If you follow me on Twitter — and if you don’t, why not? — you no doubt noticed that I went on a lengthy rant concerning Dallas Morning News music critic Mario Tarradell’s review of Saturday night’s Beyoncé concert (specifically) and his skill level as a music critic (generally). Here is a recap. But after thinking about it, I thought I should offer a concrete example of my problems with that review, by way of contrast and comparison with the review on the Observer‘s DC9 at Night blog. (Full disclosure: I’m friendly with the women who tag-teamed that write-up. I’m friends with a lot of writers in town. The majority of them. I’m a friendly person. I’d be doing this if the DC9 review was written by my most bitter enemy, a garbage disposal.) JUMP.
Here is Mario:
I must give her serious props on two counts, though: She had an all-female band that was pretty kicking all night. Plus, “Single Ladies” was a mash-up with “Movin’ On Up,” the theme song from the iconic television series The Jeffersons. How cool was that?
Here is DC9 at Night:
To speak to the actual music experience. Beyonce sounded as prepared for a night of belting as you imagine she would. Every note clear and in-tune, The Mama’s taking over during moments of vocal rest (by the by, great background vocalists are an obvious if overlooked solution to the controversy of vocal tracking in popular music). New arrangements of obvious hits like “If I Were a Boy” and “Single Ladies” made particular use of the band, “Diva,” got an especially grimey rendition. A Whitney Houston dedicated performance of “I Will Always Love You,” should be sentimental but worked.
It was especially exciting to hear new live versions of classic Beyonce singles like “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and “If I Were A Boy.” The former featured a jaw-dropping interlude including elements of Rebirth Brass Band’s “Feel Like Funkin It Up”, as well as a run of the theme from The Jeffersons on the hook. The latter dropped out the original arrangement all together for the instrumental from The Verve’s ’90s favorite, “Bittersweet Symphony.” It was a fresh and interesting take on what is otherwise one of Beyonce’s least exciting singles. The reinvigorated versions of fan favorites kept longtime fans up on their feet, and exceeded crowd expectations.
I know there are space considerations and all that. Mario is writing for the paper and the internet has limitless space. But look at all the details in the latter review. There wasn’t room for any of that? Of course there was. Or there would have been, if Tarradell hadn’t decided to structure his entire review around his thoughts about Beyoncé’s hair, which featured sentences constructed so oddly, it seemed like there were actual fans from the audience blowing her hair around. His review was lazy, physically and intellectually, and it had very little to do with the actual performance and more with his general feelings about the singer. Which he had already decided before he even went to the show.
I’m not saying it should have been a toothless rave. If he didn’t like it, that’s his opinion, he’s entitled to it, and that’s great. But sell me on it. Really get into the why. Not just, “oh, I don’t really think she has any good songs.” And tell me about what happened. Not just, “well, she changed clothes a few times and, hey, it was pretty cool to hear the Jeffersons theme song.” If you have limited space, don’t waste a word of it. Find the real details that matter and report them.