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How do you rate albums?

The Rolling Stone magazine has been bashed here many times because they rate so many albums 3.5/5, but recently in another thread Chris F said

isn't it reasonable that they would give a 7 out of 10 (3.5/5) or between good and excellent to a lot of albums?

I think this is an interesting question, because while I agree that it's kind of boring if a magazine gives too many 3.5 ratings, I usually end up with a lot of 3.5-4 ratings myself when I rate albums at RYM. To give an album 4.5 or 5 stars I have to love it as one of my all-time favourite albums (which almost never happens when I hear a new album) but on the other hand I'm usually more positive than negative to the albums I listen to. So where does that leave me? Yeah, you guessed it, 3.5-4...

If you rate your albums, do you have the same "problem" or how do you rate them?

Re: How do you rate albums?

Well I guess it's the same for me
Lots of 3.5 and 4.
Giving a 4.5 or a 5 after a first listen is very rare.
You can see that in my RYM statistics
PS : don't pay attention to the fact that the number of 5 star albums exceed the number of 4.5 : it is just because I've started to rate my whole collection starting from the top of my favorite albums list, so there are more 5 stars than 4.5.
Apart from that, yes, there are a lot of 3.5
It's due to the fact that, as music connoisseurs, we know how to pick on the top of the shelves.

I've started to rate my albums in 2007 (just when I discovered this site . I give them a purcentage (or a rating out of 10 if you prefer)

5 stars is for an album that got more than 8.5 (66 albums)
4.5 : 8 to 8.5 (about 80)
4 : 7.5 to 8 (170)
3.5 : 7 to 7.5 (210)
3 : 6.5 to 7 (150)
2.5 : 6 to 6.5 (80)
2 : 5 to 6 (1

I'm very indulgent in my rating system (/10) so the number of stars reflect that.
and there are a number of albums that were so bad I didn't listen to them entirely (so, no rating)
The worse ? Damaged, by Black Flag, a mere 5.

Re: How do you rate albums?

to see my RYM statistics from my RYM page, click on "ratings (585)"

Re: How do you rate albums?

I find rating a lot of albums by giving them just a number on a scale will, in the long run, reflect your opinion very poorly. It leads to anchoring and nudging. You're also relying a lot on memories of emotions you felt while listening to the album, which leads to unintentional bias.

The best way I find to rate albums is to compare them side by side and build a list based on those comparisons. Like, I don't say Album A is 8/10 and Album B is 7/10, I say Album A is better than Album B, then A will wind up higher than B on the final list.

I don't care that Rolling Stone gives too many 3.5/5s, but their obvious biases take away their credibility in my eyes.

Re: How do you rate albums?

Until recently, and still valid on my RYM, my rating procedure was quite straight-forward, but maybe not so useful:

5.0 = favourite albums 1 to 50
4.5 = favourite albums 51 to 200
4.0 = favourite albums 201 to 500
3.5 = favourite albums 501 to 1000
3.0 = remaining album releases

I'm trying to figure out a rating system, where I rate each individual track at the album, and then take the average. Two challenges:
1) it's a hell of a job to listen to each album and rate each single track with concentration.
2) For some albums the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and vice versa, some albums have excellent tracks but put together do not make a highly rated album.

The second challenge can be minimized by adding a weighted rating for the album's consistency, but for the first challenge I don't have an answer yet (believe it or not, but there is more to life than listening to music alone ).

Well, for 5 star albums (i.e. 10/10) the minimum requirement for me is, that I like all tracks. For this reason, for example, Wilco's "Sky Blue Sky" (Shake It Off) and "A Ghost Is Born" (Less Than You Think) only get 4.5 stars. Need to do further research, but that's how far I got so far.

Re: How do you rate albums?

Hmm, if I may correct my wording: Instead of rating consistency, I would call it composition. Better composed albums should get this rating correction.

BillAdama, I like the concept of (eternal) comparing as well. I guess, the procedure is to listen to multiple albums in a row, and than afterwards sort them. In this way, you would allow cycles, such as: One day you rate album A over B, another day you rate B over C and a third day C over A. This makes all three albums equally rated in the direct comparison, right?

To Rolling Stone I cannot say much ... don't follow their ratings. My impression is that All Music Guide has more fluctuation, not a huge majority of 3.5 stars.

Re: How do you rate albums?

I have a rate your music page, and I tend to give out alot of 3.5 stars myself. I think rating albums, such as on RYM is very useful-- useful to society in a small way--because over time, given enough ratings, a pretty good indication of whether the average music fan (well maybe not the "average" music fan, but the average fan who tends to rely on sites such as AM and RYM) will enjoy the album. Sometimes I struggle with how to rate an album. A favorite album like Doolittle, Astral Weeks, or OK Computer is easy. But what about an album that's universally acclaimed but doesn't make me feel anything (Pet Sounds). Well, usually a 3.5 or 4. I tend to not really give anything much below a 2.5 because I figure the albums that deserve those ratings are the albums I don't listen to. As someone said earlier, we tend to pick from the top shelf.

Re: How do you rate albums?

5 star albums- Reserved for only the greatest albums which is probably around 20-30 albums.

4.5- Albums that fill out my top 100 but don't compare with the greatest ever

4- Not the greatest ever but might be one of the better albums of it's year

3.5- An album that I consider more than good and listen to once in awhile

3- Just good and I probably don't play it much. An average album.

2.5- OK but below average.

I think people throw out 4, 4.5 and 5 stars too liberally on RYM. Some people consider a 3 star album awful when I read reviews on there.

Re: How do you rate albums?

LOL, I don't think my method will be praised here.

I rate the songs first!

In itunes, you can rate each song from 1 star to 5 stars. For me, 1 star = a totally uninteresting/painful song to listen while 4 stars = a true hit that I would relisten quite often and 5 stars = a perfect song (in my tastes).

Then, I add the total number of stars for the albums songs and divide that number per the number of songs in the album. :)

So, the max score a "perfect album" (never happened yet) could get from me is 5.00 and the worst would be 1.00 (rarely happens).

This "method" definatly contains its "lot of flaws". It ignores, for instance, the "ensemble" effect that
all the songs can have together. It also penalizes relatively long albums (15 songs and more) because even if, for example, Exile on Main Street contains 5 "five stars" songs (which is a pretty good number), the general score of the album is lowered by several large amount of "4 stars" songs which are, in themselves, VERY GOOD songs... So there is some kind of paradox here...

Strangely enough, the albums that gets the highest scores ARE also my favourites. That is why I keep this particular way of rating records. Here is, for example, my personal top 10 of all time with their score being x/5.00 :) :

1-Abbey Road (4.56)
2-Led Zeppelin IV (3.50)
3-Pet Sounds (3.46)
4-The Velvet Underground & Nico(4.46)
5-Sgt. Peppers (4.39)
6-Merriweather Post Pavilion (4.36)(??? lol,I know...)
7-Forever Change (4.36)
8-Sound of Silver (4.33)
9-The Stone Roses (4.27)
10-Astral Weeks (4.25)

Tell me if you have ideas to improve (not replace) this method of mine. :)



Re: How do you rate albums?

I use more or less the same method as you. I think an album is good if the songs are all good.
Like you, I rate every song.
But I've added a few tricks :
(WARNING : the following may sound very nerdy !!!! you'll know all my secrets)

Every odd song (1, 3, 5, 7...) is rated in a "free" way out of 5, depending on its individual quality but also on its effect on the whole album.

Every even song (2, 4, 6, 8) will be rated then compared to another song on another albums (songs 2, 6, 10, 14..) or the same album (songs 4, 8, 10...)so to adjust the ratings.

Theses adjustements are meant to take into account comparisons and the overall appreciation of an album (for the even tracks) which is not always, like Andre said, the exact sum of its parts (for the odd tracks, if I realize the result I have after x songs is over or under rated, I can correct that).
It may seem totally weird and crazy but it's a scientific way of doing things. I was tired of rating my albums just on the souvenirs I had of them and not on reality.
Another flaw is that sometimes you rate an album when it isn't the right moment. But then I soon realize that the rating doesn't reflect my appreciation of it, and then all I have to do is to rate it again.

It takes a lot of time to listen to an album this way, but you listen to it more closely, and I have plenty of time for that when I'm in the metro (2 hs a day in those f... trains).

Hope you don't think I'm an hopeless freak

Re: How do you rate albums?

ML, see my post. I'm using the same method as you do, well ... not with itunes but similar. And your 'ensemble' effect is identical to what I call composition, I guess.

Re: How do you rate albums?


freak? uhm, maybe, yes

hopeless? no way

Re: How do you rate albums?

Maybe it's better to call yourself a beautiful freak ?

Re: How do you rate albums?

Great song !
thank you

Re: How do you rate albums?

this song deserves a 4, or a 3.875 ???

Re: How do you rate albums?

My ratings seems a lot like John's. I haven't rated too many albums on RYM, but if I spent the time to do so, that would be the way my ratings would work.

Re: How do you rate albums?

I'm more of a "songs" person than "albums"...I probably only rate about 50 albums I've ever heard to be 5 star. By the same token, there are only so many albums I thought were truly wretched that deserve a 1 star. So most of my ratings fall around the 2.5-3.5 star (or 4-7 if it's a 10 point scale) mark.

I try to only give ratings/reviews to genres that I typically enjoy so if I "ding" an album, it's because I don't think it's a good album for the genre, not because, say, it's a techno album and techno isn't my cup of tea. When I sample outside my usual listening tastes I settle for marking it off on All Consuming (http://www.allconsuming.net) but don't do anything on Amazon or RYM with it. (Other than check the box that I've heard it.)

I also prefer sites that allow me to modify my ratings over time. Almost nothing is "great" to my ears out of the box but plenty of things that are "good" become "great" to me with repeated listenings. Also, some albums that start as "good" devolve to "not so good" with repeat airings.

My oldest ratings for this reason tend to be the most accurate about how I really feel about an album.

Re: How do you rate albums?

this song deserves a 4, or a 3.875 ???

On even days a 4, on odd days a 3.875. Except when it is a Sunday, than a 5 is more appropriate.

Re: How do you rate albums?

I never rate music with numbers, but I love both music and statistics. Go figure.

But I think if I were the rating sort I would throw out the scores for the lowest 1-2 songs on the album. Why punish an artist for taking a chance and missing? I can live with a few clunkers if the majority of the best songs are great. By including all songs at equal value I think you may be over-rewarding consistency and over-punishing those albums with just a few pieces of true genius.

Put another way. Would you rather listen to a 5 and 1 or to two 3's? Give me the 5/1 combo anyday.

Maybe you should be calculating standard deviation too? As between two albums having roughly the same mean, I'm sure I would prefer the one with the higher standard deviation.

Re: How do you rate albums?

Here's the major issue with rating though. How do you normalize?

Suppose you're rating all the albums you heard in 2008. You want the distribution to be about equal, so you give the best ones 9.5s and 9s.

Then you go try to rate your favorite albums of all time, and find 100 of them you want to put higher than your favorite of 2008. But, your favorite of 2008 has a 9.5. How do you fit 100 albums between 9.5 and 10? You have to re-normalize your entire rating system.

Here's another thing that happens if you try to do it that way. You give one album a 7, and think about giving another album an 8. Then you look at the list and say "Wait, that first one is better!" and give it a 6.5 instead. Except, you rated the first one a long time ago, and maybe your feelings about it have been influenced in the meantime.

Andre: The program I wrote and gave the buggy original version to the forum does something like I described. If you're adding comparisons over a long term, the weight of each comparison goes down gradually, and goes down faster depending on how long you owned the albums at the time. When you have a cycle, the effect of the algorithm is basically tossing out the lowest weighted of the cycle.

Re: How do you rate albums?

Paul, interesting point about the stansard deviation
I've been thinking about it for a long time and the first thing I did was to give a bonus to good songs (more than 4/5).
Then, about leaving the bad songs out, I don't know... I'm gonna study that

Re: How do you rate albums?

Not a freak, nicolas, but definately hopeless. But then again, we all are.

Re: How do you rate albums?

yeah, but that's the fun of it
all those ratings are nothing but a big game

Re: How do you rate albums?

My system is pretty unscientific but it's mostly based on how good the songs are. It's not perfect for everybody, but it works pretty good for me

5 stars - A perfect album. Every song, with at most one exception, always works for me. The songs are not only excellent themselves but get better within the context of the album, which has its own thoroughly unique atmosphere. I never want to hit "skip" while listening to it.

4.5 stars - A superb album with mostly excellent songs, but maybe a few average songs. It has its own sound, which I like but maybe not necessarily love. I enjoy listening to it a lot, but it has a few moments I don't care for.

4 stars - A very good album, with several excellent songs. It has its own distinct sound, but it might not be completely developed. I can enjoy it straight through if I'm in the mood.

3.5 stars - An album that is good, but not consistently good. Perhaps a great song or two, mostly good songs and a few average ones. Skipping a few tracks is the best way to listen to it.

3 stars - An album that is average or slightly above-average. It probably has good singles, but the rest is just boring. Either I like its sound or its songs, but not both and probably the latter.

2.5 or below - Not worth your time

Re: How do you rate albums?

Last time I said:

"My oldest ratings for this reason tend to be the most accurate about how I really feel about an album."

I realize this was not clear at all after I re-read it. I should have said "My ratings for albums that I have HEARD THE MOST TIMES tend to be the most accurate..."

In other words, I have a lot better group on how I feel about RUBBER SOUL than about BRIGHTER THAN CREATION'S DARK overall.