Monday, August 1, 2011

Modern Day Gladiators

Tupac. Biggie. Michael Jackson. Amy Winehouse. What do all of these artists have in common? Obviously, they’re dead, but they also all gained popularity following their death. And these are just a few of the many artists who followed the same path. Start out hot, dwindle out of favor with the public, and then have a dramatic death which puts them right back in the spotlight.

Here’s my question. Why is it that it takes someone’s death for the majority of the public to remember these artists? If they were so great, why do we just forget about them, and then suddenly, when they die, we rush out to buy as many copies of their music as possible? Even I will admit, when the news about Amy Winehouse came out, I searched her music online, mainly because I couldn’t think of any of her songs. I was actually surprised, because she had a great voice, and even if you don’t like her style, I think most people would agree that she was far more talented than the likes of Britney Spears or Kesha.

So was it my fault that I couldn’t remember any of her music? I would have to say no. Unfortunately, I can’t follow every artist I’ve ever listened to, so I focus on a few of my favorites and I rely on the media to inform me about the others. And this is where the first main issue comes into play: the media. The media is notoriously bad at judging good music, and that’s not what their goal is anyways. Their job is to sell and get people to stop, look, and listen to them. Thus, they flood the market with “artists” like Rebecca Black, and people like Amy Winehouse or Michael Jackson are swept under the rug. And when overdose is the cause of death, it’s evident that the artist is having some major issues in their life. Could this be a result of being put into the spotlight, and then pulled right back out of it? I’m not trying to prove some conspiracy that the media is killing off famous artists; I’m simply raising the question as to whether the actions of producers, radio, and television programs are contributing to the notoriously terrible lifestyle of celebrities, which in some cases leads to their early death.

Perhaps even worse than the artists’ death, however, is our fascination with it. To this day, it’s a common gimmick to hear Tupac, Biggie, or Eazy-E mentioned in rap songs, even if the artist had no relation to them whatsoever. And I’m not even considering how many rap songs are based around murder in general. In addition, people are always ready to argue that Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn were the greatest guitarists ever, but I wonder if they were still alive and writing music, would people still make these claims? Neil Young even said, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. In reality, we haven’t changed much since the good old days, when Romans watched Gladiators fight to the death. People are fascinated by death, and being as competitive and capitalistic in nature as it is, the music industry has been able to take advantage of this human trait (with the help of mass media).

In conclusion, I’m not telling you to stop purchasing Amy Winehouse CD’s, or to stop putting Tupac in your freestyles, or to stop playing Jimi Hendrix songs on your guitar. I just think people should assess what they really like, and people should enjoy these artists while they’re alive, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll be around tomorrow. Unless it’s the Rolling Stones, in which case you can be sure they’ll be back.

Carlin with Music
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  1. i totally agree with what you say. when i foudn out mj was dead i became a huge fan of him, listened to his music and everything. now that amy winehouse died, im still not rly a fan of her. i never rly was. but i rly do like her song 'valerie'. :) nice blog....and please check out my blog :


  2. Thanks for the comment, and I'll be sure to check out your blog!