Anthony Fantano’s Complicated Critic Status

Anthony Fantano, “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” is a prominent music critic and journalist on YouTube. 

Notably, Fantano runs two YouTube channels: The Needle Drop and Fantano. In recent years, disputes on Wikipedia and Metacritic have occurred of whether or not Fantano’s review scores should be listed under an album’s ratings page. Fans of Fantano constantly add his scores on the various Wikipedia pages, but moderators remove them, claiming he’s not an actual critic. 

So, this begs the question: is Anthony Fantano a legitimate music critic? 

In this article, I will lay out the arguments both for why and why not Anthony Fantano is considered to be a true music critic and journalist. Additionally, I will provide my own conclusion on the subject as well. 

Why Anthony Fantano should be considered a critic:

Many of those who assert that Fantano is a legitimate music critic will point out various statistics. The first slew of data deals with his media presence. 

The argument is made that Fantano is simply more relevant and more popular when compared to his counterparts of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. In fact, the numbers do back this up. 

If we look at the subscriber count for the three platforms, the data is in Fantano’s favor. As of June 2020, Fantano’s channels of The Needle Drop and Fantano tally up to over 3.1 million subscribers. On the contrary, Pitchfork only has about 1 million subscribers, whereas Rolling Stone possesses a measly 580 thousand subscribers. Furthermore, The Needle Drop and Fantano have collected a total of over 800 million views. Pitchfork has around 400 million views and Rolling Stone has about 190 million views. All three channels were founded in pre-2010 YouTube. Those who believe Anthony Fantano is a legitimate critic will cite his dominance on YouTube over the two established reviewing outlets.

Related to the topic of YouTube, The Needle Drop truly has a cultural following on the platform. Fantano made a name for himself with his 2010 review of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, in which he infamously gave the album a 6/10 score. Outlets, such as Pitchfork, praised the project, giving it a rare 10/10. 

Fantano’s fans are dedicated, self-proclaimed “music nerds” who sometimes shape their opinion on an album after they watch Fantano’s own review. This is visible as you come across comments saying, “I’m so glad Anthony’s review came out. I almost had to form my own opinion.” His music-based influence is undeniably visible on the internet. 

Those who believe Anthony Fantano is a true music critic will point towards review averages. Although a rating can vary album to album, both Fantano and Rolling Stone have a similar average score. Fantano gives an average score of 6.25/10 (Thunder Labs). Not too distant, Pitchfork gives out an average score of 7/10, whereas Rolling Stone has an average score of 6.6/10 (Metacritic). Proponents of Fantano’s critic status will argue he maintains similar statistics to some of the biggest reviewers in the music industry. 

Fantano has also built a robust music community both on Reddit and Twitter with the help of his series “Let’s Argue.” The series sparks discussions about various music topics and opinions. 

image credits: Justin Pioletti
Image credits: Justin Pioletti

Why Anthony Fantano shouldn’t be considered a critic:

Many of those who believe Fantano is not a legitimate music critic claim he is simply just a YouTuber who happens to have a large following. If The Needle Drop is to be considered on the same playing field as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, what would stop every other music reviewing channel from claiming their legitimacy? The answer? No one knows. If Fantano is considered an actual critic, many questions are brought up: who determines which channel is legit, what requirements should there be in place, and who determines these requirements? 

These are, indeed, difficult questions for people to answer. Currently, Fantano is in a gray zone of sorts. 

Another reason why Fantano is not considered a legitimate critic is due to his rating system. Although most of his reviews follow the traditional 0-10 scale, many albums receive quite odd scores. 

Limp Bizkit’s Gold Cobra received a humus/10 and Yung Lean’s Unknown Death 2002 received a bread/10. Ed Sheeran and Nav have acquired the unconventional not good/10 rating. These obscure scores are often used against Fantano, often used to show inconsistency with his rating system. 

Although in most cases these ratings are given for comedic reasons, many claim these actions to be highly unprofessional. 

Final thoughts? All in for “the best teeth in the game” Fantano: 

In my opinion, Anthony Fantano deserves to be considered a true critic of music. He’s earned it. Fantano has truly transformed the way people view the traditional album review. He’s provided a new, digital set of lenses. 

Although I’m aware of his flaws and the reasons why he shouldn’t be deemed a critic, Fantano’s channels have such a cultural impact on Generation Z. Anyone who actively and religiously follows music is aware of his most notorious reviews: Kanye’s 6/10, Lil Pump’s 7/10, and Mac Miller’s 3/10. 

Fantano truly dissects an album for each review, giving his honest opinion. He does this even if most mainstream critics sway in a certain direction that differs from his own. An example can be found with Fiona Apple’s 2020 album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Unlike many major outlets, he waits several days before giving an album a score. Fantano lets the music digest before he forms a concrete opinion. 

Whether he is reviewing a little-known indie artist, or a major pop-star like Taylor Swift, Fantano provides fairness to everyone. He stays as objective as he can be when examining both types of music. 

Personally, I’ve discovered so much music through The Needle Drop and learned how to view music in a more critical way. I honestly feel that his YouTube and internet-based reviews are the future for music journalism. I know lots of people who use Fantano as a reference source for a review. I can’t say that same about Rolling Stone for anyone around my age. 

Anthony Fantano is truly the face of modern music’s journalism scene thus far.

“Y’all know this is just my opinion, right?”

Alex Cambra is a .WAV staff member, he wrote the article. Justin Pioletti is a .WAV staff member, he created the article graphic. Cover image credit to Anthony Fantano.