It occurs to me that no one really really knows how my rating system works. So in the hopes of standardizing music reviews if and when I start getting some freelance submissions, they have something they can follow when it comes time to decide what grade to give a particular album. So without further ado, here’s my grading system that borrows a bit from The Nihon Review:
Masterpiece: No album is ever going to be perfect because that mark is so difficult to achieve. However, any album that gets this rating reaches very close to that mark with few flaws to muck it up in addition to knocking the reviewer’s socks off with all of its good points. It has all the hallmarks of being the best in its class as well as succeeding at transcending the medium to resonate with just about everyone.
Excellent: This album comes tantalizingly close to being a Masterpiece with only a few minute flaws that bring it down a few notches. Maybe there’s a track or two that just doesn’t resonate all that well with the reviewer, but rest assured that it doesn’t adversely affect the album too much. Any album that gets this rating is going to be competently executed and enjoyable to listen, making this a high recommendation indeed.
Very Good: At this point, you see one or two serious problems start entering the picture. Or maybe there are a lot more tiny flaws in every track that would affect how enjoyable the album is if you looked at it through a magnifying glass. An album earning this rating will still be very enjoyable and recommendable all the same though.
Good: This is the cutoff point at which the reviewer would consider recommending the album to a varied audience with few caveats. There are few more serious problems to contend with than before, but it’s not bad enough as to be able to derail the album in any way. This album will certainly be enjoyable to many people. Maybe not as many as before, but most should get decent mileage out of it even if it might not garner repeat listens.
Decent: The reviewer definitely enjoyed this album but acknowledges that there are enough serious flaws with it that would hamper the album from being more accessible to a general audience. There’s just something about it that feels sort of off in that it’s enjoyable enough… but doesn’t rise to a high level as to warrant a blanket recommendation. So yes, it is good, read the review to see if it’s your kind of thing and even if it isn’t, listen to it while staying aware of the album’s flaws.
So-so: An album that gets this rating isn’t bad… but it also isn’t good either. While the author might have liked some aspect of it, there are just too many flaws to enumerate that would make this album worth listening to. The good qualities of this album are able to equalize the bad, but only just about. This means that this album is going to be decidedly average with nothing to separate it above the top tier albums. It might not necessarily be bad, but it will definitely be a forgettable experience because nothing about that album really stands out as being either good or bad.
Not good: Listening to this album is irksome to say the least. On the one hand, maybe you can swallow the melody or the vocalist or both the melody and vocalist are actually interesting. On the other hand, its might just be insufferably boring or the vocalist doesn’t seem to be pouring their heart into the piece. Whatever the reason is, an album getting this rating demonstrates poor execution and the tracks are rife with annoying details that are painful enough that it’ll elicit a frown when you listen to it. It’s not an album that anyone aside from the most ardent fans of the genre will enjoy because the bad outweighs the good. Bad enough to be disappointing, but not enough to make you want to rage ceaselessly about it and reject it completely.
Bad: We’re not quite at a terrible album yet, but it’s getting there. At this point, all bets are off and listening to this album is going to hurt. Maybe the shrill melody is enough to give you a headache or some milder symptom but not enough to make you violently ill. Unlike the ones above it, there’s just so much to fix that you might as well not even bother and scrap it completely. Highly cringe-worthy and you’re better off looking at albums with… you know… quality to it.
Awful: This album is really digging at the dregs to come up with their material. Though filled with irredeemable qualities on the whole, this album shows a few flashes of promise here and there, only to have those promising bits lead to a dead end. You can bet that listening to this album will be hair-wrenchingly bad that it’ll be memorable, which is unfortunate since it doesn’t even have enough mercy as to put you to sleep. Maybe someone will take pity on it and like it. Just… maybe?
Worst Ever: The description should be pretty self-explanatory. This album is absolute trash. If you enjoyed it, then you’re a horrible person with absolutely terrible taste in music. There is nothing redeeming about it. Nothing.