Critiques can be brutal. Most of the time, the level of brutality is in direct relation to the thickness of your skin! I used to scoff and bristle at ANY suggestion that my songs might be less than perfect! How dare they!!??
More and more, I come across this scenario…people send me their lyrics for critique, I spend some time on them and send a reply, and never hear another word! Is it that I’m expecting you to love what I say? Not at all…you’re not likely going to agree with everything, in fact you may outright disagree with every word! I am not an insensitive boor who loves tearing other songwriter‘s work apart, but I DO tend to be quite upfront about the weaknesses and the strengths, whatever they may be. Therein lies the point…what do you expect of a critique?
The first and most important point…I can never emphasize this enough…is that it is nothing personal!! I can love you as a person and not like what you wrote! I can just as easily think you’re a twerp and LOVE your writing! Okay, I’ll admit that there are VERY few people in this world that I totally dislike 🙂
Secondly, I am at least equally as hard on myself when it comes to my own writing! I will never say anything to you that I wouldn’t say to myself…in fact, I’m probably easier on you than I am on me because I don’t know how for sure how sensitive you might be. The truth is that I want you to get better…and how can you improve unless you can identify your weaknesses? I want the same for myself.
I do not treat anyone differently…the only exception to this would be a very young songwriter (in age, not experience), in which case I try to be more encouraging. If a nine-year-old came up to you with her first serious effort at drawing a cat…you’d think twice before getting too critical.
Lastly, I compare ALL lyrics/songs with those on a professional level. If you want to be a carpenter, you have to set your goals in such a way that you can compare your work with the best darn carpenter you know. Even if you intend only to be an amateur songwriter, the very fact that you’ve sent your lyrics to someone for a critique shows that you want to be good at it, no? Otherwise, why bother?
In my experiences being a reviewer on Gods Of Music , I’ve noticed a number of things in the feedback artists/bands give reviewers when they get their reviews. This is a really common response…”you didn’t get my song/you didn’t understand my music”. Who’s responsibility is it to get the message across, the reviewer, or the songwriter/artist? If someone doesn’t understand your music…especially if a number of people don’t, you have to start looking at whether or not you are doing enough to communicate in your songs. You are putting yourself out there into the “big, bad world” of the music industry and they are not going to be nice. They are going to be brutally honest. So get used to it!
Another response…”I got a great review at (some other obscure reviewer or article)…”. This doesn’t mean anything…all it does is reflect the wide variation of responses you will inevitably get to your songs. Don’t expect everyone to feel the same about your song…you don’t feel the same about every song you hear!
There are also various other defensive responses you see from songwriters and artists who are pretty new to this idea of criticism. On the other hand, I see many who respond in a mature, gracious manner to whatever feedback they get. If you don’t get the “that’s a number one hit!!!” response the way you thought you would, take a long breath before you put your fist through the wall 🙂 It takes time, tremendous luck and a whole lotta talent to begin to compete with the rest of the music world.
I sincerely hope that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who asks me for a critique reads this very article first, in order that they understand what I’m going to do. To be painfully honest, if you are looking for a pat on the back ONLY…don’t ask for a critique. Instead, play your song to your friends and family. They will ALWAYS accept what you do because they love you!
(PS…Irene is no longer giving personal critiques other than her work with Gods Of Music, but you can request a critique on the Messageboard!!)