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And now, the worst offender...
The Insane Clown Posse, Jimmy Page and The Edge, Conan O'Brien, Alicia Keys, The Raconteurs (I always think of the word “bacon” to help me spell that band name. It works), Stephen Colbert, The Rolling Stones, Rome, Wanda Jackson(?), The Dead Weather, Loretta Lynn. Have you figured it out yet?
Ok, one more: The White Stripes.
Yep, this is a partial list (not including the all CAPS bands at the very top) of the (too) many Jack White collaborations/projects. Why the “(too),” you might ask…
Because most of it sucks.
And The White Stripes are awesome.
Yeah, The Raconteurs had a few songs, and The Dead Weather can be pretty sweet at times, I suppose. But did we need them as much as we needed more White Stripes albums? Ooh, ooh, I'll take this one…NO.
The fact (ahem, opinion) is, this sort of watering down of goodness, or perhaps greatness, happens all the time. And it's not new. And I will now armchair psychoanalyze it. It is an ego-based response to a hyper-confident state created by the massive success of an awesome original band. Couple that response with the fact that we're already dealing with a group of people (lead singers) who inherently have some of the most severe cases of the “look-at-me's” (sic) (I just sic'd myself) (sic) known to exist in the natural world, and the result is a bunch of shit music that delays the albums we all really want.
Don't agree with me? You just LOVE all these side projects and supergroups?
Fine. Here's a little quiz.
If you answer “B” to any of the following questions, please cease reading the remainder of this piece.
And probably this website.
And also, anything else.
Also, stop talking.
Because you're an idiot.
Nobody likes you.
Ok that was a little strong.
I think I mentioned a quiz.
Question 1: Would you have rather:
• Woken up on 2/19/13 and purchased a new Tool album, or
• Downloaded Puscifer, Donkey Punch the Night, only to discover it's a few originals, a few remixes of those originals, and a pretty faithful (which made it weird) rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody?
Question 2: Is it better to:
• Have My Morning Jacket shred your face like parmesan cheese into a pasta bowl of your most intense emotions during a live performance of “Dondante,” or
• Discuss the virtues of hemp as a utilitarian fabric at a Monsters of Folk concert with a girl who hasn't bathed or shaved since her Occupy-Whatever-Is-Chic-To-Hate tent blew away 3 weeks ago?
Question 3: What's badasser:
• NIN, or
• Trent Reznor and his wife pushing buttons on a laptop making ambient music under the moniker How To Destroy Angels?
Question 4: Is one of the best and most creative bands ever assembled on our little blue-green planet named:
• Radiohead, or
• Atoms for Peace?
OK, here are some straightforward and easy ones.
Would you rather have another album from:
• Stone Temple Pilots, or
• Velvet Revolver?
• Primus, or
• Phish, or
• Jane's Addiction, or
• Porno for Pyros?
Again, all “B” answerers, go suck a kite. Your soul might be broken. For the rest of us, how should we process this aggravating little situation? Unfortunately, I don't think it matters. It's going to happen, and I understand why.
Super successful and talented lead singers meet super successful and talented musicians in other bands. They think: “I am successful. People love me. Whatever I do, people freak out and love because I'm me. You are successful. People love you. Whatever you do, people freak out and love because you're you. I'm me. You're you. People can only love whatever we might possibly do together.”
And that thinking is approximately 30% correct. We do have love for these singers and musicians. And we do LIKE some of the side projects. We buy them, we listen. But what we really LOVE is the original band. We want that to be the focus. We are selfish. We consume. We judge. And…we stick with these people as they meander and merge and form and split and complain and soar, inspire, save, and irritate.
But we want the original band. The original band is the reason you have the opportunity to put your electro-prog-polka-folk-horrorcore rap album out and have people actually buy it, Mr. Lead Singer man. We understand that you are a creative force. We know that no chef wants to create all their dishes from the same 4 ingredients. But we also know that if a chef wants to branch out and prepare lemur neck sandwiches, that process doesn't necessarily have to slow down the process of making the original dishes his/her patrons have come to love. But your collaboration with the amputee diabetic one-eyed children's choir of eastern Burundi is slowing down your creative output with the original band.
And that's the real gripe here, isn't it? We don't begrudge these lead singers their overflowing talent or their desire to spread their creative wings. We don't have any problem with the solo albums, the supergroups, the collaborations, or the side projects they loathe calling side projects. We just see everything that isn't the original band as added water. As corn syrup. As a school zone. We understand its purpose, and we embrace its existence as part of the deal. We're just us . The consumers. The passive masses who don't have your talents. If we could make what you make, we would. And then people would write opinion pieces on how we should disseminate our creative products.
But we can't make what you make.
So let's make a deal, shall we? We, the consumers, the customers, the end-users, will continue to buy (stream) your music. We will buy concert tickets. We will buy t-shirts and hats and posters and coffee mugs, and wristbands and all the other trinkets on which you slap your logo. Hell, we'll even support your not-side project, just not at the price of a market saturated with mediocre off-shoots and a great album thrown in there every 4 years.
Your talents have made you rich. They have provided you with a storybook life, should you choose to embrace it, but we the consumer are a large part of that equation. We voluntarily choose to support you, not out of altruism or some greater sense of supporting the arts for cultural advancement. It's selfish, like most things. The music enhances our lives. This relationship we have is fully symbiotic. It is good. But it could be great, and it's not up to us.
So please, if you're a part of a highly successful and widely loved band (especially if you're the lead singer), and you find yourself in a recording studio with a session drummer, a choir, and a buddy of yours who happens to play a mean harmonica, do this: glance at a calendar and see how long it's been since your band, you know, the ORIGINAL BAND has done something great. If it has been greater than 3 years, do us all a huge favor, exit the studio you're in, find your band, and fling those talents of yours onto the canvas we all wish to see.
Maynard, Danny, Adam, and Justin…it's been 7 years. I know you read this.