i’ve been mulling over something lately. after reading rolling stones spring album preview, i noticed there are some older artists releasing new albums in the next four or five months. the whole idea of artist relevance, i.e. how long does an artist have to be around before people start to say “ok…maybe you’re time is up.”? or more specifically, how many albums does an artist have to release before they pass their expiration date? it’s a strange idea to me because when i see someone like madonna or U2 release another new album, i immediately label it as irrelevant and probably not good. U2 has been around since like ’79, and they’re coming out with a new album too? it seems ridiculous to me. i understand that music is music, and artists might always have something else to say, but how many albums does it take before they’re just recycling everything they’ve said before? the rolling stones have just released a new concert movie; they’re still playing shows, much less still alive? crazy. but they have a big enough fan base that they can release something new and it’ll be eaten up. much like U2 or madonna i think. but still. artist relevance is a tough thing to handle. i think it’s all a matter of taste. there are some artists who are still releasing new material that i don’t discount, like stevie wonder and herbie hancock. part of me thinks that with someone like stevie wonder, there is no way he is gonna be able to ever top an album like songs in the key of life, but since he contributed so much to the music world in his peak years, i’m not gonna bash him for continuing to release music. it almost certainly won’t be anywhere near the calibur of his best work, but i don’t fault him for it. so it’s a bit hypocritical of me slash all a matter of taste. since i’m not a fan of madonna, i’m not really supportive of her new music. but someone like eric clapton, stevie wonder, al green, by all means, PLEASE keep making music.
it’s weird because i’ve only really been paying attention to music for the last ten years or so, probably even less than that. every single one of my Top 5 Favorite Artists haven’t even gotten to 4 studio albums yet. i wonder when the cut off point is. and i wonder with these artists, will they ever reach a point where even i throw in the towel? i doubt it. i hope john mayer keeps playing shows and putting out records until i’m in my fifties because i will keep up with him. doesn’t matter how long he’s around, or what kind of musical direction he goes, i will almost certainly like what he gets into, and so will continue to be a fan. same with kanye west, or coldplay, or whoever. it’s just an interesting thing that right now, i see the rolling stones still touring and i don’t see they as relevant at all but i’d say their biggest fan base are the people who grew up with them. if i put myself in their older fans shoes, how awesome would that be to take a weekend off and go see a stones concert when you’re fifty or sixty? totally cool.
if i had to actually put a number limit on albums, i honestly think i would put it at like 5. maybe even 4. at least from an outsider’s perspective, as in a non-fan’s perspective. i hope john mayer releases like 15 albums, but i don’t hope the same for fall out boy or akon. it’s just interesting because i haven’t yet had to experience a point of giving up on one of my favorite artists because they’re all young. john mayer started his career after i became a music listener. same with kanye, and all my other true favorites. it’s kind of sobering that three of my favorite artists are right now working on their 4th album, especially since i just said that after 4 albums artists become irrelevant.
i guess what this whole idea illustrates to me is that music is absolutely and completely subjective. for every single song, album, artist, genre, etc. that exists in the world, there is someone who says “that’s awful” and someone who says “that’s amazing”. music does what it wants, it reaches who it wants and it affects who it wants. there’s no real choice involved. i would love to understand and absolutely adore bob dylan’s music, but i just don’t. exactly the same way i don’t choose to like blues music, but when i hear stevie ray vaughn’s guitar singing in “little wing”, it speaks to my heart like nothing else can. i can’t explain it. so i guess the conclusion i’m coming to is artist relevance doesn’t really exist. artists, old and new, will continue making music, and there will always be fans and non-fans. a pretty lame, fence-riding conclusion if you ask me. i almost wish i could find a more objective answer.