Words Have Consequences

When a writer’s work gains a certain degree of visibility, an interesting thing sometimes happens. The artists getting reviewed and/or profiled often contact the writer to give feedback. This happens more often than you might expect. Owing to the ease of communication afforded by the intertubes, it’s easy for an artist to find out when s/he has been mentioned online. Google Alerts exists just to aid such a purpose.

It’s gratifying to hear from an artist, especially when they say things along the lines of “you really understand where I was going with that” or similar sentiments. In my own experience, several recording artists have contacted me (privately, not for publication) to admit that I was on the mark in some criticism I might have proffered. That’s very helpful feedback for me, and demonstrates a healthy ability on their part to accept criticism.

Occasionally, however, an artist is displeased with something I’ve written. Now, usually when this happens, if they comment at all, it’s generally not to me, but more often via their Twitter account, personal online diary or other similar venue. In most cases, well, there’s nothing I can do about that. I have savaged a number of works over the years, and I meant it. If I wrote it, I meant it, and I’ll stand by it.

Well, almost always. Recently – as part of a lengthy and largely positive review – I applied a couple of gratuitous adjectives to my description of a very well-known recording artist. I’m not going to say whom; that’s not the point. Said artist took offense and blogged about it.

Not to get too “inside baseball” about it, but like many bloggers, I am keenly interested in tracking how readers find my blog. As such my curiosity was piqued when I learned that several visitors in the last few days found my blog by searching Google using a text-string made up of a full sentence from the aforementioned review. So I Googled the same phrase, and – in addition to my own blog – found the artist’s rejoinder (including the offending excerpt from my review) .

My words were hurtful. Yes, I was making a point, and no, I don’t believe that my point was completely without merit. But the thing is, said point had little to do with the larger points I was trying to make in the review. In other words, they were gratuitous. I was thoughtlessly throwing in an opinion of mine because I could, not because it furthered discussion of the relative merits of the album under consideration.

I’ve since redacted that review. Words have consequences, after all. If I wished to write an essay dedicated to exploring the assertions I threw into that review, I could do so legitimately (though doing so would appear mean-spirited at best, and I am not such a person). But those assertions didn’t add to the reader’s understanding of the album, so they didn’t need to be included.

An apology was not requested. One was freely and humbly offered nonetheless.