1. Pick an album you are interested in reviewing
This seems pretty self explanatory, but it's important to mention nonetheless. If you are writing for a certain publication, your options may be limited. However, if you're freelancing, or are otherwise in a situation where you can write about whatever album you want, pick an album you are genuinely interested in reviewing. This will make it all the more interesting.
2. Try to do some background research on the artist you will be reviewing
This is one is an important one. I feel like the only way we can understand an album in full is so understand the artist as a person. I read up on artist bios, watch interviews and even give their previous work a listen if time permitting. It's very important to understand the head space of the artist before critiquing their art. Take Mac Miller's last album before his death, for example. A lot of this album deals with Mac trying to find comfort in his own head after a tumultuous breakup followed by a DUI crash. This album also sees Mac dealing with issues such as depression and substance abuse, which he had fought for years before his death. Knowing all of this information would be very useful when trying to understand this album.
3. Give the album a very surface-level listen your first time through
You're never going to truly absorb an album in one listen. It simply can't be done. However, you're wasting your time if your jotting notes down and trying to absorb everything your first time listening to it. Your first time through should be focused on the sound and the aesthetic of the record. Does it sound good? Does it sound thrown together, or does it sound cohesive and planned out? Does it flow well? These are questions you should be asking on your first listen.
4. Come up with some sort of rating system
This is really something you should do before you start reviewing albums, but you should start referring to it on your 2nd listen. There really is no universal ratings system; everybody is different. Some music writers score albums based on multiple categories. Others simply rate an album based on musical/artistic virtuosity. Some critics simply score an album based off of how much they enjoyed it. I personally have no guidelines when it comes to reviewing albums because every piece of art is different in one way or another. Albums can be brilliant in all sorts of different ways, and it's important to realize that different albums have different strengths and weaknesses.
5. Give the album AT LEAST a few more listens, going deeper and deeper each time
I give an album at least 4-5 listens before I review it. My 2nd time through is when I start writing down notes on each track, taking general notes down on a separate page as well. By the you are ready to review an album, your page should be filled to the brim with notes; you should be an expert on the album that you are about to review.
6. Create a review outline
If you're scatter brained like me, your thoughts can sound very jumbled. I always create a rough outline of what my review will look like so it comes off as organized and cohesive
7. Give some background information on the artist
Remember, album reviews are supposed to be informative. Introduce your post by providing any relevant information about the artist who you will be talking about. However, it is important to be brief. It is an album review, after all, and the majority of the piece should be about the album itself.
8. State your case, and provide as much detail as possible.
Album reviews are supposed to be subjective. They are merely the thoughts and opinions of a single listener. However, it is VITAL to state why you feel the way you do about an album. Otherwise, you'll just come off sounding like you're either fanboying, or trying to attack the artists' character.
9. Be honest!
This might be the most important thing. if you think an album is a classic in the genre, say so! If you think an album is utter trash, speak up! The most important thing, as was just mentioned, is that you must show why you feel the way you do about an album. However, music reviews are entirely subjective. You should not hold back in expressing how you feel about a piece of art.
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