That’s Just Your Opinion
Jerry Lucky Commentary February 2009
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2009 All Rights Reserved
For the past while I’ve had a little post-it note stuck to my cork-board to remind me about writing a piece on “opinions.”
I made the note after reading some reviews where a writer, I felt, went beyond the bounds of his mandate.
The concept of ‘opinion’ has fascinated me for quite some time. We’ve all been told at one point or another, “Well that’s just your opinion.”
As if to say what you just said didn’t matter much or was in fact wrong. Then there’s that old aphorism that “Opinions are like a#%X*8s,
everyone’s got one.” So as I say the idea of clarifying what an opinion is as opposed an educated observation might be has been on my mind.
My trusty Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines Opinion this way: your feelings or thoughts about something, rather than a fact…to think that something is good, bad, etc.
So bringing this back to the world of progressive rock music, it has always irked me that some critics or reviewers seem to go beyond stating their opinion about something, and move more into the realm of advice. Perhaps some of them might call it “constructive criticism” but to my mind it falls flat, because after all one has only to look at the source of the “constructive criticism.” Is the critic making this comment simply trying to fill space with the printed word or is it in fact an informed opinion…an educated observation…in other words is this writer actually qualified to be making this kind of comment. Alas, in most cases I’m afraid not. Of course they can make it and say it’s simply their opinion, but really I wonder if that falls outside of the domain of opinion. Tell me you like it or not and that’s clearly opinion. But to suggest that somehow you have the key to making it ‘better’ seems to me to be taking a little too much license.
The kind of comment I’m referring to is one I read long ago, where the writer said something to the effect that (and I’m just paraphrasing here) The Flower Kings would benefit from a different producer. What struck me about that comment was that it made out to be more than opinion, that somehow the writer knew so much about the band, the music they make and how they made it that somehow they had the added knowledge that, if used would benefit the band. If only they used a different producer their music would benefit. Really? I immediately began to wonder about the years of production training this writer had to enable him to provide such a lucid observation. Oh-wait, I don’t believe he had any! Well then why in the world would he make such a dramatic statement? And then it hit me. The only reason I can think of as to why he would say something like that is because he suffered from some form of self-aggrandisement.
I happen to believe, based on the evidence in the written word, that too many critics suffer from this malady. They take their task so seriously that they begin to imagine that they know better than I do, what I would like to hear from the band. If only the band only had a different producer I would like them more. You know what, I don’t think so. And I object to some critic taking it upon themselves to make that kind of statement. Injecting their opinion under the guise of some informed observation. For one thing I don’t believe for a second that the writer is qualified to offer that suggestion to The Flower Kings, let alone presume to know that I would like it better. To my mind that kind of comment has no place in a review.
Now the painful truth is, I’m probably guilty of this myself, and you could go through my writing and say…wait just a minute, look at what you said here…and you would be right. Truth is, this is something I’m working on and it’s a work in progress. And that’s the difference, where others might be working to write more like that, I’m trying to write less like that.
When it comes to music reviews I like the writer to tell me what’s on the disc, describe in the best words you can what the music sounds like and then by all means tell if you like it or not. Don’t try to write a review about what you would have preferred to hear. And please, most of all, don’t presume to know better than the artist about what changes they should make to their music. That to my mind presumes too much. At least that’s what I think. And yes that’s just my opinion.