Column: Pitchfork needs to reprioritize

Ryan Meyer, Opinions Writer

The popular music review website Pitchfork is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The website is one of the most prominent in the music reviewing industry and holds its own with heavyweights like Rolling Stone and NME, often with more credible or entertaining writers. They’ve also reviewed so much music that other sites may not even be aware of.

Although, like many do with outlets that review entertainment, as a fan I have a lot of disagreements with the reviews the site has given some albums I hold near and dear to my heart. The discography of my beloved band Interpol apparently has an average score of 6.3 out of 10, listed on a page called “Pitchfork’s Review Section By The Numbers.” While I take issue with this particular statistic, there are some very interesting figures on the page, like the albums that received 10s upon release.

There’s something to be said for Pitchfork’s rating system, which I think goes above and beyond any other media outlets that I know of. I’m not sure how albums are rated, like if the writer chooses the score or if it’s an opinion of a group of people but having a system out of 10 with decimals is far better than the systems used at Rolling Stone, for example, which uses a five-star system, which I always thought was too low.

When in search of new music, I’d often find myself turning to Pitchfork’s latest reviews to find a new artist, and to my memory that’s how I found one of my favorite bands, Fontaines D.C.

Pitchfork’s review of the band’s 2019 debut, “Dogrel,” gave the album an 8 out of 10 and looks past the obvious post-punk influence and cites things like 60’s garage rock and surf music as an important part of the band’s sound.

However, there is also some pretentiousness to note. Interpol’s fifth record, “El Pintor,” received a 5.9. The writer, Larry Fitzmaurice, spends a long time recapping the band’s career to that date before reviewing the record. He writes that, “There’s nothing here that touches the band’s creative peak, but any of ‘El Pintors’ songs could hang with Interpol’s strongest deep cuts.” I strongly disagree with this. Not only could they hang with the deep cuts, they could hang with any of the band’s best tracks, particularly the first three songs, “All the Rage Back Home,” “My Desire” and “Anywhere.” Pitchfork has an issue with the record because it isn’t the Interpol of 12 years prior when they released their debut, a piece of sonic magic that can never and will never be topped.

The list of the site’s lowest-rated artists gives this away entirely. The list includes Weezer, Madonna, the Foo Fighters and Coldplay, just to name a few. If these artists are doing so poorly, why are they so massively successful and headlining festivals around the world? Coldplay built their career off a couple of phenomenal records in the early 2000s, and what did Pitchfork give their second record? A 5.1. Bear in mind, this album, “A Rush Of Blood to the Head,” features the songs “In My Place,” “The Scientist” and “Clocks.” These songs are objectively good. They are the band at their peak.

So, while Pitchfork has provided countless artists with exposure, they could also afford to look past their own reputation as an underdog that needs to stand out and accept their status as a music-reviewing titan. Their opinions have likely earned the respect of readers, and now they should take the pleasure of acknowledging a quote from a gentleman who only has one review to his name on the site, Duke Ellington: “If it sounds good, it is good.” Unfortunately, fully acknowledging this shard of wisdom would likely put Pitchfork out of business.

Ryan Meyer is a sophomore  journalism major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]