Everyone has a favourite band, this one group that they love and would travel miles to go see. But chances are, there’ll be one person in the band that they love a little bit more than the others, someone they idolise. 99% of the time, that’s the singer. I love Pearl Jam, but I’m a bigger fan of Eddie Vedder compared to the other members. Equally Nirvana are incredible, but the majority of their fans are in it for Kurt Cobain and less so for the ever maligned Krist Novoselic (Grohl has other issues). Why do we always look for one person in a group as the main man? It might be beacuse they write the songs, so the real power of the songs is coming from them.
Let’s not ignore the age-old tradition of the singer-songwriter. The one man/woman that makes all the music themselves. The Bob Dylan, the Elliott Smith, the Frank Turner. These guys do alright without a bunch of people around them, don’t they. They don’t need a band, and seem to be doing well enough on their own. Nowadays modern artists with a bit of dosh can recruit/computerise the sounds of the rest of a band. Which leads us all to this question….
Is a band better than a solo artist?
What you get with one artist is all the undiluted genius of that one person. If that person is partularly Godly, then this is amazing. We just need to look at people like Dylan and Neil Young to see artists with clear vision crafting the music that perfectly expresses them. There’s no dicking around and each song comes directly from the heart. With one guy in charge of music and lyrics the songs can be direct, and focused in on the emotion.
The problem of course comes in that no artist can ever do better than they can. That may sound like a nonsense sentence, but here’s where the band has the advantage. A singer/songwriter can make the best music he/she possibly can, but a band can make music together better than anything they could seperately. Don’t believe me?
Let’s look at the great songwriting partnerships. Lennon/McCartney, Morrissey/Marr, Jagger/Richards. All these groups shaped music incredibly and their songs are some of the best ever written. But when apart, they just couldn’t match the stuff they did together. Lennon was awesome, but he couldn’t top his beatles stuff, and I just don’t like McCartney at all. The Smiths were nothing without the interplay of Marr’s music and Morrissey’s lyrics, and as his solo stuff proves, the words are not enough to be great.
Yes, Artists can create great, focused songs of deep and clear emotion, but it is in the fusion of influences and styles that real genius comes. Looking at the great bands shows us that the whole really can be greater than the sum of its parts.
As everyone know knows, I adore Arcade Fire, and Win Butler’s songwriting is clearly phenomenal, but it’s the band that really makes it what it is. Also lets not forget, you can rock out a hell of a lot better with a bassist and a drummer than you can on your own.