Popularity killed the…

For some reason, let’s go into what it was, I was searching online for the name of that robot on the ‘old’ Buck Rogers’ series. (During my search I also found out that apparently the coolest member of the Battlestar Gallactica series (the robotdog Muffit) did not make it into the new one, which could almost be considered a criminal act, but that’s an entirely different posting,) When I read it’s name, Twiki, I suddenly remember one of my favourite lyrics of all time: ‘Andrew’s a starfighter pilot‘ by Snow Patrol. At some point Gary Lightbody sings: “He’s better than James Kirk or Twiki…”. even though that’s some bold statement (to boldly state where no statement has gone before), that’s not what this post is about. It’s about popularity, or to be more precise: Do I like alternative popbands less when they become popular, or do they become popular when I start liking them less, i.e. they start making a different kind of music.

My first example is of course: Snow Patrol. About a decade ago they were signed on the no-less-than-brilliant music label ‘Jeepster‘, also the label of Belle & Sebastian and Looper. They released two fantastic albums ‘Music for polar bears’ (1998 ) and ‘when it’s all over we still have to clean up’ (2001) before they switched labels to Polydor and started hitting the charts. I am very happy for them that they’ve become so popular but I also a bit sad that to do so, they had to let go of the wonderful quirky musical bits, and brilliantly bizarre lyrics. On the band’s website I read that mr. Garrett ‘Jacknife’ Lee (a charming name) can be credited for finding their new sound. In my humble opinion, he should be accused with it, not credited. I still consider Snow Patrol to be ‘okay’, but only in the way I’d call Coldplay ‘okay’. I hesitate to write this but I feel like one of my favourite bands has …erm… ‘sold out’. ‘Chasing Cars’ is a typical crowdpleaser, but nothing as groundbreaking as ‘Get balsemic vinegar, quickly you fool’. Am I perhaps just jealous?

Another band that used to be great; Korn. Their first self entitled album created a whole new music genre: ‘nu metal‘. It’s one of the best things I ever heard. Then they became popular and it appeared they weren’t picked up by the mainstream, but swallowed by it. The edge was gone, they started producing more of the same, but watered down. Did many original fans of Extreme, Mr. Big and Ugly Kid Joe still remain fans after ‘More than words’, ‘be with you’ and ‘cats in the cradle’? Didn’t anyone learn anything from Kiss?

I heard that the British punkband Chumbawamba lost almost all of its fanbase after they scored a big hit with their single Tubthumping. Was that beacuse they radically changed their music? Or was it just not ‘punk’ to score a hit? But alternative popmusic doesn’t necisarilly have a problem with hits. The biggest popband out there, Radiohead, had a larger than life hit at the start of their career with ‘Creep‘.

I guess it will always be difficult to really figure it out since music is such an emotional thing. When bands we love change their music and become popular and mainstream, we feel let down and respond like they’ve broken our hearts. But perhaps the band has just moved on to different music which just ‘happens’ te become really big. And perhaps they have not ‘sold out’ at all. I guess I’ll just go and play my old Snow Patrol albums for old times’ sake.

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