If someone were to ask you why you love a specific song, would you be able to reply? It's quite a weird question. Still, we've been trying to answer it for the past week, to no avail. The question has gotten under our skin.
There may be reasons that go into how BPM, harmonic field, or a pentatonic scale, affect our human body, but at the end of the day, the fact of the matter is: we love music. Period. And, if we try to explain why we love it, we quickly slip into emotional reasons, sidelining any technical logical arguments.
Because when we talk about our relationship with music, or artists, we are talking about affection, emotions. We're talking about feeling that pop up during the hook of a specific song, despite there being no apparent reason for it. It's a euphoric state based on repertoire, on our own living experience. No one will experience an album exactly like someone else.
There's that bass line that reminds you of a whistle your grandfather used to do, and that set of strings that brings back a song of the early 70's that your mom listened to while she cooked. Those are feelings that pile up, shaping YOU. We are nothing more than a garage filled with everything we've been through. All that stuff plays a part in our experience with emotions. And that includes our response to art.
Most times, these feelings can't be transferred into words, because no combination of letters can fully explain them. We can only feel it.
Maybe that's why one of the greatest moments of adult life is when you introduce someone to music you like and they look at you with that "I LOVE THIS SHIT" look in their eyes, just waiting for you to respond with the "I KNOW, RIGHT?" head nod. Now you feel something together. That's powerful. It's a connection, deeper than cheering for the same team or hating the same politician. You are now connected through art.
When there's so much emotion involved, one thing happens: We become attached to that body of work, that painting, that music, that movie. So, when the creator of a project that arouses such passion in us, announces a new one, we fall into the trap. The trap of expectations based on previous work.
Now, let's talk about the artist's side of this quest. Putting aside all we know about a music industry, which doesn't always allow artists to create what they want to, generally speaking, an artist also feels something with their music, their art. They create based on experiences and surges of emotion, many of which are oftentimes disconnected, or dissimilar, to those which inspired previous work.
And that should be okay, it is natural, and it is the source of the most visceral pieces of art we can hope to get from an artist. But artists often hit a wall. A wall made of bricks of expectations and lack of empathy.
Nowadays, they know what their fans want, they know what their fans are saying, they see the rising popularity of certain aesthetics, they see when we, as an audience, say stuff like "OH, THE ALBUM NUMBER 3 IS SHIT COMPARED TO ALBUM NUMBER 1". That's when they're hijacked.
Now, the creative individual, the one that gave birth to such amazing artworks, the one that was able to sum up a whole planet of feelings into a three and a half minute melody, becomes stuck in a formula. The formula, that we asked them to use.
The pressure of numbers, likes, DM's, comments… Don't get us wrong, we're not trying to Freud our way into the subject. Not at all. All we're saying is: we should allow artists to grow up. They need that, WE NEED THAT. But most of the time they find themselves stuck between what their fan base wants, and what the market is currently selling. Which is not fair, and ultimately, counter-productive.
But we're digressing here. The thing is, artists are not here to meet our expectations. We give them the chance to be known artists, but everyone is a potential fan of any artist. All that's needed is a connection with what the artist is experiencing in that brief, but intense, the window of time, and BAM! A Fan is born. If an artist's first project speaks directly into your soul and sends shivers down your spine, nerves, and bones, and makes you burst into tears every time you come across that piece of art, cool.
But if their second project doesn't even make you pay attention to it, maybe it's not the artist's problem. Maybe she, or he, or they, is in a different time of life, that doesn't resonate with your current one.
Nevertheless, remember, that other project that pumps pure electricity into your heart is still available. You can still access it by playing their old tracks. And we should be grateful, rather than demand new (old-sounding) music.
We may be referring to music here, but it applies to every kind of passion-driven creation. We shouldn't be throwing artists into the fire because they have changed.
Let's take a high-profile case as an example: Eminem dropped his biggest and most iconic work when he was dealing with a lot of mental health issues. Drug abuse, family feuds, depression. Now, clean, his projects aren't getting that much attention or good fan response. So, his followers, disappointed, and frustrated, are saying that he was better when he was at rock bottom.
Are we monsters for wanting to relive a good experience through music over and over again? We don't think so.
We're human, and now, more than ever, we need those good feelings. The problem being that when expectations are not met, we blame the artist. What are those expectations anyway? Is music our only breath of fresh air? Is music a replacement for therapy?
We should ask ourselves these questions not to spare musicians, but to understand how, and why, we behave the way we do when we get frustrated. Is the artist to blame for our own expectations? Is anyone to blame for our own expectations and idealizations?