5 Stars (Excellent): This is an absolute masterpiece, and will likely end up on my end-of-year list.
4 Stars (Great): I love it. I will make the album part of my regular rotation.
3 Stars (Good): I kind of like it. I'm not mad I spent my money and time on it. I'll probably keep the music to listen to on shuffle, but won't listen to the album.
2 Stars (Just OK): It's OK, but I'll probably take it out of my music library entirely.
1 Star (Poor): I don't like it, but it has some redeeming qualities.
0 Stars (Irredeemably Awful): It has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and I would go out of my way to warn others about it.
The descriptions are illustrative. When I review something other than music, you may have to use your imagination to figure out how the scale applies to them.
Comparison To Professional ReviewsUnlike most professional reviewers, I actually use the entire scale, and I expect that as many as a dozen albums in a given year could get a perfect score, if I heard everything.
Professional reviewers get a bunch of albums thrown at them and have to review them. I, on the other hand, try to make sure I'm going to like it before I get it. So, you might expect that my ratings will veer a little higher, but statistically that's not the case. I compared all my new album reviews (2009 or 2010 release date) from January 1 to July 12, 2010 to the reviews in the August 2010 issue of Decibel. I gave 15% or the albums a 4.5 or 5, and Decibel gave 15% of the albums a 9. So in terms of the best scores actually given, we're equal. They gave two-thirds of the albums a 7 or higher, while I only gave about half the albums a 3.5 or higher. In terms of scoring something above average, they are actually more likely to recommend an album, despite the fact they have no selection bias. (Please note that since I did this comparison, I have started to receive promos from bands and labels, and I have not done a second statistical comparison.)