I’m not sure if this is a common experience or it’s just me, but I get very conflicted when I listen to a new song by my favourite artiste. If the song sounds nothing like the artiste’s usual style (like UVERworld’s Reversi), I think that the song sounds terrible and the artiste has lost his old endearing charm. If the song sounds just like the artiste’s usual style (like Flow’s Bureiburu), I will think that the artiste has run out of song ideas and is repeating the same old formula.
It’s a tough life to be an artiste, but I think this conundrum applies to all creative industries. How does one make a breakthrough and create something different, but not let it lose the flavour that fans love? And fans adore such different aspects of the same product.
One solution, I suppose, would be to churn out a whole lot of songs of all different kinds, and surely some of them will be liked by all kinds of people. A hit-and-miss solution isn’t a bad idea at all (especially to someone as quantity-minded as I am) but it does run the risk of losing the artiste’s personal voice. Just what is the artiste trying to do if he does everything? And of course, the most glaring flaw to this solution is the amount of effort and money one must devote to make so many more songs than you normally would.
What I would like my idols to do is to alternate. Have a theme in each album or set of singles, where some themes would be closer to their original style and other themes would branch out into experimental territory. I think this would make it easier to market too. And fans know what to expect. They know at least that the current theme will only last this long and that their favourite ballads will come next, or something like that. But maybe they intentionally want to keep it suspenseful, so that fans never know what to expect and end up buying every single.
For most songs, the single unifying theme is really the voice. Most of my favourite artistes have distinctive voices, and it is this touch of familiarity that reassures me across different genres. I’m not well-versed in instruments, and I can’t tell the difference between one band and another. I wonder if an entire band can be replaceable as long as they keep the vocalist? The only time players in a band, aside from the vocalist, can shine their own unique ways is in a music video, and even in music videos the vocalist takes majority of screen time. I can see why most agencies would spend more money on making the vocalist look good.
Music is a curious thing. We tend to like music that we’ve heard before, so when it comes to musical breakthroughs, my suggestion is to make a song that sounds a bit like the usual successful things you’ve done, and best of all, also sounds like successful music out in the market in general. And then bump it up with tons of advertising. People can’t really accuse you of copying musical scores if you take only the flavour of the song and not the entire chorus.
Yes, take this advice from a non-musician.