How to Write a Music Album Review

By Kathy Adams ; Updated September 15, 2017
Woman sitting at a desk looking at a laptop while wearing headphones.

Writing an album review requires an objective approach whether the band is your favorite, your least favorite or an act of which you've never heard. Fairness, accuracy and an honest, descriptive review of the songs result in a review that offers value to readers. Whether you feel the music is amazing or awful, the review readers should to know why.

The First Listen

Listen to the album casually, reading any enclosed liner notes and song information as the music plays. Jot down the song titles and your basic impressions of each song, such as "hard rock screamer" or "sounds like a Barry White ballad." Place stars next to the tracks you feel are the best or that deserve several listens, and mark any titles you aren't sure about, as they definitely need to be listened to again. Reviewing albums requires multiple listens; the more you've heard an album, the more fuel you'll have for writing. For now, relax and get a feel for the songs, including vocal and playing styles and whether you can hear the parts well; an album that suffers from poor mixing should be noted as such.

Homework Time

Writing an album review requires a little homework. Find out the names of all band members and singers, who wrote each song and if any guest musicians appeared on the album. If a well-known engineer mixed the album, write that down. Listen to tracks from other albums the band released, or if the album is a side project for an artist belonging to another band, listen to the other band's music as well. Note whether the music being reviewed is similar in genre or sound to older albums. Look for and read recent interviews online that may discuss the recording or writing process for the current album. Your goal is to grasp the talent and process behind the album as if you are quite familiar with the band, even if you've never heard of it or don't care for the music.

Sketching the Story

Listen to the album again, replaying each track as many times as necessary. Fill in the details about your impressions of each track as well as the album as a whole as you listen. Jotting things down as you hear them rather than waiting until later ensures your bright ideas make it into the article. Read lyrics, if possible, and note a passage or two worthy of mentioning in your review. Once you've listened to the entire album several times, you should have enough thoughts jotted down about each song to construct a review.

Writing the Review

Open your review with an impression of the album as a whole so the reader has an idea about the album's style, genre or strongest points within the first few sentences. If the entire album flows like a story or sounds disjointed from one track to the next, that is worth noting as well. Write down key details for each song and wrap up the review with your overall grade for the album. The length of the review may depend upon the publication or project you're writing it for. Write from the heart first, then go back and tighten it up or add more information if necessary. Use helpful terms that actually describe the music rather than your opinion of it; while a review essentially is an opinion, the piece should not be opinionated. For instance, writing "the first song is the best jam ever" is not helpful to anyone, and it's unprofessional. Instead, explain the song is a catchy, bass-driven dance tune, or another song is both musically and lyrically complex, explaining why.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.