I’ve never been much for math. Writing has always been my thing. Yet I, like pretty much every other reviewer out there, have often used the 1-5 rating scale for albums. The scale made it easy to describe how I felt about an album and put a definitive stamp on my view of the album’s worthiness.
Last year, J. Monkey touched on the inflation of album ratings, and how reviewers should keep their 4’s, 4 ½’s and 5’s in check when reviewing. There’s nothing more eye roll-inducing than a reviewer jacking up an album’s worth based on emotion or euphoria of just having heard a worthy album for the first time in months. Now, I’m going to take it a step further: let’s get rid of album number ratings entirely.
Think about it; we write reviews. Our words should be sufficient in explaining how we feel about an album. Leave the numerals for the lab rats; we have the whole of Webster’s dictionary to detail an album’s successes and failures.
Another reason to get rid of numbers is it would avoid a whole lot of confusion. With different reviewers assigning different meanings to number ratings, readers may misunderstand what we are saying about an album. Readers might read about how the new ‘Yeezy album is solid, and then scratch their heads at the 3 ½ it was given. Number ratings can also sidetrack readers. Last fall, I reviewed Wale’s Ambition for my school paper. My friend was upset upon seeing that I gave the album two out of five stars. Problem is, he didn’t bother to read the review.
Words expand. Numbers limit. If I consider Reasonable Doubt a five-star album, and then give Watch the Throne four stars, the question that pops up is, “Is there really only a one star difference between Reasonable Doubt and Watch the Throne?
I don’t expect this to hit the web and change the way people review albums. If I were to expect that, I’d probably have to slap myself for my own arrogance. But it doesn’t hurt throwing the idea out there: words are worth more than numbers.
[Editor's note: TRU is fully on board with Aaron, as you might have noticed with our reviews in the recent past. For our TRU BT reviews however, we've decided to stick to our 1 to 5 rating system, since it helps the general overview of those pieces and we feel it adds legibility to the succinct reviews in there.]