We don’t take artists as seriously as we should.
Creating music is a process that, ideally, should come from within. This is why rappers get so much shade if they are found or suspected to be using ghost writers. It’s considered wrong because music should be an artist’s impression of their own life. If someone wrote for you the words that we, as listeners, take to be true, it feels like betrayal. Kendrick spoke about peer pressure and we take all of his Compton adventures to be true and solid. If we find out, years from now, that he never wrote what we actually listen to then he would lose his value and standing as an artist.
As an exception to this, we give artists creative freedom. You can lie and give us all the bullshit you want as long as they are your lies and it is your bullshit. Artists can bend and will their reality as they please because that’s what being an artist means. It means being creative and telling us ordinary things in a meaningful and poignant way. There’s a very thin line between being honest and creative and letting someone else be honest and creative for you. This is what we demand from our artists. That they give us truths as long as these truths are from them. Not ghostwritten.
This artistic independence means that a lot of the time, we don’t take artists as seriously as we should. Music, as myself and Chia have written about, is background noise to us these days. We don’t sit and listen to music, we ‘vibe’ to it. What this means is that we end up listening to the music and not the artist. We miss their cries for help because that drop after the second verse was insane. We don’t empathize.
Joy Division was an alternative band formed in England in 1976. Their lead singer was Ian Curtis, a soulful singer with a very gritty voice. They achieved a moderate amount of success in the late 70’s. On 18th May 1980, Ian Curtis committed suicide. Thing is, his lyrics were dark. To quote his wife after his death ‘His lyrics were dark. So very dark.’ His bandmates knew this. But because of the opaque banner that is ‘creative license’ we take these words and shove them under the carpet. We vibe but we don’t empathize. I mean, if this is not a cry for help then what is?
Chester Bennington, the lead singer for Linkin Park, died a week ago.
I may have appreciated the artistic works of Prince and Michael Jackson and mourned for them when they did, but I didn’t grow up with them. I didn’t feel their deaths the same way that my parents did. They were not part of the culture I adore, they were only idols to it. But I grew up with Chester. At 13, I knew every Linkin Park song from every Linkin Park album that existed, I shit you not. Through their music, my angst and frustrations with the absurdity of life had a voice. Their music was loud and filled with pain but it warmed my growing soul. But, just like Tyler the Creator’s coming out, all the signs were there.
Somewhere I belong (2003) Meteora
I wanna heal, I wanna feel what I thought was never real
I wanna let go of the pain I’ve felt so long
(Erase all the pain till it’s gone)
I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong
Easier to Run (2003) Meteora
It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone
Crawling (2000) Hybrid Theory
Crawling in my skin
These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall
Confusing what is real
I’m not saying we should overanalyze everything we hear because our favorite artist is going to kill themselves. Sometimes people don’t mean what they say and that’s fine. What I’m saying is that we should listen. Show compassion. Realize that creative license is just that. James Bond has a license to kill but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a alcoholic womanizing gun-toting murderer.
If you have or know a person going through something and expressing themselves in whatever creative manner they choose, reach out. Life’s a bitch and then you die but friends are friends and you will miss them when they are gone.
I started this blog to appreciate artists while I could. Chester, I’m sorry it took me this long. I hope you find peace.
When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me and, when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest