In my junior fall semester, I joined The Chronicle on the recommendation of a friend. I don’t aspire to go into journalism and never thought my writing was special. Still, I’m opinionated when it comes to music, cartoons, and video games, so I attended my first Recess meeting on a whim. The end result was a retrospective article reviewing Black Eyed Peas’s album “The E.N.D.'' I then wrote more music reviews and eventually became a music beat writer for the Recess section. I’ve, without a doubt, enjoyed my time writing for the Duke Chronicle. Despite this, after I graduate, I’ll probably never write another music review again.
“Ratatouille” is a movie that I love dearly for many reasons, but especially for the end when the notoriously harsh food critic, Anton Ego, leaves a review for Remy’s cooking. In his review, he states that “the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” In essence, the least valuable art is worth more than the most valuable critic—a sentiment that I agree with.
I’ve written only two negative music reviews as a music beat writer: one for Jack Harlow and one for Joji. I still stand by both of them. I even thought that my Jack Harlow review was fun to write because I particularly disliked that album. That being said, if you’re to consider an album as a piece of artistic self-expression, then no matter how much I disliked either of those albums, at least their creators even released music for me to potentially enjoy in the first place. Even though I didn’t, the act of releasing art to the public is a lot harder to do than judging that piece of art.
I’ve also grown confused by the act of media criticism in the first place. What is the true purpose of art criticism? More specifically, writing reviews of new media. I enjoyed writing articles about Mac Miller, JPEGMAFIA or Earl Sweatshirt. I enjoyed writing positive music reviews where I didn’t feel compelled to bash someone’s artistry. But, to be honest, I wrote those articles because they were fun, not because I thought it would provide value to readers. In fact, I don’t really recommend reading a review before listening to an album, but rather just listening to it yourself to form your own opinion. However, if you follow that advice, then what even is the point of a music review? As time went on, I started believing that writing these reviews was more or less a pointless endeavor.
I found that I enjoyed writing articles more when I wrote about something I long held appreciation for, like my “Epic Rap Battles of History” article, or my “Looney Tunes” article. There are a lot of articles that I consider among my favorites, and none of them are music reviews. That being said, I’m grateful that I wrote for The Chronicle for two years. I like the fact that an article I wrote about “Regular Show” in college is going to outlast me. My articles serve a personal purpose of being a time capsule revealing my opinions on different forms of media from the years 2021 to 2023. Even if it’s not useful to anyone else, having readily available documentation of my time as a Duke student is pretty neat.
Now that I’m approaching graduation and contemplating my life beyond a four year undergraduate degree, I find myself feeling glad that I was able to commit to something for this long; however, I feel confident that I won’t ever go back into music criticism. Positive reviews can be superficial and negative reviews discourage creativity. I enjoy listening to music without having an internal dialogue with myself trying to determine my own opinions on what I’m listening to. Sometimes it’s more rewarding to enjoy things for the sake of enjoying things.
Rhys Banerjee is a Trinity senior and an outgoing Recess music beat writer. He is thankful for the staff at Recess as well as all the friends he has made at Duke University as a whole. Even though he’s excited to graduate, he is profoundly grateful for his experiences at Duke that have shaped him into a better and more well-rounded individual. That being said, he’s excited to catch up on all the movies, music, video games and sleep he’s missed starting the morning after graduation.
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