It’s a fact of life that at some point in the creative process we all lose control of our work to those who actually consume it. Once I put the finishing touches upon a music review or piece of commentary, my portion of the creative process is complete; it is up to readers to decide what to make of it. But it’s easy to forget sometimes that for all the meaning we ascribe to our favorite songs, their creators may have had completely different associations with the work.
Ask any band that struggled to find succcess, happened upon a hit single out of nowhere, and then just as quickly was sloughed back to obscurity. You’ll hear a similar tale. That same band might go on for ten more years writing perfectly workmanlike music but they’ll forever have their name and musical reputation tied to that song which made it. So what happens when, decades on, you’re ready to admit as an artist that the music you’re known for is complete rubbish?
At a certain point the artist’s creation moves beyond his or her control, and becomes the property of the listeners who define its real value or meaning.
All of which makes this critic wonder: is there a point where artists should step back, shut up, and admit that, while they may hate something they recorded in their past, it has meaning to the fans, and therefore there’s a value to not dumping artistic baggage on music beloved to fans?
Apparently Mike Doughty has pondered that question and decided that the answer is a resounding no.
Doughty has spent the last decade writing low-key pop music in an acoustic vein, twisting bits of electronica into his sound as he sing-raps songs like “Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well” and “Na Na Nothing.” And he’s been lucky enough to be able to continue to make a living in the world of music, despite the fact that he left Soul Coughing (the band which made him famous in the first place) more than a decade ago. Still, hearing fans request Soul Coughing songs at his shows has apparently aggravated him so much he’s reduced himself to lashing out at fans individually on Twitter: