Dear Music, Why So Celebrity?

by Jason Lightner February 11th, 2011 | Music Opinions
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When did this juggernaut begin? When did it occur to people that, instead of admiring musicians, they should deify them instead? It’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla. I should know; I lived it for years with Nirvana and the grunge scene. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden ruled my world. I worshipped them as Gods and when Kurt Cobain took his own life, I went through about three months of grief before moving on to my next obsession. It’s interesting to me, looking back on it, that the idolization we imposed upon these bands at the time was one of Kurt’s implied reasons for offing himself.

Musicians used to be genuinely appreciated. In the 18th century, Mozart was revered, but not worshipped — at least, not by the public at large. The 20th century brought about the mass-recording of music and with it, the brute force known as the music industry. From about the 1920s on up until today, rich men in big suits and fat cigars have found ways to make the masses fall in love with, and idolize musicians. It’s no longer enough to be a musician that makes an honest living doing the thing he or she loves. You’ve got to be the biggest, loudest, most memorable star this world has ever seen, or you just weren’t successful. Are you up to it? Of course not; no one is.

Most people don’t have the ego it takes to be a real celebrity musician. They can’t handle the stress and the anxiety, or the constant attention, or the travel. This is why alcohol, sex and drugs are so rampant in the music scene; they relieve the symptoms of celebrity music. Well, that, and the fact that they’ve become romanticized staples of music– peas and carrots indeed. Why did Michael Jackson go crazy? Yes, Michael’s father was an abusive waste of carbon. That aside ,what if, during his career, Michael had been given some real time off (say, in between Off the Wall and Thriller)? He could have regained a hold on reality and probably wouldn’t have turned into the Cryptkeeper.

It’s sad, really. We place musicians up on pedestals, but if they fall even slightly short of our expectations, we vilify them as if they were witches in Salem. That is, of course, until they die. Then they’re great again, obviously.

So when is enough enough? Stop idolizing and start appreciating.

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