CRITIQUING IS ALSO PART OF ART: words of wisdom for Nigerian Artistes!

“Interpretation is the revenge of the intellectual upon art” – Susan Sontag

“It’s rather disconcerting to sit around a table in a critique of someone else’s work, only to realize that the antagonist in the story is none other than yourself, and no one present thinks you’re a very likable character” – Michelle Richmond

“One who enjoys finding errors will then start creating errors to find” – Criss Jami

“I’ve often been criticized, but never critically wounded’ – Johnny Rich


On the first day of this year, I took to twitter to share my views on people making New Year resolutions that they know they would find hard to keep. I felt I should make my opinion known, even though I didn’t have a lot of followers on twitter. But c’mon, a brother gotta do what he gotta do. So there I was on twitter and saw a tweet by an acquaintance of mine. She tweeted about an article making the rounds on social media; an article written by a seemingly unknown person in which the writer reviewed the worst Nigerian songs of 2014. I proceeded to read the article which in my opinion was a well researched, intelligent, honest yet brutal attack on Nigerian artistes and wackness.

Two weeks passed and I came across a blog, which posted excerpts to an interview which a Nigerian artiste granted. Unfortunately, this artiste was also a recipient of the writer’s punches and venom. He talked about how haters tried to bring him down and because God was on his side, no harm would befall him. He kept ranting about why people would not appreciate his efforts in the music scene but would rather take advantage of any opportunity to lambast his music.

This is a similar situation a lot of Nigerian artistes find themselves in. Most artistes in this country seem not to know the difference between a hater and a critic. Every journalist, blogger or social commentator that tends to highlight the negative aspect of their work officially turns to a hater. Now, that’s really sad. Anyway, let me try and clear the air a little bit (no be mess wey I wan mess o).

Critiquing a work of art is part of the art itself. In other words, critiquing is an art within itself. Now, by work of art, I don’t mean only paintings and sculptures. [I am talking about any work of art]. It is important to note that a work of art is not complete without critics analyzing it and commenting on it.

Critiquing exists everywhere. A lot of great and world renowned artistes, thespians, painters, musicians, etc do appreciate the art of critiquing because it usually makes them conscious of how important it is to put out wonderful works instead of coming up with mediocre alternatives.

Critiquing involves a detailed evaluation, disciplined and systematic analysis of a work. It involves the basic steps of Describing the work itself (artist’s name, title of work, etc), Analyzing the work (from technical to in-depth examination of how the technical elements were utilized in creating the work), Interpreting the work (this is usually subjective) and Evaluating the work (using the other three steps to draw conclusions and reach a judgment about the work).

The artiste whose work is being analyzed should bear in mind that artistic (in this case, musical) taste is relative; therefore, not everyone would find your type of music appealing. And this is where differentiating between critiquing and criticizing is important. Critiquing an artiste’s work would involve following the steps I’ve mentioned above while criticizing the same work would involve lambasting the same without recourse to the above mentioned steps. Critiquing involves analyzing a work wholly to highlight both positives and negatives, while criticizing involves expressing judgment and highlighting faults in a disapproving way. OK?

So let us use an example and explain further. Wizkid’s In My Bed is what it is to different people. Personally, I find the song dreadful. While critiquing the art (in this case, the song), one doesn’t just take into consideration the meaningless lyrics. You have to consider the beat, the lyrical delivery, the mix and arrangement by the engineer and every aspect of the song. But criticizing the same song would only focus on how awful the lyrics are, and other negatives one could get from the song. Se oti gbo?

So for that pretty young lady who thinks she could walk into a studio and scream and shout while distorting her voice with Autotune, and then proceed to make a music video with scantily clad dancers shaking their bum bum……forget about it because you won’t get away with it!

Or the young chap wearing two fake gold chains, with a cup of lean in hand, singing about the struggles of the ghetto without proper voice training…sorry brother, no mercies or sympathies would be shown. There are critics lurking around who wouldn’t waste any time in speaking the truth about your work. Call them haters, enemies, witches/wizards, destiny destroyers and any other names you could come up with, it still wouldn’t stop the truth from being told.

And for the critics, always remember that there is a thin line between simply airing one’s views and being utterly disrespectful. Capisce!

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