A senior editor at Pitchfork updates and expands her acclaimed 2015 collection of music criticism here, considering artists from Lana del Rey to Tyler the Creator, with an introduction from essayist Samantha Irby.
Every piece...is powerfully written, wittily observed and unafraid to argue. Taken individually...and as a whole, they make an airtight case for why the professional critic still matters, and why it is a thrill to spend time in the presence of someone whose job it is to care so much and so intelligently. Like the best critics—Pauline Kael, Susan Sontag—Hopper is gifted at balancing the macro and the micro, identifying a pattern and helping the reader appreciate its scope and significance, while peppering in details that make the writing electrifying on the sentence level ... she's practically a poet when it comes to the brilliant metaphor or the apt comparison ... that is why professional criticism is exciting, an answer that Hopper's book offers on every page: to help us understand why and how culture affects us for better and for worse, and why and how we can in turn engage with and affect that culture.
Liking something doesn’t mean it’s good, those are two different things, and a good critic can dislike something...while also pointing out that it is well made and works on its own terms. This balance is not hard to maintain as long as one starts from a point of self-awareness and is transparent to the reader, but the kind of passions that music inflame work against those habits. Jessica Hopper misses that balance often enough in this collection that there’s a two-steps-forward, one-back feeling to reading through it. But that just means there are things to argue over with this book, which makes it worth reading ... She writes more perceptively than anyone about Miley Cyrus, and she profiles Lana Del Rey in one piece and reviews her album Honeymoon in another, and here is one place where Hopper’s perspective knocks her slightly off balance. The profile is excellent, Hopper has a perceptive eye for how pop culture views Del Rey and how Del Rey shapes herself to exploit that ... Hopper is a critic who, like all of us, is originally a fan, and that delineating is often hazy and, in the space of this book, self-contradictory—not in the way that happens to us all, having an opinion about a thing and then later changing our minds, but in terms of values ... as a guide to how to look at rock and pop from the perspective of half (at least) of the country, Hopper is sincere and true.
... Hopper lays bare a storied career and a true gift for music journalism ... Hopper is an artist whose curiosity about creativity has produced a stunning body of work, both in breadth and skill, and this is her lyrical, observant magnum opus.