Chris de Jong
“All art has become more commoditized. Everything has become generic and homogenised. If the majority of artists follow a formula, who’s pushing the envelope? Who’s trailblazing? Who’s being revolutionary in their thinking? That’s what art is supposed to do.” “You can’t stay relevant unless you’re pushing yourself out onto the razor’s edge of life on a regular basis. Once you become comfortable, you become complacent. If you become complacent, then you don’t want to throw yourself into the icy water. You just want to sit in the sun.”
- Madonna, Time Magazine, March 9, 2015
I’ve gotta hand it to this woman – she is the Queen of Reinvention. From her start in the early eighties to her latest album released this year, at the age of 55, she’s carved out a career of constant evolution. She’s never been one to settle for the status quo, has relied on the shock factor to perk us up from our sonic slumbers and has achieved a long career that many a pop star could only dream of.
But in the world of pop culture, it takes courage, guts, determination and sometimes bloody-mindedness to step out the boat and try something new. It’s too easy to follow the musical pack and chug along with the rest of them, vying for a coveted spot on pop radio.
Roughly every seven or so years, a new sound comes along. One that is contrary to the popular sounds of the day. Left of field. Fresh. Weird perhaps. Extraordinary. And when it happens we are so ready for it that we hungrily lap it up and call it revolutionary. Of course, that’s only until it becomes popular and then the trendsetters are back on the search for the next new thing.
Think back to the 90s when Kurt Cobain and his contemporaries emerged out of Seattle amidst the post-disco and pop era, launching grunge rock. Contrary and revolutionary.
Think back to when the Beatles emerged out of the traditional rock n’ roll scene in the 60’s, launching their new palate of sound. History in the making.
Think back to when the building blocks of Hip-hop first emerged: spoken word set to music? What?
Progress only occurred because someone had the guts/vision/drive/authenticity to make something new and to go completely against the tide.
I was brought up with the notion that “all art should produce a response” – whether that be a reaction of hate or love. Anything neutral was dangerous ground. To create something that ends up being bland and beige, eliciting no response whatsoever, is a curse of the creative.
We have sworn and stood by this mantra for our artists for the past two decades or so. Be the first, be the best, or be different. To extrapolate a little: this means aiming to be the first one to create that sound, the very best at your sound (even if others are doing it) or just be the one that ushers in the new and different. But whichever of these three you choose, you need to go at it 150%. Take no prisoners. Guts and drive; pedal to the metal.
I’d always encourage anyone to seriously consider the “different” - innovation is always king over imitation.
I get so hopping mad when someone rips off someone else. I know the old argumentdictates that we’ve seen everything before and we just regurgitate it in different ways, but we must never settle for this way of thinking. It’s dangerous and it’s limiting the scope of your imagination.
To be an innovator is to breathe fresh air into to something that has gotten a little stale.
Music will always will evolve – there will never be just one genre that sets up camp forever - each generation will bring it’s own sound. Sure, we can stand on the shoulders of those who have been before, but here’s my challenge to the musos and creatives out there.
- Never, ever be scared of trying something new. Something that breaks you out of the doldrums and perks up an audience with it’s revolutionary spin.
- Be first, best or different. And just be excellent at whatever one of these you choose.
- Don’t settle for the beige. Aim for the sparkle.
- Get back out on the edge –there are enough people in the middle already
- Jump into the icy water. Stay out of the sun.
- Trailblaze for all you’re worth.