Before we begin to review this year's Crop Over presentations, let's take some time out to discuss the anatomy of a band launch review (this can also be extended to fete reviews) and what makes or breaks a review, much in the same way that a review can make or break a brand.
The question is always, how do you write a review? As simple and rhetorical as that question may seem, there are many factors to take into consideration when writing a review. As easy as it is for us to draw for any number of smart-witted barbs to pepper a review that would make Simon Cowell proud, one must take into account that at the end of the day there is a human factor attached to these brands. There are people who have put blood, sweat and tears into a brand, both on the frontlines and behind the scenes, only to turn around and watch all their hard work ripped to shreds by one pithy review. The critic, who would never have had the long nights like they did or made the sacrifices they made to ensure a brand launches successfully, can comfortably move on to the next topic while these people are left to pick up the pieces. In a few swift keystrokes, a critical review can decimate a brand, leaving it to take weeks, months, even years, to recover. Critics must be cognizant of the ability they have to do untold damage to a brand, particularly in the Barbadian context as Bajans love anything salacious, something to skin dem teets at and have a good laugh at another's expense (see the voice note fiasco of Crop Over 2016 that delivered belly searchers to multiple Crop Over bands and gave way to the rise of Wavy Review.)
Conversely, it is up to critics to hold the line to make sure brands live up to the quality that they have promised, to be a voice for consumers and to call out brands when they are doing nonsense, get them to pull up their socks and deliver value for money with their products. A good review gives a voice to the voiceless while helping brands maintain a sense of direction as they look to do the tricky balancing act of producing a quality product while protecting their profit margins. Critics must consider what they are reviewing from multiple angles and consider other perspectives and experiences in order to give a fair assessment while not just stick to one viewpoint. Reviews are not for the glee of being able to rip into a brand, but to give praise where it is due and correction when it is needed as many event producers live in echo chambers where they are surrounded only by applause and no constructive criticism. Reviews are an essential resource for helping customers decide if to buy a product so brands should always look to make sure they put their best foot forward when placing any offering on the market, or suffer the wrath of money-conscious consumers who expect value for money.
One negative reaction that critics also face is victimization, as it is now en vogue for people to proclaim how petty they are while victimization is a constant feature in Barbadian life when one doesn't toe a particular line. For example, one event promoter may have ties to multiple events. Should Critic X give Promoter Y an unfavourable review, he may respond by getting the critic blacklisted from other events. Another example is, Promoter A is also a marketing manager for a large multinational brand. Promoter A may expect that their event would receive a favourable review from Critic B, overlooking the corners that were cut in order to drive down costs and drive up profits. When Critic B gives an unfavourable review, Promoter A either:
- pulls sponsorship from Critic B's blog,
- declines a sponsorship proposal
- directs funding to a competitor who is willing to toe the line
- blacklists Critic B
Pettiness and victimization go hand in hand, as is the Barbadian way. However, fear of victimization doesn't mean that freedom of speech should be squashed. People may not like what you have to say but they will have to respect you for having the guts to say it.
In closing, a good review must tread a thin line very carefully. It must tell the facts, tell it like it is, give a fair open honest credible review that is unswayed by bias or favoritism in any direction, offer constructive criticism of a product, consider multiple perspectives when reviewing a product, fete or launch, all while never taking itself too seriously. Not everyone will always agree with your reviews, particularly those you are reviewing or those with a personal attachment to a brand who believe the review is inaccurate, but we are all human and that is life. Not all reviews will always be 100% accurate or 'correct', in the sense that a review in and of itself is one person's opinion and interpretation of a string of events, but they must always seek to be fair and accurate. All reviews must always strive for the highest levels of truth, honesty, fairness and most of all INTEGRITY. Without integrity, a review has no moral ground to stand on.