I have noticed that, when using the 'advanced search' to browse through all albums rated 4.5 stars within a certain genre (for example, 'indie rock'), throughout the 2000 - 2009, the average number of albums receiving 4.5 stars is around 80 per year.
For 2010, 2011 and 2012, however, the average number of albums within the 'indie rock' genre receiving 4.5 stars is around 10. From 80 albums to 10 albums is quite a severe drop-off. And it's not just within 'indie rock', I've noticed this same severe decline in 4.5 star rated albums across almost all genres.
Does Allmusic consider the standard of popular music to be dramatically declining? Or does Allmusic retrospectively, go back into their archives and bump several albums up from 4 stars to 4.5 stars several years after the release date? If so, how long do they wait after the release of any particular album before bumping the rating up? 3 years? 5 years? 15 years?
It's just that I'd like to know this because I'm trying to keep a comprehensive spreadsheet of all albums within certain genres that score 4.5 stars - and it's hard to do so when the album ratings are constantly being changed retrospectively!!
Thanks for your time.
Thanks for the question.
First, I should say that 99.9% of albums never have their ratings changed; it's only very rarely that we change how we feel about an album. The exception to this rule is when we periodically look at albums rated 4 or 4.5, and decide which have since attained classic status and need their ratings raised to 5. This usually happens within 5-6 years of an album's release, although I wouldn't rule it out for any album of any vintage release.
So, unfortunately, I can't give you a firm answer to your question -- but suffice to say, within 5-6 years, an album is usually kept at its rating.
AMG Senior Managing Editor, Pop Music
Thanks for asking. I did a little checking and found that there hasn't been a decline in the number of 4-star or above ratings we've given out in the past dozen years (see below).
It appears to fluctuate between the low 30's and low 40's, except for that apparently abysmal year of 2000.
So, I guess you can conclude that the quality of music, as far as we're concerned, is right where it's been for awhile.
Percentage of rated albums that are rated 4 stars or better...
Using the 'Advanced Search' feature, searching for 'main albums' in the 'Alternative/Indie Rock' genre yields 190 4.5 rated albums in 2000, 213 4.5 rated albums in 2001, 225 4.5 rated albums in 2002 and so on...
By contrast, using the same search parameters, there are only 38 4.5 rated albums in 2009, 40 4.5 rated albums in 2010, 46 4.5 rated albums in 2011, and 33 4.5 rated albums in 2012.
That is a HUGE decrease of around 80% in the number of albums in this genre receiving 4.5 album ratings. I have noticed similar findings across various other popular music genres (and 'Alternative/Indie Rock' is one of the biggest genres out there anyway).
You may be saying that Allmusic first rate albums at 4 stars, and then later bump them up to 4.5 once their cultural significance has been assessed... However, you also said that 99.9% of albums do not have their ratings changed... And even if the ratings were changed, it was stated that they would only be changed in a 5-6 year period, yet from 2009 to 2014 is already 5 years...
Many different things could be happening;
1). The percentage of albums that Allmusic rewards 4.5 stars from the albums it reviews remains the same. However, the number of music releases from 2009 onwards is much smaller than from before 2002, so there are less 4.5 rated albums. There was around 80% less music being released from 2009 onwards than from before 2002, so there are around 80% fewer 4.5 rated albums... (I find this hard to believe, because I'm sure, if anything, there's MORE music being released from 2009 onwards...)
2). The percentage of albums that Allmusic rewards 4.5 stars from the albums it reviews remains the same, and the amount of music being released is the same or more. However, Allmusic is able to review far less of this music than they could before. Because they review far fewer releases, they are able to give out far fewer 4.5 rated albums...
3). Allmusic's standards for rating albums 4.5 have risen from 2009 onwards vs before 2002 and/or the quality of popular music released has declined from 2009 onwards vs before 2002. In other words, the percentage of albums reviewed by Allmusic that score 4.5 ratings is decreasing.
Could anyone inform me which of these scenarios is actually occurring, or is it a combination?
I ran the statistics on how many 4-1/2 star albums were released each year and
found that you’re right – there are many more from ten years ago than there are
I think there are two factors at work here:
* We wrote a *lot* of album reviews in the
early 2000s. These days, we write a lot of artist biographies, since our users and
customers are more interested in artist coverage than album coverage (at least,
on a large scale). Not quite the death of the album but close...
* Ten years ago, we had a larger freelance staff.
Currently, we do much more writing in-house. (Conclusion: freelancers as a
general rule are less standards-driven and more glowing.)
I can’t say whether there are more albums released these
days compared to ten years ago (although my guess is that there are). I know that there are definitely more in our database released now
compared to then, but the big caveat is that we weren’t as thorough in collecting artist
and album data ten years ago as we are today.
Thanks for writing in,
How and why do your star ratings fluctuate?.
In the printed All Music Guide to Rock 3rd Edition (2002), Alex Henderson gave George Clinton's R&B Skeletons In The Closet five stars. The exact same review is online, but the album is now only three and a half stars. I would like to know how such a change comes about. It appears that the reviewer's opinion has little or no weight in determining what star rating an album will receive. I can cite many albums where the review contradicts the rating.
There recently was a comment about a Gun 'n' Roses album, where the reader thought it was unfairly rated at 3.5 stars, and stated that it had formerly been rated at 4.5 stars. The change was attributed to an "over-zealous editor", and poof! it's 4.5 stars again. In 1995, the album was given 4 stars and a notation that it was a "landmark recording". I've always taken those extra notations to be an extra half star, as the printer's font didn't allow for half stars. In 1997, it was still four stars but had lost landmark status. In 2002, it was boosted to 5 stars. The commenter mentioned that the online rating had once been four and a half. The same Stephen Thomas Erlewine review has accompanied this roller coaster since 1997, and he did the 1995 review as well. This indicates a complete lack of standards and methodology being applied to the valuation.
I've commented before that ratings often change on a whim. In the past, I've been told that an album was updated by a new reviewer or that an entire genre was reconsidered because it had uniformly low ratings. I'm familiar with the fact that most five star albums in the printed editions were downgraded to four and a half online, and sometimes even four. I can accept that, as you never used half stars in the printed editions. But the drop on this album is greater and there is no evidence that it was reevaluated during the last twelve years. You have betrayed my trust in you.
I understand how one's opinion can change over time, but I don't put my opinions in print with the implication that I know what I'm talking about. Please describe the process you use to determine an album's star rating, and consider applying a name and explanation to an album's entry when an opinion changes.
John Bush said above
it's only very rarely that we change how we feel about an album. The exception to this rule is when we periodically look at albums rated 4 or 4.5, and decide which have since attained classic status and need their ratings raised to 5. ....but suffice to say, within 5-6 years, an album is usually kept at its rating.Yet I've just demonstrated that you've changed the rating on Use Your Illusion II at least six times in nineteen years.
Here's another example Julian Cope - My Nation Underground.
1995 4 star "landmark recordiing" - William Ruhlman
1997 4 stars "no landmark" - same Ruhlman review
2002 5 stars - Ned Raggett
2014 2 stars - exact same Ned Raggett review
After two reviewers find the album worthy of at least 4 stars, the same person who raised it to five now feels it's only worth two, yet makes no change to their review? You clearly have a a thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters running your editorial offices. Your ratings mean absolutely nothing except that you're amenable to taking a few dollars under the table when an A&R guy wants to boost one of his acts.
Thanks again for keeping us honest. We feel that George Clinton album deserves the 3-1/2 star rating it has, and that Julian Cope album deserves the 2 star rating it has.
As I’ve said before, ratings do change, and anyone can easily find cases where we changed our mind over time. The fact remains, though, that it’s very rare for us to change our ratings. Still, I appreciate you bringing these cases up, since we always want to make sure we’ve got the right rating on each album.
I’m not sure what’s harder to imagine, that Julian Cope and/or his A&R would try to buy a rating from us, or that we’d take the money if they did. Either way, it’s wrong.
Not sure if you’re aware, but Allmusic and Rovi have the most distant relationship with labels and artists of any professional review source. One reason for this is that we always have, and we continue to, buy lots of product, which is more than most places can claim. The big reason though, is that we started as a record guide that was usually looking back into the past, instead of a magazine that’s usually looking forward.
Artists and labels are (understandably) focused on what’s new, so they never cultivated relationships with us like they did with other review sources. (This is why we rarely have reviews of albums weeks in advance, because labels don’t furnish us the same way they would furnish Rolling Stone or other similar outlets, whether it’s a print magazine or an online source.)
As always, I hope this helps.
PS: I guess this proves we're closer to the "thousand monkeys" model than "payola merchants," but that's where I'd rather be.