Nobody likes a critic, especially (when it’s) me.
March 18, 2008
Judging by the lack of comments both on and off this blog, no one appears to give two shits about my critique of the new Altoids campaign. Either that, or I was so spot on that my words, in effect, became the last word on the subject.
Truth be told even I think most criticism is folly. Especially when it is pointed at advertising. At least movie reviews give us a sense on whether we should spend our hard earned dollars on them. Yet advertising is in our face whether we like it or not. And most of us mostly don’t give a shit –hence the non-event that was my review of Altoids.
True story: In college I wanted to be a music journalist for none other than Rolling Stone. Back then it was still a relevant magazine. In pursuit of this goal, I reviewed albums and concerts for both my college newspapers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Highlights include a resounding thumbs up I gave to the Replacements and Violent Femmes. If not for me who knows where these two bands would have wound up? Anyway, I also reviewed plenty of local talent, including a hair band called Whiz Kid. Whiz Kid played Lover Boy and Head East covers for drunken sorority girls (and the men who love them) at various venues around town. For 2 bucks a head one got 3 sets of music.
Like almost every novice critic I rejoiced in ripping no-talent outfits to shreds. Whiz Kid was no exception. I might not be up on that stage but I had my pen, which was mightier than any Flying V. So I made fun of their lame choice of music, their gay outfits and their ridiculously big hair. I used every bit of my marginal writing ability to tear them a new one. And then I promptly forgot about it.
Not Whiz Kid. A couple weeks later I ran into the lead singer at an after-bar party. He asked me why I laid into his band. I said, no disrespect, but you sucked. I mean Lover Boy… Give me a break!
The vocalist did not punch me. Instead he hit me with something far more lasting. He told me the reason Whiz Kid played shit music was to get gigs, which he needed in order to pay rent and put food on the table for his wife and kids. He told me none of the bars in town hired original talent unless they were famous. Whiz kid was not. He had to sing “Working for the Weekend” because that’s what 19-year old girls (and the men who love them) paid money to see.
From that night on, I never had the ambition to publish criticism ever again. I had been stifled by the truth. Whiz Kid was literally working for the weekend, every weekend, in order to survive. I felt I had no right to criticize them for doing so. I was not aiding the culture in any way. I was merely hurting the band.
As for my review of the new Altoids campaign, I assumed there’d be interest because of my previous involvement with the brand. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t! Call it Whiz Kid’s revenge.