Recently, one of my all-time favorite bands, Muse had a new album come out, and its release reminded me of something that a lot of consumers, especially in this day and age, forget: Creatives can make whatever the heck they want.
Too often I hear fans complain about a creative's new work. When J.K. Rowling released The Casual Vacancy, I heard people gripe about how she should have written another fantasy, or specifically a Harry Potter sequel. One person even said if she had any business sense and wanted to make more money, that that's what she should have done. I once read an article where the writer couldn't understand why J.K. Rowling was even writing anymore; she'd already made so much money writing Harry Potter so why would she want to put in the work to write anything else?
Similarly, I saw people a little upset to learn that Suzanne Collins's (author of The Hunger Games) next writing project was going to be something "ordinary" and "boring."
Months ago, I was looking at Spotify with someone and we ran into a Lady Gaga album, Cheek to Cheek. All the songs had a very "old-fashioned" jazz sound. Nothing sounded modern. The person I was with said something like, "Why would she even make an album like this? No one is going to buy it. I bet her fans were all disappointed."
Well, here is a newsflash for all the consumers out there. Creatives don't exist to serve us.
They don't owe us a thing.
Not all creatives create to make enough money to swim in. In fact, most don't.
Who the heck cares that Joe down the street thinks he knows better what J.K. Rowling should have done with her career? It's her career. It's her life. And The Casual Vacancy is what she wanted to write. J.K. Rowling can write whatever the heck she wants. She doesn't owe us anything. Her Harry Potter books have already done more for the world today than perhaps any other book.
If Lady Gaga wants to do an old jazz album, she can. So what.
Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinions. And opinions have a place. Today, more than ever, fans and consumers have a voice, and it's powerful, and more important than ever to companies and public figures. And there is nothing wrong with being critical of another's work.
But this post is not about that. This post is about a different side that I so rarely see people take into account. That creatives aren't required to please us.
Yes, it's nice when they continue to give their fans what they want.
But there is something beautiful about them creating whatever the heck they want.
Isn't it enough that we get to share in any of it? Isn't it enough that we get to share in J.K. Rowling's story about Harry Potter? She could have just put it in a drawer in her room. She didn't owe us Harry Potter.
And it's not like the fact she wants to write in different genres diminishes Harry Potter.
The other day, I was looking up Muse on Youtube, and I looked at the comments. I was curious about what people had to say since I feel like Muse's last two albums have quite a different sound from their earlier albums. One person ranted that they couldn't figure out what the f the previous album, 2nd Law, was supposed to have been. Others agreed. Some couldn't get over the lyrics of one of Muse's new songs.
I love all their albums. One thing I love is the fact that they do mash different kinds of music together. They smash together symphonic and heavy rock and alternative and dubstep and futuristic and retro. They sing about love and family. They sing about mind control/mental freedom and revolutions and a collapsing world. They've got guitars and a piano and a harmonica and a keyboard and an organ in their music. Their previous album, 2nd Law had a futuristic sound paired with an 80's flare. Their new album has some songs with a bit more of an 80's flare alongside heavy rock, with one track that is nothing but soft beautiful vocals that almost belong in a church pew.
But, this post isn't about my opinion on their albums. My point is that Muse, J.K. Rowling, Lady Gaga and anyone else can create whatever their passionate little hearts desire.
They don't have to do it to please the masses. They don't have to do it to make money.
They have the freedom, and we all have the freedom, to do it simply because we want to.
No, Lady Gaga's Cheek to Cheek album won't appeal to the masses. J.K. Rowling's Cormoran Strike series won't get the audience Harry Potter did. Some people will never comprehend why Muse combined the retro with the futuristic in 2nd Law.
But so what.
There is something beautiful about them pushing themselves in fresh directions. There is something beautiful about them doing what they want, even if it's not as popular. There is something beautiful about them sharing any of what they create with us.
And we need to remember that.
So, if you are one of my followers, who followers me for my writing posts, today I hope you'll remember that you have the freedom to write whatever the heck you want. Sure, there are consequences to what you write, but remember that you're allowed to write for yourself.