Criticism Is Art, Too

Yesterday, Ariana Grande came to the defense of Justin Bieber who didn’t like when E! host Morgan Stewart made a comment about the “Sorry” singer’s alleged lip-syncing at Coachella. Said Stewart, “I did not realize it was going to be that bad!”

(See: the official mantra of one’s adult years.)

As a result, Bieber took to Twitter and delivered a Serious Thread, suggesting Stewart be more positive and to try “[building] people up.” And then Grande backed him up.

“people are so lost,” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “one day everybody that works at all them blogs will realize how unfulfilled they are and purposeless what they’re doing is and hopefully shift their focus elsewhere. that’s gonna be a beautiful ass day for them! i can’t wait to feel lit inside.”

I mean, look: for the record, I always feel lit inside. But more importantly, what the hell? As mentioned, the singer has deleted her comments, including the apology she left in a reply. (“There’s a big difference between journalism and what was happening in that video. I was hurt for my friend. My apologies to anybody offended by my lumping them together.”) But that’s not the point. Criticism is a valid art form unto itself. And to belittle a career in response to one person’s opinion is embarrassing – particularly because both Grande and Bieber are veterans in the industry and should (and do) know the difference between a TV personality airing his grievances and what writers do on “them blogs.”

Plus, anyone who writes for a living (and on the internet) is already battling some serious existential sorrow. Our jobs are disappearing, incredible journalists are unemployed, and every day we learn how pivoting to video was built on a lie and now everything’s worse. So odds are, if someone, at this point, has still chosen to write and tries to write every day, they’re doing it because they love it. It, legitimately, makes them (us) feel lit inside.

But okay. Outside of the fact that putting down anyone’s line of work is uncool in and of itself, misunderstanding the role of criticism is also a colossal bummer. Because when done well and responsibly, criticism is also art. It draws attention to themes the rest of us may have missed and to the way something fits into culture as a whole. It’s a thread writers use to tie a common thread through a movie, TV show, or album so we can feel less alone. It inspires us to think. It draws our attention to artists we might not otherwise have found. And while I don’t know Morgan Stewart, it’s important to note that in his valid remarks about Bieber’s Coachella set (he’s welcome not to like something), he wasn’t acting as a music critic. Dude was being a personality on E! which is another job, and one that has nothing to do with blogs.

The thing is, Bieber and Grande are both welcome not to like what everybody has to say. (Who wouldn’t hate being told someone hated their work? I’d quietly block them forever because I am petty.) But when it begins to feel like critics are publicly under attack by artists who’ve belittled their work with a simple “them blogs,” we’ve got a problem. Mainly, that writers will begin to stray from what they think and into what will ensure a share from a major pop star or kudos from their fanbase. The landscape is still big enough for art and art criticism and the freedom of opinion (provided it isn’t simply hate-speak). That is, as long as we all realize that each are important and necessary and valid and help to employ brilliant minds who do what they do because they love it. Or at least love it enough to feel a little lit inside.

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, Ariana Grande, justin beiber, justin bieber, top story, topstory

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