FEATURE: How to ‘Disappear’ Completely: Do We Put Too Much Pressure on Artists When It Comes to Album Releases?




How to ‘Disappear’ Completely

IN THIS PHOTO: Sky Ferreira at Deadline Studio Portraits during Sundance in Park City, Utah on 22nd January, 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Buckner/Deadline/REX/Shutterstock

Do We Put Too Much Pressure on Artists When It Comes to Album Releases?


ALTHOUGH the ‘cover artist’ is Sky Ferreira...


 IN THIS IMAGE: The cover for Sky Ferreira’s debut album, Night Time, My Time (2013)/ALBUM PHOTO: Gaspar Noé

my point relates to a wider field. I must admit that I do not listen to her music much but there has been a lot of talk because she is returning with a new album. The fact that my article – and many others out there – use words like ‘disappear’ when referencing her shows what attitude we have when it comes to artists who take time to ruminate and spend time on their work. Downhill Lullaby is a new single from her and, whilst she has not put out an album since 2013’s Night Time, My Time, she is someone who refuses to put out anything that is untrue and has little meaning. Her new song is, as you can see, pretty atmospheric and intense. It is not what one would expect from a Pop act today and, rather than conforming to a commercial sound and replicating what is already out there, she  is treading her own path and unwilling to be rushed. When speaking with Pitchfork she explained the pressure that has been put on her and how she approaches work:

Released in October 2013, Night Time, My Time was a rare major-label triumph of craft over product, a purposeful barrage of seething recriminations coated with ’90s-grunge textures and ’80-pop incandescence. It sounded like “My So-Called Life”’s Angela Chase mainlining John Hughes films and channeling her existential anguish into a record—except Night Time was the vision of a 2010s 21-year-old, and the truths were all hers.

Naturally, all of this—the anticipation, the unfulfilled promises, the time lapsed since her last release—is adding to the pressure she puts on herself. She feels like she has to explain. “It wasn’t by choice.” It wasn’t creative paralysis, nor was it a creative hiatus. “I wasn’t just taking time for myself the last five years.” During that time, she landed a half dozen movie roles, but she says she didn’t decide to focus on acting instead. “I never stepped away from music.” She alludes to vague external hindrances: “I’ve been at the mercy of people the last few years”; “gatekeepers”; “the rug pulled out under me”; a “someone at my label” who undid the generous arrangement she had to work with Kanye West musical director Mike Dean; and the very real issue of a young woman telling men what she wants and not settling for less.

“I don’t have a back-up plan,” Sky says. “I never have. I don’t have an education. I don’t know how to, like, play music in the [traditional] sense. I’m socially awkward and stuff—I couldn’t really do a lot of other jobs either,” she says. “Literally, there’s no other option for me. So this has to work”.

It is clear that Ferreira has had a lot on her shoulders and, rather than rush something out or be pressed when it comes to deadlines. NME reacted to the news that her new album has arrived after six years and, when you think about it, it is not a huge gap at all:

Admittedly ‘Masochism’ does feel like it has taken forever. After all, we now live in an age where the tiniest scraps of information are available instantly. With a few taps on a touch screen it’s possible to find out what shoes Harry Styles wore two weeks ago on Monday, whether St Vincent prefers tacos or burritos, and which Top 40 singers suffer from hayfever.

It’s a modern phenomenon that Sky Ferreira understands well, too – every time she opens her mouth, it seems, her remarks are plastered all over the internet five minutes later. A post from 2017, which discussed at length various logistical issues and the importance of sticking to her guns – “I didn’t wait this long to put out the bare minimum” she wrote – was turned into a single snappy headline. Sky Ferreira is“ Putting out Something Soon”.

Let’s be real, here – six years isn’t a lifetime. By resisting the pressure to squeeze out a mediocre EP to tide everyone over – by knowing when to step away – Sky’s set herself up for a blinder. Her debut remains one of the most exciting alt-pop releases of the noughties, and from this point on, it’s all in ‘Masochism’s hands”. 

PHOTO CREDIT: @danedeaner/Unsplash 

It is definitely worth checking out the interview she gave with Pitchfork because it gives more depth and background regarding Ferreira’s work and process. She is an example of someone who released a promising and interesting debut and, invariably, there were all these questions regarding the next album and when she would grace us with more music. There have been occasions when artists have left a big gap between releases and, whilst it can seem like it commercial risk, it is actually a way of recharging and making music without that pressure. Many are calling Sky Ferreira’s new work a ‘return’ but, when you think about it, she has not left or been quiet – just working on different stuff but never leaving the music industry. Now that she has music out there, it is going to be digested and the reviews will come through. I wonder, after a six-year gap, whether people will ask whether we have to wait this long again for another album. We get into the habit of excepting records from artists every year or two and, if they take some time out and work on other stuff, then people start speculating and feeling they have retreated. Every corner of the industry, I feel, does have these expectations and, in a high-paced world, we all get impatient and expect stuff to happen right away. It might be fair enough to get a second album from a shining artist after a few years and, whilst taking longer might threaten momentum, we cannot rush people. There is so much anxiety in music and so many young artists are suffering because of it.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Rita Ora took six years to follow her debut album, Ora (2012), but, like many artists, the gap paid dividends and meant she could create something that was a development and move forward/PHOTO CREDIT: Rex

In many cases, spending longer away and really working on an album can give new life and be worth it. Other big artists, like Rita Ora, have taken six years to follow from a debut (last year’s Phoenix followed Ora), but they are rare cases. Even if there is a few years between albums, I do not think we need to be so tough and feel artists feel small. In many cases, touring takes up a chunk of time and many need time to address their personal lives and unwind. I think we overlook how intense the music industry is and what the daily cycle is. It can take a long time making sure an album is good and will be a success and, after that, you tour it; there is that need to create something after that which is different but sounds like you – it is quite daunting these days! This idea of an artist ‘disappearing’ is quite troubling. I understand fans might get restless and curious but we tend to ignore the wishes of an artist and why they might need some more time. I do feel, more and more, we are less album-orientated and just tend to pick singles – so why pressurise artists to create an album when we do not listen to the whole thing?! Maybe it is not easy to correct but there is a bit of a mental-health crisis happening. In music, there is so much competition and choice that it can have a really damaging effect on an artist.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @simon_m1/Unsplash

If a label or the public expects new music at a regular interval then that can lead to poor quality and pressure. Rather than rattle out albums every couple of years and compromise evolution for commercial satisfaction, it is worth asking whether we should encourage more acts to take some time out and, for the sake of some wagging tongues, focus on themselves. I think quality and personal satisfaction far outweighs streaming figures and other factors. It can be quite hard for fans to have to wait a while for material from their favourite acts but we need to be a bit more patient, I guess. I am the same as everyone and often check anxiously if a few years have passed and there is not another album out. Do not assume that an artist has gone away and retired if we do not hear a whisper for a bit. It makes Sky Ferreira’s new music so interesting. It is clear she has spent her time wisely and used it to make music that holds great quality and depth rather than rushing it and regretting her decision. I respect those who can risk gossip and a dent in their fortunes if it means they look after themselves and spend some time to create the music they want to. It is risky, yes, but the alternative is worse: you will burn out and that anxiety can cost more than a record deal and some streaming figures. Rather than judge artists who take a while to release albums and figure they have just dropped away, respect that some do need a bit more time to percolate and create. There is this pull between keeping relevant and staying in the public focus and making work that feels true and is not too rushed. Get it wrong then that can be disastrous so, for that reason, we need to encourage all artists to work at a speed that...


PHOTO CREDIT: @paullywooten/Unsplash

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