Monday, August 25, 2008

The Five Word Reviews Rant

Welcome to the new and improved I apologize to any regular readers who were thrown by the disappearance of the old "To Measure Yourself At Least Once" design, but hopefully this is a tasteful and refreshing blast of something new and different. If not, let me know and I'll turn right back around. After all, without you readers I'd just be like that tree of questionable existence, falling in the forest. Enough about change and tree trunks though, let's blog.

Five word reviews and six word memoirs, they're so in style right now just about every publication I subscribe to (and that's saying a lot) has had some sort of drawn out praise for brevity. First it was Wired, then the New Yorker, the newspapers, and now Time. Blender Music Magazine hasn't discussed the phenomenon but you'd better believe that they employ brief, bold font reviews above their more "lengthy" 100-200 word critiques of new album releases.

In a society where we are inundated with data our response has been to condense. Japan's best seller list is half cell phone novels and adept info snackers have become the new readers of Tolstoy. Don't get me wrong, I love tiny bits of information that I can store safely in the pockets of my mind.

I also love six word memoirs for their endlessly entertaining and quirky appeal.

I have to draw the line at some point though, and that's five word reviews. Radio news (other than NPR) is infamously inferior because it has no substance other than quick headline type coverage. It's good for a taste or a summary, but it's nothing more. And that's exactly why I have an axe to grind with something that's supposed to convey an opinion in so few words. Granted, I'm not so talented with the brevity, but stick with me here.

I went to see Vicky Christina Barcelona the other day and a friend and I both set ourselves to the task of writing five word reviews. They are as follows:

Women seek love, crazy journey.
Love and lust complexities made human.

Based on these five words I don't think anyone would get a true sense of whether or not they ought to see the film. Without barbaric reaction words like "Meh" or "Eeeks" it's difficult to convey any sort of opinion beyond just a summary. This kind of brevity strips the critic of their opinion, and opinion is the very essence of reviews. I don't mind five word summaries, but when it comes to films lets opt for a combination of that and five star rankings, something that actually tells us whether or not something is worthwhile in the first place. After all, if you don't have the time to read the review in entirety there's no sense in spending time on the actual product unless it's la creme de la creme.

So five word reviews, here's my five word review of you:

Brief reviews, useless without stars.


In the spirit of today, check out Dressy Bessy. Their LP Style Review would go like this:

Dressy Bessy
Melodic powerpop led by biting female.
****/ (4/5 Asterisks aka Stars)