Anthony Fantano Is the Music Critic Who Matters (if You’re Under 25)

Anthony Fantano Is the Music Critic Who Matters (if You’re Under 25)

Over the years, Fantano has professionalized — working with a managing editor, a video editor, a booking agent and an entertainment lawyer (whose son was a fan) — but the look and feel of his videos has hardly changed since he started The Needle Drop in 2009, with a plain backdrop and a digital representation of the album cover in question over his right shoulder.

Such consistency, a result of his type-A workaholism, has been crucial to Fantano’s success. His output is regular and optimized: a review almost every weekday, plus immediate reactions to new tracks, music news and other recurring features on his second channel, which he started in 2017 to circumvent the YouTube algorithm. (“The more content you’re dropping on a single channel, the less likely it is that YouTube is going to appropriately promote all of it,” he said.)

His critical voice — earnest, adjective-heavy enthusiasm mixed with boyish, 4chan-inflected internet humor — and his taste, which can be eclectic but skews toward heavy rock, outré and experimental pop and rock-influenced rap, are also reliable. The only five albums to earn a perfect 10 from him are by Kendrick Lamar, the noise-rap trio Death Grips, the Kids See Ghosts duo of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, the aggressive rock band Swans, and Daughters, which he praised for its “nuclear bomb of cathartic hideousness” and “vile displays of auditory abuse.”

Predictably, The Needle Drop’s most popular videos take on polarizing stars like West, Eminem and Chance the Rapper, but Fantano often avoids big-ticket Top 40, which could bring him more views, in favor of proselytizing for something smaller or stranger. He referred to what he does as giving a “synopsis or CliffsNotes” for an artist or album, but also obviously values his role as a curator and tastemaker, too.

“There’s no number of negative reviews I can give to Nav that can end his career,” Fantano said, referencing his takedowns of the slyly popular rapper. “But I feel like I can break an artist — I do have the power to do that.”

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