Rating Scale

2013 Rating Scale

I've used a 5 star rating scale since late 2009.

5 stars: I can't use a time machine to check on my attitude about an album 10 years from now. Hell, I can't even tell whether my attitude will change at the end of the year. But a scale isn't useful unless you use the whole thing. So, I award 5 stars when an album is extremely impressive, and I think there's a very good chance it will be on my top 10 for the year.

3 stars: The album is OK.

0 stars: The album has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Below is a document I wrote to explain the rating scale in 2010. At some point between then and now, some of my attitudes toward things have changed--and I don't actually have the time to check out everything that's sent to me anymore--but I don't think how I rate things has really changed.

2010 Rating Scale

The items reviewed on this blog are judged on a 5 star scale, with the lowest possible score being 0. Half-stars are possible. The following explanations for each whole-number rating apply:

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 Reviews

Unlike 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.)

Effective Date

This rating scale is effective retroactive to November 2009 (when I really started resurrecting this blog), so a few of the past ratings have been adjusted to conform. I began awarding half-stars July 12, 2010, and adjusted some past ratings accordingly.

Full Review vs. Summary Judgment

For a full review, I give the album at least three listens (usually more), usually over the course of at least a week, to allow myself to digest it. I then give some fleshed-out thoughts on it and give a score. When I issue summary judgment, I've decided not to listen to the album more than once (maybe I didn't even finish it, but I'll say so if that's the case), and to give only a brief explanation instead of a full review. It doesn't necessarily imply that the album deserves an extremely bad rating. Thus far I've had a policy of devoting a post to every band that's contacted me (and I feel like I owe them that if they're giving me a free promo), and this allows me to do that without forcing myself to listen to something I really don't like.