What is Wrong With the World: The Backlash

Popularity is one of those things human beings crave – a primal instinct that harkens back to when we were mammals and the male wanting to be the centre of the pack and the female to be the main mother for the group of humans. It is always a problem to handle, severe popularity, and whilst as a whole species each and everyone of us instinctively wants it either through pride in our work, friends or by actively seeking it out, once we have a circle of friends it should settle down, that gaggle of peers that you can speak up in front of enough to satiate our needs.

Whereas we can satisfy our own personal popularity, the need to lavish further popularity on our famous faces is something that we do without thinking about the consequences, the cycle that recently seems to have appeared is that following the sudden surge in popularity, a backlash arrives. It may takes years, in may take months, but in all probability it will appear, and some come out the other side unscathed.

A backlash is something that bands in particularly recently have been treading finely upon, with the worst of the backlashes concerning some of the next biggest bands. The most recent success stories have already had their backlash and some are through it, but in case someone accuses me of picking on some bands, I will only briefly mention them. The backlashes also appear in films to a lesser degree, and for some reason, even more rarely in computer games.

A very good example of a backlash in films is two of the largest trilogies of all time, the Lord of the Rings and The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogies. They are quite different in the way that the backlash appeared, but both have had one, and both suffered from it. The first Pirates film was released to universal acclaim and large box office returns, and even I admit that it is a damn good film. It is funny, exciting, original (for the time it was released) and in the best way possible it was cheesy. In this day and age, a good return at the box office makes a sequel obvious, and work began on two further chapters filmed back to back to finish the series off and to then allow for rampant speculation to the future of the series and whether a fourth would ever be released. The problem with the massive success of the original meant that the sequels were already critically doomed, with the sequels, even though being almost no different to the original, were slated for being overblown and self-indulgent.

The Lord of the Rings has a similar backlash, but still won over the critics. It’s last instalment gained all the Oscars when they were all pretty much the same film – in fact, all three were the same film really, just split up.

In music it is more obvious because of the ever presence of the bands. With a film or computer game series you only know about them when they are released and the hype machine builds up. Proclaiming the a band are the next best thing to maximise their exposure makes a quick buck for the labels but as soon as the band fail to return anything other than a massive profit, they are dropped. Futureheads, I am looking at you. Their debut was immature, young, quirky and captured the kind of music at the time, but it was very thin on the ground. Their second album is a million times more the record they can make than the first one – better songs, cohesion, and a theme – but even still, in the face of this apparently good record, the critics had moved on, music had moved on, and they decided that the Futureheads were old hat. Subsequently, they were dropped even after selling a not embarrassing amount of albums.

The problem with the world is this: We seem to be far too concerned with what is new, and what is different, not what is good. I attributed this to the speed at which we have advanced technologically in the last decade. Every year there is a new phone, a new PC and a new games console, and we are tricked by advertisers and suits that we need the newest item, and this need for the newest things has started to plunder the rest of our lives. We see the words “New” on an item and somewhere in our heads the connection is made that “New = Better” when most of the time “New = The Same changed just enough to make you think it is different”.

With bands, films, TV shows, even clothes, food types, and spectacularly, races, the fear is that we will soon deride almost anything that is less than new, and anything older will be obsolete. I wonder in a few years where The Arctic Monkeys will be, the Enemy, even Coldplay, as those who once hailed them as the next best thing, are now in droves deriding them and shunning their music, simply because of their popularity, their mainstream acceptance. It could be jealously, sure, but I think that is a thinly veiled argument – we need new, and the world turns upon new. If new is the future and old is the past, where does that leave the bands of now?