At this point in time, you’ve received both Steve and Jon’s point of view on how we review things. As for me, sometimes I feel that I have an easier time rating these albums, having enjoyed a broad range of musical tastes and preferences throughout my life. I’ve been listening to music as far back as I can remember, and my dad raised me on everything from Classic Rock to Motown, Pop, and R&B. I know that, as of yet, I am the only one of us to have given five stars to anything, and I’m hoping that an explanation of my rating system will help everyone to better understand why.
My rating system breakdown is as follows:
“0” Star: I feel nothing but boredom from what is playing. It is completely devoid of what makes music enjoyable or listenable in any facet of its composition.
“1” star: Noise. Clearly I’m feeling something from it, but it’s usually pain or discomfort. Usually it’s something that is made with absolutely no care or understanding of what is needed to get people to connect with the music.
“2” stars: This is where there’s clearly been some effort. While there has been some emotional connection established, there is “static” interfering with what the artists are trying to say. The message and tone may be cluttered, or lack clarity. Usually, in these cases, the lyrics are very emotionless and bland, and the music itself is less than average in production. The overall effect can come off across as kind of soulless.
“3” stars: Average. This is the median of my rating system and is where it comes down to more than, simply, whether the music is made well or not. At this level I’ve definitely started to feel something. (It becomes more about that in the next level and where the album can take me.) This rating best reflects a band who has made something generic and basic, but there is enough heart and passion in it to know that they weren’t just putting out junk for the sake of it. Usually an album like this will have a lot of filler, which might sound decent, but isn’t too purposeful.
“4” stars: This is something that truly begins to move me musically. It might be something that is entirely new altogether, or just something that is new for the band (that works). The album is clearly of high quality work and the band is making a concerted effort to connect. Altogether, it is just short of the highest quality work—perhaps missing something in its arc or bogged down by filler, which will detract from a perfect score.
“5” stars: This is an album that takes me to the next level, musically. It’s something that makes me feel exactly what the artist intends me to feel. The emotional connection is clear as day. They use an arc of connectivity to pull me in with meaningful lyrics and well-sculpted music—music that doesn’t have to be complicated, but can be, as long as you feel it. It doesn’t have to be the paradigm of music to be at this level for me. The band just has to be pushing themselves to the next level or clearly painting a picture of what they want you to see or feel, using the tools they’re already experienced with.
I feel that music, when made well, will make you feel something. I also feel that when music is truly perfected, it will make you feel many things: focused emotions that take you on a journey. While I speak of emotional connections in my ratings, I’d be remiss to say that quality won’t effect the overall score. Of course quality is a factor, but quality and complexity are not the end-all, be-all. It’s the perfect mix of everything, as well as where it takes me, that truly defines great music to me.