Reviewing the Arts HN: The Good and The Bad

(Disclaimer: I’ll be posting these type of blogs once a week this semester for my Reviewing the Arts: Honors course at Columbia. Bear with me, and celebrate that you might possibly be getting two posts a week from this blogger…if you want to, I mean. Stay with us.)

This is a review by David Brauer of MinnPost from July 12th, 2012 of John Moe‘s show Wits. 

For a show that’s so enjoyable, it’s interesting to travel back in time and see what people thought back when it was still considered a start-up, and David Brauer does an excellent job of encapsulating and explaining his thoughts. It works, because Brauer doesn’t speak in the first person, he states his thesis right away, he stays true to his perspective, and he answers all five of the “W’s” – who (John Moe,) what (Wits,) where (the airwaves and the internet, but he also covers the physical location of the show, the Fitzgerald Theater in Minnesota,) when (the blurriest of the five, but he reviewed the show for what it was at the time; a show with fifteen episodes but about to go full time,) and why (which is the review itself.)

Brauer explains some of the uniqueness of Wits at the time, and his points are supported by quotes from John Moe (the show’s host and lead writer.) One of these points is Moe’s writing style, and his usage of social media to both test the waters with sketch ideas, and make the shows have more of a public appearance. Audience members are encouraged to use hashtags to share their thoughts on the show, and Brauer says this technique makes non-listeners feel like Wits is an elite social club. Perhaps it is, but almost three years after this review, the program is pretty regular and shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

This is a review by Kelsey of The Current from October 13, 2014 about Hozier’s self-titled album “Hozier” (Columbia Records, 2014)

There’s a difference between a review and a description, and Kelsey doesn’t seem to know that difference. Someone should probably tell her that it’s bad to be contradictive in the first sentence of a review, too. After re-reading this review a handful of times, it’s still unclear how she feels about the record. Although she does a good job of describing most of the tracks, the meaning behind each one, and what a listener should be considering when listening through it, it’s unclear if she enjoyed listening and thinking about it, or if it was just another record of 2014 that was popular, but didn’t go platinum. It’s as if she deliberately didn’t want to take a stand on the record, perhaps a smart move at the time, but now it just doesn’t make sense.

The area she’s lacking? Emotional reaction. Criticism is an attempt to intellectually convey your emotional reaction to a work of art, and instead, Kelsey brings lines of description that most of the Hozier fans already knew.

For a music-focused station like The Current, readers should expect top-notch and honest reviews; not wishy-washy statements about a couple tracks here and there. “Hozier” was one of the most popular albums of the year, and it would have been nice to have a thought-provoking, honest, and fearless review from them – especially from their music assistant and an on-air host.

The writing itself isn’t bad; it’s just missing some essential content. Maybe Kelsey could really benefit from a class like this, but it’s further proof that in these types of media industries, it’s absolutely essential to have a grab-bag of skills.


Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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