Over the years, I’ve noticed negative comments about artists. The ones that bother me the most focus on non-artists desire to have artists replicate their work over and over again or for them to do precisely the opposite. Some people want bands, for example, to record albums that are similar sounding throughout their career. In other instances, they might argue that authors should only write books that are similar. The creative powers behind TV shows and movies are also victims of this criticism.
I disagree with this notion. I am, and always have been, in favor of allowing artists to spread their wings and soar to whatever heights they find alluring.
Damned If You Do and Damned If You Don’t
I have read hateful comments online where people rip into one of their most beloved bands because they did not change their style. The band, they might write, recycled the same formula over again. The band hasn’t tried to add anything new to their records. They sound the same as they did on their first album.
At the same time, I’ve seen comments online from people that disagree with a band’s incorporation of new elements. Generally, in the rock community, people don’t like when a band splices electronic themes into their albums. Such alterations, these folks argue, will ultimately dissolve the genre. And while this may not happen right now, it will certainly disrupt the musical climate. This is a very slippery slope, but I feel it has some merit. However, I believe that art is above the labels and boxes we stick them in. Thus, artists are beyond these silly walls we place them between.
It appears that bands are damned to receive criticism for any changes they may or may not implement. This seems unfair and confusing. Some fans want more of the same while others want some experimentation. What are bands to do about this schism?
Perhaps they switch back and forth between different types of albums. Linkin Park did this. After they drifted away from their genre melding roots, they concentrated their efforts on one type of album at a time. For example, they’d release an album steeped with electronic elements and a poppy feel, then follow it up with a more rock-centered record. While they always pushed the limits of their band’s unique sound, they didn’t try to combine too many pop and rock elements on an album that was destined to be “rock”. Look at Linkin Park’s last two albums: The Hunting Party and One More Light. They are vastly different records. The former is firmly rock, and the latter is definitely pop. In doing this, they satisfy both sides of their fan base.
Other bands simply try to change their sound after a given amount of time. Bullet For My Valentine is a great example of this. Some of their music is loved across the heavy metal community, while some of their material has virtually been rejected as “fake metal”. Scream Aim Fire, which is often regarded as the band’s best work, is a blistering record. It is built on flashy instruments, chaotic riffs and edgy lyrics. Their new album, Gravity, is completely opposite. It features limited screaming and no guitar solos. You can check out my review here for more detailed thoughts on Gravity.
From the articles I read, the band just wanted to do something different. Loudwire quoted Matt Tuck saying: “We didn’t want to write a normal, stock, heavy metal record. We wanted to push ourselves creatively and incorporate new sounds and instrumentation and ways of songwriting. It was very challenging but now we’ve got to the other end (of the process), we think it’s fucking killer.”
Trying New Things
I’ve always thought that Matt Tuck had the right attitude. Starting from this mindset, his band has been able to weave different sounds and styles together. They continually push themselves, as he says, to try new things. Without this type of experimenting, metal core would never have come to be. Metal core, of course is the niche genre that Bullet For My Valentine started off playing before evolving into full blown metal on their later records. Moreover, rock, as with any genre, would never have come to be if artists and composers like Elvis Presley didn’t push the envelope.
At the end of the day, artists need space to create. They need space to piece together something unique and beautiful, rather than rush something into existence at the will of their record company. This goes for musicians, painters, sculptors, authors and writers of all kind. They need time to contemplate their work and then assemble it. Without this space, we get numerous albums that are repetitive, waves of movies that use similar plot lines and an unending number of novels that are filled with flat characters
I believe that all artists, no matter their medium, should be given space to create. Without this space, artists are locked inside a vacuum and they aren’t allowed to exercise their creative muscles. They simply do as their record company or publishing company or studio executives wish. In the end, they aren’t providing content for their fans. They are crafting something designed for the market. In other words, they only produce material that will sell, no matter how devoid of passion or style it is.