Oh dear, Odell: when critics attack

Dad’s defence fans flames as cranky NME takes a pop


When Philip Larkin memorably wrote “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do” in 1961, he wouldn’t have had in a mind the 2013 Brit Critics Choice Award Winner taking great consolation in these iambic tetrameters.

The story so far is that those nasty, indier-than-thou types at the New Musical Express saw fit to offer some constructive criticism in their review of Tom Odell’s debut album, Long Way Down. Some of their more cogent observations on the work included describing the 22-year-old folkie poster boy as “a poor, misguided wannabe who has fallen into the hands of the music industry’s equivalent of Hungarian sex traffickers”. The review (which rated the work zero out of 10) only got worse from there on in.

Odell could probably have lived with that – NME types aren’t his target market – and would have taken solace in the fact that another review in the same issue deemed the new Beady Eye album to be very good. Which means the magazine should be shut down and its staff locked up on the basis of utter musical ignorance.

But things only got worse. Odell’s proud father picked up a copy of the NME, read the review of his son’s work and – oh dear God, no – took it upon himself to ring up the magazine to berate them for their harsh words.

It gets even worse. Chasing up the story, the London Independent wrote last week: “When contacted by The Independent, Tom Odell’s publicist refused to comment but said he would consider “pulling” an interview due to run in Saturday’s edition of this newspaper should a news story which upset Mr Odell or his representatives appear today”.

Instead of the PR flack snuffing out the flames, he added more petrol. When an artist is already on the back foot, it’s not the time to start getting precious. The only thing to have done with the NME review was to wear it as a badge of honour and use it to highlight the fact that the magazine’s rigid adherence to praising only skinny-jeaned derivative indie landfill is the main reason why its entire print readership would fit into a phone-box.

Enter that beacon of sanity and wisdom that is the Twitter machine. The usual verbal handbags of whether the NME hacks were horrid bullies or simply that Odell had it coming were tediously played out against an incontinent flow of unparliamentary language and excessive use of the exclamation mark.

What Tom Odell needs to learn quickly is that when you charge people money for what you have on offer, people have an inalienable right to weigh up its value – in whatever manner they choose to express this. If you are sensitive to public criticism of your work, maybe the entertainment business isn’t the right career for you.

Odell should also know that his debut album will sell by the hundreds of thousands. He will make more money this year than the person who wrote the NME review will make in his lifetime. But that doesn’t mean you’re better than the critic. Just a lot richer. That’s how it works. Welcome to showbusiness.

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