D’Angelo, Frank and Maxwell.
Since the passing of Prince I’ve been pondering why I became a diehard fan of his and something rare that is attributable to the cult of Prince is the sheer quantity of work he put out there. There was much that could frustrate and confound his followers but when it came to delivering content to listen, dissect and discuss we were never left wanting. And that’s before we get into the morally murky area of Prince bootlegs. When you ‘dig’ art or possess the ‘fannish gene’ there is an insatiable appetite for more content, that’s why Star Wars is a billion dollar franchise – we like a thing, we want more please. If someone told me they had a new Prince joint in their bag, my response would be “why are we still talking and why am I not listening to that new …ish right now!?”
Which bring us to genius. Okay, ‘genius’ is a title that’s bestowed too liberally, as is that thing I just said about it being bestowed too liberally. But in this instance I’m using genius as a means to refer to the creative’s that simply made something that made me feel something…and then left me wanting more. Prince moved at an incredible pace, often competing with himself by flooding the market place with music but some artists struggle to keep a consistent schedule…
D’Angelo is another one of my favourite musicians, he’s in constant rotation on my playlists and I easily listen to one of his albums every month. One of his three albums. That’s right, despite emerging in 1995 and being hailed by the likes of Q Magazine with plaudits such as “one of the 50 bands to see before you die”, his released studio output is relatively slim. That’s not necessarily a complaint, I mean his Voodoo album is so dense a text that I happily spent a decade unpicking it, it’s also a sign of a new more artist driven era, where unlike the Motown days of old, the writer/producer can perfect their work until they feel it is just right. The sense of euphoric joy when Black Messiah dropped 15 years after D’Angelo’s last album was immense but at the same time, to us mere mortals it is frustrating and we sometimes find ourselves asking; does the artist know when it’s just right or is their quest for perfection a fruitless task?
Frank Ocean is the latest victim of ‘late delivery disease’ and is probably the quickest genius to succumb to it. Debuting in 2012 his genre bending, sexually enlightened and sonically futurist, Channel Orange, he has gone straight into the “missing in action” category in record time. His second album, Boy’s Don’t Cry, was due…erm this time last year. It’s like having an amazing meal at a restaurant on holiday, you tell all your friends about it, Instagram your #foodporn and then next time you return three years later it’s closed down. It’s hard to champion an act when they appear to be in danger of disappearing up their own genius vacuum.
However, as with D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, when the new album is in sight – release date set, single released and pre-orders available – it is a joyous thing. After a sporadic release schedule, silky voiced R&B crooner, Maxwell, who gave us 1996’s, Til The Cops Come Knocking, and is basically a modern Marvin Gaye with more enlightened gender politics, promised us an album trilogy called Black Summer’s Night. The prospect of this influx of new Maxwell material was tantalising to say the least but unfortunately ‘late delivery disease’ took hold of my boy Maxwell again and after 2009’s first charming instalment of the trilogy, BLACKsummers’night, the second part was pushed further and further back. BUT… we’re told July will see, BlackSUMMERS’night, get its release at last and I couldn’t be looking forward to it more. Patience is a virtue.
Don’t get me started on my other musical hero George Michael.
I suppose the problem here is that terms like ‘delivery’ and talk of ‘release dates’ commodities’ what is a creative process. Not everyone is so easily struck by the muses as Prince or prepared to be vulnerable by putting quickly rendered work out there; I find writing sometimes like pulling teeth yet at the same time something I’m supposed to be good at. While I’ve mentioned artists that are important to me, I’m sure you dear reader are followers of your own tardy genius’. And that is what we as music fans must come to terms with. We’re not the artist in question; creativity isn’t just natural talent, its tortuous hard work and requires confidence in the work they’re putting their name to. It’s just hard to be the one waiting.