Steve Almond’s apologia for being a snarky music critic is meaningful in how it demonstrates that he has no idea what music criticism is, nor do any of the “Ahmen”-ers who denigrate music criticism. Everyone has their likes and dislikes and is more than entitled to them, but saying you liked or disliked something, that it’s good or bad, is not criticism, not critical thinking.
A piece of music, whether it’s a commercial jingle, a national anthem, Le Nozze di Figaro or “I Feel Love,” sets out to do something. It then succeeds or fails at that along a spectrum, independent of how much one likes or dislikes it. Explaining that is criticism, and explaining that something succeeds even if it doesn’t please is a real critical achievement. Knowledge and experience help in this, but are not required. What is necessary is active, sensitive listening and honesty. The problem with trying to be cool is that there’s always someone cooler. And I’m the coolest of all.