Why do pop musicians lose inspiration with the years?

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dumbangel
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Why do pop musicians lose inspiration with the years?

Post by dumbangel » Tue Dec 27, 2005 4:03 pm

or just stop completely?

I've done comparisons with other art forms. In art history some great works were produced by artists well over the age of 50, in painting, litterature, classical music... Some great artists even start creating after the age 35 or 40.

In pop music, most people start in their 20's and run dry after 4-5 years or even less.

Obviously there are many reasons, but I just hate the idea of pop music or creative music in general being a youth exclusivity.

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roy
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Post by roy » Tue Dec 27, 2005 4:10 pm

It's called "pop" for a reason. Most of it has a short shelf life and tends to go flat before too long. Not that it's all bad :)

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Post by drumsound » Tue Dec 27, 2005 5:23 pm

I have a theory that all songwriters have a 'well.' Some have a deep well that will flow for years, some wells will have dry pockets that will again flow and others still have very shallow wells that run dry quickly.

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Post by thethingwiththestuff » Tue Dec 27, 2005 5:55 pm

this is something i try very hard to understand, to prevent myself from letting it happen to me.

but then, i see guys like derrick bailey (RIP), charles cohen (local philly electronic guy), Wire even...

the people doing their own thing and following a path of discovery of sound rather than writing songs with mass appeal and following popular structures seem to be the ones to stay fresh.

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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Tue Dec 27, 2005 6:06 pm

If you think musicians have it bad, talk to a doctoral-level mathematician or physicist. My theoretical physicist friend obsesses over the troubling fact that most every major discovery in his field was made by a person under the age of thirty.

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Post by heylow » Tue Dec 27, 2005 6:29 pm

I believe that kind of thing happens when people don't continue to move and grow. I mean, not everything every artist does will always be the bomb and/or may not be seen as such until later down the road when everyone catches up. Artists should not afraid of this....the trick is probably to grow with care to never get too far ahead of your audience. This way, the real fans will move with you and the ones who won't weren't that likely to stay long anyways....those are your usual "next big thing consumers".

I think artists get good at something and/or get a little recognition for something and are afraid to venture back into unknown territory for fear of the ride being over (which it inevitably will be if you just stand in one spot anyways). I actually have talented friends who supress some of their greatest stuff for fear of the "regulars" not "getting it".

I am constantly aware of this in my own ventures...in fact, I just had a conversation with my drummer about the way I'd like to approach our next record. There are things I am really good at and I know I can do and do it and do it.....but who's gonna care after the 200th time you do "the thing"?

Look at Jeff Tweedy. If Wilco continued just doing the strict alt.country thing, they'd have been buried a long time ago by every kid who came after and looked a little better in tight jeans. Instead, they have reminded us that that there is only one Wilco. I admire Ryan Adams for the same thing.....many people hate his genre jumping. I love it and wouldn't want it any other way.

The short answer to the question is..... Complacency.


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;ivlunsdystf
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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Tue Dec 27, 2005 7:07 pm

Patti Smith, upon her comeback in the mid 1990s, said in an interview that she stopped writing songs for a long time in her early thirties or so because she was no longer "angry" anymore. Maybe you don't categorize her stuff as pop, but can we all agree that middle age brings a more stable mental/emotional state with fewer major ups and downs? I was a walking basket case in my early twenties, full of angst about girls, guitars, career plans, family dynamics, you name it; lately I can't even imagine getting worked up about some of the stuff that used to keep me up all night. I guess that's complacency.

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Post by Spark » Tue Dec 27, 2005 8:38 pm

Tatertot wrote:I guess that's complacency.
Hmmm... Im in my mid 30s now and I was the same way for basicaly all my 20s. I still have moments of angst and anger, but for the most part I think ive learned to channel it differently and that maybe these things dont matter as much as I thought they did. Maybe I became complacent and didnt realize it but I like to think of it as maturity. I could be wrong though.

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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Tue Dec 27, 2005 8:50 pm

Yeah, I'd rather call it maturity too.

Who has heard about the brain disorder that plagued Maurice Ravel late in life? It wasn't writers block, it was actually degeneration of the part of his brain that made up melodies. If a student fed him a melody that he had never heard before, he could do all his wonderful things with it - write harmony, variations, whatever. But he couldn't actually make up his own melodies. Or so an author said (I read an article about it somewhere). Obviously Ravel was quite frustrated by this problem in his final years. He did continue in music as a teacher though.

There: If you hit thirty and your songwriting seems to be going flat, maybe you have the Maurice Ravel brain disease. Or, maybe you just need more mics and preamps. Sorry, I'm being facetious. Actually my official stance on this is that I am very appreciative of people like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and so many others who demonstrate that there is plenty of creativity left for musicians at age fifty and beyond. I only wish that the musico-industrial complex would encourage the public to revere these seasoned, mature souls as the wise elder statespeople that they are. I guess that is life with MTV and such.

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Post by JGriffin » Tue Dec 27, 2005 10:35 pm

Tatertot wrote: I only wish that the musico-industrial complex would encourage the public to revere these seasoned, mature souls as the wise elder statespeople that they are. I guess that is life with MTV and such.

That's a big part of it. How many musicians are allowed to continue their musical careers past the age of 35? The percentage of over-35 musicians putting out new work on major labels is much lower than the percentage of kids in their 20's doing it. Fee Waybill may have been capable of some amazing songs, but instead he's doing "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at a summer-stock theatre in Michigan. Every REO Speedwagon album since 1984 may have been brilliant, but the band has been on the county fair circuit for the last 20 years, where all everyone wants to hear is "Keep On Loving You." Does anyone even know where the hell Paul Kantner is? Or give a shit about anything Jackson Browne has done since he married Daryl Hannah? Granted, these are not the giants of any age, but no one will ever know what they might have matured into because they got old and were discarded.

But then, "rock and roll" is and has always been music for youth. So, what over-35 artists are faced with is that now they're the audience's parents. Their original audience has matured, and likely don't get into the music for the same reasons. And so they have to either try to fake that thing for the kids or start making music that's not "rock and roll" anymore. Or somehow redefine "rock and roll" so that it can include a mature mindset for their dwindling adult audience, who now also have families and kids and less and less time for music.
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Post by hauser gabone » Tue Dec 27, 2005 11:46 pm

pop is usually about vocal melody, and a good melody is pretty mysterious...symmetrical, somewhat familiar & fullfilling yet original.

some people run out of melodies, i think ray davies is the pop songwriting champ.
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Post by the riff » Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:33 am

I believe Tom Petty still makes GREAT records. After all these years and so many great songs he can still turn out greatness. His last record "the Last DJ" is so consistant. It doesn't hurt that he works with some great producers :)

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Post by wedge » Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:34 am

A few years ago, Tony Bennett regained popularity by aligning himself with grunge rock, and popping up on MTV and going on tours with rock bands. The kids, as they say, loved him. If ever there was an example of how quality can be timeless and also appealing to that coveted teen demographic, even when the messenger has a few toes in the grave, it's that. If record companys would just pull their heads out of their asses, then they could start mining these older veins, to good effect...

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Post by ;ivlunsdystf » Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:51 am

That's not to mention Burt Bacharach, Willie Nelson, George Clinton, Michael Jackson (oops, just kidding on that last one).

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Post by matyas » Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:05 pm

Some more counter-examples: Johnny Cash (some of his finest work was done in his last years), Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra (great until the day he died), David Byrne, Brian Eno.... The Rolling Stones is still the biggest tour in rock. Even Neil Diamond is re-inventing himself. (Haven't heard the new record, and I was never a fan, but whatever...) Yeah, I suppose these are the exceptions, but there you go. The point is that plenty of people in "pop" (whatever that means at this point) keep putting out good records in middle and even old age.

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