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Monday, April 25, 2022

Where did all the stars go?

Stars ... from Wikipedia

Dear Readers,

After a long and impassioned discussion amongst the folks here in the Free Jazz Collective and supported by a survey of the writers, readers, promoters, and musicians, we have collectively decided to drop the star ratings on reviews. We will still have a "five-star" marker of some nature to denote exemplary recordings, but no longer offer star ratings on each review. 

The majority opinion was that the star ratings do not contribute enough in a positive manner. The Free Jazz Blog, as a rule, tries to write about what we think are good, and thus the ratings skewed towards four and four-and-a-half stars on average, meaning good ratings of three or three-and-a-half star were seen as negative (even though it was not meant that way by the writers) and could have an unintentional impact on the review.

Anyway, we'll try it out. Maybe it will turn out that there were unknown advantages to the star ratings after all and we will re-calibrate and re-introduce them. Let us know what you think.

The Collective


Unknown said...

Jazz Times and several other review publications don’t use a star rating. For those that do, it always feels rather subjective and random. I’m often confused by a glowing, effusive review that then gets 3 stars. And I often tend to avoid reading lower rated reviews. It seems to be the job of the reviewer to outline the merits and downsides of any album - enough to be motivated to check it out online so we can make up our own minds. So I applaud your decision to drop the stars!

joan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach Smith said...

Totally agree with this decision! Over-precise scoring like Pitchfork's is indefensible and mocks the level of subjectivity inherent in all art.

Mjy said...

I agree with the above comments and welcome this decision!

dobrodziej said...

Cool! Good you've got rid of stars and even better you've kept the *5s! I liked "starring" by Stef (a matter of taste I guess), but as FJB collective kept growing, stars appeared more and more misleading. Perfect solution for me!

friccolodics said...

In the end it comes down to the quality of the writing.
Bringing across the inherent qualities of the music is
a hard and as quite many would argue impossible task!
This isn't by any means made easier if you have to hand out a star rating.

Still as a first guide i personally found the stars and the merit ascribed to certain recordings quite useful!

There are many recordings of free jazz out there, too many to listen to all of them and give them their due!
A rigorous way of ascribing quality comes in useful, because in the end listening to an "average" free jazz album is a waste of time in the long run.
The law of averages forces us to seek out and chose quality, to define and constantly redefine our definition of what makes music worth listening to.
In the end this is what reviewing comes down to: pointing out merits and justifying personal preferences

Anonymous said...

Despite all the subjectivity I liked the stars.

Anonymous said...

I largely agree with friccolodics, but have an alternate scheme to propose. I found star ratings useful when I was in sympathy with the reviewer's taste, and not when I was not. Which involved slowly learning which reviewers I was apt to agree with. Not an ideal system. Frequently I found I would rate a recording lower.

My alternate scheme: that you retain the star listing but make it separate from the review, an average of how informed listeners would rate the recording. Perhaps a rating could look like this: ****(6) — that is, the ratings of six reviewers have averaged out at four stars. Should only reviewers should be able to post a rating, or it should be open to all listeners? To be decided, but perhaps only reviewers.

This approach is roughly parallel to FJC's end-of-year best-of listings, which are deservedly popular.

c.bellevie said...

I can appreciate the misperception that a 3 star rating may give. I run into this quite often on the site Goodreads. Goodreads itself establishes that 3 stars as 'liked it', 4 stars as 'really liked it' and 5 stars as 'it was amazing', with no half star ratings available. I most almost all books as 3 stars, as I typically liked them. In the hundreds of books I've added stars to, I have never used the 3 star rating where it was not below the average. So, despite always liking the books I read, my star rating always looks negative.