Tuesday, April 15, 2014

why IS the earlier stuff better?

When you think about it, it really doesn't make sense that for most musical acts, the earlier stuff is better. I am not saying it's not true because generally speaking it is. But what is it about the honing of songwriting (assuming that's the crux of it) craft, that means it gets worse over time? Visual artists and writers have their peaks and troughs, and it's rare for someone in those fields to produce their best work at (say) 70 (though it's not impossible), but they do tend to improve over time. But with musicians, it really does seem like diminishing returns, to the degree that 'best album since [last really good album which was probably about 25 years earlier in the career]' is an acknowledged cliche.

Maybe it's a combination of: rock 'n' roll is a young person's game, and that's when they make the most impact, and they always have to deal with that legacy? Or, that consciously or unconsciously they shift their interest from trying to get a foot in the door, to just honing the technical nature of the craft? Or is it what I have hitherto assumed without ever really thinking about it too hard, that after a while you lose interest in being innovative and just want to do a creative rehash and/or fit in with the dominant paradigm? You lose interest in making a smash and just get comfortable with bobbing around with the status quo? 

The concurrent strange aspect to the above is that artists who DON'T peak from the beginning, but who start out producing substandard stuff and then rise after a few years and excel a certain way into their career, seem able to maintain a better quality. Who am I thinking of? Off the top of my head, Vanda & Young and the Bee Gees, but no doubt there are a million others (of course, there are also many, many people who are great at the beginning and keep being great, still, I think the initial premise holds, don't you? Sure, we can all think of exceptions, but I'd say there's ten unexceptions for every one of those). 

I wondered this because there was a buzzfeed quiz about how much of a music nerd (or snob? can't remember) one is, I did the first fifteen or so questions and then lost interest, or rather, gained interest in the above idea and had to nut it out with you. Thanks.

1 comment:

Team Thesaurus said...

It is an interesting question you pose and I think some of the possibilities you mention could all be factors.

I think to have a breakthough or a smash hit, it has to differentiate from all the other products in the market.

But when you reach a certain level of fame, you get money just for being famous, so there isn't really a need to produce anything above mediocre. Also, pop artists once they get big, are usually "directed" by either their own hubris or the record industry "producers" with really bad ideas.

So i think that is why music has "un-natural" fluctuations in quality. The musician becomes a commodity and then too many cooks start spoiling the broth by starting to change the recipie so it can appeal to a wider audience.

Appealing to lowest common denominators always makes things bland...even if the artist becomes more famous...the earlier work will generally have way more emotional impact.

It is strange to imagine how a painter, author or sculptor's work would be affected if it HAD to appeal to a wider audience and if a board of 20 other people started making decisions about how the work should develop. ;)