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Get back in your box!: Disappointed fans whine over new TV on the Radio September 19, 2008

Posted by ashiah in Music.

At work today we listened to TV on the Radio’s new album “Dear Science,.” (Yes, that stupid comma belongs there.) After listening to the album in its entirety, many of my fellow co-workers started immediately complaining that the album wasn’t good. This is a common opinion I’ve been hearing a lot about the new album ever since it leaked a week or so ago. But even though I was part of the .01% who hated “Return to Cookie Mountain,” I feel compelled to defend their newest album. Now, I still haven’t let the album fully sink in yet, but I can tell the strong negativity against the album is because of its new direction. Let’s see, where do we start? There’s more strings, more brass, more minor electronics, and less “rocking out” moments. Plus, there’s an almost dreamy quality somewhere in the middle of the album, even a track that borders on M83 type level of airy-ness. What’s happening here is TV on the Radio is daring to depart from the massively successful “Return to Cookie Mountain.” And unfortunately, whenever an artist takes drastic steps away from what made them famous in the first place, fans like to react like borderline raging psychos. (More ramblings behind the cut.)

Maybe they’re on to something

A truly good artist changes over time. Artists who release the same thing over and over again over a period of time are quickly forgotten because we figure them out too quickly. There’s no longer any mystery to decipher, no egg to crack. So, we walk away. But artists who continue to surprise, shock with their music always stick around, even if it’s just a small loyal following. So whenever a musician takes a daring chance, I like to go easy on them. Some of you might think I’m being a hypocrite, but I’m being true to my word. Whenever I rip apart artists I like, it’s usually because I think they took steps back in the name of artistic expression, which is something that irks me the most. How can you go from making a unique, daring instrument-less album to making a sloppy “pop” record (,Bjork)?

The problem is too often musicians care too much about what we think about them. If an artist gets negative feedback for putting out a “different” album, they usually return to their place — in that nice little box where it’s warm and safe. And the worst part is that people applaud artists who do this. Ridiculous! Hey, remember when everyone hated Radiohead’s “Kid A”? (An obvious example, I know.) What about those artists that shoot so far ahead, we don’t notice the brilliance they created until years later? The point is you can’t. The only thing we can do is keep an open mind about our favorite artists exploring new territories. Instead of tearing them down and demanding them to come back down to Earth with us, we should kindly dissect the new music carefully. Don’t just write it off right away. I know it’s tempting, but give it some time. Let it grow a bit. If you’re craving more of the same, by all means dwell over yesteryear’s hits of your favorite artist if you must. Be that way. But don’t force the artist to think like you do.



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