When I was younger I thought being in a band would be the best job ever. You get to travel around the world, meet heaps of different people, get drunk all the time, and feel as though you’re actually making a difference through your music. Nothing would ever have that stale ‘nine to five’ taste and everything would be shiny and new all the time. I was angling for a place in one of those ‘pop-punk’ bands – Simple Plan or Dashboard Confessional style. They always seemed to have the most fun and looked like they got paid very well for doing very little work.
However, with the advantage of approximately five years, I have realized that some of these band members may be stuck in an even bigger work rut than the rest of us mere mortals. After all, imagine going to the same concert night after night for a year, and seeing the same sort of people there repeatedly. You know the sort of people I’m talking about – no older than seventeen, dyed hair, often seen wearing Chuck Taylor Hi-tops and lots of eyeliner. Now imagine doing that for ten years – or as many years as it takes for you to either get old (thirty five is generally the limit) or go out of fashion.
You see, the thing is; some of these ‘pop-punk’ bands (such as Simple Plan, Dashboard Confessional, and The All American Rejects) seem to have one constant audience, which is mentioned above. You might be reading this, thinking ‘hey that’s not true I really like Simple Plan, Dashboard Confessional, and The All American Rejects’. But think carefully. When was the last time you listened to one of their CDs for two weeks straight, because all of the songs ‘seemed like they had been written just for you’? When was the last time you Googled them to see what they were doing? When was the last time you bought tickets to one of their concerts?
Probably when you were sixteen and wearing Hi-Tops and really bad make-up.
The reason for this unvarying audience? Well my opinion is that these bands keep on singing the same sort of songs. Angst-y with a touch of ‘no-one understands me’ (and sometimes underlying notes of suicide contemplation if they want to be ‘deep’). And fair enough, the vast majority of teenagers feel angry, or tormented, or alone at some stage. But most of the time, these feelings go away when you graduate high school/realize that not everyone is out to get you/finish puberty. So why would you still want to listen to songs that do nothing but moan about all of these things?
Of course, you might listen to a CD in the car every once in a while, just to groove to the catchy tunes and giggle at the type of music you used to worship. But it’s unlikely that you’ll feel that all-encompassing rush of ‘no-one understands me like this band does’ emotion, or be filled with a desire to go to their next show, even if it’s in another state. The simple fact of the matter is that you’re past ‘all that’ now, your hormones have calmed down, and with it all your inner angst and torment.
Something similar to this happened to me the first time I heard the newish song "Give you Hell", by The All American Rejects a few months back. I listened to it thinking, hmmm not a bad song, nice little beat. But there was none of that ‘Oh my God, I feel that exact way’ rush that I surely would have felt when I was sixteen. Had I been sixteen, I probably would have had it blasting in my bedroom, singing along as loud as I could, and mentally dedicating it to some boy I didn’t like. A few years on however, I simply shrug and change the radio station.
Now, back to the point of this article. The bands that sing these songs. Don’t they ever get bored of crooning on about not getting the girl/being misunderstood by the world/hating life? They’re well out of the target age bracket, yet they continue to churn out song after thematically-similar song, and manage to perform them nightly to identical audiences. That sounds like it would get real boring, real quick, not unlike a nine-to-five job. Don’t they ever yearn to sing something that would be interesting to their thirty year old selves? They’re not in high school anymore, so why are they bitching about the boys on the varsity team beating them up? High school was bad enough the first time around; so why the hell are these bands choosing to spend years upon years in this emotional minefield?
Money could be a big attraction; as could the idea of thousands of underage girls throwing themselves at you. Maybe they’ve just been put in this category by their record company, and can’t find their way out of it.
However, there are some bands that manage to grow out of this never ending adolescence, and actually evolve along with their audience. One of the clearest examples of this (to me, at least) is the band Green Day. They started out singing songs that were angst-y and filled with a general sense of anger and loneliness, but as they got older, they started singing about current societal issues, particularly political ones. The people who related to them as angst-ridden teenagers could also relate to them as adults questioning the morality of some American politicians. This ability to evolve along with their audience whilst maintaining a sense of catchy individuality has made Green Day one of the most enduring punk bands around.
So, the question remains, if bands like Green Day can manage to grow up and adjust their music to suit their age and audiences, why can’t bands like Simple Plan do the same? Do they enjoy writing song after song about not getting the girl? Or do they just lack the brainpower necessary to think about what sort of music people their own age might enjoy listening to? Or, is it possible that their record company signed them up on the proviso that they would create album after bestselling album marketed solely for teenagers filled with emotional turmoil?
Whatever the reason, I think I’d choose an office job over endless adolescence any day.