Why Are You Listening To Critics?
The Arctic Monkeys, an English rock band, recently released their sixth studio album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. The album itself is a marked departure from their prior music, which was more straight-ahead rock. This one is more relaxed, more laid back, with each song an almost cinematic and (at times) introspective episode unto itself. It's the kind of album that reveals itself, little by little, upon successive plays.
Which is why, as I got into the album, I found myself doing something I don't ever do: I went online to read what prominent rock critics were saying about what is surely one of the better albums of this year. How were they interpreting the lyrics? What did they make of the radical shift in musical style?
And what I found was exactly what I should have expected.
Some critics loved the album. NME gave it 4 out of 5 stars, hailing it as "a fleshed-out, Bowie-esque statement of excess and grandeur" and "a product of searingly intelligent design".
Others were not so kind. Rolling Stone, no less, gave it 2 out of 5 stars, calling the album a "meandering LP (that) can't bear the weight of the man at the piano's indulgences", creating "a stylistic change-up that doesn't quite work".
Which reminded me why I never read reviews in the first place.
At the end of the day, art is about what matters on a personal level. What I consider good or bad, is, simply, my judgement. I interpret as I like, based on my personal tastes, my mood at the time, my interests, etc. It's about what moves me, makes me feel something.
Which is why, as a creator, your work cannot be driven by the opinions of others.
Because everyone has a point of view. Everyone has an idea as to what works and what doesn't. And everyone feels strongly about it.
The more important questions are:
What do you think about it?
Are you pushing yourself?
Is this your best effort?
Does this move you in some way?
Most importantly, do you have the balls to stand up for it? In the face of any and all criticism?
Because you should.
Because what you think matters.
Because the critics don't.
Because you have to live with it. In a decade (or two or three or four), you will look back and judge yourself on what you did, regardless of what others told you.
Put simply, if you listen to everyone, you will never do anything great.
In this instance, regardless of what you think of the Arctic Monkeys latest album, they deserve credit for venturing outside of their comfort zone and doing something different and unique. There is risk in it for them, for sure. But, there is also a world of growth and satisfaction in having ventured in the first place. Either way, they win.
And, in my view, as the customer, so do we.