Way back in 2007, I cracked open the CD case to Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight album. (Yes, there were these things called CDs). I was a HUGE Hybrid Theory and Meteora fan. Those albums helped bridge the gap between the rock and rap worlds for me. Much to my chagrin, as I listened to this 43:23 long album, it was nothing that I imagined. The Linkin Park I knew was long gone. There were various questions going through my head as I listened often with a confused look on my face.
“Why isn’t Mike Shinoda rapping? Why is Mike singing more? Why the emphasis on alternative rock songs? A guitar solo? WHY ISN’T MIKE RAPPING MORE ON THIS ALBUM?”
After a few listens, I realized that I was becoming what I had previously criticized and the current conundrum that many music fans find themselves stuck in. Why wasn’t I the least bit receptive to the album and just predisposed to dismiss it? I’m just going to come out and say it: that “old” band that you fell in love with is never coming back. Nope. Not going to happen. They ran away from home never to return to the safe confines of their old material again. That can be either a good or bad thing, but as music fans we have to at least give the new direction a fair shake.
Now, I know you are reading this with a confused look on your face, but let’s talk this out. We undergo changes every day that shape the chemistry of who we are. In some instances, you aren’t even the same person on a day-to-day basis. The same goes for our favorite musicians because they are, well, people. The angry and jilted 17-year-old may eventually have kids and a family at 27. We can’t expect them to be writing (well I would hope not) angst anthems at that time. Even Staind found a brief moment of happiness on the 13 Shades of Grey album. Talk about an oxymoron. Band members also get better at playing their instruments. Do you really want to hear the same chord progressions or the same fills?
When I first listened to Eminem’s Encore album, I almost brought it back to the store. The artist that I admired for his witty and imaginative wordplay seemed like he lost a step and his focus along with it. It took him that bad album (and Relapse, but we won’t talk about that either) to get to the Recovery era. Eminem still has the wordplay with the content, but the man is almost 40 years old and has been through a lot. Of course we should expect that his song content is going to change as his line of vision changed. The Beatles went from writing songs like “I Want to Hold your Hand” to arguably the first metal song “Helter Skelter”. That variation in their musical catalog alone makes them a great band. Sometimes you can walk down a beaten path too long that you march right into quicksand. That is today’s music industry.
I’m not saying that every band that digs deep into their musical Bermuda Triangle works out, but I want bands to make music reflective of where they are now and not in hindsight. Keep your fan base in mind when you make an album, but also make the album that you want and the fans will follow. If I want to hear the old you, I’ll either play your old albums or go to your show to see you perform old material. Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame stated that they are not a “legacy act,” constantly referring to their old material. It’s nice to go to the 10th anniversary shows where bands play albums front to back. I’ve been to some and relived my days of yesteryear. However, in order for our music to evolve and thrive, we have to be receptive to change. After all, change is the only constant and making your legacy is constantly moving forward.