While this series may be titled clickbait cop, we’ll be using this title to explore pieces of music journalism or news that we feel needs criticised to some degree, even if the headline in question may not be ‘clickbait’.
CW: Rape, racism.
By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
As the title may have informed you with the use of quote marks, Kelly McClure’s review of Tyler The Creator’s latest album is not a review. From my previous thinkpiece/rant about the state of music criticism, I said that more had to be done to stop it dying a slow, painful death, one such thing being the actual state of music journalists’ writing and actually analysing the music rather than saying everything is just “good”.
The Consequence of Sound piece that McClure published didn’t feel anything like a review, rather it felt like an think-piece that seemed to contradict itself with every point. There are a handful of times where any real critique is shown without a fragile point being brought up to criticise Tyler The Creator as a person rather than his music.
That’s not to say that criticism of Tyler’s actions aren’t valid: his lines on earlier records regarding rape and misogyny hold some weight and even with the angle of them being the actions of a character rather than things Tyler actually believes in/does, they felt like shallow shock humour that were only there to appease to edge-lords.
McClure is aware of this, as can be seen from her “review” which takes up a huge chunk of its overall word count to criticise his past actions and his character, making it feel almost like she hadn’t quite reached her quota the night before it was due and had to ramble on to meet it. The shock she shows isn’t exactly something new, considering she has reviewed some of his earlier work with some…questionable lines coming from it, such as the one below:
As stated previously, I can totally understand the violent notion considering the lyrics around things such as rape would be enough to make anyone feel at least uncomfortable, even angry. However, the use of comparing a black man’s genitals to a dog feels somewhat…racist. Call it reaching but it’s something I’m not alone in thinking, making our writer’s thoughts feel somewhat hypocritical.
Unlike McClure though, I’m not gonna rag on about a point that has no relation to what we’re really talking about which is the review itself. Like we’ve discussed, this review fails to really review the work, something that even McClure herself seems to acknowledge: in the final paragraph, McClure says “now’s as good a time as any to reveal that this is a positive album review”, something that isn’t at all shown by anything preceding this statement. Much like commentators have pointed out, there’s been a decline in the quality of music reviews. To write a review like this with only a grade ranking and one line to show that you actually liked an album and not the hundreds of word before it just comes off as shoddy journalism.
There’s another point where McClure tries to critique the album for having A$AP Rocky featuring on a song – to quote her, she says:
For an artist like Tyler, who will be the first to point out that he’s not a misogynist, the company he keeps and the names he adds to his albums tends to consistently prove otherwise.
To affiliate with a misogynist can be seen as supporting the action, even if you don’t call them out on it. However, there’s two points that this paragraph brings up, firstly that there’s no critique of his performance or verse, something that a review should do.
Secondly though, Tyler The Creator isn’t the only artist to collaborate with A$AP Rocky: where was her outcry when Lana Del Rey announced she would have the rapper appear on her upcoming LP? Or his appearance on a Selena Gomez track? McClure’s point does not come from a hateful place but when you think about it, it feels like she only brings up to further attack an artist when she’s already done plenty of that.
When bringing up context, McClure seems to ignore the fact that Tyler The Creator himself has matured as an artist. He may not be a pristine clean rapper, let’s be honest who is, but with Wolf and Cherry Bomb, he’s toned down, if not completely got rid of, the abusive and rapist lines that were apparent on Bastard and Goblin. The way she seems to discredit the rumour that Scum Fuck Flower Boy is a way for Tyler The Creator to announce he’s gay seems, to put it bluntly, kinda rude. To McClure, Tyler cannot be gay due to his previous comments, as if gay people themselves cannot be problematic which is rather naive considering that two of the most controversial figures in online politics happen to be Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson are both gay. While we can continue to keep them out of our community due to their hateful and downright stupid opinions, we can’t just pick and choose who is and who is not gay.
As McClure continues her point, she seems to think that this reveal is meant to be shocking, as if this is one big publicity stunt and shouldn’t be acknowledged. Considering Tyler himself is yet to say anything about it, after all this is purely speculation on the hip-hop community’s part, this again seems like careless journalism on McClure’s part – to rant about sexuality and then just end it with a “who cares” at the end harks back to that point of trying to reach the quota.
Am I in the camp of “female writers shouldn’t write about male artist’s work”? Of course not, music shouldn’t be propping up borders about who and who can’t listen or critique certain music. However, I feel like Consequence of Sound have made a bad move in publishing work like this without checking to see if it it meets the criteria of a music review, as well as giving it to someone with an inherent bias.