So the hipsters have a point – “I prefer their earlier stuff” does have some basis for truth.
There’s only so much inspiration you can get once you’ve achieved a comfortable lifestyle. Many of the best albums and songs that come from artists, are from when they’re just starting out. At the very least, they tend to be at least inspired by a hardship they’ve recently experienced. So how much does pain influence productivity?
Let’s Look At Some Examples Shall We?
Eminem (stick another mention on the tally board) wrote Rock Bottom after he was fired from his job a week before his daughter’s birthday. He was then evicted from his home. Somehow I don’t think he’ll have the same inspiration anytime soon…
Cat Stevens contracted tuberculosis in ’69 and wrote over 40 songs whilst in hospital. If he hadn’t experienced this quite frankly – completely shit time, then Tea for the Tillerman could have been a very different album.
Tom Waits was living in his car and in cheap motels as he recorded Closing Time. His tales of heartbreak reminisce of times gone by. Arguably his best album, it sure ain’t based on a time where everything was golden.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
Now, of course, it’s nice to listen to songs about how great life is. But that comes with it’s own difficulties. Most people can’t relate to modern pop song about jetting off to Marbella, snorting a line of coke off Kate Upton’s tanned arse-cheeks, and then surfing on two sea-turtles like Jack Sparrow wearing Ray Bans.
Unfortunately, life is much more mundane than that. For most, it’s also a lot more painful. People die, partners cheat, jobs are lost. These are the times people turn to music to comfort them.
Do you know why? Because real music – true artistry. Well, it prods and pokes at our inner-most desires and worries. It reflects back to us feelings that we don’t have the emotional vigour to deal with ourselves. A great song that you actually listen to – not the shit you just stick on in the background while you’re washing the smell of last night’s regrets off you in the shower. No, songs where you know every lyric because it resonates with you somehow. You can hear and sense the pain in the artists’ voice.
Why in the fuck do you think Adele has been able to consistently sell millions of copies whenever she’s brought out an album? Because everybody on the planet who is old enough to buy her music, has been through a break up. She taps into the squishy part of us all that just wants to be loved. 25 was just rehashing and reminiscing about the same situation she was singing about on 19. Why? Because now, she’s happily married with a son. Not much inspiration stems from a happy home life.
And everybody just feels like they can relate…
My point is this: pain breeds productivity. But more importantly, it makes artists relatable. Think of your favourite songs, or the album that holds a great deal of sentimentality. They are probably littered with heartbreak, anguish and despair. You listen to it because it taps into the knot in your stomach, the lump in your throat and the break in your heart. It says; “Yep, this is shit. I know how you feel. I’ve been there too. But we’ve got this.”