The first thing I ever tell any music blog or magazine I write for is that I won’t lie. If they are looking for a reviewer who will slather pop artists in compliment and praise just to do it, they are looking at the wrong writer for the job. To me, music is sacred. It is the one thing that saved my life at my darkest moments, and if something sucks to me, I am going to say it. I won’t just say it to be a dick, though. I will say it if I feel it, and I will always give my reasons for that decision. In some cases, though, people hold their pop stars in the same vein as they hold their religious figures, and when you say something even SLIGHTLY negative of their favorite artists, they will let you know you are, literally, the worst person who ever lived and that it would have been better if you died in the womb. No, really, they told me stuff like that. Read on to find out how one review I did Somanymp3s would brew up a shit-storm the likes of which I had never experienced before.
Let me tell you a little bit about how this ghost writing thing works before I get into the good stuff.
Basically, the website wants to own the review, as oppose to the “writer” getting all the hype and hoopla, so they have you write it, they pay you for it, and they run it with you getting no actual credit as the author. This is both good and bad. Good, because you can say what you want with NO fear of repercussion from the band or the public. Bad, because you work your ass off as a writer making a name for yourself, yet you don’t really get credit for it. Still, the best sites will let you take credit on some social networks, and they still let you use the pieces for reference. So really, it’s a win/win if you can set aside your ego, which is essential when initially making a name in this business.
A picture of my biggest fan.
How it worked for me is, I get sent the songs and videos in my email, and I sit there without pants on and review them. Why without pants? Because I can. I swore to everyone I would have a pants-optional job one day and no one believed me. To them, I now declare a pants-less HA in all their faces.
I sit there, watch the clip, and honestly write how I feel. It is no more complicated than that. I have played a good number of instruments and recorded a shit-ton of original music, so I like to think I know a little bit about composition and melody, but I am not declaring myself a specialist or any such nonsense. Some badass artists like Tech N9ne and Of Monsters and Men have written the site and thanked them for the reviews I wrote, so I guess it works both ways But when it goes bad, it goes REAL bad.
So one slow music day, I got a music video in my inbox from an Estonian artist named Kerli. So I did a little background research so I would know who she is, and I watched the video.
Her look can best be described as a mix between Lolita, and that weird chick who sold you ecstasy at that one music festival you went to.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the video. Truth be told. I was bored by it. And in the review, I clearly indicated I was TRYING to be nice and find positive things to say about her. I couldn’t. so I then decided to list some facts about Estonia. Nothing mean, nothing cruel, just facts. Population and stuff, because I felt THAT was more compelling than Kerli’s video. Well, come to find out (guess I didn’t research it well enough) Kerli is a pop idol over there, because she is ONE of the only people from Estonia who have ever risen to fame. I don’t say that to be mean. I say that to be honest.
Here, see for yourself and tell me what you think. Would you drive for eight hours listening to this stuff? Would you make a playlist of Kerli songs?
In 1999, at the height of my ecstasy days, I would have loved this chick. Alas, it is no longer 1999.
To really understand how overblown this thing got, you need to read the review right here.
Make sure you read all the comments that follow the piece, too, by the way. They are an essential part of the story. Note when you see the comments, you will see a good number of people “apologizing” for how other Estonians reacted to the piece. ALL those comments had to be taken off the thread because of how vulgar they were. More on that in a bit.
Her look can best be described as “Manic Pixie Robot Girl Who Sweats Rainbow LSD”
So did you actually go read that review, and did you read the “compliments” that came in the tread afterwards?
Do you wanna know why all of Estonia felt compelled to get on that thread and call me some of the worst and most laughably offensive things anyone has ever said to me? Because an Estonian website ran an article about my review. The catch is, they ran a good deal of those quotes out of context and without the buffers. If you read the review, it is obviously a parody of what is expected in a music review. It is obviously meant to make people laugh, but all that was lost when those sentences were displayed by themselves, with floating quotations around them.
In an instant I went from being a writer who thought he was being funny, to being a symbol of hatred and oppression. I wasn’t just an American. To them, I was America, summed up in one thousand stupid words. And they were having NOTHING to do with that.
In my head, when I look back, I remember it like this. That should let you know how insane I am.
You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff we had to take off the thread. We had to because the comments were so offensive, they could get us in trouble with Google. I do want to give a quick shout-out to all the people who told me I suck in a civil way. I have no problem with that. And honestly, I really appreciated the people who came to site and apologized for how crude some people were, but all in all, the responses were shocking. To THIS review, I got responses that gradually went from anger to all around contempt, rage, and disgust. And it all got very sick and psychotic, very quickly.
What started with a few simple “You Suck!” comments, within a day, turned into, and I am not joking with you:
We are going to rape and kill your Mother.
Now the truth is, sitting behind that screen, making that comment was realistically some dumbass kid with too much time on his hands, and too much exposure to Reddit, but it was like whoever said that started a fire, and that fire started burning quite brightly, all too quickly. These people weren’t just mad, they wanted me dead. There were people AGREEING with that statement. Listen, in my old line of work, people telling me they were going to rape and kill my Mother was a part of my daily life (wow, what a f*cked up life, huh?), but it is one thing coming from a special needs kid who has been abused his whole life. I understand HIS misdirected anger. But when multiple people are agreeing you Mother should be raped and killed, it is a might bit upsetting.
Thank God I wasn’t within reaching distance of them.
So the website did what most would, even though a ton of traffic was coming in, and they pulled the piece for a few days until the fire went out a little bit. I know this is going to sound sick, but all I kept thinking after this was ” I’m safe, I have NO connections to that piece as a writer” but I kept having horrible visions of Estonians, flooding into the Somanymp3s offices, and ripping innocent people apart because they thought they wrote it. Then I remembered how stupid and insignificant (and oddly hilarious) this all was. It is the internet, people, lighten up.
In hindsight, If I wrote it now I wouldn’t say the thing I said about Kerli being “laughed out of the Country”, because that is a wee bit unnecessary and cruel, but other than that, I would say everything I said again, word for word. Why, because I did nothing wrong. This is what readers seem to forget. Pretty much EVERY piece you ever read, from review to article, is an opinion piece. Do you know what that means? That is ONE person’s (or sites, or magazines) opinion. And do you know what is so amazing about opinions?
There is no right or wrong.
I don’t actually feel this way, but this pic was too awesome not to share with you guys.
You see, the beauty in all of this is, NO ONE counteracted what I said. Not a single Kerli fan offered me any insight into why she is amazing. They just told me I suck. The funny thing is, I know they are entitled to that opinion, so why don’t they understand I am entitled to mine?
That was, honestly, my first real exposure to misguided hate on the internet. With this piece, from this site right here, being my second. It was both of those articles, opinion pieces if I may, that taught me something so timeless about this job. Most people will have no problem, standing off to the side, faceless, flinging insults and telling you how much you suck. But VERY few will offer you alternatives or tell you why.
You know why they are called internet trolls, people? Because they sit under the bridge, hiding, waiting to eat your fucking goats when you’re not looking, just like real trolls. Wait, trolls aren’t real. Man, I need a vacation. All these trolls are getting to me.
Troll 2 reference for the self-appointed win.