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What Were We Thinking?

Editorial Written by Andre Marentette

When you have a review, you expect to get some type of information out of it that will educate you on the product in question. Sometimes it is a CD with details about specific tracks. Sometimes it is a DVD with details about a performance. Sometimes it is something completely different than what you would expect to see — a review that starts talking about an album, moves to a performance, and then goes on a tangent that never goes anywhere! But there is one thing besides the content that makes all reviews the same: there is a person writing it, not a super computer somewhere filling in the blanks.

Human interaction with reviews is what makes everything different. When writing them, personal styles of writing influence the overall form and balance of a review, both in the positive and negative sense and in the quality of the writing itself. At Square Enix Music Online, there is a very wide range of review styles. Some feature overviews which quickly skim an album with a few highlights. Others go into extreme detail about the small nuances and quirks in every track. These differences, especially in cases where an album receives multiple reviews, can be invaluable to consumers or fans when wanting to know about an album or a specific track.

In my own reviews, I have always followed a structure that introduces the work, describes the strengths and weaknesses of individual tracks, and sums up the experience in both positive and negative reactions. Normally, this is what you would expect from a review. At Square Enix Music Online, however, we sometimes go further than that. We mention vague and descriptive terms like "instrumentation," we describe concepts or ideas as being "a vast wall of sound" with "decorative elements" and "stylized chord work." But what exactly do we mean by all of this? And why do we write in such a way? Are we using a strange new adaptation of Shakespearian English? Surely not!

As reviewers of music, we have a different ear when listening to a piece. We can tell the difference between a violin and a viola, and we can detect when a piece is performed live or through a synthesizer. Because many of us are musicians of one form or another, we live musically and are moved by its many forms. Therefore, we can't help but express our passion when we review a work. And as you can see from our catalogue, that works for both positive and negative reviews.

Personally, I find that a review that is written in a lyrical, almost artistic style (painting an image of a musical piece in your mind? Talk about deep!), really expresses a lot more about the music than a simple loved it / hated it review. Those shades of grey, or in our case a fairly multicolored spectrum, provide exactly the kind of information that "our kind" looks for in a review. At the same time this can be a bad thing, but with experience, writing a review that expresses a certain passion, while still being accessible by the general public, becomes easier.

I don't know about my fellow reviewers here at Square Enix Music Online, but I gain a certain satisfaction from writing reviews. Not necessarily in the mindset of "I have ordained this album thus!" but more from the view that I have contributed something to this album. I have made it more than a disc of plastic in a plastic (or paper?) case with a colorful cover. I have given it some life where, in the absence of musical samples, there is nothing but a track name. If you were looking to buy an album, in truth, what more could one ask for?