No more scoring in reviews

For a long time already, I’ve been of the opinion that scores in reviews don’t really make much sense. It’s ultimately a pointless way to reduce albums to a single denominator. The reasons why an album might receive 3.5 points out of 5 are so many and different, that it’s absurd. I mean, it might be a surprisingly good album by a bad band – or a surprisingly bad album by a good band – or just a slightly-above-average album by a run-of-the-mill band. Each case is quite different, and that 3.5 out of 5 should be read differently for each. But it’s still 3.5/5, which should mean the same thing.

And it’s even worse with releases that receive a “bad” score, something under 2.5/5. I feel – and from my experience I’m more correct than not – that it too easily reduces how people perceive the review into a utter dismissal of what’s being reviewed. And, hence, if they put any import on the review, increase their likelihood to dismiss the release itself due to the score. Sometimes it feels like whatever is said in the review itself is of secondary importance to the score in people’s minds. A bad score may also make people unwilling to accept even entirely valid and constructive criticism.

And that’s just wrong. Ultimately, the score is just an arbitrary value based largely on gut feeling. An album that receives 3.5/5 might as well have received 3/5 or 4/5 depending on the day and the mood. It’s not like there’s some highly developed, scientific method behind assigning scores – no media has that. They might pretend they have, but it’s all just smoke and mirrors. At best, there’s a rough scale what a score means, which each reviewer has his or her own interpretation of. One reviewers 7/10 will equal another reviewer’s 6/10, and a third reviewer’s 8/10. Which means that someone’s 6/10 equals someone’s 8/10 – all in the same media.

So, since scores are pointless and comparing the score of two releases is at best just a pointer towards the ballpark of an approximation – a band I dislike getting 3.5/5 is really entirely different from a band I love getting 3.5/5 – why use them?

Apparently because record labels and others who use the reviews to promote their stuff like them. They’re printable. But they do a disservice to everyone else: the people writing the reviews, the people reading the reviews and, ultimately, the bands whose album people might in a worst case scenario pass by entirely because some reviewer they trust gave it a bad score.

And since Only Death Is Real is scarcely a media whose scores will be printed on the promo sticker of any release, we’re just going to say fuck it and be done with dishing out scores for every album. So, from this day on, no review will be given a score on the old 0-5 scale. Instead, we’ll experiment with putting a one-sentence summary at the end of the review – a quotable blurb, if you will. This way, we hope to give more focus on the actual substance of the review… the actual god-damned review!

We won’t change the old reviews en masse, but we might revise old reviews as we go by, if and when there is a need to revisit them for some reason.

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