Santosh Ramakrishnan complains that the Norah Jones album review summarily dismisses her music, prompting Jazzebel to explain the reviewer's credo
Thanks, Jazzebel for your reply to my email. One can debate about the
genre of Norah Jones's music or specifically that of the music on this
debut album. My point is that this was supposed to be an album review.
Or have I got that all wrong? Anyway, if this was a review, it hardly
does the job. In the four paragraphs of the review, a little more than half
a paragraph touches on the album in a very sweeping gesture. Surely the
album is not so bad that it deserves the kind of summary dismissal
that's been dealt out to it by the reviewer. Even if it were mediocre,
one expects some depth from reviews.
One hopes this 'criticism' is taken as impetus for improvement.
Subjectivity and objectivity
Yes, indeed this was supposed to be an album review. I think a review should not just be a series of judgments about the artistic work, but also guidance about what to expect from it. For instance, if you read any of my reviews from The Music Magazine archives, you'll note that personal (and hence subjective) judgment about the music forms a small part of my writing. Thus, in a review of a jazz-rock fusion album I tell you quite a bit about the objective qualities of the music, how close it comes to jazz sounds, how much improvisation it has, and so on, and much less about how much I like it, particularly since I personally don't much like the sound of jazz-rock.
An important part of my charter of providing guidance is to spot whether an album is being passed off, blatantly or subtly, as something else, and if so to warn my readers. I have good reason to suspect that jazz fans are being subtly influenced to place this album in their favoured genre, which is considered a profound art form and not just popular entertainment. (Since her album collected all those Grammies in pop categories, I'm being asked to check it out and told about the Grammies when I log into the BMG Music Direct Marketing website, even though I specifically name jazz as the genre I'm interested in.) You'll have noticed, therefore, that even the part paragraph in my review that you say talked about the music measured it up in jazz terms.
To regret that a musician with formidable academic credentials in jazz has come up with a pop album which is not even jazz-influenced (as you and many others seem to think it is), and this despite her credentials. Even if she had decided to go for the bigger market and do a pop album, she could have, given her credentials, thrown in plenty of genuine jazz features -- for instance solo improvisation on piano, which she evidently plays well. I've reviewed her album from a jazz standpoint and I don't think it is illegitimate for me to have done so.