Today there are more opportunities than ever to get your music heard. Whether it’s Myspace, Facebook, Soundcloud or even in front of thousands of people on Saturday night television, you can write a song, record it and potentially have the world hear it in a matter of hours. This process unfortunately means that musicians today undergo a very quick turnaround, and due to this inevitability there are a lot of singers or artists that are happy to take their fifteen minutes of fame, milk it for all it’s worth, and then empty the space for the next new thing.
It often feels like modern music is becoming more disposable, and it’s easy to overlook the fact that artists like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Ray Davies are still making music in their seventies, and still showing the twenty-something superstars what a career in music really means.
When Bob Dylan released his 35th studio album Tempest last week, a few thoughts immediately came into my head, one of them being: ‘Another one?’ to which a friend replied with the slightly more shocking: ‘He’s still alive?’. At this point I feel I should say that I am a big Dylan fan myself, but I felt quite ashamed at my initial, fleeting feeling of doubt that anyone would accept a new album by him.
…it’s just what the industry needs…
Tempest, as one would expect, may not reach the heights of Slow Train Coming or The Times They Are a-Changin’, but it is another amazing showcase of emotional storytelling and unwavering passion from an artist who continues to inspire generations and make timeless, original music. Yet I still couldn’t control my own condescension. I appreciate Dylan’s artistry sincerely and feel like it’s just what the industry needs, but still I have to fight the urge to think of him as ‘old-fashioned’.
To the modern masses it will likely be just another Bob Dylan album that your dad probably listened to, but there are of course still millions of die-hard fans of his, and his new album will no doubt bring him many more, but. Whatever the reaction, it is a comfort; if a man can follow his passion for 50 years and still surprise critics and find enough support at this point in his career, then dreams are worth following, right?
…’basically, I love showing off’…
Well, back in the 60s dreams were harder to come by, but nowadays it’s as if they’re waved in front of wannabe pop stars like a carrot in front of a donkey. I was recently watching the X-Factor (for research purposes) and came across two very different, but equally disillusioned, aspiring singers. The first was a young man who confidently and insistently stated he was wearing women’s jeans, as if to challenge everyone else’s individuality, and then went on to sing Last Nite by The Strokes with no vocal talent, but enough egotism to make it through. The second was a woman, dressed in what she explained was a ‘body-stocking’, who sang Britney Spears’ Dancing Till The World Ends whilst straddling Louis Walsh and chasing an undeserving Gary Barlow around the audience.
In the pre-show interviews, Eddie String, as he named himself, told us ‘basically, I love showing off’, and Lorna admitted her dream was ‘to be on TV all the time, constantly, on every channel’. It’s obvious from the start that any career either of these two hope to have would be over as quickly as it started. To compare these two to Dylan seems meaningless, but it is interesting to see how the majority of the public focus is on two fleeting and doomed X-Factor contestants, rather than latest release of one of the world’s most admired musicians.
…the future still lies with the legends…
‘I didn’t come out of a cereal box,’ is what Dylan once said, summing up his own self-made significance and damning those who believe being artificial and a novelty will win them lasting fame. It’s true that the acts of reality show fame, that we no longer hear about, may still remain famous in their own circles, but many of them simply lose their appeal, or become complacent, because if you’re still famous enough to be invited to showbiz parties, then why bother making any more music? Real artists, who make music because they have the talent and the commitment, are thankfully still around, occasionally rearing their heads to remind us that throwaway indie guitar bands and X-Factor contestants may hold the present fame, but the future still lies with the legends.