Monday, April 16, 2012

Stand Behind The Music

Now is a time when a number of our favorite artists from the last few years are about to release their sophomore efforts. With all this comes a great deal of nerves, aspiration, hope, fear, and the like. However, I find it a bit shameful when certain artists, whose debuts made such an impact on their niche audiences, renounce their first albums. In doing so, these singers cause fans to doubt the connection felt with music they believed to be relatable.

Who am I talking about? Paloma Faith and Marina Diamandis. As much as I admire these two women, and anticipate their follow-ups, I feel as though they've hung me out to dry. Both spent two years or so promoting debuts they claimed were personal statements, and we, as fans, believed them, because how can songs about the inner-most depths of depression (I Am Not A Robot, Numb) or our desperate need for companionship (Stone Cold Sober) be anything but? However, their recent claims that their works were not true representations have caused their audiences to question their faith in any songwriter's honesty. Is it even worth emotionally investing in anybody's music anymore?

Now, I understand if someone debuts as a squeaky clean pop star, and then, with the release of his/her second album, testifies to having no control over his/her previous output. For example, when Christina Aguilera released Stripped, she admitted feeling pigeon-holed as the perfect blonde, bubblegum POP star, and we, as fans, weren't surprised. It wasn't as if she ever postured as a genuine artist (aside from emphasizing her vocal prowess) from 1999 until 2000. If anything, the only shock we felt resulted from the fact that she actually conquered the driver's seat with her second album, unlike most of her peers at the time (Britney, N'Sync, Backstreet Boys, etc.). We had never heavily invested in her songs before the release of Stripped, because there was never anything overly personal within them. Christina had never claimed to pen the lyrics on her self-titled debut, so we didn't expect any Fiona Apple-like musical proclamations from that record.

However, Paloma and Marina were never packaged as such. When they came out, they both had distinct images that were artistically driven, and their sounds and lyrics were utterly unique. They were signed and advertised as artists who wrote their own material. Due to such marketing tactics, audiences looking for something a bit more personal than Rihanna's Take A Bow had something, and someone, to latch onto. It seems as though these two women are now rebelling without reason. Yes, maybe Paloma didn't have final approval over the production/mixes of her debut's tracks, but who would expect her to? The fact that her album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, sounded at all cinematic, as per her request, should have been satisfying enough. A record company will not give new artists 100% autonomy - this is a business, after all, and people's livelihoods are on the line. Be grateful that, as a new signee, you had any degree of authority. Furthermore, don't renounce your music, particularly when your severely personal lyrics drew in a unique crowd of fans searching for something more than the readily available Cheryl Cole experience.

Marina seems even more desperate to erase her old self, claiming that her new (generic) love-lorn material is far more personal than her old songs on The Family Jewels. I don't believe this for a second. Tracks like The Outsider and Girls don't write themselves. They're clearly motivated by a sense of isolation and spite, respectively, and as such, are quite personal. This makes it all the more confusing as to why Marina is so aggressively battling her early material. It's as if she's trying to prove to herself that she's worthy of more than just an indie crown. However, in doing so, she's losing a fiercely loyal fan base that was drawn to the personal nature of her music. Very few artists (i.e. Fiona Apple, Bright Eyes) achieve this sort of intense devotion resulting from the creation of purely confessional music.

VV Brown has done it best. Sometime this summer, she will be releasing her second album, Lollipops and Politics. Earlier this year, we posted the album preview, and it sounds fantastic. Featuring a combination of instrumentals, synths, and social commentary, this album seems to be quite a bit better than her last record, Traveling Like The Light. However, VV says that she will always stand behind the indie-POP of her debut, stating that no matter where her life takes her/how her music evolves, that first album will always be a true representation of who she was. This is the mature way to grow as an artist, because it provides VV with the space to change while also honoring the fans who found (and continue to find) a sense of solace in the deeply personal sound and lyrics of her debut.

As Minna puts it, "to thine own self be true." It is possible to progress artistically without disowning one's prior work. Such renouncement is not only juvenile in the sense of "If I close my eyes and pretend not to see it, it doesn't exist," but it is also incredibly disrespectful to the fans who have been there from the start. I wholeheartedly believe that the minute an artist caters his/her work to his/her fans' preferences, s/he compromises his/her artistic integrity. However, recognizing and appreciating one's fan base does not require any compromise. It doesn't require any semblance of artistic stagnation; all it necessitates is the validation of material that holds immense sentimental value in fans' eyes, minds, and hearts. Music is so over-run with fakery. Therefore, why taint the truth simply as a means of getting ahead and/or breaking into the mainstream? Such is the act of a sell-out. 




  1. Isn't Marina's whole deal this time around that she's making fun of female pop musicians? That's my problem with her.

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