Editorial :: Music Aging Gracefully

It has occurred to me lately that I’m getting kind of old. Not mothballs and orthopedic shoes old, but old enough to remember 20 years ago. Not well necessarily, but I certainly remember it. And this realization has all kinds of new implications that I never particularly thought of until now.

The latest example of this came up while I was talking to my brother about our favorite albums of all time. This inevitably led to a discussion of our favorite artists of all time. I’ve always found these kinds of conversations difficult, because as I’m sure you can tell by now, my musical taste makes me seem like I belong in the cast of United States of Tara. How can you rank Incubus’ Morning View against The Roots’ Rising Down against Sara Bareilles’ Little Voice? Can’t be done.

Anyway, we began talking about one of our mutual longtime favorite bands, Incubus. Now, Incubus has been around for-ev-er. Or, since 1991. Same thing. As an artist, your goal is undoubtedly to evolve your sound, which means unless you become a sellout like Nickelback, all of your albums are going to sound markedly different.

But what if you don’t like the direction that your favorite band goes in? What if you find that you’re drifting apart (like people do)? How do you then respond to the question “what is your favorite band?” What kind of asshole says “oh, Incubus circa 1998 through 2003.” I might slap that person in the face.

But it’s true. When you’ve been a fan of a band for so long, it becomes necessary to specify: at what point in their career were they your favorite? Unless your favorite band is maybe The Beatles, in which case there’s no need to specify. Anyone who has only heard Incubus’ recent escapades would get the entirely wrong idea about the kind of music I like. I will always respect Incubus for their musicianship, their longevity, and their adaptability. But their latest album, If Not Now, When? I could take it or leave it.

So, as any of my college professors would say, “get to the point.” My point is, in order to answer the question “who is your favorite band?” I would need to provide you with a full report, categorized chronologically by genre with tables and color coding. But maybe that really is the true test of a great band – will you outgrow them, or will they get gray and wrinkly right along with you?

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