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Writing About Music Is Like Talking About What Feelings Sound Like

The music critic’s job is a complicated one.

Curt Tagtmeier

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Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to answer this question by filling in the blanks: Writing about music is like ____ about ____.  You can see how all the participants answered the question here. 

Writing about music is like talking about what feelings sound like.

Last year, I was at Bonnaroo in Tennessee when I came upon a sign that said, music is what feelings sound like. I immediately shelled out the money for the sign because it perfectly described the emotional aspect found in music.

It is unlike anything else in this world. Music brings out extreme passions that you just do not see when people are discussing their favorite movies or books. People will start fights over the jukebox without a second thought. This is because music speaks to the listener as if the artist had written that particular song for you, and you alone.

For this reason, writing about music can be a tricky proposition if you are not careful.

A good critic will analyze a song, album, or even a genre in a persuasive manner, but without disrespecting the fans of such music. In a desire to be right, the critic must never lose sight of the fact that a song can possibly be someone’s wedding song or a late parent’s favorite track of all-time.

Music is personal and brings out passions, emotions, feelings that must always be taken into consideration. This is why when writing about music, context is absolutely crucial. It is the writer’s job to expose music that is less than ideal, but they must also offer up valid reasons on why this is so.

Too many times have I heard someone say, “Oh, I hate that band,” but when I ask for a reason, that person cannot offer one up. The music critic’s job is not only to tell the reader that something is good or bad, but they always must tell us why, or it becomes a pointless exercise.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Curt Tagtmeier is a writer and librarian hailing from Chicago, Illinois. He has a Master’s degree in history and library science. He is currently writing a music series entitled Chances Are Music Is All I Got, which began in May 2017 available on Amazon. The series aims to review 100 live premium concerts by May 2019. Mr. Tagtmeier is currently on 80 shows so far. You can follow this journey on Instagram @chancethebook11 and his Tumblr blog, How Am I Not In The Strokes Yet. When he isn’t writing or listening to great music, Curt is most likely sleeping.

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