You’ve heard the saying ‘80’s has been’ or had to google an artist from yesteryear that has an amazing Spotify catalogue, but never seemed to transpire past their golden era. How come such iconic artists don’t stand the test of time? Huge in their heyday but now living in the shadow of their former self. Why do their record sales plummet in the modern day, even though their legend lives on?
1. Their lyric becomes less poignant and relatable. People are usually most inspired to write their best lyrics in times of hardship, whether that’s a financial crisis or heart break, particularly a first love like Rod says, ‘the first cut is the deepest’. Often after getting knock backs in the early days, many musicians have been known to write a real kick-ass song or two in rebellion to the rejection. Also, with youth often comes a real anger at the world we live in and a naive, almost arrogant passion to change it. As these artists age and hit ‘peak’ fame, their once concerning finances are no longer an issue. They are often more stable, maybe even married and settled. As people age they also tend to find more peace with themselves, as opposed to the teenage angst they may have once felt. Equally, adults tend to gain a further awareness of hierarchies and capitalism, they learn to accept the unfair structures of society, becoming set in their ways and accepting things are likely to never change in their lifetime. Their once gritty, raw, realistic, passionate and heartfelt lyrics often become mundane and lacklustre.
2. They lose relevance. Society matters. Artists are inspired by the present themes going on in and amongst their lives. Whether that’s what’s happening in the news, in fashion, politics or other popular music genres buzzing around them. They get inspiration from one or more of these areas, feed and thrive off other peoples similar ideas and make music that becomes almost like a time capsule to that certain point in history. It’s like they find a golden formula appealing to everyone at that time, they take it and run with it but then apply that same formula in a society 10 or 20 years from the one they began in and it doesn’t always transcribe.
3. They change producers or management. This one is a bigger deal than you may like to believe. Yes it’s the musician who ultimately has the talent and as they age they may never lose that. What they lose instead is the connections they had when they were about to be the next big thing. That manager they had when they went double platinum is now managing some ‘Billie Eilish’ type star and their lyricist handing over their golden material to the new next big thing. People in the music industry flock towards where the money boat is sailing, once you’ve already been into the harbour and docked its very difficult to set sail again with that same momentum they were once given. It’s a difficult pill to swallow that your favourite band or musician may have had a helping hand with writing, producing and selecting the songs they should release, but usually per musician there is a team of people working together to ensure success. Without that entourage, many once ‘iconic’ musicians flop.
4. They start experimenting. Because why not? They’ve already peaked. Musicians are craftsmen and they live and breathe music, lyrics and instruments. Just like an athlete would test and push themselves, artists do the same. They may be creating and producing much more complex material than in their heyday, doing things way more technical with their instruments and in the studio. They may even choose to write much more abstract, sophisticated lyrics but that doesn’t necessarily mean it appeals to the masses and gets them a number one album. It’s funny, often if you ask an established musician what thier favourite song they have ever recorded is, it never seems to be what you expect. Rather than it being one of their big hits, it will probably be something quite niche and personal to them.
5. They lose their image. It’s miserably sad but inherently true. In a society where we buy into looks, if somebody shot to fame with a helping hand from their looks then as they fade, so do their opportunities. Youth is a major selling point. There’s a certain exuberance a youthful artist gives off, a presence and an attitude. Even though the talent may still be present, the attention they were once given to sky-rocket their talent may not be. You also have to remember that looks relate to confidence too and if an artists no longer feels at their best, it can seriously knock their stage presence and charisma. Their star quality fades.