It’s no secret that it is by no means easy to make it in the music industry. Countless artists have come and gone due to the ever changing nature of the business and as a result of their lack of willingness to adapt their sound. Many bands that were big ten years ago (Yellowcard, Sum 41) are still sticking to the same sound but because we’ve seen a shift in what is relevant in 2011 their albums, although solid efforts, seem dated and struggle commercially. Linkin Park is a good example of a band doing things right; their sound changes with every single album and the risks they take pay off every time because they are keeping to the times. But I do not want to dwell on rock music in particular because it is a genre that is struggling more than it did in the past thanks to the electro/dance explosion currently dominating charts all over the world. The pop market is particularly difficult to crack into even though artists like Ke$ha make it seem so easy. The formula for a good pop hit seems to be fixed and easily duplicated but we’ve seen first hand, thanks to Rebecca Black and the trending-for-all-the-wrong-reasons song “Friday”, that it is not so simple. While “We R Who We R” and “TiK ToK” may seem like pop regurgitation there is a fair bit of dedication and hard work that went into those songs especially from the production side of things (good job Dr. Luke).
An artist who has been struggling for a very long time to go solo is the formed Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. Her debut solo album was meant to be released in 2007 but it was ultimately shelved after singles “Whatever U Like”, “Baby Love”, “Supervillain” & “Puakenikeni” failed to chart in the Billboard Hot 100. At all. Two of those tracks enlisted the help of big timers will.i.am and T.I but that still wasn’t enough. Nicole eventually went back to the group with her tail between her legs and released a not-so-successful second album with them before embarking on a new solo venture with help of it-producer RedOne in 2009 (but not before attempting to release one last failed single called “Nobody Can Change Me” which isn’t even listed on her discography online). You have to give her points for dedication.
Word of an all-new solo project started spreading and I must admit I was curious to see what Red and Nicole could bring to the table. Surely working with the producer of the moment would result in some form of success for Nicole, even if it just meant charting inside the actual Billboard Hot 100? Alas, no; lead single “Poison” didn’t manage to do anything in the United States but luckily it charted at number three in the United Kingdom which must have given her a glimmer of hope. Let me just be clear and state that I’m not pointing out the fact that she’s been struggling in a way that is highly critical of her and her situation. My aim is to show just how difficult it is to crack it in the business even if you have established yourself (in some way) thanks to a multitude of collaborations with big named artists. Nicole featured on songs with Pitbull, Timbaland, Enrique, Diddy and even Will Smith during and before her time with the Pussycat Dolls. She clearly has the dedication and drive but there is clearly no novelty or loyalty from the fans of the overtly sexual group she was in before stepping out on her own.
Having said this, you have to feel for the many artists in her situation who are working hard and just can’t seem to reach that level of success. It can’t be fun when a ten year old girl with a song called “Whip My Hair” charts just outside the Top 10 in the US but you can’t seem to crack the Bubbling Under Top 10 with your sixth or seventh release. But I guess these are the trials and tribulations of the ever changing Music Industry and you just have to roll with it. If you don’t have any novelty value or anything setting you apart from the rest you may just always be destined for mediocrity. What Nicole’s case clearly suggests is that singing about sex and selling yourself based on your image only gets you so far. It doesn’t lead to a loyal fan base. It doesn’t lead to people who will buy your albums over the long term. Ke$ha may be selling a lot of singles but the minute the industry starts changing she’s bound to feel the effects. She may be relevant in 2011 but she won’t be in 2014 if she doesn’t experiment more and take creative risks. People may fall for the same sound over a one or two year period but it is not the case over a career of ten years plus.
There is absolutely no substitute for pure, clean and raw talent. Music with emotion. Two names that immediately come to mind: Adele, a British singer – whose most recent album 21 debuted at number one in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Jessie J, the winner of the BBC Sound of 2011 Critics Poll, is newer to the industry but is someone with enough vocal talent to make the pop products of the world squirm. These women are the ones who will have long, successful careers while people may soon start wondering why the hell they enjoyed a song called “California Gurls” as much as they did at one point in their lives.