Google Code-in / Elements of a CritiqueBrainz Review

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This is not a full-blown "how to" article. The internet has lots of resources if you'd like to read more about how to write engaging music reviews.

Instead, this is a short list of things that I look for personally in a CritiqueBrainz review. Maybe it will help you get started.

Elements of an Album Review (an opinionated list)

Before you start

  • Read some good reviews!
    You can find lots of great reviews on CritiqueBrainz, or search the web.
  • Write in a comfortable voice.
    A good review probably won't sound like an academic paper, and probably won't sound like a youtube comment, but it should sound like you.
    Reviews don't need to be in English. If you're more comfortable in another language, go for it.
  • In case this isn't already clear, submit only your own writing.
    These GCI review-related tasks are exercises. If you don't do the work, you're not getting any exercise.
    In the world of open source software and open data, as in the rest of life, it is not acceptable to take credit for somebody else's work.

What is a review trying to accomplish?

In a review, you might be describing music to somebody who has never heard it. In this case, you might help the reader decide if this music would be worth exploring.

Or, your reader may already be familiar with the music you are reviewing. In this case, you might give that reader a new perspective or a deeper understanding.

As you write, ask yourself "what would I find helpful if I were the reader?"

Try to answer some or all of the following:

Album reviews

  • What's the overall feel, style, genre and mood of the album?
  • Who will probably like (or dislike) the album?
  • What is the artist primarily known for? Does this album go in a new direction? Or is it more of the same?
  • Can you give the reader a sense of the writing and musicianship on the album by describing a few highlights?
  • Do the songs fit together to form a "whole"? If so, how? Are there recurring themes? Are the tracks part of a larger work?
  • How does the music make you feel? What does it remind you of?

Live performance (event) reviews

Not all questions will apply to all shows, of course.

  • What was the size of the show? Small club? Giant sports arena?
  • What was the style and energy level? Ballads? Dance-able pop? Head-banging and a mosh pit? Challenging contemporary "classical"?
  • Was there any notable interaction between the artist(s) and the audience?
  • Were the songs mostly new material? Old favorites? Were there any interesting covers or guest appearances?
  • Were there any surprising choices made? New arrangements of familiar tunes? Unreleased material performed for the first time? A wide range of styles performed?
  • Did the artist(s) seem comfortable and relaxed? Energized by the crowd's reaction? Maybe they were having an "off" night, or seemed to be "phoning it in"?
  • Overall, how was the show received by the audience?

Then, try to add some context:

  • How does this album or performance compare to others by the same artist?
  • How does this album or performance compare to others by contemporary artists?
  • Was this album influenced significantly by earlier artists? Or did it go on to heavily influence later artists?
  • Was this concert a notable reunion? A "farewell" tour? A return after a hiatus? The artist(s) first visit to a particular area?

Now, go through and do some editing:

  • Are there parts that don't really answer any of the above questions? Parts that just feel like filler, or that the reader would already know by looking at e.g. the MusicBrainz page for that album? Consider removing these parts!
  • Consider asking somebody to help you proofread. This is something every writer needs to do sometimes.
  • Did you talk about other artists or other albums? Link to the corresponding CritiqueBrainz pages!
    see below for instructions
  • Put all titles in either quotation marks (or the equivalent punctuation for your language/script) or italics. Either is fine, as long as it's done consistently within the review.

How to add links using markdown

Markdown, as Wikipedia says, "is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax". CritiqueBrainz lets you use markdown to format your reviews. The results are visible in the "preview" pane when you're editing.

The markdown needed to turn plain text into a clickable link looks like this: [visible text](CritiqueBrainz URL)

markdown link examples
If you type this in the "write" paneYou see this in the "preview" pane
artist[David Bowie]( David Bowie
album"[Earthling](" "Earthling"

Note the long, random-looking string of numbers and letters at the end of a CB URL. That's the MBID. Every "thing" stored in MusicBrainz has a unique ID. These same IDs are used by other projects (like CB) as well.

External links

A few great review sites