Nadia Elkharadly: Opinions are like…
Happy Tuesday after the Oscars! Did I watch the illustrious event? Kind of. Did I enjoy it? Not really. But watching the red carpet affair got me thinking; what is an award show, if not a giant opinion fest? Every year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes together to decide what movie, actress, editor, director, etc deserves to take that little golden man home. Every year, fashionistas, some real, some wannabe decide who was the best dressed, the worst dressed, and everything in between. Some revere and respect these awards and everything that surround them, others choose to ignore, scorn or deride them. But in the end, all of the drama surrounding this occasion seems a little excessive considering it’s all just based on what some random people “think”.
Being a music reviewer, I’m writing what I think about music all the time, or really as all the time as I can between my day job and, you know, sleep. In the end, what is a review about music if not your opinion, your perspective on what you’ve just seen and listened to. I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing bands play, both in this city and in others. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to write about these amazing bands. I’ve also seen some awful bands play; bands so terrible that I’ve wanted to burst my own eardrums, gouge out my eyeballs and claw my own skin off. I’ve also seen the in between; bands so dull, so uninspiring that I wished I could get back the 45 minutes of my life that I wasted listening to them. When comfortable silence is just as stimulating as life music, you know you’ve got a problem. And I’m expected to write about each of these types of bands.
You watch, you hear, you think, you write. That’s pretty much the formula. I’m asked by bands all the time to come check them out. I also review bands that I hear about, but have never spoken to, or likely will never ever meet. The way I end up thinking about those reviews end up being two sides of a coin so to speak. When writing about someone you’ve never, and probably ever will, meet, you can separate yourself from the people you’re writing. It takes the humanity out of the situation, you write about the music, without thinking about the people. When a band is so large and well known that you’re reviewing them in a giant stadium, surrounded by tens of thousands of their fans, it’s safe to say you’re pretty far removed. It’s also safe to say that the people you just wrote about will likely never read what you’ve written. Does that change the way I write a review? Maybe it does. When you know someone you’ve talked to, you’ve met or you’re going to meet is going to read what you wrote, it gives accountability to every word you put out there. Being petty, being mean or harsh for the sake of being edgy isn’t a viable option, unless you’re a total jerk, or plan on never going out again. Because in this city, you’ll always run into the same people over and over again, and if you write something that you’re not willing to stand behind, you’re going to have some serious issues.
I was once told that in order to make it in this “biz”, you’ve got to be cold, you’ve got to be harsh, and you’ve got to say the things that other people are afraid to say. My answer to that? Hell to the no. I’ve always maintained that I’m a music REVIEWER, not a music critic. If I go to a show, whether I’m invited by the band, the PR company representing the band, or if I’m just going to see a band I’ve always loved, I aspire only to report on what I saw, what I heard, how it made feel, and how it affected those around me. Complete objectivity is impossible. I know my feelings seep through from time to time. I’ve gushed for pages at a time when I’ve really been blown away by a show, and I’ve been colder than intended if I’ve been less than impressed by a performance. What I always try to bear in mind is that even if I didn’t love what I saw, chances are there is someone that did. And beyond that, the people that made the music I just witnessed put themselves out there in a way that most people could never do. As long as the people I’ve just seen on stage were professional, could play their instruments and carried themselves well, I can respect that, and I can write something from a positive perspective.
I get asked all the time what I do if I genuinely don’t like a band or a show I’ve just seen. And the answer to that question? Nothing. I don’t do anything. The old adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” may seem trite, but I think when it comes to the media, it rings true. There’s no worse press than no press at all. If I really don’t like something, I just won’t write about it. Giving my words and my time to an undeserving subject just isn’t worth it to me. I don’t care if it’s sensational, it doesn’t suit me, or who I am. I spend enough time bitching about stuff that pisses me off, to my friends, to my coworkers, to the drivers around me on the QEW on the way to work. I love writing about music. I’m not going to ruin that for myself by buying into the negativity of being a critic. There’s enough of that out there, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll find it. You just won’t find it here.
Until next time,
Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday
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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet. Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada. She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine. Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.