“Ralph? Is that you? Wow! I haven’t seen you since college. How are you, man?”

“Doing okay, Michael.”

“I’ll bet you are, Ralphie boy. I see your byline everywhere. You must be the most famous music critic in the country.”

“I do what I can.”

“I’ll bet you have a great life. Interviewing Michael Bolton, going backstage for Pat Benatar and Ash, writing about new talent like t.A.T.u. Building ’em up just to knock ’em down. Gosh, Ralph, you really have it made.”

“You’ve got it all wrong, Michael.”

“I do?”

“It’s not like the old days when Lester Bangs used to crank it out for Cream. Oh, no. Music criticism is a very in-depth science.”

“It is?”

“Oh, yeah. For example, did you read my review of The White Stripes’ concert last week?”

“I sure did. From what I read, that must have been one helluva show. You must really like them.”

“Liking them has nothing to do with it, Michael. They’re just one of the acts that last year’s Critics’ Consortium deemed as being ‘hot.’ You just wait, we’ll be carving them a new one next year.”

“What? Critics’ Consortium?”

“Uh, uh. That’s when all the music critics secretly get together and decide which acts are going to make it big. Like John Mayer and Ben Harper. We vote on who’s going to get favorable reviews and which ones we’re going to trash.”

“Sounds complicated.”

“It is complicated, Michael. Take Lou Reed’s latest, The Raven. The Critics’ Consortium can’t make up its mind about that one. Half of us love it and want to hail it as a work of genius, while the other half can’t get through all of that Edgar Allan Poe stuff. But then, us critics have always had a problem with any references to material written B.E.”


“Before Elvis.”

“Oh. But what do you think of Linkin Park’s latest CD, Ralph? Surely, you must have an opinion.”

“That’s just it, Michael. My opinion doesn’t matter. The concept of the music critic gaining insight into certain artists or bands and being able to spot talent is a myth. A relic of a bygone era. Like radio DJs actually picking the songs they play, or presidents winning the popular vote. “

“Really? You’re kidding.”

“I am not kidding, Michael. For instance, I’m seeing Michael McDonald and Hot Action Cop next week, but my reviews are already in the can. In fact, the hottest groups of the next five years have already been chosen by the Consortium.”

“They have? Which acts, Ralph? Can you tell me?”

“Oh, sure, I can tell you, Michael. But then I’d have to kill you. Critics’ code, you know.”

“Ha, ha, that’s a good one, Ralphie. You really had me going there for a moment. Critics’ Consortium. Concert reviews written in advance. Critics’ Code. Yeah, you really had me believing you for a couple of seconds, and… and… Ralphie?”


“Is that a gun in your pocket?”

“Well, let me put it this way, Michael. It’s not like I’m glad to see you.”