Sometimes great art comes at a cost.
Ever heard the phrase “sometimes things have to fall apart so others can come together?” Well, I can’t think of a more accurate real-life example than the countless songs and albums we fans have been given by artists due to their failed relationships or internal struggles. You see, for artists like The Weeknd or Frank Ocean they presumably didn’t start writing such vulnerable music for the sole purpose of being famous.
It was a form of expression and therapy. However, with the platform they’ve gained by being so talented, they now have the pressure of delivering the music fans love them for versus the music they want to make or that comes from the real feelings they have within. It is this tension that leads me to address how toxic it can sometimes be for us to benefit from their heartbreak or toils, and demand more music representative of that.
I’ve had countless conversations with fans of Abel who have expressed they weren’t in favor of his last two albums, Beauty Behind The Madness and Starboy, because they are too “pop” or “happy.” They prefer the “druggy, dark” Weeknd of the early 2010s when Trilogy and Kiss Land dropped. To that, I say, to each their own…sonically. I enjoy his entire discography, and though Trilogy is indeed his magnum opus, his happier sounding albums follow up at numbers two and three in my ranking, then My Dear Melancholy, before Kiss Land comes in dead last. That’s just me. It’s not about the place he was at when he made the music, but rather how he performed and best expressed his feelings. Trilogy was an absolutely strong effort in from his somber standpoint, but BBTM was amazing too despite him sounding happier.
Further digging and analysis of the lyrical content of his “happy sounding” albums would indicate that the content isn’t too far off from what we fell in love with several years ago, rather his delivery comes from a more jubilant place. It’s okay, I don’t expect people to get as deep into the lyrics as I do nor do I feel my take is more superior than others because of my analysis.
What I do expect is there to be a level of humanity in how we support artists. Of course, I love when they can take a canvas and paint it black, with each brush stroke representing a beautiful song confronting their innermost struggles. However, I’d never wish rock bottom on an artist for the sake of my pleasure. I’m not saying all fans do, but that’s the underlying meaning in saying you prefer an artist’s content that comes from a dark place in their life. How do they get there?
Any time I’m on Twitter and see that a celebrity couple made up of one of two musicians breaks up, of course, the thought crosses my mind that they will channel that moment into some emotionally charged music. I just don’t have it in me to be so selfish that the potentially good music that could come from that excites me. It’s so easy to forget that these artists are real people and even if they have a multitude of romantic options or lavish things to make them happy, none of it exempts you from the natural human battles we face.
Trust me, I get it. I’m so thankful to all of these artists who have endured similar situations as me and put words to paper because the ability to just sink into a song and feel like you’re not alone is unparalleled. Even through all of the nonsense and drama caused this summer, Kanye West and Kid Cudi put their capes on and championed mental health in their collaborative effort Kids See Ghosts.
Though experimental and chaotic, the project simultaneously brought me down to my lowest before elevating me to a place where I could tackle my demons head-on. It’s well-documented that both Ye and Cudder have struggled the last few years, so to be at a place they could come together with all their baggage and put together a strong piece of work is remarkable.
Especially because it seemed like the country was getting to a place where they wouldn’t care for music from Kanye, and the previous week he released ye to mixed reviews. I’ll never be able to deny how at peace I feel when hearing “Feel The Love,” “Freeee,” or “Reborn” and I’m sure many people won’t either. It’s interesting how much the G.O.O.D Music releases were being demonized prior to this, yet the impact KSG had on so many people. Imagine if we went so hard shitting on them that it never came out. The people who were helped by this may still be searching for solace.
Again, none of this is me pointing the finger. I just want fans to think a bit more about what exactly we do when we express a preference such as this and call for more music that is a product of traumatic experiences in artists’ lives. Yes, it’s their jobs. Yes, we put money in their pockets. Yes, nowadays there’s the expectation that artists must cater to fans in every single thing they do.
In a way, the logic is sound. We can’t forget that they are people. They battle similar things to us, if not worse because they have these huge platforms and people attack them every day for the sole fact they are famous. Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it surely isn’t the cheat code to love and happiness. Sometimes, the music is all they have to survive. I want us to give more attention to what artists truly endure, and how our selfish desires can perhaps further negatively impact their psyches.
And for those upset Bryson Tiller hasn’t dropped his album yet, I’m with you there. We need that. But tell me he and his girl didn’t look fly as hell down in Miami?!?