Latest reviews of new albums:

Somebody noticed that yesterday’s post about The Rings of Power did not include a star rating. Most of the time when it appears that I have forgotten something, it’s because I’ve forgotten something, but this was deliberate. It just feels a bit too arbitrary. It always has, really, but I’ve done it anyway because it’s what people expect.

Hopefully my words convey whether I like something or not. Star ratings are a difficult thing to do: while not deliberate, it’s very hard to avoid making them relative to the current environment. A five-star rating in 2022 is relative to other stuff coming out in 2022. But then somebody will say “how can you give this thing five stars when you only gave X four stars?” And maybe it’s because X came out twenty years ago, or because I was in a bad mood on that day, or whatever. “You said this is the best thing the composer’s done since 2005 but you gave some album a high rating in 2014!” Yes, I probably did. That’s why the words are more important than the stars.

And then there’s the perennial problem: how to write something that’s clearly done very well, does whatever job it was intended to do perfectly, but happens to just be something I don’t particularly like? I’m only giving opinions here so it should clearly be reflective of how much I like it, but then just dropping two stars against what has for somebody been a labour of love and has achieved every objective they set out for it to achieve – doesn’t really seem fair. Explaining why it doesn’t float my boat seems fair enough though.

(Having said all that – if you look hard enough, you’ll still find the stars. You don’t need a telescope to view them, but you do need to click somewhere else in the site.)

  1. Craig Lysy (Reply) on Sunday 4 September, 2022 at 22:06

    James, as you know I took this path first and later Jon joined for the same reasons you stated. Our prose informs our readers and I support your new practice.

  2. Alexander (Reply) on Monday 5 September, 2022 at 07:22

    Personally, I liked the star rating and here’s why. First of, coming here means that we share a similar taste in film music. Secondly, I admit that I do not read each and every of your articles. It has to be a combination of having enough time, certain genres, certain composers and/or – and here it is – a decent or even high star rating. Call me superficial, but a 5-star album has always raised my attention and probably made me listen to the album. I’m not saying that words can’t convey that, but as a standard code which was easy and quick to decipher it did its job very well.

  3. Michael (Reply) on Wednesday 21 September, 2022 at 09:24

    For whatever it’s worth, I love the star system as I value your opinion and it helps me decide whether to spend 40-80 minutes listening to a score or not. This can be easier to do with a rating attached to each score rather than interpreting how much you enjoyed it from your review. Obviously your call and better for us if you change your approach rather than stopping writing altogether – I’ll keep reading and gauging how much you like it from the reviews, plus probably hunt down your rating elsewhere on the website.

  4. Peter (Reply) on Thursday 22 September, 2022 at 06:31

    James, please bring back the stars. If I was to guess, like this, the traffic on your website will gradually go down.

    Star ratings are there for the reader to get a quick idea on how much you like the score. And actually, they make understanding the reviews easier too, because you can put some final result behind all the reasonings and words. It almost helps visualize the review if you will.

    That’s why ratings were invented.

    And I personally think out of all the usual variations, i. e. rating something out of a 100%, out of 10, out of 5 or rating it out of *****, the five star rating is the easiest on the eye/mind and it provides enough room for middle ground ratings too.

    I think the more you overthink stuff like this, the less practical results you get.

    Maybe at least give us some summary at the end in bold lettering?

  5. Peter (Reply) on Thursday 22 September, 2022 at 06:36

    You know what? on second thought…I don’t care really. I will keep visiting regardless and I don’t want you to feel us readers don’t support your website. I mean it’s free, this isn’t life and death and you should enjoy it since you’re the one doing the writing. Cheers!

  6. Bespin74 (Reply) on Saturday 15 October, 2022 at 13:59

    I love the star systems! I think you really understood how to use them. Finally a composer can only be compared to the best work we think he is able to do… and well, we can compare a bit his work with the works of his pairs in the same period of time. That’s the only thing we want! Please continue!