The Album. The final rankings are here.
My "semi-review" of Spintunes #5 Round 1 was posted before the judges postings. Now, I've written some weird reviews before, including a review of songs that weren't written. Reaching waaay back into SpinTunes 1 Round 1, I wrote a review of the judging. I was tempted to do it again this round, keeping in mind that everything I say here is opinion and shouldn't be taken critically. Honestly, almost everything I said in the previous post still holds true today, particularly my comments about the "love it or hate it (LIorHI) aspect of scoring in this contest. I'll start any comments here by quoting from myself. I'll call this RULE ZERO:
Despite anything I've said here, I disagree with none of the judges' opinions. They're opinions, and final, and not arguable. I also have no problem with the final rankings. I'm jazzed to be hearing a lot of great new music from friends old and new, and hope it goes on like this for the remaining rounds, and for future competitions.
Most of the judges compartmentalized their reviews this time; that's a Good Thing(tm). But LIorHI is applicable even to the most rigorous "scientific" scoring. It's just unavoidable. In the final wash, judges will score down or up based on preference, and then rationalize it in their scoring. The more "objective" the scoring, the more elaborate the rationalization, that's all. That's largely because they themselves choose the "objective" criteria, which therefore simply reinforce the preferences they use subconsciously. Often they're the last ones to recognize that this is what they're doing. Furthermore, I don't think there's anything wrong with doing that (see Rule Zero); but it's a helluvalot easier on everybody if you just recognize it and accept it.
And sometimes judges just miss the point. For instance, in a previous "historical" challenge, Inverse T. Clown wrote a song involving a Quantum Leap in the events surrounding the first assassination attempt on Martin Luther King. Ignorant of that bit of history, I missed the point of the song, and this may have affected rankings. What's done is done. Let Sam Beckett put it right later.
(in this discussion, it may seem that I'm picking on certain judges, but actually, I'm simply referencing those who expressed enough of a concept to make discussion possible.)
In this round I think we had a few instances of "missing it". For instance, in Edric Haleen's "The Death of a Meme", Edric anthropomorphizes the concept of God. Not God Himself, mind you... but the concept of God. Someday in the past, the last earnest, sincere, devout follower of Zeus died. Who that was and when it happened are lost to history. Edric imagines a day when this happens to the monotheistic God, whether you call him Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai, or Allah (there is no mention of any specific religion here). And yet, some of the audience hear what they are mentally prepared to hear, and think that it's an attack on a specific religion. It's not. Concerning the premise of the song, Mark Merrit ponders, "But memes are just information, inactive in themselves even though they cause other things to act, so how can they have a last day of work?" I believe the meme in question is the concept of a monotheistic God... this concept existing as a Platonic Ideal independent of any actualization of that Ideal through Belief. As such, there's no ambiguity here whatsoever... simply a bit of subtlety that was missed. Whether you agree with the ancient metaphysics or not is unimportant, in that this is used as a literary device. You remember a similar device from childhood, used in Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just A Bill". A Bill is neither a scroll, nor the words written on it, but the concept expressed in those words. It doesn't sing and dance, either; and that doesn't stop the song from being both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Steve Durand admits to struggling with this, but is willing to accept it for the purpose of art.
Likewise with Zoe Gray's shadow, "Say Goodbye". It doesn't matter why the Sun is concerned that it has never seen a flake of snow. If you want to be purely materialistic about it, the Sun is a gaseous nuclear furnace: it has no concerns. What's missed here (and I missed it myself, to start), is the proper understanding of who the song is for. The song isn't written for the benefit of the Sun. Nor is it written to represent or further our understanding of the Sun's point of view. It's written for the benefit of the humans listening to it. Not all humans, either, but those who share to a large degree the demographics of the composer. These are the people who hear the Sun's lament, internalize it, understand what it would mean to them, and say "awwww." So to pick it apart and ask if it makes logical sense or not is to completely lose sight of the fact that Logic isn't the final measure of a song. Song is art, and therefore intended to evoke emotion, not expound scientific truths. I suggested in an update to my original review that Zoe may want to ignore much of my criticism. I stand by that advice.
In any event, I'd no longer advise someone like Zoe to go back and fix a song. Rather, learn from the criticism, keep in mind that other people think of these things when listening to a song, and apply them to the next creative effort. Even then, don't ever feel remorse about "breaking Logic". Go ahead, break Logic all you like, Just don't do it accidentally. Do it deliberately, because you have something that is more important to say with Emotion than with Logic.
Menage a Tune's "Crowning Glory" was a study in contrasts, earning anywhere from 6 to 29 points from the various judges. What a spread! Some details were lost even in the good reviews. For instance, Mark seems unaware of the theory that the Great Pyramid originally had a golden capstone, sometimes called a "pyramidium", lost to Time and symbolically referenced in these lyrics as a "crown"... a good choice, metaphorically, as it allows Menage a Tune to use the shorthand theme of "crowning glory". It is this same capstone that is referenced by all three characters in the song: the Architect, the Pharoah, and the Archaeologist. Hazen Nestor thinks the guitar intro is too long (I personally don't disagree), but for Charlie McCarron it was the best part of the song! For Mick Bordet the rhythm was "tribal", to Hazen the song sounded "Sunday school" and for Charlie it evoked the Renaissance... despite the fact that JoAnn researched authentic Egyptian rhythms, there isn't a single Christian theme in the song, and the instrumentation had to be approximated using common modern conventions for practical reasons. For John Dahl the chorus was "repetitive", but Mark pointed out that the song could benefit from more repetitive forms.
How can a composer possibly respond to all of these observations, which conflict both with each other and historicity? Simply by asking yourself if the judges seemed to understand where you were going, and if not, then why not? Then ask yourself if, in the face of the observations, do you still like what you did, and chuck out the observations that don't matter. I think most of the critical statements referenced here deserve the boot.
Sometimes, "missing it" is comical. Buckethat Bobby's "On the Pogey" is sung by an East-coast Canadian national in his native accent. But in the "Unofficial Spintunes Discussion Forum" Caravan Ray questions "an American singing Scottish slang with a fake Irish accent." Sometimes we "know" too much for our own good.
These examples aren't exhaustive. I had also thought to go through some counterbalancing examples of where the judges DO get it, but this just takes too long and I don't have the time, even though I'm dictating most of it into an Android phone. Just assume that most of the time, the judges get it right, even when their rankings indicate that they completely disagree. The old saying, "there's no accounting for taste" isn't 100% accurate: a diverse pool of judges DOES account for taste. That diversity averages out, leaving the songs most touched by the LIorHI effect somewhere in the middle of the rankings, as they should be. You can pretty much figure that where the judges widely disagree, it's because of taste; but where they mostly agree, it's because what they're agreeing upon is as close to objectively true as you're going to get, be it positive OR negative.
The comments are open. Feel free to have at it.