Music criticism has an existential crisis about once per week. Writers are too in love with classic rock; not friendly enough toward pop music. Then they're above classic rock, and exhibitionists about their love for pop — even when it's bad. Music writing has generational problems, gender problems, race problems, length problems, hype problems, prestige problems, and surprise-release-timing problems. What if, for one day, all those problems were gone?
That's what I love about the "she doesn't have the range" thread that the runner of Beyoncé fan account @KingBeyonceStan dropped on Twitter yesterday. It takes what could be 1,200-word blog posts about the biggest pop stars in the world and boils them down to a simple yes or no: does she, or doesn't she, have the range?
Britney Spears— vodka lemonade (@KingBeyonceStan) June 21, 2016
-lipsyncing since the first Bush adm.
-she doesn't have the range (vocally and of motion in the knee) pic.twitter.com/dRrYCK2CaW
The tweets don't really explain what's wrong with any of these artists. Rather, they just nudge you in the direction of figuring it out yourself. Look into your heart, Twitter — what do your pop idols lack? I love Zayn, and I know he literally has an incredible vocal range, but yeah, I guess I can understand how "she doesn't have the range." He's trying way too hard, and his music is a watery, faux-dangerous mess.
Zayn:— vodka lemonade (@KingBeyonceStan) June 21, 2016
-Respek for breaking away from the whites
-she doesn't have the range pic.twitter.com/ZZ8hTV1gie
The assessments are laser-pointed. Yes, this is precisely what is wrong with The Weeknd: he ruined "6 Inch Heels," his feature spot on Beyoncé's Lemonade. Yes, that is his biggest crime, apart from being so boring I literally can't feel my face because I've peeled it off to feel something, anything, everything.
Nick Jonas gets a vicious but 100 percent accurate skewering as a posturing #ally; I didn't know that Katy Perry hated Lorde's "Royals" but that certainly is a cardinal sin; and I've never heard Drake's "legion of dull clones" pushed onto him as his own fatal flaw, but now that I have I suppose I agree. If you're going to be one of the biggest stars in the world, you could at least try not to let your bland misogyny spread like a pop-rap STD. Stop signing people to your label who want to sound and act just like you Drake, you're not so pleasant that we need 30 of you!
Whitney Houston:— vodka lemonade (@KingBeyonceStan) June 21, 2016
-saved her for last
-your fave could never.
-had Aretha shook
-she had the range pic.twitter.com/UjIoh70fah
What is "the range?" Is it an x-factor? Is it "it?" Is it like "legs," as in: durability and a place in the pop canon? Select All explains that it stems, in some part, from a British TV show. But its application here is so much more than, say, a college freshman, drunk for the first time, reciting the entire script of Step Brothers. This is no quote. Based on the select few who won the designation of "she has the range," it's probably all of these things and something else, too. Whatever the common factor between Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Celine Dion might be.
We've reached out to @KingBeyonceStan for clarification, but we're also content to never truly know what the range is. Just like we never truly know the pop stars who have it.
Have fun explaining it to your dad!