I’ve seen several “can’t stand” or “best of” threads in regard to music, and based on some related discussion (http://www.audioheritage.org/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=14734) as well as some thought-provoking conversations with Clark (Ducatista47) I’m interested to know what criteria other folks use to critically evaluate the quality of the music they hear.
For me, there are multiple factors, a sample of which are:
Content: Lyrics, composition, arrangement, instrumentation etc. How well is the piece constructed?
Delivery: Are the vocals and instrumentals well executed?
Engagement: Do the artists appear involved in what they’re performing? Is their a perceptible level of emotion involved in the piece?
Innovation: Is the piece ground-breaking? Does it offer something new to the listener? And if so, is it a positive evolution, or innovation simply for the sake of being different?
Intent/message: Is the piece thought-provoking? Does it encourage the listener to contemplate its message, or is it simply background music?
Involvement: Does the piece automatically pull the listener into the music? I’ve heard songs on absolutely craptastic systems before that made me forget how poor the quality of the gear was. Does the piece have the ability to transcend the delivery method to capture the listener regardless? Does it make you forget that you’re even listening to it on a “system?”
Production/mastering: This is a rather unfortunate category, but sometimes the production and mastering techniques of a recording so obfuscate the original intent of the piece that it’s rendered virtually un-listenable.
Continuity: Do all of the above factors seamlessly come together to create a compelling piece?
Granted, I listen to and evaluate music on different levels, so sometimes I’m not thinking about any of this. But for critical listening, I do find myself rigorously evaluating the quality of the music I hear. I’d be interested to see what other criteria you use to do the same.