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Don't Criticize What You Can't Understand

Written by Michael Black

To many artists the word critic is just about as pleasing to the ear as a swift run of the fingernails down a chalkboard. While few might remain "darlings" of the critics throughout their careers, most artists see critics as deceptive lot who ride on the coattails of others' notoriety, waiting to jump on any mistake and then casually moving on to the next victim. Consumers, on the other hand, take a critic's words very seriously. A critic's words contain a certain clout that help the public choose what movie to see, show to watch, or album to buy. While the nature of the relationship between the critic and the artist and the critic and the public is indeed very different, the critic plays a key role in keeping the public informed and the artist in check. Thus it is important that a critic act with purpose rather than negligence. So then, what should the purpose of a critic be? A critic's main purpose should be to inform. In order to properly inform, a critic should critique as an informed citizen, be current but aware of the past, be unbiased or aware of their biases, and present a view that holds up to their own standard of criticism.

Bob Dylan once sung, "don't criticize what you can't understand" (Dylan). This should be a rule that all critics abide by. An uninformed critic is no critic at all. For instance, if one were to criticize the merit of a rap album without liking rap music, they are not only acting as an uninformed critic, but they are wasting the time of the artist and the consumer. The reason that being informed is important is because it is expect by both the artist and the consumer. An uninformed critic is completely self-serving. At this point, the critic is no longer of value to an artist or a consumer and thus no longer serves a purpose. For this reason, a main purpose of a critic is not only to inform but also to be informed.

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