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One of the less fun things about being a global music star is that a throwaway thought during an interview can blow up around the world.

“Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It’s freely available!” Ed Sheeran told Rolling Stone this month. “Make up your own mind. I would never read an album review and go, ‘I’m not gonna listen to that now’.”

Cue an explosion of he’s-right/he’s-wrong arguments on the internet. As loath as we are to join it, Ed is most definitely talking out of his trumpet on this one.

It’s certainly true that in the streaming era, music critics (and radio DJs for that matter) have seen their role in music culture challenged by playlist curators and recommendation algorithms.

Meanwhile, Sheeran is right about there being no barrier to listening these days: ‘I’ll wait to read the review before I buy it’ isn’t a factor any more.

So why do you need to read a review? With so much music being released, reviews can still be a vital pointer in the direction of music and artists you might otherwise never stumble upon. The needles in the giant 100k-songs-a-day haystack.

Not to mention the fact that a wonderful review can shed new light on music you’ve listened to thousands of times already.

One more thought: we’re certainly in an era where reviews aren’t only ‘read’. Video reviews and podcasts have evolved the format too: what are podcasts like ‘Song Exploder’ and ‘Dissect’ if not new forms of the review, made with love and aimed at people who already love the music that they are analysing?

But modern soundbite culture being what it is, we half-suspect Ed Sheeran wouldn’t disagree with all this, given more space to express his thoughts on the subject.

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