Note: Originally contributed to Galleywinter, you can check that here
Brad turned me on to the Galleywinter seeded podcast, The Co-Write with Bobby Duncan and Donovan Dodd, (shout out, check it out here) and I’ve been binge listening to last year’s episodes. Last summer there were a couple of times the guys posed the question as to whether or not we could “judge” art or music. It was a stream of consciousness conversation and I didn’t feel like they came down on one side or another and it got me thinking.
Of course we can judge, art is purely a subjective thing. Hell even what you classify as “art” is up for debate. And “judging” by definition is simply stating your opinion or coming to a decision about something.
It’s all language games to me. The word “judge” in American culture usually implies moral judgment as if we are playing God and determining something or someone is objectively good or bad. How many times have you heard “Who are YOU to judge?” which is force field phrase used solely for the purpose of making you feel like a complete jerk. Of course in a lot of cases they’re right because nobody is perfect, we all screw up. That said, we all judge and in a court of law, the pedophile doesn’t get his charges dropped by throwing down a “don’t judge me!” as he is handcuffed and hauled away.
But I digress, judging people and judging something that’s amoral, like music, are two different things. So why do people get ticked? For one I think the Puritanical trigger word “judgment” gets abused so much that people put up their walls the second they hear it and can’t make the context switch. The other reason is that I think most people, especially creative types, put so much of themselves into their work that they feel a negative critique is an indictment of their core as a human; which goes back to judging others. We’ve all felt it, but in reality it’s not true. I don’t like a lot of the “work” my children do (like constantly destroying my house) but I love them unconditionally. Some of my favorite artists put out completely stinkers every now and again but I still continue to love their other work.
So yes we can judge art, but style points do matter, language matters (despite what our political climate is trying to tell us). The words “judge”, “critique” and “review” all essentially mean the same thing when talking about art, yet moods shift depending on the words are used. “Critiquing” music legitimizes the artist, the work, and implies that I’m giving a constructive, thought out opinion. On the other hand, I could just tweet this gem:
“Taylor Swift is so overrated! She’s stuck up and her music is terrible!”
Obviously this “opinion” has no substance and is just me being an a-hole. Not hard to see and spending any time on social media will show you our Idiocracy is sadly trending this way. That’s a different rant.
So judge away, but we should think about why and how we say our words. And when we do throw our hot sports opinion out there, people have the right to call us on it. We are accountable, that’s what I think.