I’ve always believed that the only real rule for writing an album review is that it should make you want to hear the music, whether you think it’s good or bad.
That being said, here are some practical steps to help you guide readers into exploring the music on their own — and telling them something about it.
- Listen to the album at least 5 times. You can’t have a real sense of music without immersing yourself in it. It’s easy to tell when a reviewer has only listened to something once, and that never makes for a good review. 7 to 10 plays is ideal. Take notes when you notice something. These will be useful later. A review must have evidence. In music, the obvious lies in immersion.
- It’s your point of view! Own it. Speak in the first person without saying “I think” or “in my opinion”. Avoid using terms such as “the public”, “the listeners”, “the fans”. Don’t assume you know their thoughts. The reader is here to know what your thoughts are, not your assumptions about other people’s thoughts.
- Be sure to state your opinion clearly – the earlier in the exam, the better. As stated in Rule #2, this is your point of view, so make your position clear. Establish your opinion in the first or second paragraph and use the rest of the review to prove your position. A reader looks to you for a trusted voice. Their interests are in your perspective. Don’t make them wait 500 words to find out.
- Don’t be swayed by the other reviews of the album. You might want to avoid them altogether until you’ve finished your piece. It’s hard to write something personal and meaningful without being unconsciously influenced by someone else’s work. If this becomes a roadblock, refer to the notes you jotted down while listening to the album. These are your initial instincts. Expand them. Ask yourself what caught your attention and why.
- Double check everything, all song names and spellings, as well as albums. Check references to other bands and songs in the same way. Be specific when citing album release years or recorded songs. Check all the names, labels and places you refer to. An inaccuracy in your review can damage credibility.
- Follow your strongest instinct. Brian Eno once said, “A lot of times in life you are faced with many possibilities. The best thing you can do is choose one with a quick decision and then make that choice work for you. It takes you to interesting places with surprising results. Don’t worry about the reaction of readers, especially don’t let the fear of hurting the feelings of the musicians stand in your way. Writing down what you feel, good, bad, or somewhere in between, will make your work stronger, truthful, and more impactful. Honesty and transparency are important.
Conclusion: trust your instincts. If it triggers a reaction in you, it will probably do the same in others. Honor your emotional reaction, it will resonate with others. It’s universal.
If you’re obsessed with singers and bands and are one of those people who create a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism course and get real-time, intense feedback on your writing. , an exposure to music industry insiders and a great venue. to view build your portfolio. Get all the details about the music journalism course here.