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  • What is a Gonzo Review?

    Abr 21 2014, 17h48

    Gonzo journalism is a school of American New Journalism and was invented by iconic hippie deconstructor Hunter S. Thompson. It was born from the spirit of the Beat Generation and basically means that the journalist rejects objectivity and writes from his very personal point of view, sometimes taking direct place within the events they report, a trait Gonzo journalism hold in high regard. Of course this is completely against the standards of "good" journalism and usually Gonzo journalism is considered to be literature than journalism. The essential difference is summarized quickly: while journalism wants to inform, narration want to make something "experiencable".

    The bible of Gonzo Journalism is Thompson's 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that retells his mad drugged trip through Las Vegas where he attempted to write an article on the Mint 400 motorcycle race but instead experiences a week long psychosis. You should definitly read it if you aspire to become a Gonzo reviewer. Gonzo journalism currently undergoes a renaissance, for example with the youth-oriented VICE magazine, that is heavily influenced by Thompson's primacy of subjectivity.

    So what is a Gonzo review then?

    Reviewing a piece of culture in the Gonzo style means to reject objectivity in culture criticism. This practically means that you do not describe how a work is created, structured or shaped, this means that you describe how it feels to perceive it. Screw the facts. Screw the accuracy. Screw objectivity. Take the shift away from the subject at hand to the true subject of anything: you.

    A practical example. We review the song "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" by Sylvester James.

    A conventional review: "The 1978 disco hit by Sylvester James makes use of octave basslines, dominant synth-lines influenced by Giorgio Moroder and Sylvester's distinctive Donna Summer-esque falsetto vocals. It was highly influential on the emerging style of Hi-NRG."

    The exact same piece of music, reviewed in the Gonzo style: "Sweet Jesus, I feel like reborn, this music is so POWERFUL, you cannot believe it, I wish the song would not only never end but replace my heartbeat. I cannot believe people actually hate disco, I mean, how fucking STUPID do you have to be to neglect the majestic beauty of this song? I could cry, it's so marvellous, my room is shacking. IT'S INSANE it's one of the GREATEST songs ever made. I could kill a cow from the brilliance and throw it in my neighbors garage. -"

    Of course there are some intrinsic dangers to that method.

    As you might have realized, the conventional method is far more useful in an intellectual debate. You know where the piece of culture stems from, what's its message and what's it context. In a Gonzo style, you basically have no ground for your evaluation of culture except your very own perception. No surprise, that the subjective method is held in low regard.

    The Gonzo method, however, is far more useful if you want to make a piece of music or art "experiencable" and eventually if you want to review it properly.

    For music, this technique is particularly useful. Music is an art that was created to communicate emotions - the Gonzo method therefore is the perfect tool for recreating the experience you got from it. The perception of music is extremely subjective - only the Gonzo method can do this justice.

    Famous Gonzo reviewers come from the surrounding of the Rolling Stone magazine where also Thompson hailed from, but the most popular of that style would be the Village Voice author Robert Christgau. Christgau's "capsule review" style is a perfect complement for the Gonzo method: short, intense bursts of insanity to describe a piece of art.

    Stop talking about the art, start talking about how you feel. Stop pretending that you have no emotions, start sharing them to the world, so we can rejoice together.