Former Pitchfork critic Matt LeMay offered a mea culpa on Friday, apologizing to Grammy nominated singer Liz Phair for a review he wrote of her 2003 self-titled album. The famously scathing take-down gave the album a score of 0.0 on Pitchfork’s scale of 8.0.
In an in-depth Q&A with Vulture published on Sept. 5, Phair, who is releasing a book, “Horror Stories: A Memoir,” said that she was proud of receiving a 0.0. But in reading back what he wrote, LeMay did not feel the same.
In a lengthy multi-Tweet thread, LeMay pointed to his age — 19 at the time — as the main culprit in writing “the condescending and cringey” review.
In the original critique, which took issue with Phair’s collaborations with established pop writers, LeMay wrote that the album “could have just as easily been made by anybody else” and described the songs as “gratuitous and overdetermined, eschewing the stark and accusatory insights of ‘Exile in Guyville’ in favor of pointless F-bombs, manipulative ballads, and foul-mouthed shmeminism.”
In his 2019 redress, LeMay writes: “The idea that ‘indie rock’ and ‘radio pop’ are both cultural constructs? Languages to play with? Masks for an artist to try on? Yeah. I certainly did not get that. @PhizLair DID get that — way before many of us did.”
Phair brought up the sour assessment while discussing another harsh review for “Liz Phair” from the New York Times written by Meghan O’Rourke who described Phair as “a woman approaching 40 getting dolled up in market approved teen gear.” As Phair told Vulture: “What she did was like a real public shaming. [She said] it was shameful and I was a terrible mother for doing that. I say, give me more freedom while I’m here on this earth. With record reviews, I don’t even mind, if you write it well. I’m kind of proud Pitchfork gave me a 0.0 for ‘Liz Phair.’ But she was literally trying to shame me to not be sexual as a mother, and to make me feel sorry for trying to reach a broader audience.
Phair graciously accepted LeMay’s apology and admission of regret also on social media. “I’ve always enjoyed criticism well-rendered and the 0.0 had some humor to it — enjoyed it more than others I can tell you.”
The singer opened up about a number of topics in the interview, including the sexual harassment she experienced in the music industry.
Time will tell whether it also takes 16 years for detente to be found between Lana Del Rey and NPR critic Ann Powers, who received a Twitter lashing from the singer for her mostly positive but conflicted review of the new album “Norman F—ing Rockwell.” “Here’s a little sidenote on your piece – I don’t even relate to one observation you made about the music,” Del Rey tweeted. She also mocked Powers for calling herself a fan. After many of the singer’s followers began roasting Powers, the critic — one of the more established voices in rock and pop writing for the last two decades — said she was taking a few days off from social media. A legion of fellow critics and even a good number of Del Rey fans rose to defend the thoughtfulness of her long think-piece or say the singer was overreacting.