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When a musician grows older …

October 23, 2013

Trent-Reznor-then-and-now
i have a strange fascination with growing old. at 36, i feel better than i’ve ever felt. people pump fear into your mind about age: they tell you that your 20s are your prime and your 50s are when you should start thinking about mortality. as prince sung, “what if time’s only reason is to give us something to fear?” but i digress …

when an artist grows older, it’s natural that their fire begins to dim. their anger subsides. their passion isn’t so apparent. right?

i love a lot of artists who are considered “past their prime.” arrested development (the band), david bowie, metallica, ani difranco, tori amos, billy corgan, trent reznor. earlier this year, trent released a new album, “hesitation marks,” and it’s one of the best albums i’ve heard in a long time. why? because i can hear the fire still burning inside of him. i can hear the same attention to detail that he gave his music in the 90s. i relate to him when he sings “everything is reminding me / i am not who i used to be.” i love it all. his voice has matured. he’s grown up. he has two kids and he’s almost 50 years old.

and i wonder – why do some people want artists to stand still? why are some people afraid of growth, afraid of change? the criticism of “hesitation marks” points to trent’s “lack of anger.” to his subdued singing. no guitars. no screaming, like he did in 1994.

what if someone told you to write like you did in 1994? talk like you did in 1994? write like you did in 1994? you’d probably be offended. you’d probably laugh.

it’s not just trent reznor. when artists grow older, i’m sure there is pressure to “recapture” the magic of youth and to sound like they used to. many artists inevitably release an album that “harkens back to their old sound” … only to hear the audience scream for the old songs, in concert.

for the most part, audiences don’t want an artist to change. i believe it is because we aren’t remembering the music – we are remembering the way WE felt when we first heard the music. there’s a difference.

if Kurt Cobain didn’t kill himself, not many folks would be listening to new Nirvana music. Nostalgia plays a big part in the what we decide to like.

i am a loyal music fan. and will support an artist through their growth, no matter what phase of life i am in.