Celine Dion & Barbara Streisand Vs. Black Sabbath

Years ago I devised my own Music Rating System, and I’ve decided to refine it and share it publicly.

For now, I’ll call it The Carl King Music Rating System. Since I don’t have a better name for it.


1.) This is my own system for measuring the exploitation of musical elements within a piece of music.
2.) It is possible to “enjoy” and maybe even “like” a piece of music if it receives a low score.
3.) My goal is to stimulate analysis of music from a deconstructive / elemental point of view, rather than that of a helpless consumer.
4.) I expect many knee-jerk, emotional responses from people who have never taken a music appreciation class.

The System:

At present, I’m using 22 dimensions. Each dimension receives one of the following ratings:

0 = Non-Existent
1 = Poor
2 = Average
3 = Excellent

The total of all dimensional ratings is then squared (for the sake of spreading the results out) to receive a final, Overall Rating:

Overall Poor: 500
Overall Average: 2,000
Overall Excellent: 4,000

And now, I will present my first public analysis, as a good start to this imperfect system.

Celine Dion & Barbara Streisand: “Tell Him
Black Sabbath: “Iron Man


I was delighted with the results of this comparison, because it provided me with an example of both Poor (“Iron Man”) and Average (“Tell Him”).

My starting point was entering “2 / Average” for each item, and sometimes changing to a 0, 1, or 3 as I listened through the songs. It did not take long, since I was already familiar with both pieces. I will comment on some of these items now.

While “Tell Him” had a standard song melody, “Iron Man” was too simple. If Ozzy’s vocals are the melody (maybe), all it does is follow the guitar and bass riff. While it’s definitely catchy, I still consider it Poor in comparison with “Tell Him” (which has a more sophisticated diatonic melody with a great deal of contour and more than one repetitive phrase).

It’s easy to realize that Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand (studied vocalists) are much better at singing “in tune” than Ozzy is. But every instrument in Black Sabbath (including the drums) seems to have tuning issues. The argument could be made that the tuning problems contribute to “Iron Man” sounding scarier, but it was most likely not intentional. Safer to assume they were just amateurs and lacked quality gear.

“Iron Man” beat “Tell Him” in the Ambience / Character department. Although I’m not 100% sure I made the right decision on this, or if this Element is valid to include in the system. Perhaps I’ll refine or remove it. The good thing is, the overall score is based on many elements, so it wouldn’t affect the end results that much. There is still a wide spread between the two songs.

As I get older, I consider Dynamics to be important. My brain gets tired of hearing “Midi Velocity = 127” on every single instrument throughout a song. That’s for young people with too much nervous energy. I want to hear a wider, nuanced spectrum of loud and soft, and “Tell Him” provides that. All those soft notes make the louder ones seem even more dramatic. “Iron Man” is just senseless pounding by comparison.

Closing Statement: If “Tell Him” is Average, there will be many Poor ratings in the future.


Leave a Reply