There is a certain phrase that is most likely to be the bane of any musician’s career. The two words that most recording artists know will eventually become the inevitable. Its that moment where that overflowing pool of once ingenious talent is now beginning to dry up, and all that is left is the final drops of creativity that the artist will have to spread so thinly for as long as possible in order to maintain their earning potential.
The point I am of course talking about is when an artist finally ‘Sells Out’.
Maybe it’s the added cynicism that comes with getting gradually older; arguing that music in ‘my day’ was both better and more varied. I see no competition within the music industry anymore. No one is trying to out-do one another. The bar, which was once set fairly high, is no longer a target to be bettered. Instead, there is a lot of back slapping and smiles as everyone gets rich by making and regurgitating the same garbage over and over again. After a while, you just lose faith. I’m looking at you, Timbaland.
My point in case for this post comes from the recent single from a certain sixteen year old kid, and more precisely the record that he has just released. The issue I have is not with the song or artist itself, it is with the once ‘highly regarded’ collaborator. One of my childhood icons, and a heavyweight of the hip-hop world. A certain Mr. Christopher ‘Ludacris’ Bridges.
Growing up, I was very into his music. I enjoyed (American especially) hip-hop, and after so many years of looking at it, it’s quite easy to distinguish really talent from the pointless pap that is thrown out there just to make a quick dollar or two. Ludacris isn’t (wasn’t?) like this. He has talent, he has ability. ‘Southern Hospitality’ and ‘What’s your Fantasy?’ were great first album tracks, and even the later ‘Chicken N Beer’ album had some really huge songs on it. He is one of a handful of Southern rappers who I admire, along with Missy Elliott, TI, Bubba Sparxx, and producers such as The Neptunes. All talented, and all having released big, big records.
So I beg the question, ‘why risk artistic integrity, the holy grail of any artist in any field, and sell out for more money to pad out the bank account?’. Can you imagine Jay-Z releasing a song with Miley Cyrus? Nas collaborating with the Jonas Brothers?? No.
Now, I have tried to look at this sceptically. I mean the kid Bieber obviously has talent, which of course will be milked for every penny that they are able to drain out of it. But I cannot, for one second, believe that Ludacris has admired his music from afar and thought one day ‘hey, you know what – I should work with that boy’. No, much more likely is that his agent would have received a cheque with more Zeros on it than at a Star Trek convention and in true cartoon style, he would have momentarily seen dollar signs in his eyes. The plan seems to have worked, his new album has shot to number one in the charts. I’m sure all the revenue is dulling his anticipated self-hatred.
Now the song was always going to sell, money was clearly to be made by marketing the kid as a ‘sex symbol’ to young girls. Who can argue with such profound lyrics such as ‘Baby, baby baby, ooooooooh’, and more importantly how far are his management willing to push him? I’m sure it won’t be too long before we see the Justin Bieber drug swoop, the Justin Bieber sex tape, the Justin Bieber stint in rehab and finally the Justin Bieber relapse. By then, most would have lost interest. His army of adoring fans would have grown up and concentrated on more important matters. All that would be left is a dwindling pile of money and that old twinkle in his eye. Good luck to him I say, he’s gonna need it.