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.
10 responses to “An Artist’s Message: How Yusuke Yoshino Explains the Hipster in Some of Us”
Don’t forget your roots. ;) I enjoy being able to relate to music, and that’s likely why I’ve found and stuck with the artists I’ve discovered. There’s a lot of great music out there, but sometimes we need to feel what it’s saying, and that message might be different for each listener. In that way, I find a number of artists shift their lyrical focus/tone and completely lose me, even if the /new/ album is technically much better, but this isn’t necessarily good or bad. Maybe the artist is still creating for the same reason they were before but with a different message, or perhaps their reasoning changed altogether. Of those two, I believe changing the message is a much more consistent move, whereas changing the reason or purpose cannot be done nonchalantly; it requires renewed energy and a full spirit to be accomplished convincingly.
So while remembering where one’s original spirit is very important, I feel it can be shed with the right will and determination, something which comes from the heart.
Here’s what I noticed in relation to Tomoya, a character I identify with for a few dark reasons. He did hold onto his original purpose, but there came a time when he needed a change, and he was stuck somewhere in the midst of changing his action yet not his heart; and it wasn’t a big change. The most crucial times always came back to family: the moment he was accepted into Nagisa’s life, was accepted as her husband, and became a father. He was doing everything necessary, but his heart was in disarray; he could never reunite with his father, he couldn’t forgive or let go, he was stuck. I could be wrong, but I never believed Tomoya realized how important family truly was until he lost everything; my reasoning is that if he had known, he would have shown more compassion to his father (his own family), the one black stain he viewed in his life. In my opinion, he was his own deterrent in being able to revitalize his heart for family.
I feel Yoshino, while pressing for Tomoya to not lose sight of what matters, was also saying, “don’t lose yourself (your own heart).” Perhaps this also reflects on the Greek aphorism, “know thyself.”
I feel that even if the artist changes their style completely, provided that they’re still expressing what ever is closest to them personally, they’ll continue to be successful. The things that resonate with everyone the most are possibly the more selfish, or self-centered, things that an artist chooses to express no matter what the medium.
Tying in to what you said regarding Tomoya, I think another important thing expressed in this series is that the idea of a family is sometimes what you make of it. It takes a while but as you said, the reason that Tomoya is truly able to appreciate what he has is because he loses everything. In losing everything, I also believe that Tomoya comes to the realization that the meaning of “family” extends far beyond who related to you by blood (or who you choose to marry). Akio and Sanae were always his family, despite being Nagisa’s parents, along with Sunohara, Kotomi, Fuko, Tomoyo, and Kyou. This is another thing I appreciate about this series: the way it plays with the idea and meaning of “family.”
Hnnnn…it’s interesting that you bring this up. The other day I was talking with someone about relationships and we both touched upon the idea that it’s near-impossible to have a successful one without knowing yourself and where you want to be first.
Good observations all around, Ryan. I always appreciate your comments.
Though I’m more of the school of thought that Art is more incomprehensible than emotional.
err, see also, http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TrueArtIsIncomprehensible
Hnn…I suppose my personal opinion falls somewhat within your latter reference, although I hesitate to categorize it ^ ^. Being an artist myself, I create art simply because I can’t not create it, if that makes any sense. It’s integral to who I am as a person, and nearly everything that I spit out onto a canvas is a reflection of something very personal to me, with the audience being an afterthought (this even includes, to some extent, specific commissions where I’m working within someone else’s parameters).
I feel that the important thing that Yoshino exemplified isn’t necessarily that his true art required angst as much as it required him speaking from a familiar and passionate place.
Thank you for the comment!
Genshiken’s Ogiue falls under an eerily similar situation. A quote from chapter 49, a beautiful chapter in its own right: “When your own work actually influences someone else the burden of responsibility becomes so heavy that you carry it for the rest of your life.” She too had problems acknowledging herself after her works had severely injured Makita. She too acknowledges herself after Sasahara embraces what she thought she had to despise.
Oooh…that is a beautiful scene. Good call. Both Ogiue and Yoshino are forced to confront the fact that, through their respective media, they touch people in ways that they never expected. In both cases it leads to some seriously self-destructive behavior. Although I still contend that artists should stick to what they love, know, and are most passionate about, it’s easy to see how most could be consumed with the fact that their messages are going to reach all sorts of people in completely different ways than what they had initially intended.
I do love how Ogiue’s relationship with Sasahara ends up healing her a bit, allowing her to look more inwardly again and create the art that she wants to.
Thanks for the comment!
Nothing to add really. Just wanted to say great post, really enjoyed it.
Thank you very much for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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