I used to write for an ancient website called "epinions". It actually still exists but became irrelevant once social networking really took off. My username was Fartzarellah for any who are interested. Anyways, many of the music reviews written there were too vague to be helpful so I decided to write an article on how people could make their reviews better by being more specific, analyzing exactly what it is that they like or do not like about the music they are reviewing. A lot of the information here is pretty basic, but I think I did a pretty good job of summing up the different aspects of music. Since we have a music dissection category here, I thought this might be helpful to some. It is more focused on reviewing albums but can mostly be applied to critiquing compositions as well. Here ya go.
"The Bottom Line Trying to untangle the enigma that is liking and disliking.
Writing about music can be a daunting task. The most common way to listen is to let the music wash over you in a wave. There is nothing wrong with listening in this manner, but you have to be more analytical to effectively tell others why you love it or hate it. Here is a checklist of things to consider. Don't feel you always have to mention every single one. Each of these elements may or may not be important to you depending on the context.
Is the music clear and crisp? Is it muddy? Is there too much going on? Is there a sparse, elegant arrangement? Does the sound bring a specific era to mind? If so, do you like that era?
Does the singer have a deep, resonant voice? Sweet and subtle? Nasally and annoying? Do the drums sound raw and unpolished? Are the guitars loaded with effects? Does the bass sound like a bouncing rubber band?
Are the lyrics profound? Moving? Pretentious? Uninspired? Silly? Simple and direct? Deep and complex? Humorous? Funny even? Ironic? Sardonic? Laconic? Angry? Provide an example or two to back up your claims.
Does the melody make you want to sing along? Is it overly repetitious? Is it flowing and beautiful? Is it rambling and non-sensical? Is it rigid? Does it ascend? descend? Does it spin off into the heavens?
Does the music use simple power chords? Major and minor chords? Is the key major or minor? Is it a-tonal? Jazzy chords? Predictable changes? Unexpected changes? If you are not familiar with chord names or keys, that is fine. You could use the power of association and memory instead to tell us how the chords make you feel.
Does it make you tap your toes? Wag your head? Pound your fist? Beat up the neighbors? Is it Fast? Slow? Somewhere in between? Standard rock beat? Country beat? Dance beat? Disco beat? Rumba?
Note: Rhythm may be the greatest determining factor of style
Does the guitar player suck? Is the singer out of tune? Is the singer amazing? Is the guitar playing impressive? Does a bad performance seem oddly appropriate, or a good one strangely out of place?
Is it a 12-bar blues? Is it a standard pop song (verse-bridge-chorus)? Is it through-composed (no section repetitions, classical in scope)? Does it fade out? Does it end abruptly? Is it long? Is it short?
Too simple? Too complex? Dazzlingly complex? Simple and direct?
Is the music all over the place? Does it sit in one tidy little spot? Does it go too far? Does it sit there like a boring old fart?
This category can often be used to sum up the others and makes your task much easier. Is it Punk? Reggae? Funk? Alternative? Death-Metal? Bubblegum? Jazz? Hip-Hop? Trip-Hop? Classical? Baroque? An odd amalgam? Industrial? Cuban? Etc.?
Note: If you are writing about an obscure style, make sure to provide a definition. I have read a number of reviews that were well written but left me scratching my head concerning what "Nu punko body flip" music is.
Was/is this ground breaking music? Does it speak for a generation? Does it speak badly for a generation? Is it commercial garbage? Is it commercial genius? Is it indie garbage? Is it indie genius?
If there is some sort of nostalgic or horrendous or whatever image that the music brings to mind, please share. There are many occasions where I may like or dislike music based solely on associations the music draws up. For example, I can't stand the song "Don't Bring Me Down" by E.L.O. because I got horribly car sick when I was three or four and that song just happened to be playing on the radio. If I were to write a review saying I hated it because of the melody, production, etc., I would be lying. Be aware of your biases (like it or not, we all have them) and let the reader know what they are.
This is probably the single most important aspect. All of the others feed into it. What could possibly be more important than how the music makes you feel? However, you need the "technicalities" to back up your claims. Like I said in the introduction, you don't need to mention every category every time, just the significant ones.
Putting it all Together
The categorization here is necessarily a bit rigid. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as categories. In reality, lyrics, production, melody, etc. all exist at the same time and aren't really separate from one another. The best reviews bring the relevant "categories" together into a nice tidy package for the reader.
The trick is to avoid losing the forest for the trees, while at the same time proving that you have a legitimate forest made up of real trees here. In other words, try to achieve a truly holistic viewpoint that takes reductionism into account. God is in the details, but the details are nothing without God. And so on.
I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if I'm missing any categories here."
Oh, I did think of one other important category to be aware of:
Do you like the person who posted the music? Do you think that person is a dork? Has this person left a positive comment on one of your pieces so you feel like you should return the favor? Did this person tear your piece a new one?