Rhyme&Review: Our Process

28 10 2009

We often wonder at R&R what the point of reviewing art in any form is. Wouldn’t it just make more sense for a person to experience the product and form their opinion? Absolutely. Nobody that reads our reviews should ever take our word for it. Go and find out for yourself, lazy bum.

However, that doesn’t mean reviews can’t be helpful and — here’s the part where we boost our ego — necessary. Context. Our reviews are aimed at giving our reader context. Because without context, information is downright useless.

If I say that Michael Jordan averaged 30.1 points a game in his career, and you have never heard of the NBA, would you know if that was good or bad? Would you know his place in NBA history? Would that information tell you anything other than, “On most nights MJ scored around 30 points?” No. Music should be treated the same. That’s why we structure our reviews as such.

We aim to provide context in terms of the artists (where was this artist in their career before this album? Where will they be after this album?) the genres (what does this do for musicians who sound like them?) and finally, you. However, when it comes to placing our opinion on the album in terms of good or bad, we’ve developed a rating system that you’re not only familiar with, you probably use on a daily basis.

The ★ (Stars):

iTunes. Everybody uses iTunes. If we were to meet an American who didn’t use iTunes, it would be like meeting a person that uses a pager over a cell phone. They clearly don’t get what’s going on in the world around them. Since everyone is familiar with iTunes, we decided to use their ★ rating system (albeit with a few modifications) for our own.

First, we rate each song as we would in out iTunes, on this scale:

No star – These are the songs you skip. There also the songs that when you hear someone else say they like it, you instantly know your taste in music is better than theirs. Of course, who doesn’t think they have the best taste in music? Quit sniffing your own musical farts.

★★★ – We’re talking about a good song, worth multiple listens. It’s not going to crack anyone’s Top 25 Most Played, tug on your heartstrings or make you want to climb Everest, but in this day and age, a good song is no small feat.

★★★★ – It’s all about emotion. When you hear this song, whether you want to cry, or laugh, or commit various felonies, you feel the music coursing through your veins. There’s very little difference between ★★★★ and ★★★★★, but deep down you know it fall just short of a top rating.

★★★★★ – Legend status. We’re talking career defining songs, songs that you could play 100 times in a row and on the 101st time say, “Holy shit, I effing LOVE this song!” It’s almost like it was made just for you, like your own little musical Truman Show. Is Daft Punk sitting in the moon, watching your every move and making songs for you? Maybe. Sometimes it feels that way.

It should be noted that these are evolving stars. Songs certainly can earn/lose stars as time goes on, and updates will be posted in case something like this happens. An example of this would be Kid Cudi’s album Man on the Moon: The End of Day, which improved with every listen and earned extra ★ (details to come).

The reason the star system begins at ★★★ is because ★★★ is the threshold for “songs I want to listen to again”. If you don’t meet the threshold, then you’re out. Because honestly, what’s the difference between ★ and ★★ if we don’t want to listen to either of you.

After that, we count up the ★ to find out how the album was on the whole. Then we calculate the average number of ★ since, you know, quantity isn’t always the same as quality. And there you have it.

(FYI: interludes and skits will not be counted toward the albums final ★ ratio.)

In order to fully understand the words that are coming out of my mouth, we’re going to take a classic album 808s & Hearbreak and apply the rating system to it, as we would in a Rhyme&Review post.

1. Say You Will – ★★★★
2. Welcome to Heartbreak (feat. Kid Cudi) – ★★★
3. Heartless – ★★★
4. Amazing (feat. Young Jeezy) – ★★★
5. Love Lockdown – ★★★★
6. Paranoid (feat. Mr. Hudson) – ★★★
7. RoboCop – ★★★★★
8. Street Lights – ★★★★★
9. Bad News – ★★★
10. See You in my Nightmares (feat. Lil Wayne) – ★★★
11. Coldest Winter – ★★★
12. Pinocchio Freestyle –

808s & Heartbreak Total ★: 39
808s & Heartbreak ★ Ratio: 3.25

And to compare, we will take a more recent album, Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon: The End of Day, and show it’s ★ rating.

1. In my Dreams (Cudder Anthem) – ★★★
2. Soundtrack 2 my Life – ★★★
3. Simple As – ★★★★
3. Solo Dolo (Nightmare) – ★★★
4. Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music) –
5. My World (feat. Billy Cravens) –
6. Day N Night (Nightmare) – ★★★★★
7. Sky Might Fall – ★★★
8. Enter Galactic (Love Collection Part 1) –
9. Alive (Nightmare) (feat. Ratatat) – ★★★
10. Cudi Zone – ★★★
11. Make Her Say – ★★★★
12. Pursuit of Happiness (feat. MGMT and Ratatat) – ★★★
13. Hyyer (feat. Chip the Rapper –
14. Up Up and Away – ★★★

Man on the Moon: The End of Day Total ★: 37
Man on the Moon: The End of Day ★ Ratio: 2.64

But Andy, what about those little green stars? Don’t worry my little bear cubs, I’ll feed you. mean that the song was awarded additional ★ after the first review, and mean the song lost one or more ★. So ★★★song is a ★★★ song turned into a ★★★★ song and, you got it, ★★★ is a ★★★★ turned ★★★.

At the end of every review, we’ll give you the leader board of all of our reviews, so you always have — that’s right — context in which to understand the awesomeness/sucktitude of the album that was reviewed. Context is everything. Here’s an example of our first leader board:

Total ★ Leaders:
39 – Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
37 – Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day

★ Ratio Leaders:
3.25 – Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak
2.64 – Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day

What’s the point?

We touch on this on the ★chive page, but it’s worth saying again. We know there’s no such thing as a perfect album, but we’re curious to see who comes closest and how close they actually get. That’s what’s in it for us. For you, hopefully exposure to music you haven’t heard before that turns into music you like, maybe even love. So we suppose in both cases, it’s curiosity. We’re curious about discovering great music, and hopefully you are too.

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