I can remember flying back from San Diego in 2003 and reading in a magazine a review for Cyndi Lauper’s album At Last, which had just come out.  I, for the life of me, can not recall who wrote the review or what publication it was in, but the opening line stated,

Can you believe this is the same woman who sang “She-Bop?”

While there are stark differences between the subject matter of this album (standards) and one of the most notorious songs off her debut solo album, which came out 20 years earlier at that point, several of Noël Carroll’s points resonated with me while reading the first chapter and parts of the second that made me recall this comment and realize how often prescriptive evaluations are used to show off reviewer’s opinions and tell us, as the consumer of music, what is worth buy and what is not.  So often we hear that artists or writers are going back to their roots with what they are working on, saying they are wanting to go back and recreate the feeling or sound of a past work.  Is that really what these reviews and evaluations are for?  Do we really need a song about masturbation on every Cyndi Lauper album that has come out since 1983?  Why do we do this, it is because so many people want to call themselves critics, when all they really do is hold back creativity and allowing an artist to evolve.  On page 24 of Noël Carroll’s book, On Criticism, he states,

No prescriptions should stand in the way of the explosion of artistic creativity.

And then later, on page 44 he writes,

The nature of criticism is to evaluate artworks-to discover what is valuable or worthy of attention in artworks and explain why this is so.

While the person who reviewed the At Last album, the first time I read it, made me feel as if she was expecting another She’s So Unusual, my feelings changed after reading these chapters and understand where the critic was coming from, it just did not work in a way that Carroll describes criticism.  I am not sure how to change what the reviewer said to make it fit in Carroll’s view, but I know for one thing, comparing it to past albums or songs does not fit in the framework.

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