time to change the way we view music and the arts

Seriously Stumped by the ‘Punks’ with No Soul

Soul-2BPunk

March 14th….to mathematics fans out there, today marks the numerical pun that is “Pi Day.” I personally never memorized more than a handful of decimal places of 3.14, though it has always been intriguing to me how Pi itself, as a number, conceivably goes on forever. No one has ever claimed “I know every number in Pi.” There will always be another decimal place and another figure to add onto the collection of 3.14’s basic figure, that math teachers will reference forever.

Similarly, it’s always intrigued me that no matter what a person does, if they start a musical career and garner some kind of success, the unwritten laws of popularity imminently pave way for (what feels like) a proportionally equal or greater amount of disdain. Music as a root concept, as I alluded to a couple posts back, has been around for ages and it’s something we’re exposed to daily; whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. It’s a ubiquitous part of life and the world would be a far different place if everything just went silent. Yet just as with Pi and its never ending series of decimal places, think of a person’s musical success as the start point of 3.14 and any vocally active opposition (a.k.a. fans) to style changes, band rotations or solo deviations as the steadily increasing pile of numbers that follow the base, possibly to also incessant proportions.
If you’re slightly confused by my slightly ornate explanation, perhaps that’s a good thing to a degree. Once again I am left confused because a portion of the (supposedly) music loving consumer population is apparently content upon defacing itself for no productive reason. Since this seems to be an unfolding, albeit unintentional, theme so far, let’s take things back to basics.
There are essentially three ways you can feel about something:
1) Good (meaning any degree of positive acceptance, promotion and enjoyment)
2) Neutral (You acknowledge something and either keep walking or are just “okay” with it. No opinion)
3) Bad (meaning any degree of negative rejection, avoidance and dislike)
Keeping these ideas in mind, let’s throw in some context.
Bands form, members change, discographies touch upon different styles/tempos/instruments, people take breaks to do side projects like collaborations or solo work… When any of the aforementioned occurs, you as a consumer and fan of this original public body, can take one of the three emotional routes I’ve just described. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and opinions. U.S. Constitution, freedom of speech/press/religion or not, what you think in your own head is your own and that can’t be taken away from you. 
If today you like “Band X” and in 2013 you think their new stuff sounds like garbage, right on with that emotional expression. 
If you bought “Album Y” and it always comes off as #1 for you because of some specific, personal tie-in and it’s the one thing of °Band X° that you like and will always go back to, again I say, rock on with that emotional expression too. This would be akin to the nostalgic bookmarking idea from before. 
The quandary I’m getting at is when these two sets of feelings and reactions then lead to the execution of a “Bad” emotional response intentionally projected onto “Band X” but disguised (excused) as simple nostalgic preference. 
Patrick Stump, lead vocalist for the on-hiatus, American Pop-Rock band Fall Out Boy, has brought such actions to the light and the new bunch of individual figures who come with them. Stump had released his first solo album, “something [he’d] always wanted to do,” (Cit. HERE) back in October of last year. Fall Out Boy’s cumulative studio discography to that point was five albums, with their last release being in 2008 –already long past. As a listener of Fall Out Boy’s various albums myself, I absolutely hear development and adjustment of sound across their releases over time. It’s not hard to see why some fans might be only of the “pre-major label” days or “post-Under the Cork Tree” days, with such rhythmic and melodic variety, despite being a genre static group. (Being extreme but work with me here: meaning they didn’t jump drastically, e.g. from Pop-Rock to Synth.)

Cover Art for Stump’s solo debut, “Soul Punk” 

Stump’s solo ambitions though, do take a bit of a farther reaching jump from his Pop-rock/Pop-punk origins. “Soul Punk” revolves around instrumentation and rhythmic arrangements connecting to ElectropopDance-Pop and even underlying hints of Funk. With the reception of music being as unpredictable as it is, it’s not guaranteed Fall Out Boy fans would automatically gravitate to the songs if they’re already not in the same genre. (Although I will say I believe frontmen/women can have an easier transition to other work because their voices are usually the signature reminder of a band. e.g. Adam Levine‘s or Hayley Williams‘s excessively radio rotated work with Gym Class Heroes and B.o.B. respectively.) 

All of these things are harmless, right? What isn’t harmless and is the crux of my confusion here is the description of actions taken by those claiming to be fans of some facet of Fall Out Boy/Stump’s Fall Out Boy career by verbally tearing down his solo work because one isn’t the other. Doing such does not enhance your ‘level’ of appreciation for Fall Out Boy or ‘hardcore-ness’ as a fan thereof. Stump described in no short detail, the mindset he was in pre-solo release, being on tour and after the shows were done:

“So when I went out into the world to show off the self I felt like I was happiest and most comfortable being, [referring to his recent weight loss brought on by binge drinking after a break-up,] I suppose I knew there would be the “Haters” (I loathe the clumsy/insufficient word but it seems the most universal); The elitists that would always prove impossible to please. I had always been prepared for “Haters,” because there’s never been a moment since I graduated high school where I haven’t been the guy in “That Emo band.”

…Such is the way of things. Different strokes for different folks as it were. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fervor of the hate from people who were ostensibly my own supporters (or at least supporters of something I had been part of.) The barrage of “We liked you better fat,” the threatening letters to my home, the kids that paid for tickets to my solo shows to tell me how much I sucked without Fall Out Boy, that wasn’t something I suppose I was or ever will be ready for. That’s dedication. That’s real palpable anger.” 

(Cit. Patrick Stump’s Official Website)

The last action there is probably the most creatively negative of the bunch. The classic reasoning of “well Stump is a celebrity in the public eye, comes with the territory” doesn’t cut it here because Stump already knows this segment of the consumer population is out there. His musings openly acknowledge that he is not the worst off of the worst off financially, despite using his “nest egg” on this career shift. Translation: Still far from the poverty line. Nonetheless, Stump goes on to point out what a lot of celebrities and “wishing they were rich” fans alike, forget:

“Quite right, I still have access to enough money to live on in order to avoid bankruptcy for at least a few years as long as I stick to my budget, but money really isn’t everything and it never was. Perhaps those are the words of a privileged man who doesn’t really know what poverty really feels like. Again, that would be a fair rebuttal; I wasn’t raised rich, but lower middle class upbringing in early 90’s Midwest US of A is still a far way from the bread line. Still, there’s no amount of money in the world that makes one feel content with having no self respect. There’s no amount of money that makes you feel better when people think of you as a joke or a hack or a failure or ugly or stupid or morally empty.”

Just because you can expect opinions across the spectrum from people who come into contact with you or your music as you gain mainstream recognition, doesn’t mean that every single threat mailing, concert trashing ‘turncoat’ (for lack of a better word,) should get a badge to wear that says, “Someone has to be the active “hater”.” If hypothetically, my one and only gift that I would ever have my entire life was to play music for people, the fact that it’s a high-profile occupation means I either have to deal with the imminent “haters” or quit my passion and way of living? This is that complicated issue where some of the public starts getting sensitive if a celebrity bites back or shows displeasure with any amount of berating from the masses.

What about being a human being with feelings though? Negative opinions or negative actions may be immortal in the market but if that’s the case, then the public shouldn’t hold itself so high and mighty to think that their favorite “famous punching bag of choice” won’t ever swing back once in a while. Not necessarily outright attacking, but just to tell them, “What you’re saying is unnecessary, hurtful and I’m calling you out on it.” (Possibly on a public form like Twitter for example,) Affluent stature doesn’t take away a celebrity’s ability to feel bad and it doesn’t give the public, justification to rain down on someone as a person. (Stump’s Tumblr post is even dismally titled, “We Liked You Better Fat – Confessions of a Pariah.”) The sad irony of Stump’s ambitions ending in him actually quitting from being so put down, is revealed the most in the optimistic and self-empowering lyrics he sings on “Soul Punk.” One could even now take an unfortunate, coincidental double meaning in the main hook of the first song below.

Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers) by Patrick Stump on Grooveshark
One more shot,
Then I’m quitting forever.
Cross my heart, cross my fingers,
cross my heart, cross my fingers.
…I’m not from Williamsburg or Silver Lake
Does anybody have any other obvious complaints?
Stop trying to get it empty,
Cause I can almost hear you trying too hard, yeah.
…You’re standing with your arms crossed
Nose turned up like you’re saying “Impress me” 
(Good luck)
“Impress me.” 
(Good luck)
I don’t have to prove myself to you.
From — Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers) / Cryptozoology

Spotlight (New Regrets) by Patrick Stump on Grooveshark

…Oh nostalgia, I don’t need you anymore,
Cause the silent days are over, 
and the beat is at my door.

Cause they might,
Try to tell you how you can live your life,
But, don’t, don’t forget it’s your right,
to do whatever you like, you like, 
Cause you could be your own spotlight.

From — Spotlight (New Regrets)

What’s worst of all about this entire thing is that the transparent visibility of negative opinions on pop-stars reflects just as badly on those inflicting the opinions themselves. It comes off as boorish, classless behavior, framing the individuals in this way. In the also (seemingly) never-ending divide of the ‘snooty classicists’ and the ‘pop-rock kids,’ the affront on Patrick Stump only serves to hand the classicists a free point of superiority on a, “This is why we’re better than you” silver platter.

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