Too Much Too Young?
IN THIS PHOTO: Billie Eilish/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Ensuring We Do Not Place Unreasonable Pressure on Our Best Young Artists
THERE is much to champion and celebrate as we immerse…
IN THIS PHOTO: Tom Grennan/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
ourselves in the waters of 2018. I have been scanning the horizon and seeing which artists will make big breaks this year. It is all very exciting as new talent emerges: the fact some legends and established artists are releasing material soon is another reason to be cheered! One of the most obvious trends coming through is the proliferation and augmentation of young artists. In my line of work – reviewing and interviewing musicians – I get to see a variety of awesome people do their thing. I connect with a lot of them and, through social media feeds, can track their progression and updates. One thing that strikes me, especially with young artists, is the pressure they feel. This applies, I guess to those in their teens and early-twenties – getting success and recognition early can be a good thing but, at the same time, cause a lot of anxiety and stress. I am excited great artists like Billie Eilish, Sigrid and Tom Grennan are getting a lot of love and buzz. Sigrid, especially, is getting some passionate feedback and attention. I am hopeful she will make big strides - but I wonder whether all the spotlight and glare is a bit too much. We want to see these artists flourish and fly but, with all the media attention and expectation – is that a lot to bare for someone so young?! Billie Eilish - the much-hyped U.S. teen - is school-age and, as such, has to balance musical duties with academia...
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
She seems, on paper, a mature and level-headed girl – sullen at times with a definite edge and (authentic) attitude. I am pleased talent young female artists are being proffered – but they will only sustain and continue to record if they are given a modicum of space. Sigrid and Eilish are getting their faces everywhere: they are never too far from vacillating column-inches; journalists proclaiming them in terms few could call hyperbole. I guess, when an artist shows promise, journalists and radio stations are keen to get them out there and do all they can. That involves interviews and reviews; lots of new stories and praise. It is understandable, sure, but I wonder whether all that glare and expectation has a damaging effect. There are so few artists remaining and producing notable work years down the line. You get sustainable artists but, largely, bigged-up new musicians have a brief explosion; they release some great music but are replaced by someone new before too long. Maybe that is a sign of the music industry today – always wanting something new; too hectic to foster and protect artists – but I want to see the likes of Grennan, Sigrid and Eilish endure. I can throw in other names like Dua Lipa, Iamddb. and Shame. These artists vary in age – early-teens to twenties – but they are all (fairly) new on the block.
Ensuring these bright young stars are promoted, yet have the room to create and evolve years down the tracks is, to me, a crucial balance. Barely a week goes by without a new feature on Sigrid or Billie Eilish – they are not the only ones but are perfect examples I can throw in. There are a lot of blogs and websites out there who want to throw their kudos in; people are keen to play the songs (of these artists) and spread the word. That is understandable but I have a fear the constant glare and celebration is a bit too full-on. Nowadays, before a young artist has even released their debut album; so many quarters of the media have made predictions and put their name out there. Another side-effect is summoned: a slight fatigue among the public. I am keen to learn more about the ‘ones to watch’ artists but, even this early in the year, is there too much saturation and obsession?! One cannot fault the media too much: we are charged with promoting the best musicians, and so, it is understandable so many are hyping the same artists. Maybe a teenager like Billie Eilish can cope with that focus and exposure: I fear, by the time she gets around to recording a second album; the fascination will fade – regardless of how good it is; she has not even recorded her debut L.P., yet! Maybe, then, there is a two-point issue: getting too hot on an artist and, before long, losing interest; creating more anxiety and pressure on musicians who already have a lot to shoulder.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sigrid/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I would suggest, after the explosion of end-of-year-polls and start-of-year predictions; give these artists a chance to bed-in and get their work done. What happens is, straight after the polls/predictions are out; the media clamber and race towards these artists – and they are a fixture of the music pages for weeks on end! Then, when the next/first single comes out; there is another tsunami of acclaim and expectation – the artist is already exhausted before they have released their album. The industry is not doing enough to preserve new talent and help develop young hopefuls. One might argue a (relative) lack of media oxygen will see a young artist overlooked and trampled. I take that point but it is possible to create a balance. My worry is we are being offered these tantalising artists but, by the summer; how many of us are going to be talking about them still?! The over-exposure means many will fall away; there is a feeling, among these acts, they need to release a lot of material to keep the love coming their way. Anxiety levels are rising in the music industry and, with each passing year, the problem edges towards the shores of ‘epidemic’. I feel a talent like Tom Grennan, for example, could create more freely and naturally if he is provided respite now. He is getting a lot of positive energy – and rightfully so! – but the public is keen for material that matches that expectation – allow the young man some room to create and consider! I am sure he loves all the support he is getting but can the finished results – the material itself – ever match the hype artists are given?!
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
I guess I am part of the problem: I am eager to support and highlight the great young artists in our midst. I am excited about Shame, Pale Waves and Yonaka; Sigrid, Billie Eilish and their ilk. They all have a busy year ahead but, rather than feature them in (endless) interviews, features (irony intended!) and articles – provide a pause and then, when new material is out, put the foot back on the gas! I want to see these artists get praise and attention this time next year: not be replaced by the next band of hopefuls (who will, you’d imagine, be forgotten by the end of the year!). There is a cyclical, factory-line process whereby fantastic young artists remain for a fairly short time. I know how good the proclaimed are: they are some of the best young musicians we have seen for many years. I wonder what all the circus and heat does to a young soul. Most artists are prepared for the realities of music – the crash-course of observation gives them an insight... – but all that demand and pressure adds to anxiety levels. We are being told modern artists are writing more about personal struggles and stigma; anxieties and pains – will all that media glare exacerbate that and, in the process, create health issues?! It is the issue of longevity and pace that concerns me most...
I want these newly-crowned artists reign and record years from now. I understand the media will not view them in such heady terms this time next year but, as the intensity builds; will the young stars of 2018 have the ammunition and energy to continue next year – and many years from now?! The solution is not obvious – what I do know is placing that amount of scrutiny, however positive, on a teenage musicians can be quite damaging. Maybe there is that danger of over-expectation: emboldening a musician so sharply means public perception and demands will be high. There are so many different aspects and burdens put onto the shoulders (of the new artists). I hope the media continue to back the finest young musicians coming through but, as we head into spring; afford them the distance to get down to recording and await their next move. From there, when they release a single/album, put the pressure back on a bit; then, when they progress later in the year, make another pitch. It is a more balanced and staggered-out promotion that eases some of the pressure and ensures there is consistent backing. We must not ignore and neglect these artists when we head into 2019 – desperate to embrace fresh wonder and forget about the talent being hailed this year. There is every possibility bright-eyed artists like Sigrid will have a stunning and prosperous 2018. We need to ensure incredible musicians are backed and cared-for; they are recognised and given due respect. More importantly; if the media ensures they allow them time to create – and not put too much pressure their way - that means the artists will have space and freedom to…
IN THIS PHOTO: Iamddb./PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
GROW and fly.