Artists Who Need to Go Away For Awhile
You're Absence is Requested...
I don't wish to upset any fans of the following artists, but I think there is an unnecessary trend prevalent among some people in music. The problem is that, they're too ubiquitous. They haven't slowed down from day one or day whatever that they decided to make music.
I'm not saying that their music is bad, but every creative person needs time to recharge, experiment, and do other things. While some people can do that in a shorter period of time, it doesn't always produce the best results.
The most successful artists, in my opinion, are creative in different ways and can develop and promote new ventures and ideas across genres and mediums. It doesn't mean you abandon your first love, but it just means that you take the time to give your fans the best music possible.
Ross Had a Point
A lot of people are familiar with Friends and the infamous "We Were On a Break" argument that Ross pioneered. He wasn't saying that he was right , but that Rachel had determined the parameters of their split before he acted and therefore, he reacted. Of course, Ross would live to regret those words, but really they were on a break.
What does this have to do with artists? A lot. If you want to break into film, start a clothing line, or what not what better way to do that than to take a break. It's easier to expand your horizons when not trying to pull double duty in music and movies. So I present a couple of examples of people who've employed the Ross argument to their careers.
Maxwell: What amazes me most about Maxwell is not his amazing music, his sweet lyrics, or his lovely voice, but how he manages to maintain a life outside of the spotlight and be successful. Maxwell burst onto the scene in the mid 1990s and led the neo-soul movement to prominence. After 2001's Now, he seemingly disappeared from music. He didn't act, make a fashion line, or anything- that we know of. He just took a break and then somehow reappeared in 2009 to release a critically and commercially successful album called BLACKsummers' night. He makes great music when he wants to and then does his thing, when he wants to. Who can't respect that?
Missy Elliott: Missy Elliott exploded in 1996 and seemed to keep going for a while. There was a time when she was on every R& B song with a guest rap, hip-hop remix, and hip-hop posse cut. However, after a health scare and the death of close friend and collaborator, Aaliyah, she slowed down. However, she continued on until 2005's The Cookbook, after which she didn't release a studio album. She continued to make guest appearances, but after a recent diagnosis of Grave's Disease, Missy dipped out of the public eye. However, in a recent episode of Behind the Music, she revealed she's working on a new album. As of early 2013, Missy Elliott has released 3 singles- all collaborations with close friend and fellow hip-hop producer extraordinaire, Timbaland.
Justin Timberlake: Justin Timberlake has been in front of a camera about as long as the internet has been around. Starting off as one of the many Mouseketeers in the Mickey Mouse Club reboot he quickly rose to fame as a member of *NSYNC and then went solo shortly after *NSYNC's brief run of the charts. He hasn't faded from the public eye, but continues to remain relevant by various SNL appearances, movies, a clothing line, restaurants, and attempting to revamp MySpace. Did I mention he also got married? Recently there have been a series of tweets and other rumors floating around that Mr. JT is back in the lab. He was spotted with Beyonce' and Jay-Z in a New York City studio in late 2012. So maybe it's almost time for him to bring something back to the music scene- how about Parcheesi?
Let the Rihanna Rain Let Up
Rihanna has just relesased her seventh album in just as mean years. That's right. She's not even twenty five yet and she's made twice as many albums as Maxwell and three times as many albums as Justin Timberlake and both of them have been around a lot longer.
My problem with Rihanna is not her work ethic, but the approach she takes to her music. She first came out as part of the new Reggaeton craze with her debut single "Pon De Replay" from her first album, Music of the Sun. The songs were catchy, but she didn't make much of a splash. About a year later, she went more in the direction of mainstream pop and released A Girl Like Me most notably featuring the Ne-Yo penned, "Unfaithful." Again, it did okay and maintained her public profile but it still wasn't a blockbuster.
"Umbrella," the lead single from her third album became her signature song from the career-transforming Good Girl Gone Bad. Since then, it's been all Rihanna all the time. The only year she didn't release an album of original material was 2008. She even released an album in 2009 after the infamous Chris Brown domestic abuse incident.
If you ask me, I think she piqued creatively with Good Girl Gone Bad. All of the singles seemed to really deal with her coming of age, the sound was tailored to her vocals, and she was sassy but not overtly sexual. With 2009's Rated R, the tone is darker and more jaded while at the same time not totally abandoning her pop stylings.
2010's Loud was fairly lighter, but didn't really sound interesting or dynamic enough to really do anything. The biggest thing from that album was the flack she suffered after the "S&M" video controversy. In 2011, she released Talk that Talk to great critical acclaim and controversy. She paired with her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown for a track named "Birthday Cake" and that was just the beginning of Chrianna part 2.
In late 2012, after months of rumors. Chris Brown and Rihanna paired up on her seventh album, Unapologetic for a duet called "Nobody's Business". Well, as nice as that thought sounds they made their antics everyone's business by flaunting their on-again relationship on Twitter.
Aside from setting a bad example about domestic abuse and co-dependent relationships, it's just plain irritating. Maybe the next course of action is for the public to stop buying her albums until she straightens up and flies right.
I think Rihanna just needs a change of scenery from the pop landscape. A little time away doesn't hurt anyone. Her songs now seem to just be whatever a producer can give her and not material that actually fits her mood. Another thing I think she's trying to do is ensure her place in pop culture.
She wants to make sure that she's officially distinguished herself as a pop star rather than actually trying to grow into a unique artist. That is reflected in her approach because now she's known more for revealing outfits and outrageous tattoos than actual musicality and growth. Besides, I'm tired of hearing eh, you know this, and yup after everything she sings. Anybody with me?
Biebs Be Gone
Now, I know I might run the risk of alienating the dedicated Beliebers out there but let me state my case.
I think Justin Bieber has done a decent job in recent years as the only young male pop star on the scene. He did manage to get the attention of both Usher and Justin Timberlake when he was trying to be signed. Usher ultimately signed and mentored the Biebs and helped guide him into the pop limelight.
However, he is close to being overexposed. It was fine in the beginning when he had that iconic haircut and the sweet YouTube videos, but now it seems like everywhere you turn he's in the headlines for one reason or another.
His debut album, My World made a decent dent in the charts with singles like One Less Lonely Girl and One Time. Justin Bieber made an impact by being in touch with his fans and close to his mom. He then pulled the ultimate marketing move in providing a second part to the album. He had the world at his feet with the smash single "Baby" and never looked back.
In early 2011 he released the concert biopic Never Say Never to massive ticket sales. The song he released in tandem with that film became a hit as well.
Everyone had Bieber fever, haircuts, and so much more. But he didn't stop there. He did the ultimate teen idol move and made a Christmas album, title Under the Mistletoe in 2011. He had a hit in Mistletoe and even made the bold move of remaking Mariah Carey's classic" All I Want for Christmas is You" as a duet with Mariah Carey!
But in 2012, he decided to transition into adulthood with his third album, Believe. The style of the album was a noted departure from his first album. He went in a more R&B direction. The album did well and garnered comparisons to near-mentor Justin Timberlake. But JT, he isn't.
Recent personal antics have distracted fans from Bieber's music. He and girlfriend Selena Gomez broke up in late 2012 only to get back together soon after and breakup again. Let's not also forget the onslaught of tattoos he's adorned himself with. Not that tats are bad, but he seems to only do so for the attention or bad boy persona. Other rumors have him being in love with Mary Jane.
Among other things his car was recently tied to a paparazzo death on New Year's Day. While, that wasn't his fault directly, this series of events is giving us a new kind of Bieber fever, the kind that feels like the flu.
Kanye, Please Go West
It seems like Kanye West has been around a lot longer than his antics, but in actuality it's only going on eight years. And while he does rap, produce, and make really bad Hitler analogies- it's enough to be said that we're in the mood for something a little different.
His debut, The College Dropout, was a commercial and critical success. At the time Kanye was considered a real unique talent that was in stark contrast to the bling-bling era that was still going on in hip-hop. His combination of soul samples and original beats helped put him on the map as a rising star.
That star was further cemented with Late Registration the following year which yielded super-hit, "Gold Digger." Kanye then established himself as a controversial outlaw by publicly creating the low-point of George W. Bush's presidency by calling him out on Katrina relief efforts.
His third album, 2007's Graduation was becoming more and more of a repeat of his previous efforts despite yielding huge hits like Stronger. The creativity was beginning to diminish and his antics were starting to get super-old.
There was a brief moment of public sympathy after his mom's untimely death at the hands of a plastic surgeon. This along with his broken engagement to fashion designer Alexis Jordan yielded the result that became 2008's 808s & Heartbreak.
It didn't end there. He would interrupt awards shows on several occasions to get his point across as to why he should have won the award. This began with him storming out of the AMAs in 2004 for not winning Best New Artist. He then continued this streak with his most famous outburst being the 2009 VMA Taylor Swift incident.
His last solo release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy did well with hits like All of the Lights and Kanye slowed down enough to make a few collaborations.
In 2011, he and mentor Jay-Z finally teamed up on the album Watch the Throne. While it received raved reviews, we still were subjected to Kanye's general craziness and Twitter rants. In 2012, he fell madly in love with the one and only Kim Kardashian in addition to releasing the collaborative album of him and artists on his label, Cruel Summer. The album did fairly well but did not live up to expectations.
That didn't deter Kanye who's currently making a follow up to Cruel Summer, the creatively titled Cruel Winter. The album will feature the same roster including 2 Chainz, Pusha T, Big Sean, and now hip-hop icon and founder of landmark group A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip.
But if that wasn't enough Yeezy, he's about to multiply, literally. He and Kim Kardashian made a huge announcement on New Year's Eve 2013, they're now expecting a baby together. I don't know whether to be glad that he might not be making as much music or scared that he could be the craziest dad of all time. I guess we'll know in a few months.
Not Everyone Needs a Break..
Some artists are very successful releasing albums in rapid succession. They're creatively tuned in to consistently make great music, but eventually they need time to reinvent their sound, be influenced by the work of their peers, or just plain relax. The following artists just delayed their need for rest and prolonged their working periods into long chunks of time.
Stevie Wonder: In the 1970s, Stevie Wonder was the man. But in the sixties, when he was still considered a child star novelty, he struggled at Motown. The problem was that Stevie was so constrained by the factory-like conditions and was desperate to break out. In the mid sixties he came into his own with hits like, "Uptight" and "My Cherie Amour" but that wasn't enough. It wasn't until the early 70s with albums like Innervisions and Talking Book that he really evolved into the musical force he's known as today.
Prince: The Purple One always seems to be at work. But not nearly as much now as he was between the late 70s and the mid 90s when he released more than a dozen albums. His unique combination of funk, rock, pop and soul made him stand out. Prince wrote, produced, and arranged most of his material, which created outstanding results such as "Purple Rain", 1999 and Lovesexy. He's slowed down but his impact remains.
The Beatles: Between being the biggest band in the world and giving pop culture an irreplaceable soundtrack, the Beatles were no slouches. They released over twelve albums and thirteen EPs in less than ten years, filled with endless gems such as "Let It Be", "She Loves You" and "Can't Buy Me Love". These songs live on through television, movies, and an incessant amount of covers but no group will ever be able to duplicate the creativity and authenticity of the Fab Four.
Of course in not taking a break, these artists did suffer a lot of personal heartache, emotional issues, and drug dependencies among other things but they counted the reward greater than the price. Even in the current climate of music, creativity and honesty should be valued more than sales and commercial appeal.