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Are album reviews still relevant?

January 11, 2012|RedEye

The setup: Spin magazine is getting rid of standard music reviews and instead posting them as tweets.


Rock isn't dead, but apparently the spirits of those who write about it are.

Hitting "enter" after a 140-character dump, however well-crafted and thoughtful, does not constitute a full review of any topic. Don't get me wrong, an album review from any outlet (until this point, Spin included) doesn't define my opinion. It does, however, get me thinking about what I'm listening to.

What state of inebriation was the songwriter under when lyrics were written? This album's first single is garbage, but what is it about the other tracks that make it worth the price of a full LP?

Those questions aren't answered in a tweet, or two, or five. The rock critics who think they are have apparently disregarded the basic question anyone with headphones asks after hitting pause: "Hey, what did you think?"

I'm an amateur critic, one that Spin's editorial decision makers describe as someone with "a working knowledge of Google" who can listen to a leak along with the pros. But when I'm done, I don't want a squished-up tweet, I want a complete report.

Just 140 characters about an album I give a damn about is going to be as unsatisfying as Guy Fieri describing food: "It's delicious, so much flavor, crunchy, juicy, ugh, wow." —Mick Swasko,, @mickswasko


As the way we digest music has changed, the way we utilize music journalism has changed.

People rarely download full albums anymore—we're a culture of iTunes single-track downloads, committing only to songs we really love and playing those over and over on Spotify playlists.

With so few people bothering to consume whole albums anymore, it's no wonder publications such as Spin are giving up on the job.

When people do bother to put up the money for a full record, it's typically for an artist they already know they love. A two-star rating isn't likely to keep die-hard fan from downloading the band's next album, just as a four-star rating isn't likely to make a new fan download the entire thing—they'll likely just stream it, maybe download a few tracks they love.

Instead of full album reviews, publications should (and are) keep up their ability to lead readers to new talent or give a quick thought on an established artist's latest work.

Music fans still need informed guidance, but not long-winded personal takes on every track of an album no one will buy anyway. —Emily Van Zandt,, @mmxbars

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