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Turns out music critics are history's greatest monsters.

July 2, 2021 - 09:11 -- Admin


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They hurt Billy Joel.

I’m totally stealing today’s two entries from Jonathon V Last’s subscriber only Bulwark newsletter because this first, a link to an interview with Billy Joel, struck me as really appropriate follow up to yesterday’s music discussion. Turns out making hundreds of millions of dollars, marrying supermodels and owning your island, counts for little if you don’t get no respect.

Vulture’s David Marchese interviewed Joel three years ago and found a guy who was still cut up about bad reviews from thirty years ago…

Maybe I’m misreading, but it seems as if critics’ opinions linger with you. Why do you care? Doesn’t your success far outweigh any criticism?

Nowadays the internet means critics are superfluous — everyone can make up their own mind — but when I was starting out, whatRolling Stone or Creem or the New York Times rock critic said was a big deal. I would read a review and the critics would go, “His stuff is no good.” And I’m saying, “No, no, no, no. My stuff is good.” I thought they were missing it. There was a bad takedown of me a couple years ago. Some guy wrote something like “Why Billy Joel Is the Worst.”This was a Slate essay from 2009 by Ron Rosenbaum, titled “The Awfulness of Billy Joel, Explained,” and which, as you can imagine, was rough: “Why is it that so many of us feel it is possible to say Billy Joel is — well — just bad, a blight upon pop music, a plague upon the airwaves more contagious than West Nile virus, a dire threat to the peacefulness of any given elevator ride …” I’m reading this rant and I’m going, “This guy completely misinterpreted almost everything I wrote.”

Billy Joel is, of course, the sine qua non of Dad Rock performers, and such a standing joke within the music industrial critique complex that even I, a Dad Rock Dad who really likes some of his stuff, especially the obscure B-Sides live collection Songs in the Attic, reactively thin of him as a joke.


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He’s not. He’s a hugely successful, very talented artist who beat the odds, massively, to make all that money, marry that super model, buy that island etc.

I wonder if some of the animus directed at him is rooted in the era in which he made all that money. The 1980s. The time that taste forgot.

I like JVL’s take on it in his newsletter. It’s a useful thing for anyone putting creative work out into the world to remember.

There’s a lesson here for all of us, I think.

There are people who are utterly impervious to criticism. They don’t believe it and even if they did, they wouldn’t care. That’s neither healthy nor wise.

And there are people like Billy Joel, who seem to carry criticism around with them for a very long time. Also not super healthy.

One of the keys to living well is the ability to selectively accept and reject criticism. You accept it when it comes from a source you respect, or when it comes from a place of reasonable intent. In such cases, you try to learn from the criticism, even if you ultimately reject it on the merits.

And you dismiss criticism from bad actors. Some rando on the internet says something mean about you? Don’t even let it into your brain.

This is easier said that done, of course. There’s a reason I don’t do Twitter: I felt no need to let a giant tech company make money by beaming abuse directly into my retinas. As a wise man once said, “For who? For What?”

But here’s the thing: If a guy as successful as Billy Joel can fall into the trap of letting external validation have this much sway on his life, then it can happen to anyone.