The NME's recent review of Tom Odell's debut album Long Way Down awarded it a 0/10 along with a whole heap of scathing, confidence-destroying, gratuitously harsh comments about Odell, his music and something about musical syphilis. It's evident from Mark Beaumont's words that he loathes everything about Odell and the type of artist that he represents, but what does that score actually mean? What do we learn from a 0/10?

A zero implies that something has absolutely no value. When applied to a music review score, this can either mean that the music in question has nothing positive about it whatsoever, and that it is void of any artistic merit and has no redeeming qualities, or that the reviewer considers it to be simply not worth listening to and wishes to make the reader aware of this. But there are issues with both of these interpretations: with the former, surely nothing that has been created can be fairly deemed worthless and, whilst a reviewer will have their opinions and make them known, their role is not to dictate but to comment and advise; with the latter, a zero is too complete and damning a number for something as subjective and suggestive as a musical recommendation.

Part of the problem is that music review scores aren't worth a great deal. They mainly operate between 6-10, where a cowardly 6 is nonetheless a slap in the face, and a bold (and, for a reviewer, rather risky) 10 is a rare seal of approval. 1-5 don't happen often and we all know that they are synonymous with 'write-off', but they make the effort to notice some good and, hopefully, do point that good out. 0s are a particularly calculated move, acknowledging and welcoming the controversy that they will inevitably cause, eliciting comments and shares a-plenty from Camp 'This Is A Travesty, The Poor Nipper' (the majority) and Camp 'Thank God Someone's Being Honest'.

Back to Tom Odell, then. It's by no means the first time it's been done - although this did smack particularly of shock tactics and sales strategy - but what got us all talking was the fact that Odell's dad rang the magazine's office to complain about it. We're supposed to feel sorry for Odell, and we do, what with him having suffered two intense public humiliations in a matter of days and all. But we also feel sorry for his dad, trying to protect and defend his son from what must have been a truly galling experience. Yes, when you make music for public consumption, you put your neck on the line and take what comes with that, from success, renown and celebrity status, to disgrace, self-destruction and media slatings. But when someone "reviews" an album and, in doing so, decides to see absolutely nothing good in it and finishes it all off with a personal attack, isn't that forgetting what it means to review?

When a reviewer's sense of self-importance places more emphasis on mocking the artist than exploring the content of the record, something's gone awry. This isn't the Daily Mail comments section, after all; it's supposed to be intelligent and informative. The 0/10 at the bottom of the review just makes the whole thing look desperate.

Reviewing anything should mean taking it, examining it, considering inevitable personal opinion against a more objective stance, and producing something useful from that. Readers should be able to make a decision from a review as to whether or not they will enjoy something from the information provided, not forcibly told by a magazine they trust (and thus would feel loathe to betray, not least because of the trendy points they fear losing as a result) that album X is irredeemable and there's no question about that.

What a reviewer might hate, the next person might love. And really, music-lovers as we all claim to be, whether we consider that music to be good or bad, cool or uncool, groundbreaking or beige, an album will almost always contain something of merit that we can seek out. And we should, otherwise we might all die of karmic musical venereal diseases.


What do you think about 0/10 reviews? Let us know below!