Monday, November 25, 2019

The solo artist: Personal triumph or act of vanity?

Sure, I've done it. Recorded and promoted an album of music that features solely me. My name, my music, my album. It's all about me. After the first go, it starts to beg some questions.

I recently watched a YouTube video of Cedric Bixler Zavala at "Amoeba Music" showing the audience the various albums he had picked up. I noticed he had selected several "solo" albums from different artists, for example Syd Barrett.

In the past, I might've been interested to check out the solo stuff recommended by Cedric, even eager, but I've sort of changed my stance on the whole trip over the past couple of years. My gripe comes down to motivations. I guess after the major success of say, "The Backstreet Boys" when one of the guys has a go at a solo career, it seems standard, run of the mill. But what about a relative unknown? This is where I start to inspect more thoroughly. The line of delineation is drawn across egocentrism.

If you're a capable musician, you should be well aware any combination of skills in the form of equal-parts collaboration yields the most pleasant results, every single time. That's why I'm skeptical of solo work. However, it's naive to imagine every single musician has the dumb luck to stumble across chemistry-laden musical partnerships as it they were easy to come by. This is where a solo effort begins to become more plausible.

Liner notes allow for investigation into these matters. If you look through the fold-out and find the "solo" album is actually just a long list of hired guns supporting the voice of a single person, this qualifies as vanity. However, if the musician himself is responsible for nearly everything on tape (I guess aside from engineering), the implication tips towards responsibility.

This is why I stray from generalizations. "All bands, or all solo albums are acts of vanity," is too broad of a colored brush stroke. Any musician yearning for active status has a multitude of options, if he or she chooses to self-promote and only self-promote, the jury may be out.

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