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Seven Deadly Sins of Pop

2007-01-11 13:26
Of course, you don't have to be a professional reviewer to know that most of it isn't worth buying. Not at current retail prices, at any rate. Most music releases tend to descend into cliché and triteness. This got me thinking about what we complain about most, both in our reviews and across our desks.

These are the crimes...

Name-dropping Why does every hip hop artist have to tell me their name (and the names of multiple collaborators) at the beginning of every second song? I can read. But can they spell w-a-n-k? I bought the CD. Surely I knew what I was buying? I can read the liner notes for further details of which cool people they're working with (If I care). Yes, I realise this annoying habit has its uses during live battles. But it doesn't belong on a recording, and is right up there in the sucking-up stakes with thanking critics in your liner notes.
Most guilty: Danny K, Kanye West, Tumi, P Diddy, ah... such a long list. TWO
Rhyming Not the hip hop kind, the mass-produced pop kind. With literally tens of thousands of words available for free, legal use in the English language, it appears that, to this day, "love" always rhymes with either "dove" or "above". Come on, use one of those great online thesauruses, and say something new. Nothing could make your lyrics any worse. Lyrics are half a song - make them better.
Most recently guilty,: Anyone who's written a song that a reality TV talent contestant has used.

Interludes That's supposedly deep, or supposedly funny skits artists insert between songs. Never mind that most of the banter is inaudible; or some obscure “shout out” to a buddy or funny personal anectode. If we want that crap, we'll buy that crap. The fact that not ONE of these skits has EVER been the number 1 single on ANY radio station proves that NOBODY likes them nearly as much as the songs. Not even DJs.
Most guilty, recently: Skwatta Kamp, Outkast... wait, is this something to do with the letter K replacing C in names? Kuriouser and Kuriouser!

Custom player applets Record companies seem to think they can stay ahead of computer geeks when it comes to preventing people from ripping their CDs. They're wrong. Three billion bored teenagers who can't get laid are more than a match for some in-house record company programmer. This doesn't stop record companies from trying, however. Their most recent annoying ploy is a little custom player on the original CD, which pops up and plays the CD so loud that it hurts your ears, at a volume in no way linked to your preferred player's current setting. You'd be forgiven for thinking this appeared to be intended to actually punish those who bought legal copies of CDs. Also (a close friend tells me) it's still possible to copy the CD. In fact, it's the only way you can listen to it without having to go for ear surgery afterwards.
Most guilty: Cape Town’s own Mountain Records, and most of the majors.

Bonus version delayed re-releases In the world of books, the hardcover (much nicer, more expensive) version is released first. True fans of an author buy this, because they can't wait for the cheaper deal to come out in paperback and everyone else buys the book for a better price. With CDs, the basic version comes out first. Then, months later, unpredictably, the deluxe version is released, costing slightly more. Fans lose out. Unfair, or what?

Hidden tracks Once upon a time, hidden tracks were cunning and original - the kind of pretentiousness that moves art forward. That time is gone. Now most hidden tracks should be kept hidden for one reason only - they're not good enough to put on the record.

Bad liner notes Accept this: it may not be legal to steal music but most people do it from time to time. So when someone buys a CD, they expect more than just the music. Perhaps at least what you used to get on an old import jazz vinyl - liner notes, an inventive cover, some exclusive pics you can't find in every online gallery... and no spelling mistakes. If you're printing 50 000 copies, at least get your girlfriend to copycheck it. And if your music features lyrics about smacking your bitch up, don't thank God or your mother, cause they don't want the credit.

Honourable mentions: 8) Rock bands from suburbia who only write about how much pain they're in 9) movie stars who release albums – even in Germany 10) record shops who mark up by percentage on overseas indie releases, rather than by the same amount as local releases 11) Long guitar solos – unless you’re Adrian Smith or one of The Eagles, or ok, you too, Robbie Krieger, you’re ok. 12) Bands that start two hours late then wonder why nobody comes to gigs...

Do some of these comments seem unfair? I mean, if I don't like it, I don't listen to it, right? Not so. At we listen to every CD we review at least three times. Even if we hate it. Because someone spent time and effort and love producing the CD, and they deserve a considered evalution - even if it's a harsh one.

- Jean Barker and Anton Marshall

PS: We love all our critics.

At, the entertainment team get to listen to about 40 CDs a week - legally. Don't hate us. We're just doing our jobs.

But of course, there's a downside. This downside is that we get to listen to 40 CDs a week. And most of them are bad. The CD shops are full of music so bad that much of it ends up as landfill.
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