. It’s an invaluable resource, despite the drama sometimes.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:01 am
I’ve been a pretty regular follower here for the past six-ish years. Prior to finding this site, I listened primarily to older country, as the new stuff didn’t feel quite right. Since finding this website, I’ve discovered numerous artists and albums that I never would have found on my own. While the music has been at my fingertips, there is too much of it – information overload – for me to find everything myself. What I’ve found – as a result of one critic – I’ve shared with others. My wife hated country music in the past; her playlist now contains folks like Cody Jinks, Charles Wesley Godwin, Ian Noe and – most recently – Cody Christian (she loves Canary in a Coal Mine).
So, yeah, we should listen to our own music, and make decisions based on what we like, but critics play a vital role in sifting through the crap. Thanks for what you do Trigger.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:02 am
Once upon a time 45-50 yrs ago (yes I’m 62 and other older folks will agree with me and remember as well) we used to actually go into the record stores and scour the bins looking for the coolest new albums and album covers to decide if we were going to gamble $5 or $6 on a record we’d never heard anything from. Sometimes we’d end up happy and sometimes not. I don’t remember actual reviews from magazines back then influencing my decisions but more often an article on a hot new artist might of. Today we’re very lucky that we can hear everything before we decide to buy a ticket or some merch etc…. but most of us are here because we respect Trigger’s opinion even if we all don’t agree on everything. We all look forward to reading this site and the reviews everyday because we know it’s the best. Occasionally I’ll see a review on another site but it’s usually very short and not well written. I hope I don’t live to see the day where songs, albums, and the incredible festivals aren’t reviewed/criticized here or anywhere. Not to mention and just as important is letting us all chime in with our opinons as well.
March 29, 2023 @ 1:04 pm
Even in the early 2000’s this was true. The best albums you heard about from musician friends and their dads and on truly independent radio stations.
Fat Freddy's Cat
March 30, 2023 @ 5:23 am
Yep. I’m 62 as well and that was how I experienced music.
I wonder what the demographics are of people who regularly read blogs like this one. Is it primarily older listeners? I’ve heard that the young ‘uns shun places like Facebook because us old-timers are there, and that for music they prefer 30 second clips on Tik Tok. For people like that I imagine music critics aren’t on their radar.
And of course the 18-25 group is considered more desirable by the music business, although many of us older folks do listen to music and many of us have more disposable income to spend on music.
March 29, 2023 @ 10:11 am
You mentioned the Rolling Stone “puff piece” about Ed Sheeran. Stories like that present a big problem for professional music writers, especially those whose job also includes reviewing recordings.
Here’s an example: Your editor tells you “I’ve set up a phoner with Chris Stapleton tomorrow. Talk to him about his new album.” You say “OK” and start putting together notes on what you might want to ask him. Do those notes include criticism? How about if the interview starts, he doesn’t appreciate your line of questioning and he doesn’t give you much to work with? Do you trash him in the story? Are you OK — more important, is your editor OK — with having Stapleton never talk to you or your magazine again? How about that interview with The War & Treaty your editor is thinking of assigning you next. They’re on the same label as Stapleton. You think the Mercury Nashville contact person is going to want the guy who pointed out unfavorable things about Stapleton to write about another of the label’s acts?
Bloggers like you have it easy. You have no one to answer to but yourself. You can be brutal on artists whose music or personal behavior you don’t agree with, almost worshipful toward those you find enjoyable. You’re never going to be interviewing Sam Hunt because you have no desire to ever interview him. But what if the next project by one of the artists you’ve been spreading the word on here, and have talked to in the past, proves a disappointment? Do you press the artist about those perceived faults the next time you write a story or do you only focus on the aspects of the album you like?
March 29, 2023 @ 1:43 pm
This is the exact reason I do not interview artists except in rare occasions. I am not against interviewing artists, but it can present a conflict of interest if either you or your outlet also engages in criticism. You want access, so you’re afraid to be honest. That doesn’t mean I don’t talk to people in the industry, but when you become buddy buddy with folks, you lose your objectivity.
March 29, 2023 @ 7:21 pm
It seems like it’s definitely good for some writers to focus on interviews and some to focus on reviews. It’s a bit of a different discipline for one, but as you say it could make it weird for sure. I appreciate the blend of historical stuff you write, and to be honest I probably listen to more of the artists from obituaries that I haven’t previously than anything new. It’s a great site!
March 29, 2023 @ 10:57 am
I know this comment is going to make your nipples even more sensitive than they already are, Trigger. But I was a music journalist for 15 years (and I made good money doing it). I reviewed thousands of albums. I was never a ‘critic’, because the majority of critics are failures in the field they write about and are bitter. I wrote about music because I love music. I may not like it all, but I can appreciate the work and sacrifice that goes into creating it. There were a few exceptions, I couldn’t write about rap or hip-hop, because I simply don’t get it.
The reason most critics suck is because they review stuff they don’t like, so they’re going to tear it down. Someone who likes Tina Turner shouldn’t be reviewing the latest Metallica album. Many ‘critics’ love trashing stuff because it soothes their wounded egos and makes them feel superior. Just because YOU or I think something sucks, doesn’t mean it actually does. I don’t understand why guys like Sturgill Simpson are popular, but people love him, and that’s cool, and I’m happy for his success.
Lots of people need someone to tell them what to like, what to think, etc. I get that, people are busy. It’s not hard to find good music on your own, if you’re willing to put in the time. Sheeran is right. And while there are still those who need to be told what to listen to, what movies to watch, etc., more and more people are willing to dive in and discover stuff on their own. Critics are an endangered species. But blogs like yours are needed and are safe. You balance out reviews with opinion pieces, news stories, etc.
March 30, 2023 @ 5:30 am
As someone who spent 40 years writing for newspapers big, medium and small and has known dozens of critics, your opinion that “the majority of critics are failures in the field they write about and are bitter” is just plain wrong. I know people like to say critics are failures in the fields they wrote about, but it is a lazy and overbroad generalization that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, at least for those working in the “mainstream media.” Maybe the outfits you wrote for had less stringent standards, but the papers I worked for employed experienced professionals and critics often held their jobs because they knew what the hell they were writing about.
March 29, 2023 @ 12:04 pm
It is not surprising. I recently attended a lecture by George Yancey. He is a professor who studies the cultural elite and academia. He explained how, despite their claims of diversity and inclusiveness, they are actually the most narrow-minded.
Most music critics are culled from that incestuous group. They have the cultural power and that wins wars.
March 29, 2023 @ 12:35 pm
Yes Trigger you are so right, thanks for rating Tami Neilson’s current album, oh wait you didn’t, you could have put off other no name artists, to rate later, Tami is a star, is it because of me? Yeah, now not only don’t you report the truth, you act like a five year old child, whose holds a grudge, because I call you out for your flaws. You think I forgot about Orville peck , didn’t you, when I suggested that you don’t rate it because of all the transphobic comments people like honky shit face and the other fascist bigots brain dead red necks on this sight would start spewing the shit out of their mouths and what did you do? You posted the review and made damn sure the bigots did not say anything transphobic just to prove me wrong, the trump anus suckers on this site always spew their bigoted views, on anything political on this site, but for some STRANGE REASON, YEAH YOU, there was not one bigoted comment.
I knew why this was, you always allow the fascist bigots on here to spew their hate, so why not that time? Definitely not out of respect for mr.peck, no not respect from some one like you, who allows this hate speech to go on, you did it just to stick it to me, GROW THE HELL UP, I use to love coming here, for the music articles, but now, I am a watch dog, I will call you out for all the hypocrisy, half truths and bigotry that you allow to go on this site, so no, I DO NOT want you to rate Tami’s album, you would probably give it a low score just because of me. So no thanks, it is your website do what you want ,but please stop pretending that you are this so called SAVIOR of real country music, you are not, i do not care if you post your little WHAT ARE YOU SAYING, crap, did I want you to post the bigotry over Orville peck? NO, but I know the real reason why you did it, and for the first time in your life, you actually MONITORED, OTHER COMMENTS BESIDES MINE, so just keep being you Trigger, and I will keep calling you out, I know you hate me, AND I DO NOT GIVE A DAMN what you and the rest of these backward ass fascists hillbillies think, but please, if you are going to call yourself a mouth piece for real country music, then stop all the bull crap, Grow the hell up, and instead of acting like a 5 year old, be the mouth piece for real country music like you say you are. I do not hate you Trigger, I am just wanting you to be more accountable for what you say. Like I said this is your website, if you want to keep running it half assed , and hold childish grudges against me, then by all means go ahead, I just thought you were better than that, sorry my mistake, oh and I don’t care what the trump anus sucking right wing fascists think, they waste my time, and they are not worth the waste.
March 29, 2023 @ 1:49 pm
Tami Neilson’s song “Beyond The Stars” was nominated for the 2023 Song of the Year, and her album “Kingmaker” was on the Essential Albums List. Like I illustrated in this very article, with 20+ albums coming out every week, I’m not going to be able to review or “rate” everything. But you’ll have an extremely hard time convincing anyone Tami Neilson has been ignored at Saving Country Music.
As for everything else you said, I think you need to take some deep breaths dude.
King Honky Of Crackershire
March 29, 2023 @ 7:14 pm
I gotta be honest. Knowing that I haunt you, to the point of mentioning me in comments sections I’m not involved in, is exhilarating beyond words. I sincerely appreciate you debasing yourself on my behalf, by making this publicly known.
March 30, 2023 @ 7:28 am
March 31, 2023 @ 5:28 am
This comes across equally as deranged as any Qanon/Illuminati/Ancient Aliens rant. You are doing a disservice to the political views you purport to represent and providing your opponents with an actual crazy liberal stereotype to point to. Stop what you are doing, privately contact Trigger and request a copy of all of your comments on this site then bring those to a mental health professional and see what they have to say. I do not believe that acting even more unhinged than your enemies is an effective strategy for dealing with them. Perhaps dealing with whatever personal issues drive this public behavior would allow you to take a step back and state your beliefs in a more calm and rational manner.
March 31, 2023 @ 3:47 pm
Hey, Brainiac, you responded to the wrong post.
Try using the reply function again.
March 29, 2023 @ 12:56 pm
Without this site, would not have found TAB BENOIT.
Via Corncaster and Trevistrat, no less.
: D just sayin’.
Wouldn’t have found Conrad Fisher, w/o Trig.
Have been waiting patiently the last couple of days for a segue article.
Conrad Fisher & Dickey Lee wrote a song in the last 2 weeks, and Conrad recorded it.
Trying to keep Dickey Lee’s name out there while he is still with “us.”
A sweet song. And, Dickey’s Dad actually did work on the ‘Frisco Line.
March 29, 2023 @ 2:10 pm
Tab Benoit is a legend! How did I not know he we mentioned here?
March 29, 2023 @ 2:34 pm
: D I am STILL trying to put the flames out after witnessing 2 hours and 11 minutes of blistering guitar.
And, that was over a month ago.
March 29, 2023 @ 1:02 pm
“ It’s extremely rare to see a review these days that takes a critical turn, constructively or otherwise. Editors won’t approve it, and many journalists won’t participate in it, because ultimately the journalist or outlet doesn’t want to lose access to the performer for future coverage.”
….like pointing out how Charley Crocket frequently sings off-pitch? Saving Country Music rarely gets deeply critical on “art” it deems to be real country. As if it’s sacrilege to do so. I have always sensed an unwillingness here to be truly critical of country artists out of fear of losing that sweet sweet press pass.
March 29, 2023 @ 7:16 pm
First, I don’t really feel like Charley Crockett frequently sings off pitch, so that’s just not a criticism I would share. I would disagree that I rarely get deeply critical on real country too. From my last Charley Crockett review:
“Since the styles Charley Crockett works in are always pre-70s, the songwriting is plainspoken, and for some audiences, maybe a little too simple. It’s this songwriting element—along with how prolific he is—that has worn some out on the whole Charley Crockett experience. Where many songwriters ruminate for two or more years on their ten song albums, Charley Crockett is dropping 15 tracks every six months. Everyone can appreciate the hustle, but it’s an open question if more is less, especially with the elementary approach Crockett takes to music.”
I gave “Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven” by Tyler Childers a 4/10, and was highly critical of it. Paul Cauthen, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and other top artists in independent country have received negative reviews here, and these reviews are usually the ones that stir the greatest controversy. So no, I’m not sucking up to anyone for a “press pass.”
Along with rarely doing interviews, I also rarely go to individual shows. I take in 90% of my music via festivals and conferences. If I do go to a local show, I usually pay my way in for the very reason that I don’t want to suck up to anyone for a press pass, and I don’t mind supporting local venues and artists.
Sturgill Simpson denied my press pass for the first night of the arena tour with Tyler Childers right after I gave “Sound & Fury” a 5/10. Fuck it. I’m never going to lie about how I feel about something for access. As I said in the article, this is how they control you.
March 29, 2023 @ 1:17 pm
If I said transphobic, I meant to say homophobic, been having to defend my transgender family member alot on Twitter, so prove me wrong Trigger, I am willing to admit when I make a mistake
March 29, 2023 @ 3:34 pm
Trig has to be one of the busiest people on the planet. Per your post above, I can’t fathom him wasting his time writing a review or policing a comment section purely to spite you.
March 29, 2023 @ 3:43 pm
I can’t think of a more noble deed than defending someone else on an online forum where people post anonymously. (Sarcasm)
March 29, 2023 @ 2:12 pm
Bring’s to mind Elvis Costello’s famous/notorious/brilliant/snarky line: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
But let’s get one thing straight: Any music criticism generally benefits an artist (or has no effect). The problem that most artists have to deal with is not people having negative opinions about them–It’s people having no opinions at all. An artist who has a million rabid fans and 10 million people who think listening to him is worse than getting your teeth drilled is doing a helluva lot better than an artist with 5,000 fans and only a dozen detractors. Anyone from Debbie Boone to Billy Ray Cyrus to the Baha Men would know that.
March 30, 2023 @ 8:57 am
Very true. While we’re dealing in quotes, “No publicity is bad publicity” is another good one.
March 31, 2023 @ 3:08 pm
i dont agree… i think negative campaigns from critics and music sites can give artists a very bad rep .. except those who are in the 1% like sheeran ..cause ppl would count on those sites to tell them if its good or bad..
March 29, 2023 @ 2:36 pm
Trigger, you’re perfectly right when you says that “There are not nearly as many people reporting on music or art in general in both local and national publications as there were even just a few years ago, mostly due to the focus of journalism gravitating more toward politics and other culture war issues that generate more clicks”. I think that this is something that happened in France much before it occured in the US. Music is not present as it was before in the society, in the talks of the people and in the news, because politics is now everywhere. They replaced what could unify people and make them happy with something that divide them and make them angry and sad. American people were cer happier when sports and music were at the center of the talks and not politics. What you say abou music critics is perfectly true. Couldn’t agree more. I feel lucky to be able to read your blog. Thanks to it, I discovered a lot of new artists. Es Sheeran doesn’t need music critics, but independent artists need them.
March 29, 2023 @ 3:56 pm
I like reading reviews for music / books / movies after I’ve experienced them, as opposed to just a consumer guide. It deepens the experience. The SCM archives are a gem. I recently became aware of Brandy Clark’s deep catalog and checked out her SCM history for perspective. On the other end, the guy with tha Applebees song was on CBS Sunday Morning and I checked him out here. I spit out my lunch laughing at his takedown. The comments can also be enlightening.in a variety of ways. Keep doing what you’re doing and if you can’t keep all the readers you’ll keep the right ones.
March 29, 2023 @ 6:17 pm
Great Chet Flippo, great Waylon story!
For a young, aspiring journalist, encountering Waylon Jennings for the first time was a fairly intimidating experience. In 1972, I reviewed Jennings’ new album Ladies Love Outlaws for Rolling Stone, and I did not review it favorably. I wrote that it sounded incomplete and hurried, as though it had been finished by someone other than Jennings.
At the time I was in graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin and was stringing for the young rock magazines Rolling Stone and Creem, and we all thought we were very hot stuff indeed. The magazines had been paying no attention whatsoever to country artists, but I had started doing some country coverage for them, arguing that the audiences were beginning to overlap with artists like Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Then, I got a call out of the blue from RCA Records in New York. Someone very important in public relations at RCA said that Mr. Waylon Jennings would like to speak to me about something I had written and would I be available to receive a phone call that afternoon.
I was terrified. Here, I had gone and offended one of the leading lights of the new country music that I was championing. And from all accounts he was one very tough leading light at that. I waited for that phone call and sweated. And fretted.
Phone rings. “Flippo?” Yes sir.” “This is Waylon Jennings. I just wanted to tell you that I read what you wrote -– and, hoss, you were right! RCA took that record away from me and put it out before I was ready.”
Whew. He went on to say that he respected anyone who tried to tell the truth and invited me to come and ride the bus with him and the Waylors anytime I wanted to.
March 30, 2023 @ 6:40 am
Man, that’s a great story. RIP to both Chet and Waylon. It’s hard to believe Chet’s been dead for a decade and Waylon’s been gone for over 2 decades.
March 30, 2023 @ 1:17 am
Of course, music criticism is dead we live in a digital age where artists can easily present music so what artist would send their music to someone else just to get a negative review?. However, I don’t think it matters because quality always wins out( see Zach Bryan).
March 30, 2023 @ 8:46 am
“what artist would send their music to someone else just to get a negative review?” Well but the fact is Trigger gets sent hundreds of submissions every week from independent artists that want an honest opinion so they’re willing to take that chance that it won’t be negative from him or the peanut gallery (us) just to get some validation and of course press. Tyler, Sturgill, and Zach don’t really have to care if they get reviewed or slagged on one particular record or site but to an unknown a review here is HUGE!!! I’ve seen their elation. I’m sure Trigger and other sites review albums that aren’t even “sent” to them as well. Now I’m Milwaukee bound to see Lainey and Ben Chapman……. maybe I’ll review it and it won’t be negative I can assure you. I promise I’ll keep it short.
March 30, 2023 @ 12:43 pm
Seeing Lainey and Ben tomorrow in Columbus. I’m just as excited to see Ben as I am for Lainey. That kid is just authentic as hell and a damn good songwriter and performer.
March 31, 2023 @ 12:06 pm
I didn’t need to review it this gentleman said it better than I ever could.. Everyone especially the little girl Lainey let sing had the time of their lives………reviews are important.
March 30, 2023 @ 5:55 am
I can see all sides of this. As a guy who remembers going to the record store with my allowance and having to decide between 3-4 albums pared down to 1 or 2, music magazines, word of mouth, and radio were your only source to help you decide. I am probably one of the last holdouts to streaming music, and only did so because my kid kept asking. Plus the choices available along with the cost to buy them started to become too much.
These days as a music addict I do exactly what Sheeran suggests and often spend time just randomly picking available albums and giving them a listen. I’ve found many great artists simply by listening to albums recommended at the bottom of an album I’m currently listening to. On the other hand, having a site like Saving Country Music is a great way to find artists you may have overlooked. Unfortunately, as Trigger mentioned, most album reviews these days are no more than paid advertisements with artist/album label sponsored exclusive releases.
March 30, 2023 @ 8:10 am
Sheeran is dead wrong.
It’s a sign of our times to dismiss the specialists in every field not just music.
March 30, 2023 @ 1:48 pm
Because most of the specialists are bought and paid for.
March 30, 2023 @ 8:57 am
That’s great and all but I couldn’t careless what anyone thinks about the artists or music I like
Southern Man, Country Fan, and Stuck Somewhere Else
March 30, 2023 @ 12:45 pm
I’ve been a “music geek” (i.e. a serious fan of many musical genres) for most of my life, at this point (I’m forty-nine and started getting into music when I was five). For most of these forty-plus decades now, there have been music critics whom I found helpful, in terms of helping me discover the artists and music I love. In my teens and early twenties, to be honest, and it’s embarrassing to admit this now, I held the opinions of *some* music critics (such as the late Lester Bangs) in such high esteem that if they opined that a certain artist wasn’t “cool,” I either didn’t give that artist a chance at all, or I actually *stopped* listening to said artist. That was very stupid on my part, and I regret it. Humbling to look back on it now, but for more than a few years, I literally did not listen to certain artists whom I had *previously* enjoyed, because (insert name of hip music critic here) wrote that said artist was, basically, not in the “cool, hip artist group” (such as massively popular country artists like Garth Brooks, or bands like Yes and similar prog-rockers).
I don’t follow *any* music critics blindly now, and haven’t for a good, long time. Whether music critics, or family members or friends, no one will *ever* convince me to think, again, that because I love Hank Williams, Sr., George Jones, and Merle Haggard, this means that I can’t, or shouldn’t, love Garth Brooks too. In a real way, it’s embarrassing to actually, publicly admit that such matters were even once a big deal to me, but in one’s teens, and even twenties, to some extent, certain kinds of peer pressure can lead to some very silly and/or lamentable decisions!
With all of this said, certain music critics do still play an important role in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t follow Trigger’s opinions blindly, but he has definitely led me to some of my now-favorite artists through SCM. Thom Jurek’s reviews, over at Allmusic, have also led me to some incredible artists and albums, in rock, country, jazz, and more.
Ed Sheeran has a *partial* point about music critics, but in seemingly dismissing them *entirely*, he doesn’t know what he’s missing, and in my opinion, he is missing out on a good bit. I can’t imagine where I would be, in terms of enthusiastically learning about and listening to great new country music, for years now, without SCM!
Southern Man, Country Fan, and Stuck Somewhere Else
March 30, 2023 @ 12:55 pm
Obvious typo: I meant to write “For most of these four-plus decades now,” not “forty!” I’m getting older but not *that* old! 🙂
March 31, 2023 @ 12:23 am
Going back 15 to 20 years, a music choice largely involved me handing over as much as $30 (that’s Australian $ by the way) for a physical object – a CD. It was quite a chunk of money, even when I had a job and a steady income, so making a dud choice was much to be avoided if possible. That’s why I have been a reader of music “reviews” for a long time. There were no guarantees, but the “critics” were a way to sift out what might match my tastes and especially a good way of finding out about new artists. The financial risk is not as significant anymore, but SCM remains an ideal way to find out about artists I would probably never be aware of by any other means. It’s what I most appreciate about SCM.
I guess I’m just sayin’: Keep those reviews comin’ Trigger!
March 31, 2023 @ 2:45 pm
you nail it
its those fake woke trash critics that made me discover you .. i wish you would turn into all music and not just country
a rare place to just consider music in the pure
March 31, 2023 @ 3:18 pm
i have a question
can an artist prevent critics or music magazines from reviewing his work ? if it is thought that all of it is prejudice content ?
March 31, 2023 @ 3:27 pm
You can’t prevent any outlet from reviewing your music. That’s Freedom of Speech. However, a publicist, label, or artist can choose to not service an outlet with their music, meaning not send them press releases, review copies, or other assets, and there are definitely publicists who try and do this. But in the age of streaming and social media, not servicing an outlet in hopes they won’t cover someone’s music really has no teeth, and if anything, hurts the prospects of artists by creating an adversarial relationship with the outlet or journalist. Artists pay publicists good money to send their music to outlets. Often artists want their music out there, and publicists who don’t service outlets are doing a disservice to their clients.
March 31, 2023 @ 4:13 pm
Critics HATE Ed Sheeran’s music. They always have, they always will.
No matter how hard he works, no matter how much he has accomplished,
no matter how much he has proven himself, critics will still, always, HATE Sheeran’s music.
It’s a code among the guild.
That is the context of Sheeran’s comment…. listen and decide for yourself.
He knows no critic would have the balls to break “the code” and NOT hate his music, so its a simple request to ignore the negativity toward his music and think independently.
He wasn’t referring to informational and educational analysis and sharing of ideas. That seems like a giant leap from what he meant.
April 3, 2023 @ 9:25 am
I don’t hate his music. I just think he’s a muppet.
April 1, 2023 @ 2:31 am
“the British pop star said music critics are useless in the age of streaming”
Except that’s not what he said. He simply asked why do you need to read a review? You can make up your mind. I read it as a criticism of music listeners who don’t think independently rather than an attack on music critics.
April 2, 2023 @ 11:39 am
Why write music criticism? In the immortal words of Anton Ego, “the New needs friends.”
April 2, 2023 @ 4:00 pm
No criticism specifically, but this story does speak to the broader discussion on people who curate music for the public. A friend of mine is local radio DJ and so they find themselves playing the same songs day in and day out. So one day she took a poll to see if people wanted to hear the new AC/DC song (which let’s be honest sound like the old songs). Overwhelmingly they wanted “You Shook Me All Night Long”.
My opinion here is play the new one anyway, somebody has to champion this “other stuff” for the good of the music biome on the whole. And this is not a middle finger to listeners, they will here that song elsewhere in their week at some point so not everybody needs to being playing the 40 songs.
So I agree somebody has to wade through all the noise whether on radio or in criticism… hell I haven’t even heard like near 50% of the music that came out in 70s and so it is critics I look to so I waste as little time as possible on stuff I probably won’t like.
April 2, 2023 @ 4:31 pm
Shook Me All Night Long.
G o l d.
Have you heard of TAB BENOIT?
P U R E – F R E A K I N G – F I R E.
Am 700 years old, & have never seen/heard anything like it.
Straight up 2 hour and 11 minutes, well you know, squirming in my seat.
Still trying to put out the flames.
Look him up. Then send some of his stuff to your DJ friend.