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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Taylor Hicks vs Lady Compromise

Taylor Hicks' blogger, Caryl, posted on her Taylor Tuesday blog the subject of Taylor and the payola theory regarding radio play. Caryl brings up the fact that if record execs don't like you they likely will not promote you. That theory of thought can be put into about any work market or artistic field.

Consider this, you're working for a Boss you're not especially fond of and perhaps that feeling is mutual. How will that parlay for you in the area of raises, promotions, that nice office you're coveting? Think this will be a fruitful work environment to remain in? Think that no matter how great you do your job you'll be as successful than if you were placed in a more positive, for you, setting? Chances are, most folks put within that environment would move on, get another job.

In art and in writing, key to getting shows, getting published, is having an agent who believes in you. Importantly they have to 'dig' you as a person, and consider you profitable and worthy of their time and energy. Sadly sometimes folks wind up with one of those agents who really should be selling time shares or multi-level marketing schemes; they may blow smoke up your skirt or pant suit but they won't do you any good. Finding yourself in a position of not getting those great promotional shows or seeing that literary tome sitting on a desk collecting lint - you could point your finger at that salesman posing as an agent - place blame - or you could move on. Continue that search for someone with whom you are more copacetic with, who understands you.

It takes more than that, of course, to succeed, there's that body of work that is yours, that is a part of you to consider as well. Is it really good? Also to consider, that part within the artist that helps develop that body of work; protects it. That part is named, 'Ego'. It's one of the parts of being human, it can be a huge negative quality, but also a big asset. Some of us carry around more than our share, some earned, some imaginary. (Those pesky voices in our heads.)

You will find it a rare, rare thing to wind up with someone in a position of power who can make or break you (or at least slow you down) with whom you have perfect affinity for and share complete agreement. Compromise is the key we all need learn to succeed. The delicate balancing rod we may find ourselves treading upon is balancing that ego, with your art.

You may say, 'I'll do it alone, my way, like ol' Frank Sinatra'! I say good luck and I hope you have massive pockets to fund your regular life and your art promotion. I had an artist friend who is as gifted as they get. He could paint images on the sides of buildings with such imagination and creative perspective. He was absolutely brilliant with any media, any topic. Great sci-fi work and realism. Sadly, Isaac had a rough road to hoe. He'd give up time after time when things would fall through that would give him that great break, get his talent out there in the public popular eye where he belonged. Isaac repeatedly fell within that negative area of allowing ego and pride outweigh the benefits of that difficult Lady Compromise.

It sounds very romantic, taking a stand for your artistry, it's noble sounding rhetoric. Problem is, work can suffer for want of a compromise. An artist of any genre needs to come to terms with placing their art above their ego. Not an easy task.

As I wrote on Caryl's sweet blog, I'm not accusing Taylor Hicks with possibly putting ego over his music, I have no idea what went down behind those closed doors between he and Clive and 19E. That said, obviously something went wrong - two sides to every coin. Blaming old man Clive for the ills that befell Hicks with his CD failing to muster up to the potential - for the lack of airplay - is an easy and satisfying thing. I don't think it's that simple to just point the finger at Clive.

Importantly, there is a big difference between Taylor Hicks' pre-Idol material and what landed on the CD. I'm not saying anything negative here, there are many fans who enjoy all of his work, including that CD, I have no problem with that. I am saying there's a difference. I've regarded that eponymous CD as perhaps some experiment that just did not take off, can't win them all. I must add, sales of almost 800,000 isn't anything to feel badly about.

What Mr. Hicks' has lacked is that critical acclaim, positive music reviews and consideration. That falls back on perhaps that theory of what happens when your Boss doesn't like you. Regarding Caryl's discussion of the payola situation and airplay, what this boils down to, that issue of making it work, at work. Realistic compromise for the sake of saving your art, sometimes the sacrifice you need make. (Again, I will stress this is simply my opinion, I naturally have no idea what really went down behind boardroom doors.)

Taylor Hicks is about pull a Sinatra by opening the door to Opportunity that came knocking. Anyone following Taylor Hicks knows I'm writing about his jumping on board with the National tour of "Grease". It's not often you're provided wide exposure with multiple chances to get your voice heard as an artist. This time I'm thinking things might play out quite differently for Mr. Hicks. Taylor's perhaps learned a lesson about parrying with Lady Compromise; riding that "Grease" vehicle part of the compromise, gaining him yet another Opportunity.

"Opportunity" Pete Murray, John Mayer LYRICS

Fabulous video c/o xcitindesigns


  1. Anonymous4:20 PM

    His album wasn't great. It needed to be. That's why it didn't do well. I don't understand what's so complicated about that. They made the wrong decisions in direction they went. That was Mr. Hicks' fault. If it was more soul and less pop things might have been different.

  2. I agree that you have to placate the boss in order to get ahead. I wonder sometimes if Taylor went too far in his unwillingness to compromise. But then again, it was his big shot and he probably was more concerned with fulfilling his own vision.

    Who knows?? That's the book I want to read someday- the truth about what went down. When T and I had our now legendary phone call (*cough*), I asked him if he would ever be able to talk about Idol, but I was too vague and I suddenly got shy about pressing him about it. But that's what I really wanted to know. If he's ever legally free to talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff, that book will make him a fortune.

  3. I hope Taylor Hicks finds his audience. I too am not sure what happened between 19e and him.

  4. anonymous, that's what I was referring to when I called it an "experiment". It was not what I expected, not what many fans he made on Idol expected.

    Hi Chance, good to see you here. I'm just hoping he turns this around. Critics still love using his name as that negative punch-line. lol

  5. Anonymous11:11 AM

    The reason it didn't do well..they tried to please too many people. They thought they could grab younger people by going more pop, but they still wanted to hold on to the older generation who likes the old-school music and slow ballads. It ended up pleasing nobody. No clear direction on it at all. They should have stuck to the tried and true - go pop-rock - a guaranteed audience.

  6. I disagree with that theory of Hicks going Pop-rock. Hicks won Idol for a combination of reasons, his attitude and difference from the rest and his seeming penchant for Blues and Soul music. Should he have come out with an album that mirrored him exactly he'd been much more successful with it. He needed to deliver what the masses who apparently voted like mad for him wanted.

    That could have created a greater demand, which would have been reflected in radio play as well as likely more positive attention from the critics. Regarding who or what radio stations' format he might fit into, that would have been a moot point. Demand would have carried him, radio stations are all about the money.

    Do you know why so many critics panned his eponymous CD? Because it did not come close to reflecting the image and the tone that Hicks' set up on Idol. He was then considered to just be a fake, a wanna-be Soulman, pandering to the public watching Idol. I know that's not a pleasant way to look at it, but it is what it is.

    To some of his fans it made many question him and his motives, his musical ties. The reality of who he is.

    To others it made no difference, they were in it for his looks, his charisma.

    To the rest, its a holding to what he's presented in the past and how he is in concert to rely on how we regard him. What we think he's perhaps capable of presenting to music.

    To a few fans still keeping up with the guy, it's curiosity.

  7. Anonymous10:13 AM

    Sunny, you make some great points. But, the obvious point you have missed is that Soul and Blues are not popular genres. These are not genres that are mainstream and it's appeal is limited to a relatively small portion of the U.S. population. No amount of arguing will change that, because that is a fact. Of course, Arista execs knows this and that's reason they created the album they did. They were trying to get more pop appeal to the CD to attract a wider audience, but it didn't work because it ended up being a confused and mixed up piece of crap. Remember what AI is all about? It's about making as much money as possible and selling as many units as possible and they knew that if they went with a purely blues and soul CD, it probably would have sold even less than it did. Trust me, that's exactly what happened.

    Also, I believe Taylor won AI based solely that he was entertaining to watch and his performing skills were far superior than his competitors. He did have charisma and he is easy on the eyes and those were contributing factors also. But, as far as pure singing ability and voice, Chris Daughtry and Eliott Yamin are much better vocalists than Taylor and that's part of the reason they are getting the airplay and Taylor is not.

  8. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Well Sunny, something tells me, that we have not seen the core of what Taylor has inside and the best is yet to come. Sometimes getting to the inside is the hardest part and then understanding what is going on in there is confounding, but all in all Taylor has something to say (or sing) and he will very soon, and everyone who is curious and just here or there to see what he is going to do next, will shake their heads in amazement at what has been brewing all along. Still waters run deep and although Taylor has seemed still, his waters are running to his core, his muse is with him and she is fueling his fires. Good for him and good for us, I say. All good.
    Be well. Drop me a line.


  9. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's true that the AI winner signs with a label that wants to make money and lots of it. But I WISH American Idol were about giving the winner THEIR shot in whatever genre they shine. Too bad they homogenize the winner's music to fit Top 40. It's a shame, but it ain't gonna change.

    I believe what you said, anonymous. Taylor's a deep guy, stubborn, driven. He would probably love to say a big FU to his critics with the new CD. (Sorry, I'm not in a good mood today. Let me say that in a more PC way. A more HOMOGENIZED way, if you will. ha

    I'm sure Taylor has learned a lot about the artistry of creating music as well as the business end of getting it to the people, so I'm confident that the next CD will be great!

  10. Anonymous12:04 AM

    I think for his first attempt his c.d. was not bad at all. I could see the flow of it, or the vision he was going for. To me it was not as bad as some people were saying.
    Seriously the only really bad song on it was Runaround..jmo

    I'm excited about his next c.d and am sure it will only be better..I hope he challenges himself musically and goes out of the strickly SOUL BOX pigeon hole he is in right now. I hope he expands creatively and instrumentally,trying new sounds and new mixes. You know you can mix the old with the new.

  11. Anonymous at 12:04AM, I think it's a good thing to mix old and new. Anonymous at 10:13 said it was his type of music, Soul and Blues that are not big sellers, alluding to artists who embrace those types can't succeed. Taking your theory 12:04 AM, let's consider some artists who have melded old with new to great success. Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Ray Vaughn (RIP), the list can go on as long as I want to type. I haven't even ventured into current hot artists. Take Hip Hop and R&B, mere derivatives of old Blues and Soul.

    Take one of my favorite Hicks' tunes, "West Texas Sky" with the flamenco sounding guitar, the country melded feel and tone. He mixed it up on that tune nicely.

    I think what you may be referring to as a SOUL BOX pigeonhole is his still using that faux Ray lean, running with that type of hype. He needs be real and let some of that camera posing reflect his reality not the AI picture he painted.

  12. Anonymous10:14 AM

    Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Ray Vaughn, had their big success and big hit singles years and years ago. As a matter of fact, Eric Clapton had more success when he when more pop. These artists sound is just not viable today. Their appeal TODAY is niche market ONLY. Also, the fans they had years and years ago, most likely have stayed with them and basically have grown old together. That's what artists strive for and it's reason for their longevity. Little Stevie Wonder was 12 years old when he started in the business - the majority of the fanbase back then - all teens.

  13. Anonymous 10:14, I just grabbed some well-known names out of the air. These guys are still well known today and their music still heard. Man, Clapton's still marketable. I disagree that these artists' are not viable today. They still get that attention and respect.

    You don't have to be a sounds-like-Maroon5 or Nickelback knock-off to succeed today. You do need to have a sound that grabs the listener. Man, you have something unique to offer without depending on gimmicks and schtick - that isn't gonna hack it.

    It is irrelevant how old Little Stevie Wonder was when he first caught public attention. What lies as relevant, the man was able to mix Pop and Soul to create his unique style and distinctive sound.

    Bringing up those 'old guys', merely to serve up well-known musicians as success stories who made it by melding genres.

  14. Reading over at Caryl's blogspot, one poster, handle, Unanimous brought up important aspects concerning today's music industry and marketing. Alternative means needed today with the trend for most commercial radio stations to stick to the set of 40 odd tunes they play in rotation, and their inability to select songs from a mass variety of music available.

    From what Mr. Hicks' has alluded to, he's on it, working for alternative business practices for getting his next album out and in the market. There are more options than Clear Channel broadcasting.

  15. Anonymous1:32 PM

    Alternative music is not popular anymore, Sunny. It was short-lived with the grudge period. Some of the music was good, especially Pearl Jam, but a lot of it was just horrible depressing music. Most associated it with heroin-use.

    Pop-Alternative artists, like John Mayer or Jason Mraz have a much higher success factor than alternative.

  16. I wasn't talking about Alternative music, '1:32 PM', I was talking about alternative marketing ideas.

    But as you already know, speaking of Alternative music, I still enjoy Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It was a new innovative period in music, expanded the scene and developed new artists. An unfortunate side effect was heroin enjoying a comeback of sorts, as if it's ever gone away, with the 'heroine chic' publicity, the life and death of Kurt Cobain. I am a big fan of Dave Grohl.

    Heroin's been tied to artists and musicians throughout history. Ray Charles, as you know, was a junkie for a very long time - folks know how the Jazz musicians were noted for their drug usage. The great Billie Holiday, another junkie; man the travesty of her life was the narc squad coming to arrest her while she was dying.

    Regarding the Pop-Alternative you mention,I really like the direction that Mraz is moving and growing toward.

  17. Anonymous5:07 PM

    OK, got it now! Yes, drug use is an unfortunate side affect of the music industry. Hopefully, we hear about that less and less with upcoming artists, but probably will never totally go away.