Oh hi, I take it you read my last few articles? Really? That’s great! What did you think? Oh, well you didn’t need to be quite so cutting in your appraisal, I’m only a writer and we’re thin skinned. Well hopefully, you’ll like this one today…what?! You only came on here to print off my previous articles to use as toilet paper and you saw this one so wanted to print this one as well?! But this one could be amazing! Oh, you’ve already judged me after the ‘Prozac’ article? Well in the words of Saddam Hussein, “I Can Change! I Can Change!”
Imagine if you were always viewed on your ‘first time’ by every sexual partner. Maybe you lost your virginity on a slightly drunken evening, then in your twenties you got better and better and occasionally harnessed magic and over the years maybe you became a proficient lover? So what would it be like if every subsequent romantic encounter under the sheets was followed by a rating of the proceedings in comparison to your past excursions? Ridiculous as it sounds this is what happens to artists lucky/unlucky enough to sustain a career.
Have you ever noticed that some artists are always critiqued in relation to their back catalogue rather than on the artistic merits of individual pieces? We look at dead artists’ collections retrospectively as they are finished creatively (except Tupac) but living, successful artists can be unfairly judged because of their more signature work. Painters, directors, actors and all creative types suffer from career longevity syndrome. Morrisey can’t make a career for himself without everything being about ‘The Queen is Dead’ and Johnny Depp may never escape Captain Jack.
I feel Radiohead are unfairly maligned in this way, their first album is an ode to Neil Young and is wholly unoriginal but everything since then has been exciting, well crafted music. My issue is that whenever they release an album it is automatically critiqued compared to ‘The Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’ whilst any gig they play is deemed successful by how many tracks they play from the nineties! How is that fair? Woody Allen is a force of nature in cinema and comedy and has provided the world with insightful films for decades but even if he released a vignette about Vin Diesel and Ted Danson counting the rings of a Redwood tree it will always be compared to Annie Hall, no matter what. Is this a proper way to look at art?
In 2000, when Kid A was released, if it had been by a band calling themselves ‘Papa Legba’ I think there would have been a marked change in popular music at that time. If they could have released the album with the same promotion but without the baggage of their days as critics’ darlings then tracks like ‘Everything in it’s Right Place’ or ‘Idioteque’ would have been valued on their own merits rather than with the prefix ‘ego project’. How many of us were shocked by Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of The Rings’ trilogy after growing up on the splatter, gore that was his hallmark? If we solely focus on people’s past works then we can miss out on opportunities to appreciate an evolving artist and a human being who is maturing in their lives and their art.
I’m as guilty as the next person and it’s something I’m hoping to change. Obviously, there are some lines I cannot cross like listening to Beady Eye or watching a Michael Bay film as I’m sure their output will always remain the antithesis of my existence. However, I’m going to try and not let people’s history undermine their artistic potential and my enjoyment of any new art in my life. Were you so appalled by Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ that you will always judge her unfairly from now on? Have you had enough of Jack White’s voice or will you listen to his latest work with an open mind?