Look, “theneedledrop,” a.k.a Anthony Fantano, is literally one of the greatest music reviewers of all time.
I discovered his reviews in 2010, and after about five seconds of watching one of them, I could tell his perspective on music was something I had been eternally longing for. I think it was his review of MGMT’s “Congratulations” that got me hooked. This was an album that I had been obsessed with at the time, and hearing Fantano talk about it in the way I would talk about music with my bandmates was so refreshing. This is because Fantano critiques music through only one filter: his own. Five years ago, doing this was notable. In this day and age, it makes Fantano a straight-up outlaw. I mean, think about how the Internet hype machine basically determines public opinion for a highly anticipated body of work before it even comes out. Or how there’s a general shift in the public mindset where we declare things as historic before they are even given a chance to become historic. It’s scary, honestly. But I’m getting sidetracked. What I’m trying to say is, Fantano believes in himself above whatever the cultural paradigm is at the moment, and this is why he’s the best music reviewer of all time.
I really appreciate the elements of music that Fantano focuses on when he reviews. I think he critiques aspects of a song that other reviewers completely overlook.
Take, for instance, form. Fantano is very scrutinizing of a song’s form. He will call out a song that he sees as sloppy or anticlimactic in its form. Sometimes, I don’t agree with what he sees as sloppy form. In fact, I think Fantano is conservative in what he deems as good versus bad form. For example, he thought songs from the new Rihanna album had lazy structure, even though I thought that they were kind of exciting and interesting.
He is also scrutinizing of production. Take the Chromatics’ “Kill for Love” album, which came out in 2012. He felt that it was inexcusably lazy in its production and had poor quality guitar parts. Look, I haven’t listened to the album, but I think it’s important that Fantano calls shots like this because other reviewers are just stuck on their own idea of how an album fits within the cultural matrix. You literally don’t hear Pitchfork talking about the quality of a guitar part on a record which is, like, kind of important. Fantano assesses music for its real, concrete qualities, something which is woefully lacking in other music reviews.
I also have much love for Fantano because he has exposed me to so many albums that mean a lot to me, particularly indie releases from the early 2010’s. I purchased “Brothers” by The Black Keys, “Kaputt” by Destroyer, and “This is Happening” by LCD Soundsystem, all thanks to theneedledrop. I love these albums so much and I still listen to them to this day. Fantano’s reviews always had me eagerly listening because his thorough assessment of an album was so exciting. I still love watching his reviews because they are as much an experience as listening to the album itself. His funky camera edits, his exuberant personality, the funny way in which he calls out other artists’ shots (please watch any of his reviews of a Hopsin release, they will have you dying), and of course, his antics with his annoying roommate Cal Chuchesta—it’s all so earnest and real.
People will call Fantano out for being an ass, but I would be willing to bet that these people haven’t really watched his reviews. I mean, he’s pretty popular now, so his aesthetic is not as underground-feeling as it used to be, so it’s easy to say, “Christ, what an asshole” when you see his drippy logo and one of his exaggerated facial expressions he uses as snapshots of his videos.
The thing is, Anthony Fantano is just one guy saying exactly what he thinks about music. There’s no more and no less to it than that. If you’re not into theneedledrop, next time you see an album you love or hate on his channel, give his review a chance. You might be surprised by how fun it is to watch.