Today on my 2020 Album Review Game, I had my perceptions challenged twice. The first, which is where we’ll start, was more innocent. A friend of mine had formed a similar opinion to mine and from there, I started writing about the dangers of nostalgia. When we form some opinions, they’re based around the circumstances of that time. There’s a common notion that I hate: Albums with only one good track? Why bother with albums anymore?
Don’t worry, I’ll quote both texts below.
It’s important to have opinions and to stand behind them, however, every once in a while it’s good to challenge your opinions. Did you like that album because you were having a good day? Did you hate it because you were having a bad day? These are important subjective considerations to get out of the way, but so, too, we can become biased through our considerations of things based on emotional responses. It’s not that we should ignore impulse or first-impression considerations, because they do generally help us figure out where we currently stand, it’s just there are times when we might need to return to media and consider where we… currently stand. Not where we stood many years ago.
The first album was disappointing, especially if I bought it.
How disappointed would I have been? Well, my frame of reference for buying new CDs is steeped in the era of CD-buying at around 2002 or so, which was when I first started getting into listening to music. Back then, a CD might cost up to $20, and there weren’t easy ways to listen to the album before buying it. I remember buying some duds at that price. I’ve also bought myriad more CDs over the years.
Why would my reference be stuck in 2002?
In some sense, it’s easier to exaggerate the loss. I haven’t been to my local music shop in over a year now, so I couldn’t say how much their prices are, generally, for the Top 50+ new music, but I can safely bet it’s not $20. I bought S&M2 for $11.99. To be fair, I only bought the two-CD version and not the two-CD-and-one-Bluray version, which would have cost closer to $20, but back in 2002, my CD would have cost over $20 whereas that three-discer would have cost easily over $30.
Why would I be mad at that album I mentioned earlier, then?
I didn’t buy it. It was freely available online. I suppose the most it cost me was time and expectations. It’s the first example I could consider where a song I’d heard didn’t match up with the rest of the album, and since I heard it out of order, that one song placed additional expectations on the album. If I had listened to it from start to finish, without spoiling myself by hearing one song early, then would I have had the same negative reaction? I know myself and my opinions well enough to know that, yeah, something like that would have disappointed me regardless of my previous expectations.
How about the reverse?
I formed my opinion of Alicia Keys’s music when I was an angry teenager that hated pop.
It’s been close to 20 years since that version of myself first heard her music. I didn’t hate her music or her as a person, but the concept was what I hated, which I’ve since addressed. I can enjoy pop music either as passive listening over the radio while I’m doing something else or more actively for the intention of writing about my thoughts about the album. There are characteristics, traits, and other aspects to music that I almost completely dislike, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to avoid music that has those aspects automatically.
I’m listening to another album now that had an annoying electronic beat.
That’s one of the characteristics of music that I completely dislike. I once wrote a review of an album in the four-on-the-floor electronic music genre by pasting some words repeatedly for probably 500 words. I don’t enjoy repetition without variation. Videogame music skirts that line by having subtle variations. I’ll silence the videogame’s in-game audio for even my favorite soundtracks to listen to my own albums – unless the audio is during a cutscene. I prefer the album-length audio meandry since I can write essays with minimal interruption, or do any digital errand that needs doing.
Listening to my own music prevents videogame music from becoming oversaturating.
Returning back to Alicia Keys’s 2020 self-titled album, this had some of the same trappings of music that I disliked when I initially decided that electronic music was something I can appreciate but I don’t love. There are plenty of disco influences here, which is not something I normally enjoy, but those elements are so tastefully massaged into the music that it’s not glaring. As another example, the four-on-the-floor beats on that other album, similarly, skirt the line between being tasteful and overdone.
Both of these positive albums helped challenge my perspective.
While it’s innocent enough within the realm of music opinions, there is some value in practicing this in the low-stakes Album Review Game game or other low-stakes environments. I think the reason why we hold onto moldy opinions, like I did of pop music with Keys being a pop musician, is because it’s not safe to be wrong. What if someone finds out we have contradicting thoughts? What if someone realizes we’re not perfect?
It’s OK to enjoy things you once disliked, either through learning more about it or exposure, just as it’s OK to stop enjoying the things you once liked. We change as human beings, and part of that change is evolving our opinions, even if that’s an insignificant consideration compared to learning employable skills or keeping one’s wit about them in a situation that could escalate into violence. I might almost say, though, that considering the value of old opinions might help avoid serious altercations.
After all, the hot-headed teenager in me lives inside the body of a man recovering from surgery…
|Quotes: Here was the first review:
This album had some additional conversation occur in the comments box of this page. My friend [φιλε] Zograf said “I also found Apple by AJ Cook very mediocre. 7G was a lot more engaging despite its length.” I replied with: “Apple was the only example this year I can think of where a single didn’t represent the end product, which was a big reason in my opinion why albums saw a sharp decline. * continued in my addition to the review.” I think the biggest hostilities against albums, in general, is this notion that people have where they Must Pay Serious Money to acquire an album that only has one good song. Yeah, I was there, too. Twenty-plus years ago, I might buy a $20 CD and if I didn’t like it, there were limited options for returning or exchanging. I’d be pissed, too, if I bought Apple here and found I only liked “Xxoplex.” But, man, uhhh, that’s, like, uhh, twenty years ago. It’s OK to reconsider things. Like almost all of the entries on this list. I won’t edit this list once we reach January 01 2021, but that means I won’t ever return to any of these albums again. Even Apple. I’m not super excited to do so, but, say, you really like the album. You can always feel free to reach out to me through my various means of communication to advocate for it. Now, it doesn’t have to be anything overly articulate – and this isn’t just for Apple, this is for anything. Even just someone else’s review is fine. Opinions and perspectives should be flexible. I’ve bought three albums released in 2020, as of writing this section in late September: S&M2, Reverse of Rebirth Reprise, and RTJ4. I paid probably $40 between the three of them. In comparison, I paid probably around $20 in 2002 for Nevermind. Adjusted for inflation based on a US government website, “$20.00 in September 2002 has the same buying power as $28.72 in August 2020.” It’s OK to let small hatreds like price arguments fall to the wayside. It’s OK to consider that occasionally musicians like A. G. Cook might want to release an album of snoozefest indie electropop and the suddenly decide that they want to make something with a pulse. Tame Impala did that with Lonerism. I love “Elephant” but the rest of the album is… distinctly… not… “Elephant.” I don’t hate that album, and this album… well… it’s not so much hate [those are for the 0-star reviews, I suppose] as much as find an album like this to be not significantly worthwhile, from my perspective. That said, let’s say you’re reading this in 2022 – thanks for reading – and you love this album. Let me know why. If you’re not a jerk, why would I respond as a jerk in response? I’d be open to reconsidering it even within 2020 with similar consideration. Just, uhhh, conversely, don’t be a jerk because I didn’t love this album. To quote the philosopher Anthony Fantano, the Internet’s busiest music nerd, who similarly gave the album a “Strong 5,” “y’all know this is just my opinion, right?”
And here was the second review:
This album reminds me of the constant value of changing perspectives. I probably first heard music by Alicia Keys around 2001 to 2003 with Songs in A Minor and The Diary of Alicia Keys when I was an angry teenager, so in a sense, I distanced myself from everything that wasn’t angry. I held onto that teenage anger for many more years than necessary because I didn’t know how to drop it off. It’s not that the angers of wrongdoings never fully subside. It’s more that we can learn to wield that anger well enough to relax, have fun, and when necessary use that anger to guide you along. It’s with those thoughts that I appreciate the Album Review Game because when an album like this is released, it forces me to confront those aspects of my past where I had decided “pop music is dumb” when I was a dumb teenager, made that opinion, and moved on. Seeing this album next to RTJ4 and S&M2 at the supermarket was almost like a tone shift, in a sense, because those are two of my Top 25 albums of the year. What about this album? I enjoy this album’s meandries through electronic music [disco] of the past and electronic music of the present. I don’t think I’m at the point yet where I, the once angry teenager, with that angry teenager still living on inside of me, would buy it at full price, but here, let’s consider something. When I was a teenager, CDs would cost roughly $20 USD, right? Well, I have a job with disposable income now. Even so, with inflation adjustments, CDs are super cheap now compared to nearly 20 years ago. “If in 2020, I purchased an item for $9.99 then in 2002 that same item would cost: $6.91. Cumulative rate of inflation: -30.8%” Another source. If inflation can change the value of a dollar, why can’t we change our opinions and perspectives? Before listening to this album, Alicia Keys was one of myriad musicians that I’d eventually get around to listening to, but now, I’ve bumped up that priority. In that sense, if you, too, play the Album Review Game, it can be exciting to find yourself in situations where you have to confront opinions formed around being bullied in high school because you were weird, and you were weird because no one would accept you, and no one would accept you because you were weird, and now, you can do weird things like enjoy pop music and grindcore and, yeah, maybe not everyone’s gonna dig it, but you’re going to find some people that might, too, think, “hey, pop and grindcore are kinda just two perspectives on the same situation.” It’s not like the album is completely inconsequential – a common complaint I might have made about pop music as a teenager – because “Good Job” does its best to comment on Current Events while still being sold at a supermarket. This is what we need. We need the pop music crowd lightly massaging the message while those in the back are pounding the pavement with their anger…
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Writing the two meandering reviews.|
|Related: Other Media Meandry essays.|
|Screenshots: I ended up taking 10 reject screenshots to get the first one right.|
|Written On: 2020 September 25 [10:555555pm to “easily over $30” at 11:10pm; 11:16pm to “just as it’s OK at 11:35pm; 11:39pm to 11:42pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 September 25 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|