When it comes to music, I’m not a review reader. I never have been. I like to discover music with my ears. I think music is like a language and every song is a new dialect. When I hear a song for the first time, I either speak it or I don’t. That’s it. Only my ears, heart, and mind will know if I love something. And I have to listen to find out. I’ve always been this way.
Over the years, you and I have argued about music reviews. You’ve cared so much about certain reviews at different points in our career, while I never have. This wasn’t because I didn’t want them to like us, or that it didn’t hurt when we were ripped to shreds. It was bigger than us, me, our band. Like someone first said, “Writing about music feels like dancing about architecture.” I have to hear something to know if I like it or not. I have always hoped that people would find our band with their ears, not their eyes.
But a lot of people like to know more about the music they listen to, or in some cases, don’t listen to. They want context, history, and opinions, which is fine. This is not a call to end all critical writing about music. The opposite even. I’m glad there are tools like reviews and reviewers to alert people to new great things or call out terrible things. I’m all for guiding and curating. There are no doubt many reviews, good or bad, that brought people to the Tegan and Sara world. I just don’t participate by reading any bands album reviews, ours included.
Apparently, neither does Ed Sheeran. He was lambasted this past week on the internet after this quote from Rolling Stone magazine went viral."Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It's freely available! Make up your own mind. I would never read an album review and go, 'I'm not gonna listen to that now.’” It was all over Twitter which is how I knew about this whole “drama.” (If you can call it that.) Many critics we follow disagree with Ed. Some even seemed hurt. I found the discourse tiring. Even now, I’m already tired of this topic.
The whole point of bringing this up was not to talk about Ed’s blasé feelings about music criticism. It was just to say that I love the song “Sweet But Psycho” by Ava Max. I somehow missed out on the moment this song was massive when it was released in 2018, but came across it recently when I was building a new running playlist. The song is a great, classic pop song. Easy to write off. Some of us are inherently suspicious when something is so catchy. But recently, Spotify suggested the acoustic version. I was reminded, as I often am when a pop song is carved back to its bones, that pop music is actually so complex and smart and interesting. At least it can be. This is an instance where I was like, hmm, this is such a great song. This isn’t a review of the song or Ava Max the artist. I know nothing about her. (Though the small amount of research I did revealed that she is massive! 30 million listeners a month on Spotify alone!) It’s just a real reaction to uncovering another layer to a really, really catchy song.
I wrote this newsletter to share that I covered Sweet But Psycho myself this week because it spoke to me. It’s also a super athletic song to sing, so I learned it as a warm-up while I’m rehearsing for our upcoming tour. I hate using one of my own songs to warm up. Are you like that? Anyway, hope you enjoy it, but if you don’t, no biggie. It’ll either speak to you or it won’t.
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