The Year in Music: A Conversation 

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On the Prevailing Contrarianism Among Music Critics

Mike:As far as I'm concerned, the worst thing the big scary internet and its many blogs have done to music criticism is make it so that talented, professional writers are so disgusted by the whole thing that they've turned their back on a lot of important things and ushered in an era of unprecedented, debilitating contrarianism.

Jeff:What do you mean by that, exactly?

Mike:Just that the intellectual playfulness that was at the heart of a lot of populist criticism during the first half of the 00's, from guys like Klosterman and Sheffield, has sort of gone missing. And in its place, we have something equally populist but far more aggressive, where the de facto stance of most respected critics is that if you don't like Katy Perry or Odd Future as much as you like Fleet Foxes or, god forgive you, The Decemberists, then there's something wrong with you—either you're lying or have bad taste.

My pet theory about this is that as more and more people gained access to more and more of the records we used to  have before everyone else and our opinions became less important, critics sort of recoiled—out of fear, out of frustration, out of anger—and when they finally mustered up the strength to fight back, they did so by using their considerable smarts to think up the craziest, most counter-intuitive shit you could ever imagine, and then sort of rolling their eyes at anyone who didn't feel the same way. I've said it before, but I think we're talking ourselves into a corner here, and it's exhausting, conter-productive and dangerous.


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