New Music-Reviews-In-A-Flash Site Says “LOL WRDS”

Nov 17th, 2008 // 10 Comments

Have you ever felt like the 90-word capsule reviews that pass as “music criticism” these days were too, like, long, man? Or thought that the slavishly press-release-ready writeups proffered by music bloggers didn’t get to the thumbs-up/thumbs-down point quickly enough for you to figure out whether or not you were going to go off and not pay for a record? Well, have we got the site for you: Musebin, a “music reviews that restrict opinions to 140 characters or less but don’t restrict those opinions from being voted on by other users popularity-contest style” Web 2.0 clusterfuck. OK, so it probably won’t change music writing as we know it, but it’ll sure make people out there who value nuance over knee-jerking, or even words over wrds, cry themselves to sleep a little bit harder tonight.

Or will it? See, what the Musebin folks say they’re reacting to is actually the decline of editing, not the ever-shorter attention spans possessed by an increasingly frazzled populace.

“It’s a reaction to the wordy, wordy MP3 blogs and people craving really concise content,” explained Musebin COO Adam Varga.

“Blogs have kind of killed the editor,” added Musebin CEO Greg Galant. “It used to be that anything that got written would be edited by people who read [the style guide] Strunk & White…. Blogs came along with no limit, and anyone could write anything. I think music reviews — which were already kind of long-winded — maybe got a little bit worse. You’re going to talk about some experience that happened to you in high school, and this and that. [We want to] capture the essence of an album so someone knows whether or not they should listen to it.”

Yeah, like, who wants to hear about the context of a critic’s experience, right? It’s all about Consumer Guides, baby! Buy now! Don’t buy! James Cramer Mad Money Ahhh!

The site’s currently invite-only, but its Twitter stream would seem to have a preview of sorts, since it’s basically ripping off Twitter only in a musical way. (Nice Vampire Weekend icon, dudes.) So how is that “return to editing” going, anyway? Let’s look at a few sample reviews that were helpfully provided by the folks at Listening Post:

“flowering and streaming and big as the light our eyes can catch”? OK, OK, so that phrase is taken from one of those wordy reviews that this site is supposedly crusading against. But if anything, that underlines the whole flaw behind this site: Limiting a person’s character count to the barest minimum doesn’t necessarily mean that person will magically be concise. Or coherent.

Musebin [Official site]
Musebin: Twitter-Style Music Reviews with Reddit-Style Ratings [Listening Post]


  1. Marth

    I don’t see the big deal. It doesn’t seem terribly different than Metacritic or Rottentomatoes doing essentially the same thing, albeit focused more on blog-based reviews. Hell, Idolator itself has “The Last Word” which is also paring long reviews down to their basic theses. All it’s doing is added a ‘user vote’ aspect to the organization of the whole mess.

    I think there’s actually something to be said for being able to read small chunks of many reviews at once (a la Metacritic) to try to get some sort of bigger picture of an album or movie. Sure, one reviewer may have a wonderful, eloquent take on a particular piece of consumer entertainment (and despite the annoying Radiohead review featured above, I actually find Cokemachineglow often offers fantastic long-form reviews), but that’s just one reviewer. Being able to get many different opinions from many different writers helps round out the picture of “what’s the deal with this album, and is it worth my time?” And this could just as easily act as a portal for a reader to go more in-depth with one review or another, and even discover new favorite writers or sites.

    100 monkeys with 100 typewriters, right?

  2. Anonymous

    I think a better idea would just be “Check the one that applies: KEWL or SUX”

  3. Marth

    Sorry to post again so soon after my stupid long first post, but this was something on my mind: What are the +’s and -’s actually representing here? Approval of the album? Approval of the review’s writing? Agreement with the review’s opinions? Seems like something that could get awfully messy without specific guidance.

  4. Maura Johnston

    @Marth: well, the whole ‘what’s being voted on here’ trickiness is part of the problem too. (and it’s also part of the problem with the whole digg paradigm in general, in which conventional-wisdom-affirming listicles get patted on the back and rewarded with traffic that’s not much of a reward since it’s ultimately pretty low-quality and cheap but anyway i’m rambling.) it just turns into a gigantic clusterfuck of people waving around upended and downturned thumbs, with no one really sure why there’s a voice in their head telling them to have an opinion.

  5. Maura Johnston

    @Marth: (and i think ‘the last word’ is a bit different, because it zeroes in on a very specific aspect of a review instead of just blindly grasping at a clutch of words, and i hope it encourages people to click through to the full piece. plus, i don’t cut off critics’ thoughts at character no. 141 when i’m pulling the package together…)

  6. Invisible Circus

    this is similar to, etc where your 140 characters summarize an entire song, book, movie or album. It doesn’t take the piss out of a magazine review or a critics opinion but in Web 2.0 youtube speak, everyone has something to say and most people take the opinion of their web savvy peers than they do someone who still listens to CDs sent to them by interns.

  7. Maura Johnston

    @Invisible Circus: how many people like that are left in america? in the world? for serious? and like… the quotes above are specifically ranting against music *bloggers*, who are, for the most part, hobbyists.

    i’m all for the masses talking, but there’s something about the semaphoric, nuance-free aspect of this venture that leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

  8. Anonymous

    Oh the heck with this. I’ve been doing music reviews in 140 characters or less since this summer via Twitter! []

  9. Catbirdseat

    Can’t they just go ahead and listen to my iPod and enjoy my music for me, too? I mean, in this day and age, who has the time? I know I certainly don’t!

    Also ISO: someone to eat my food for me, go to the bathroom for me, and worry about the economy for me.

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