Back in the day (or at least the mid-90s) Rolling Stone reserved the fifth star in their reviews rankings for only the rarest occasions – mainly reissues of already acknowledged classic albums. But in recent years, the coveted fifth star has been bandied about like a tootsie roll on Halloween. You can almost predict which records will be bestowed with an increasingly meaningless five-star review. Bands and singers who could be considered RS’s bread and butter cover artists can almost be guaranteed to get them including Beastie Boys’ To the 5 Boroughs, Bruce Springsteen’s Working on a Dream and Mick Jagger’s 2001 solo album Goddess in the Doorway. Its hard to argue that any of these three records match the quality of their creators peak material (and it could be argued Mick Jagger never really had a creative peak as a solo artist).
The latest installment in this critical embarrassment is U2′s No Line on the Horizon a record that has almost universally underwhelmed critics and fans alike. But for some reason, Rolling Stone’s normally reliable David Fricke gave the album a five star review calling it “their best, in its textural exploration and tenacious melodic grip, since 1991′s Achtung Baby.” The review is just another nail in the coffin of Rolling Stone’s cultural significance.
Jim Derogatis once wrote of his time working in the Rolling Stone review department in his book Milk It! He recalled the time he was forced to give Hootie and Blowfish’s sophomore record three stars since they were going to be on the magazine’s cover the next month. Writing about the incident eventually got him fired.
He also mentioned a sign in the office that read “Three stars means never having to say your sorry.” Maybe Rolling Stone should pay attention to its own advice.
Dr Hook – “Cover of the Rolling Stone”