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Songbook | review | book | Lollipop


By Nick Hornby (Riverhead Books)
by Tim Den

One of my main problems with Nick Hornby's "music criticism" is that – like so many opinionated pricks out there (cough, cough, Pitchfork, cough) – his judgement of songwriting has absolutely no basis in actual understanding of structure or composition of music. Instead, he evaluates the merit of "good songs" solely on the emotional impact they make on him. While I'd never underplay the power of the visceral connection a solid song can establish, publishing high-and-mighty opinions without at least a working knowledge of the craft is like consulting a cripple on the art of ballroom dancing. Just cuz a farmboy thinks of home every time he smells cow shit doesn't make him an expert on fragrance.

So for all the pats on the back Hornby gives himself as a "hip" and "with it" music know-it-all, take Songbook with a grain of salt. He might be a keen observer and chronicler of music culture – fashion, language, attitude, etc. (High Fidelity and all) – but when he praises Rufus Wainwright's cover of Wainwright Sr.'s "One Man Guy" simply cuz the harmonies "do something" to him that he "can't explain," he's about as revelatory and insightful as the next Buddy Holly-glasses-wearin', tight-shirt-sportin', emo-lovin', empty-word spoutin' scenester.

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