We’re all fans of something, I suspect. Very few people could make it through life without becoming emotionally attached and devoted to something, be it an author, a band, a filmmaker, a television character, or a producer of small round orange things that say ‘phlurrr’ if you give them liposuction.
Fans are loyal, supportive, and in some ways, friends. They are also the worst people in the world. Those of you who were paying attention in the first paragraph will note that encompasses all of us.
Fandom, or Fanaticism set to music
This post was brought about by the fact that Muse released the first single from their new album, The 2nd Law, a couple of days ago. The track is called Survival, and the first two times I heard it, I thought it was awful. Then I listened to it again and think it’s actually pretty good. Not that it matters – this post isn’t a review of it.
I was looking at the song’s Youtube page and, seeing as I wanted to get my senses offended and felt that my current positive feeling towards humanity could do with being taken down a peg or two, I read the comments section. The transcripts of Hitler’s speeches contained less hatred and anger.
The largely un-moderated internet has done two things for humanity. Firstly, it showed us that any everyday occurrence can be the premise for an orgy. Secondly, it turbo-charged our sense of self-importance. There is no longer a difference between what people think and what they can say. And we’ve gotten so used to this idea that we’ve forgotten what an opinion actually is, and how little weight it does (or should) carry.
It’s all gone a bit paradoxical
We’ve all got it into our heads that we’re great and that because we can say anything, we should say everything. Look at Facebook and Twitter and comment’s sections and blogs and, if you can stand the smell, the insides of public lavatory cubicles. Because that’s where speaking your mind first started. Twitter is just a very fancy electricity-based way of writing ‘I love cock’ on a wall whilst relieving your bladder.
We’ve become so obsessed by our ‘right’ to express our opinion that we’ve fallen into a cultural paradox. We know that our right to express our opinion is very important, yet we do not extend that right to other people, especially those who’s opinion is contrary to ours. Which is why, in reply to the comments on the new Muse song that said it didn’t sound like Muse (I can see where they were coming from), were comments filled with abuse. I’m not going to copy any of them verbatim, and I literally cannot make one up that would be as foul and pointless as the ones on the thread.
Basically the rule we all seem to live by now is ‘I’m the most important person in the world’, yet we still all get surprised to discover that everyone else thinks exactly the same. I’m not saying we shouldn’t argue – if someone says that Undisclosed Desires is a terrible song I’d have a discussion with them. But I wouldn’t abuse them for saying it, because of course there are people out there who don’t like it. A lot of people who read this post may disagree with everything I say, but that’s fine, because they’re allowed to have an opinion.
We’re an odd bunch
And discussing the idea of the consumer disagreeing with the creator leads me nicely back to Muse and the direction they seem to be moving in. I’ll be honest and say that, whilst they are my favourite band, most of the time I listen to their most recent album, The Resistance, I turn it off after the first three tracks. United States of Eurasia is a silly song (a silly song that I like when I actually listen to it, but can never be bothered to listen to it), and the rest of the album is hampered by big mistakes in what should have been classic Muse tracks, such as the complete lack of proper choruses in Unnatural Selection and MK Ultra.
When I first heard Survival, as I’ve already said, I didn’t like it. I was worried that it was representative of The 2nd Law in it’s entirety, and still think that would be a bad thing. That’s the thing about Muse. They’re all such brilliant musicians that making the same old stuff for them would be incredibly boring. Each of their albums has evolved and expanded upon their sound, so while The Resistance sounds nothing like Showbiz, the two are still very obviously Muse albums. The trio seem to just wander into new genres and go ‘Yeah, we’ll have a go at that’ and then ace it.
Which makes things interesting from a fan’s point of view. I like to think I have my own mind. I don’t like every single one of Muse’s tracks, and I’m certainly not going to like a song just because Muse wrote it. I can take or leave Plug In Baby and New Born – they’re good songs but not my favourites by a long stretch, which alone is something that a lot of others would probably say means I’m not a ‘real’ Muse fan.
So, if I’m going to make up my own mind, then Muse’s new album will have to appeal to the fan part of me, by making songs that I consider good and to be what Muse ‘are about’. The main reason certain songs on The Resistance don’t appeal to me is because they are too far away from what I consider to be ‘Muse’; they’ve experimented too wide and lost too much of themselves in the quest for something fresh.
Should we create for our fans, or for ourselves?
Obviously I’m still a long way away from having to worry about this question from a personal perspective, but there is a point in the lives of most successful artists where they have a large enough following that the issue in the subtitle becomes an actual problem. You get successful because you (hopefully, if you’ve done it properly) have written/recorded/filmed something that you loved, and that happened to be something that a lot of other people loved too.
But then when you get successful, there’s an expectation that you stop doing it for yourself and start doing it for the other people. This is where my own thoughts on the new Muse album become complicated. I know that the reason they have made some of my favourite tracks is because they have indulged themselves and experimented. If they made only what their fans wanted the whole time, I expect Black Holes and Revelations wouldn’t exist, as it’s a bit of a step away from Absolution. But at the same time, the track I Belong To You, which I think is awful, is what happens when (to my mind) they step too far.
So somehow I have to balance my feelings on what I want them to produce, with acknowledging the fact that they have to produce what they want to produce. I respect Muse immensely for their talent and dedication to music, but I do worry that The 2nd Law could be the point where I stop caring about their later work as much as I do now. I really hope to be proved wrong, but that’s my current feeling towards it. Survival is a good song, but considering the first single from Black Holes and Revelations was Supermassive Black Hole, I’m hoping the quality of the single doesn’t reflect the quality of the album, otherwise The 2nd Law will be an OK album, which from Muse would be disappointing.
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