CT music critic Anthony Fantano talks life with 2.6M subscribers on YouTube

Photo of Jailene Cuevas
Anthony Fantano is the "internet's busiest music nerd" who has reached 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube.

Anthony Fantano is the "internet's busiest music nerd" who has reached 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube.

Contributed by Anthony Fantano
Anthony Fantano is the "internet's busiest music nerd" who has reached 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube.

Anthony Fantano is the "internet's busiest music nerd" who has reached 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube.

Contributed by Anthony Fantano
Youtube music reviewer Anthony Fantano (Anthony Fantano / Contributed Photos)

The New York Times named Anthony Fantano the “only music critic that matters” in 2020, and his 2.6 million subscribers on YouTube might agree.

Fantano, 37, calls himself “the internet’s busiest music nerd” and gives reviews and critiques of music of all genres like contemporary rock, rap, metal and more on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. He also interviews musicians and posts those interviews to his website, theneedledrop.com.

The Southern Connecticut State University graduate has reviewed various artists from Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar to Radiohead and Michael Jackson. In the process, he's carved out a style and a voice that is uniquely his.

“When coming into this, I wanted to give reviews in a way that was different,” he said. “I created my own radio and music reviewer vibe that at the time [that] I did not see on YouTube.”

Since his first video on YouTube in 2009 — in which he talked about a positive concert experience going to see Sunn O))) with a black curtain background — so many of Fantano’s reviews have changed but one thing that has not is his delivery. As he reviews an album, but he goes deep into the production, lyrics, style and cover art.

According to Fantano, what makes him different is his music knowledge and the way he grew up listening to and understanding all styles. He said he used to study how a genre or artist has evolved and how certain decades inspired some artists now.

“There was a point where I would make myself listen to anything before the mid ‘90s. I wanted to really understand where certain styles came from and how we got to the point we are in now,” he said.

Fantano rates albums and songs using a 0 to 10 scale. The songs or albums are either “light,” “decent” or “strong.” The only seven albums to earn a perfect 10 from him are “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar, “The Money Store” by Death Grips, the “Kids See Ghosts” duo of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, "To Be Kind" by Swans, “You Won’t Get What You Want” by Daughters, “The Turning Wheel” by Spelling and “SINNER GET READY” by Lingua Ignota.

Fantano said he reads the comments viewers leave, and sometimes they inspire him to try something new or keep doing what he is doing. One "Needle Drop" viewer noticed him wearing a yellow flannel whenever he gave a good music review and red when it was bad. Fantano said he did not notice his outfit pattern but was impressed with how viewers noticed something so simple. So he decided to keep his outfit trend going. 

Anthony Fantano's background is recognizable to fans of his videos. Despite moving around, Fantano has kept his background the same.

Anthony Fantano's background is recognizable to fans of his videos. Despite moving around, Fantano has kept his background the same.

Contributed by Anthony Fantano

“It’s cool to know that people really pay close to attention to that,” he said. “One thing my viewers would not figure out is how many times I have moved because I have have kept the same plain backdrop with my collection of vinyls in the back with a digital representation of the album cover over my shoulder.”

Before Fantano amassed the following he has today, he started working at Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR) in Hartford in 2007, where he created and hosted,“The Needle Drop.” He also launched “The Needle Drop” as a blog, which later led him into starting video reviews in 2009. 

WSIN and WNPR really were the two places that brought me closer to what I wanted to do,” Fantano said. “I was working at the college radio station, WNPR and at a pizza restaurant to support myself but in around 2011, I decided to pursue ‘The Needle Drop’ full-time.”

He said he used his knowledge in writing music reviews and added elements of comedy to create “The Needle Drop” on YouTube. Since going full-time and having an increase in subscribers, Fantano now has his own team, which includes a managing editor, a video editor and a booking agent. His following also allowed him to write articles for Vogue, The Washington Post and NPR.

His clout also gets attention from the very musicians he reviews. In September, Fantano generated some buzz after a feud with rapper Drake. Fantano scored Drake’s “Honestly, Nevermind” album “Not Good” out of 10 in June. According to Variety, Drake direct messaged Fantano and posted it on his own story. Fantano later addressed the situation on Instagram Live, saying he did not respond and for that, Drake took the "W." He later went on to mention on how Drake is an artist who has made some "great tracks."

With his growing following, Fantano said his goal is to "stay relevant" with the latest music — and to make sure he makes himself as much of a priority as he has made music.

“Whether it is going on a new platform or engaging more with my viewers, it is all about keeping it music, keeping it funny and having a good time,” he said. “I am happy where I am at, but it comes with a lot of sacrificing of time, bandwidth, mental capacity and mental health. It is time to refocus on that.”