Sensationally bad press -- the kind when a reviewer all but tells a band or musician to stop making music and find something else to do to pass the time -- is cause for commemoration in an artist's life.
It's like in that episode from the first season of Entourage in which the rising-star character, Vincent Chase, gets a horrible review in Variety, and his never-was actor brother, Johnny Drama, consoles him by telling him that one critic hated one of Drama's performances so much that the critic theorized that Drama might be "mildly retarded." Now that's bad press.
Except in the case of a sociopath, it's hard to forget evaluations that people have given of your work, both the favorable and the harsh. But mostly the harsh.
I recently wrote a harsh review of the CD Sea Things by local singer-songwriter and visual artist Sterling Witt. After that review ran, I half-wondered if Witt would take up the dare implied in the review and send one of his nonmusical creations to the Pitchoffice -- a glazed ceramic turd, perhaps, or a decorated sea shell containing a live, angry crab.
Months passed, and we heard no response aside from this letter from a fan of Witt's.
But today, a box arrived. It was full of neatly laid paper airplanes in an array of colors, all bearing printouts of my review under the handwritten, curlicue heading "My Worst Press Ever." These anti-one-sheets also featured a picture of Witt's glowering mug and a list of upcoming shows. And, beneath the planes, covered in confetti, were two black T-shirts, one M, one XL, each with a copy of my review emblazoned on it.
I don't know how Witt really felt about the review, but he certainly channeled his feelings into a creative and even celebratory response (however ironic), and I'm impressed. This really is a gift, both in terms of the physical present and in the sense that I'll have a story to break out at parties.
So, thanks for the shirts, Sterling. I wish you all the best. May you go forth and find some critics who don't hate your CD as much as I did.