• 12.28.10

Village Voice Music Critic of the Year Is an Anonymous Twitterer

The Voice’s coy email exchange fails to out the critic, who likes “the sense of mystery (and the illusion of omniscience)” that comes with anonymity.

The Village Voice’s Rob Tannenbaum has chosen a music critic of the year–and it’s an anonymous Twitter account called @Discographies.


@Discographies has only been active since July, and to date has only issued 157 tweets (other accounts produce as many in a few days). But the wit behind the account has taken a clever approach to music reviewing: rather than assess single albums, @Discographies sums up entire careers in 140-character bursts, with albums represented by a number (first album = 1, second = 2, and so on).

On top of that, each tweet tends to have a central conceit, adding a layer of cleverness. So The Eagles’ career is likened to the seven dwarves–“The Eagles: 1 Dopey; 2 Doc; 3 Sneezy; 4 Sneezy; 5 Sneezy; 6 Grumpy; 7 Sleepy. [“Happy” and, in particular, “Bashful”: n/a.]”–while Madonna’s career is summed up in a faux personal ad–“Madonna: 1-4 “SWF seeks audience. Turn-ons: 5 edgeplay; 6 cuddling; 7,8 fake British accents; 9 Ché Guevara t-shirts; 10 disco; 11 botox.” The account became a hit, building within months an audience of 20,000 followers–including Duran Duran.

The Voice wrangled the enigmatic figure for a lively and enlightening email Q&A, worth reading in its entirety. But here’s a greatest hits, so to speak.

@Discographies on Twitter:

Twitter may be the first mass communications system that also functions as a meritocracy: it actively promotes good ideas and good content, regardless of where they come from. Twitter is also incredibly good at bringing people together. In my non-@Discographies life on Twitter, I’ve met people that I never would have encountered any other way, who are now actual real-world friends. Skeptics might think that the brevity of 140 characters would foster a kind of surface-y and impersonal interaction, but I think it does exactly the opposite: it forces you to communicate in a way that’s more signal than noise. Those are two really powerful functions–spreading ideas and connecting people–embedded in one convenient place.

@Discographies on anonymity:

There’s something about anonymity that seems to resonate for people, and there’s also a sort of (ascribed, even if not actual) authority that comes from writing as an institution, rather than as an individual…. I could be writing @Discographies under my own name–and I probably will, one of these days–but the sense of mystery (and the illusion of omniscience) has been a big help in getting the project started. Like you, I also get asked whether I write @Discographies. My response is to say lie and say no (“…but that’s really flattering!”) and then briefly muse aloud about who it might actually be; I’m sure you’ll be delighted to learn that I’ve invoked you as a possible suspect once or twice. All of which makes me feel a) guilty and b) kind of like my life is turning into an episode of Dexter.

@Discographies on albums in the à la carte, iTunes age:

The album may not be quite as central a content delivery system as it once was, but I don’t think it’s a vestigial concern yet. It’s still quite useful as a structure that allows us to be able to receive and discuss and interpret (and maybe even, for a little while longer, sell) a specific kind of information–just like a novel or a limerick or, y’know, a tweet. Even if we reach a point where an album is an entirely virtual construct with no physical manifestation, the idea of the album will still be important, just as a way for artists to draw a line in the sand and say “Okay, this is what separates this batch of material from that batch of material.”

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.