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Chadwyck Moore

De Piero
Writing 2
April 18, 2016
Scoring Sound: Album Reviews as a Genre
With little promotion, J Cole released his long awaited sophomore album Forest Hills
Drive 2014. The project quickly charted, nominated for a Grammy, and earned platinum status
shortly after. The albums release was noteworthy for its lack of features and quiet
announcementwith Cole announcing the album with no singles available prior to sale. This

Comment [1]: Think about that quick hyphen


lesson we had on hyphens. Where could you
use it here?
Comment [2]: Chad, we're gonna be talking
about a writing idea called "parallelism" in a
week or two. On the surface, it looks like you're
using it by having charted, nominated, and
earned -- all past tense verbs -- in the series.

release was dissimilar to other album releases, but still garnered the same question as every

However, "nominated" isn't working here. For it


to work, "The project nominated for a Grammy"
would have to make sense.

album before it. Is it any good? To answer this question album reviewers present their argument

I'd like you to find a way to fix/address that.


Comment [3]: What do you mean here?

on the value of the album. The album review genre is widely in its subject matter but is
connected through their similar conventions, tone, and style.

Comment [4]: This phrase is tripping me up a


bit, Chad -- I had to read it a few times to
understand it, which is generally something you
want to avoid as a writer. The issue might be
the two "with's."
Comment [5]: I know your genre (album
reviews) and your topic (about J Cole's album),
which is great. However, I need more of a
specific, driving thesis statement, Chad.

The Section 80 album review by Tom Breihan is written with a casual tone and style.
The diction is accessible and written in an almost conversational manner. Breihan uses drop
quotes often to support the points he is making, but still defends them in an almost
conversational manner. The relaxed tone is clear with Breihans use of contractions and

What, exactly, are you going to be arguing


here? What are you trying to convince me of?
What ABOUT conventions, tone, and style?
What about the conventions within this genre
will you be emphasizing? Also: do you think itd
help your reader (technically, me) to lay out
which specific sources youll be using to make
your case?
Comment [6]: Evidence, evidence...

references to pop culturetwo things unlikely to be present in a peer reviewed paper for
instance. Breihan also uses vulgarities, describing a track as dope as fuck (Breihan). Breihan
makes these writing decisions to shift how the reader takes in his review. By using low language
with a casual tone Breihans review is accepted as one of the people. The review is read from
the perspective of one of the people; Breihan is a fan like the reader and chooses to express

Comment [7]: You mentioned "casual tone"


2x and 'one of the people" 2x.

this through his use of language. The elements that Breihan combines create a well defended

No need to tell me twice, Chad, unless you


really have to. Make your points and let your
argument unfold. Get to it. Maximize your
time/space here.

argument for the value of the album that reads like a well-informed friend speaking to the
Comment [8]: I want to believe you, Chad, but
you haven't convinced me of this based on what
you laid out in this paragraph -- that's why
textual evidence is so crucial.

reader.

The Warm Up review by the XXL Staff is written in a notably casual style. The writer
makes multiple pop culture references and refers to other stars, such as Jay-Z who appears as
Jiggaman, using nicknames. Humor is also used by XXL with them cracking a joke about
Charles Barkleys weight gain. The language being used is low with slang and vulgarities such
as hella and ass being frequent. The slang, vulgarities, and humor are each used to create a
casual read. XXLs decision to write using language that the reader is likely to use around those
they know well makes the read casual. The style reflects the tone of the review and is equally

Comment [9]: OK, so this has more


references to pop culture? Is that what you're
getting at here? If so, you can run with that:
how does pop culture influence a reader's
perception of the quality or credibility of these
album reviews.
In other word: Charles Barkley is mentioned -OK, so what?

light hearted. The writing is upbeat and comical, avoiding negative words. This tone combined
with the style makes the album review a casual read.

The Speeding Bullet to Heaven album review by Adam Yivel is written in an apologetic
tone and casual. The writer made a point to defend Kid Cudi as a person, using his real name
and comparing him to NBA player Brandon Roys career. Kivel bluntly hedges his argument with
Cudi is a totally likable dude (Kivel), framing his poor review around the art instead of the
artist. This style makes the criticisms that Kivel makes of the album separate from the artist;
Kivel wants it to be known that he does not dislike Kid Cudi, but the album. Kivel gave the album
a D+, a phenomenally low score. Kivel chose to write as he did to avoid having the reader steer
clear of Cudi as an artist for one abysmal project. Kivels apologetic tone and reference to
Brandon Roy is used to paint Cudi as a sympathetic figure, one that can eventually be forgiven
for such a bad album.

These reviews, although covering different albums, share similar conventions. The use
of images, for instance, is a consistency throughout the genre. An image is always used in an

Comment [10]: Chad, Im wondering if your


paper would benefit from re-structuring the
organization. Instead of
-Source #1
-Source #2
-Source #3
Could your paper/argument unfold a more
integrated/interwoven way if you did something
like:
-Idea #1 (and then incorporate sources 1, 2, 3)
-Idea #2 (and then incorporate sources 1, 2, 3)
-Idea #3 (and then incorporate sources 1, 2, 3)?
Comment [11]: You're on to something here.
Tell me more.

Comment [12]: This sentence took me a few


read-throughs. Try to put yourself in your
reader's shoes whenever possible, and ask:
OK, how might I be interpreting this person's
words? As a writer, it's your job to make your
reader's job as easy/clear as possible.

Comment [13]: Hmmm... I'm wondering why


you're putting this towards the end of your
paper. What are the benefits/drawbacks of
putting it here, compared to earlier on your
paper?

album review. This image is typically the album cover and is typically placed at the beginning of
every review. The album cover is provided so fans can have some idea of what they may end
up purchasing-- the cover art is an important part of an album and can influence the decision to
purchase. Adjectives and descriptive imagery are also commonplace in album reviews. The
words are necessary to describe a sound to the readers who have never heard it. This frequent
use of adjectives is evidenced by the Kendrick Lamar album review where Breihan says frantic
tumble of syllables (Breihan). Breihans decision to describe the syllables as frantic frames the
lyrics for the reader and makes imagining the album that much easier.

The scoring system can vary with some systems being out of 5, out of 10, or use a
unique word such as spins one is always present. The scoring system is an important and
universal aspect in album reviews. Regardless of what the range is, it is the final say of the
album. The scoring system provides a quick reference for the reader to ascertain the worth of

Comment [14]: Again, I'm wondering why this


is "scoring info" paragraph is coming at the end
of your paper. Do you think it'd help to know
this earlier on? And/also, do you think this
would be a good place to compare the scores of
each review? Could that be a good place to
THEN dive into aspects about the reviews -how/why each review was a good score or a
bad one (ie, the D+)?

an album, with a high value corresponding to a high score for the album.

Quotations are an integral part of any album review and this rule is especially true in rap

Comment [15]: Quotes about what? And


such as?

album reviews. The quotes are used for the reviewer to make a claim about a part of the album
(probably about an impressively creative or abhorrent line). For example, Kivel uses quotes
from Kid Cudi albums in his review. The use of quotes allows readers to have an excerpt from
the album to judge the quality of the lyrics in the album (something important to many hip-hop
fans).

The tone is the most uniting convention. The tone of the writing and whether that tone is
appropriate for the context helps build a writers ethos (Carroll 54). Each writer uses their own
style, but each writer uses informal tone and diction in their pieces to build ethos. Formal diction
is absent throughout each work with each writer instead picking words that would likely appear

Comment [16]: This isn't really a "for


example" -- you didn't provide one.

in conversations with those one is already acquainted to. Words such as hella (XXL), dope
(Breihan), and damn (Kivel) support the ethos that the writers are building. This use of low
language and informal tone is used to build the idea that the reviewer is one with the reader.
They do not speak from a position of exalted authority, there is no peer reviewed Hip-hop Ph.D.
written album review. These techniques also allow the writer a more direct way to convey how
they felt about the album. By writing using a casual tone and low language, their opinion is not
muffled by pomp and circumstance.

I believe that the differences exist because of pre-existing site formats and the varying
writing voices of writers. The album score placement is arbitrary and only placed where they
are because someone decided to put them there. The styles shift because different people have
differing opinions and writing methods. Some writers prefer to write more casually, others more
formal, these differences are to be expected in a genre based on defending ones opinion. I
believe the heavy use of adjectives and descriptive language exists because the nature of the
genre is describing sound. Since they are describing something to a reader who has possibly
not heard the album, the language must be detailed leading to descriptive phrases such as
spaced-out blur of astral horns (Breihan).

People should learn genre because understanding what makes up a genre can help a
reader better understand the information. According to Dirk, knowing genre helps a reader
see how specific choices that writers make result in specific actions on the part of readers (Dirk
254). Knowing genre will help a reader identify what is being presented and help them decide
how to best approach the text. Genre is important to everyone. Writers must understand genre
so they can follow the conventions of their genre to fit in. Readers must know genre so they are
better equipped to break down what they are reading. For example, by knowing that artists
profiles are always at the beginning, an album review reader can knowingly open a review of an

Comment [17]: Voice is huge! Is this an


underlying theme in your whole paper? Seems
to me like it could be -- if you think it is, you
might wanna consider "promoting" this idea into
your thesis statement, and then touching upon
the different aspects that, together, comprise
voice. (You did a lot of that already. Apologetic
voices. Pop cultural shout-outs...)

album by an artist they have never heard of and still have needed context. Understanding genre
provides the tools for deciphering a genres writings.
Album reviews are a genre that exists to provide information for questioning music fans.
The style of the review may vary but the genre is united by its use of similar conventions. Album
reviews will continue to serve as a resource for curious music fans.

Writing 2 Feedback Matrix for WP1


Table of Textual Features
Did Not Meet
Expectations
Thesis Statement

Use of Textual Evidence


from Genres

Use of Course Readings

Met Expectations

Exceeded
Expectations

X/X-

Analysis
X

Organization/Structure
Attention to
Genre/Conventions and
Rhetorical Factors

X/X-

Sentence-level Clarity,
Mechanics, Flow

X-

Chad,
Other Comments
I legitimately think this paper has a TON of potential. You
touched on a whole lot of important Writing 2 concepts -- tone,
voice, context, and many others. However, I think your paper
would benefit if you went into more depth on the concepts that you
introduce (even if it means NOT bringing in all of them).
There are two main areas where I need to see you focus on: 1,

bringing in a lot more textual evidence to support your claims and


2, thinking about the organization/structure/layout of your paper -how can you arrange this in the way that makes the most sense? (I
think you can do a lot better than this current version.) Like I say
in class, dont be afraid to experiment with your writing. Give
yourself options, then choose which options sounds/looks/works
the best.
This is a solid start, and Ill be expecting to read a killer version for
your portfolio.
Z
7/10

I dont think

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