When people choose to follow a band or an artist there may come a point in time, usually after an outburst of fame and fortune, that the artist’s music will no longer resonate with its fans as it once did.
Obviously, there are many factors at work when this happens, the largest one being that people tend to outgrow things as they mature. The music that one listens to in junior high school will, more often than not, be completely different from the music that they will listen to in their late twenties. In addition to this, there’s the posturing aspect of being able to imply, “I’m better than everyone because I listened to Arcade Fire well before you did. You know, when their stuff was unknown and ‘good.’” However, there’s also another reason why we perceive the “old stuff” to be so much better than the “new stuff” and it comes from a paradigm shift within the artists themselves. This is explained surprisingly well in a transition episode of Clannad ~After Story~.
In the Clannad series, Kouko, schoolteacher and sister of one of the girls, marries washed-up rock star Yusuke Yoshino, who also happens to be a former student of hers. Yoshino had left high school full of energy and enthusiasm for writing love songs, promising Kouko that he would return to her having proven his worth by becoming a gigantic pop star. Surprisingly enough, he succeeds by writing songs about his internal emotional struggle, passion, and of course, love songs for Kouko. Suddenly, Yoshino’s name, face, and music are everywhere, including in the hospital room of a small girl who is dying of a terminal illness.
When Yoshino discovers that his lyrics are changing people’s lives, he goes on a hiatus. He then discovers a criminal who claims that he committed a crime because he didn’t have Yoshino’s songs to listen to anymore, which had formerly comforted him. Yoshino returns to his singing career a changed man, fully aware of the large impact that he could potentially have on others’ lives. He begins to use his songs to convey larger, idealistic ideas. Unfortunately, since these songs aren’t coming from what he’s truly passionate about, they aren’t realistic.
The message that Yoshino brings to the story of Clannad ~After Story~ is that the lead character, Tomoya, shouldn’t lose sight of what’s really important to him, his then girlfriend and future wife Nagisa. However, this message has a deeper meaning to it when one considers the plight of an artist.
Put a bit more simply, passion reaches out and resonates with others most successfully when the artist is drawing influence from a far more self-centered place. A song written specifically about something tragic that happened in the artist’s life will ultimately resonate with people better because they can relate it to a personal tragedy of their own. This is opposed to a song with a louder, idealistic message. These songs are easily understood on the surface; however, people are unable to relate to them because the ideas are too far removed from their daily lives to resonate with on a personal level (or they may write it off as propaganda that they either don’t agree with or are unwilling to listen to).
In the end, following his giving in to drugs, and ending his career, Yoshino returns to his hometown and meets Kouko again. She asks him if he still sings. He falls to his knees and breaks into tears, realizing that he had begun his music career because of his love for Kouko, not to “change the world” or any dream larger than that. Although this is meant to reinforce Tomoya’s feelings for Nagisa, this small, self-centered story of Yoshino is one that can resonate with artists everywhere; while it may seem desirable to use your new found fame and sudden audience as a platform to influence people’s thoughts, often, it’s far better to continue to write, sing, speak, or paint about what’s closest to one’s heart. After all, that’s how an artist usually gets their audience to begin with.