What’s Fandom Got To Do With It?

Live reviews of music tend to incite unnecessary fury from artists’ fans when they feel that their heroes have been slighted. Los Angeles Times critic Ann Powers opened up her mailbox and showed us some of the letters she received in response to a not-completely-glowing review of a recent Tina Turner performance at LA’s Staples Center. Here’s one of the nicer notes Powers got: “This woman is an inspiration to us all… For you to criticize her in any way is a lack of respect for her talent and professionalism. Wait until you turn 68 (almost 69) and see if you can get out and do half of what she does. Shame on you.” Not all of them were that polite, however.

Witness this caps-happy missive from a TINA TURNER SUPER FAN(!!!):

YOU REALLY DON’T GET IT, DO YOU. That’s all I can say to you……Who do you think go to these shows, DIE-HARD FANS.FANS.FANS….A fan of a super star will go to any and all shows that are available and possible…..A fan loves the artist no matter what…..For you as a columnist to tear apart this show was really out of control.

In cases like these–an established artist putting on an elaborate stage show and charging lots of money for the experience–should a review act as a consumer guide? The second commenter has a point lurking between the caps-lock and ellipses: Many people who purchase high-priced tickets to see a rock and roll legend are most likely going to look past the performance’s minor flaws.

Powers defends her position, saying, “In the end, I decided that ignoring Turner’s flaws would have been disrespectful, a qualifying act not unlike that old male chauvinist saw: ‘You play pretty good for a girl.’ She’s a real artist, and a musical innovator; she would want me to be honest, I think.” One wonders if Turner would focus more on her fans’ reactions to her show, both in the immediate crowd response and in the later ones from comment and letter-writers, particularly since her current tour is seen as something of a last victory lap.

But it’s difficult to support music criticism on an entirely citizen-journalistic basis, considering the types of fans who so willingly offer their opinions in comment sections around the Internet. And Powers’ review did analyze why, despite Turner’s vocal problems, the show was a success: Turner’s physical performance is what has really developed her career. Powers’ piece proves why we need competent, literate music critics: it’s good to have someone with at least some sense of objectivity to explain why performers have the ability to affect an audience, whether in a positive or negative way.

Are Tina Turner and other legends off-limits to negative criticism? [Pop & Hiss]

  • queensissy

    If a fan loves the artist no matter what, why does he/she need to be reading a critique of a show that he/she attended?

  • ObtuseIntolerant

    I have to admit…I read live reviews if something went horribly wrong…especially to someone I didn’t like…and I am enough of a super-fan to read reviews of my favorite artists and to get mad if I feel like a critic is being unfair.

    There is good criticism (which this woman seems to be trying to practice)…and then there is some jerk being snarky and heavily biased who doesn’t understand how the internet works. Especially the writers who take the opportunity to ignore the music and knock the scene…in which case, the implicated superfans have carte blanche to fight back, I say.

    It makes me feel good to see other crazed superfans out there, keepin’ it real.

  • queensissy

    @ObtuseIntolerant is just another pro-Obama Halfrican playin…: Oh dear god. You just reminded me of an irate letter I wrote to the SF Chronicle when I was in high school – I thought it was totally unfair for concert reviewer Joel Selvin to mock Adam Ant’s plexiglas hot tub stage set.

  • cheesebubble

    Upon reading the line “Are Tina Turner and other legends off-limits to negative criticism?” I immediately thought I can’t imagine not taking latter-day Elvis to task. So I stand by the assertion that, yes, no musical “legend” is off limits.

  • Anonymous

    I’m relieved to know that there are still people out there- well-known people, no less- who are willing to call it like they see it, even knowing that their criticism is gonna piss some people off. The idea of someone writing a glowing review of a show simply because the performer is an icon smacks of anti-intellectualism to me- where’s the thought in it? Where’s the critical thinking? Reviewers aren’t there to be nice; they’re there to be objective and deliver nuanced interpretations of a performance (in theory, anyway). I DO think that Powers owed it to Turner to be honest; what’s the goddamn point in having shows reviewed if the writeup is going to invariably be complimentary?

    Besides that, the angry mob is missing the part of this whole debacle that could be used for constructive discussion. They’re mindlessly stringing Powers up for expressing a dissenting opinion instead of using it as a jumping-off point to have a worthwhile exchange with her about how she came to the conclusions that she did.

    Jebus, but those no-fault-finding superfans and their hyper-defensiveness piss me off.

  • moomintroll

    @queensissy: umm to see if the critic mentions the part of the show when this crazy fan yelled out a really obscure song to prove that they are, in fact, the biggest Tina Turner fan… of course!

  • bcapirigi

    i’m never really interested in reviews of live shows, since they’ve already happened and i probably wasn’t there. and i’m not really going to read other cities’ newspapers to see what people said the day before. (especially because, living in rhode island, we tend to get people between boston and new york, and certain people don’t really make much effort when they play smaller venues in smaller cities.) if i was at the show, i might want to know what the reviewer said the next day, but only maybe.

  • Aaron Poehler

    It cuts both ways: if the artist has to take the criticism, then the critic has to suffer the harangues of the devoted. It’s just the way it is.