Critic's Dictionary

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From time to time we like to explain all those cryptic musical terms that critics use in reviews and profiles. Here's our insider's look at words that start with the letter A.

Artist n. Any person who performs onstage, in a recording studio or live concert setting.

(Used even by those who perform badly, such as American Idol's William Hung or those who perform very, very badly, like Fergie.)


musical terms

Altercation n. Any gathering of two or more rap/hip-hop artists.

Adult Contemporary n. Music genre made up of pop music aimed at an adult listening audience. Includes work by Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette. Most often heard in office or waiting-room settings. Sometimes called AC.

Award n. Prizes or commendations originally meant to acknowledge excellence of singers, songwriters, producers or technicians, as with the Grammy Awards. Now meant to feed the egos of artists and/or provide a platform for commercial advertising, as with the Glade Songwriting Awards and the Clairol Music Awards, both held quarterly in Miami's Midol Theater on Pepsi Drive.

Acid Reflux n. A physical condition in which stomach acid moves up the gastric system and into the throat, sometimes forcing a singer to lip-synch rather than perform live. The most famous (well, actually the only) occurrence was Ashley Simpson's Saturday Night Live performance in October, 2004. Simpson's father and manager explained she was lip-synching because she had a bout of acid reflux.

Album n. An extinct music production format. Once a collection of ten to 12 songs on a vinyl disc. With the advent of CDs, it became a collection of eight to ten songs on a plastic disk. With the advent of iTunes and other online music stores, the album was replaced by single song downloads.

Avril a. An uncomplimentary term used to describe a style of makeup marked by heavily lined eyes, a pale complexion and a sneer, as in "You look very Avril today." Thought to have derived from Avril Lavigne's stylings.

Acid n. A harmless drug used by nightclub and party-goers to heighten their senses, increasing their sense of fun. Or paranoia.

Aiken n and v. The family name of superstar showman Clay Aiken. In some cultures used as a derogatory remark, as in "What's wrong with you? Are you Aiken?"

All in a. Poker term meant to indicate that a player is betting all his/her holdings. In music, meant to indicate that an artist is depending solely on one single to make or break his/her career, such as a-ha's "Take on Me."

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