def jam island records

Naked

Is there a reason why you are naked in my bed…..

I had been coming home late from extended studio sessions, always exhausted, usually spending more time immersed in my music than at home.

Lately my friends have been busy with up and coming projects and I’d been so focused on this new album. Recently I decided to come home early; exhausted from working 24/7, I just needed a long break, at least a week to myself.

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When you realize that Lyor Cohen, CEO of Island Def Jam Records, told the band Hanson that their uphill struggle in getting their next record made was not only a subversive attempt to be dropped from the label, but also because some artists “like to be tortured” in order to spur the creative process.

I’m telling you, nothing about One Direction’s situation is ordinary for artists in the industry, and yet it’s incredibly typical for a very specific business model. Their label has never been interested in developing them as artists and evolving their creative process, never. In these boys you’ve got more than you bargained for. You don’t just have five pretty faces who wanted to sing and dance and make a dollar and then move on, you had five young men who were truly committed to making art their lifelong venture. Your business model developed deep passion and reciprocal commitment amongst the fans of this band. The problem here is in taking individual drives and personalities and mixing those with a dual business model that combines the traditional boy band set-up that’s a fairly standard model -flash in the pan, very little focus on development or artistic progression or evolution, all about the money- with maturing fans who remain committed and want to see an artist they feel a personal investment in take that next step forward.

Hanson came about at a very strange time in American music landscape. We were steaming fast toward the flashy teen pop craze of the late 90′s (The Backstreet Boys self-titled debut album debuted the year before Hanson’s debut Middle of Nowhere, and *NSYNC’s first album debuted the same year, though Britney Spears wouldn’t premiere for another two years, and same with Christina Aguilera). Hanson fit the age demographic of these same acts, Isaac Hanson was seventeen, Taylor Hanson was fifteen, and Zac Hanson was twelve, when Middle of Nowhere debuted. But their music was always and had always been technically superior and vastly more mature. MMMBop was this catchy tune that saturated basically everything, everywhere, and everyone in 1997. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing that song.

But their documentary “Strong Enough to Break” shows what happens when an artist in a broken industry attempts to exert any control whatsoever over their own art while under a label that either doesn’t know what to do with them or has very specific plans for them that the artist isn’t going along with or living up to. In Hanson’s case, the label wanted another MMMBop– they wanted catchy, snappy, feel good pop music with a rock “edge”. I’m sure that had Hanson rolled over and played dead with IDJ, they could’ve cranked out more highly manufactured pop-rock tunes to fill a niche in the glossed over market. What they wanted, though, was something vastly different. They wanted to grow.

In One Direction’s case, there’s a reason they’ve worked with the same writers and producers (give or take a few here and there) for their first two and then their second two albums. What this does from a label perspective is give an illusion of artistic development while still maintaining the bottom line of their model, which is to crank out as many albums in as many years as is allowed. Simon Cowell has no interest in seeing any of those young men become respected industry presences for their writing, producing, or artistic talent. His interest lies purely with money. And when comparing One Direction with Hanson, an organically developed act with good people behind them from the start (who had their interests in mind), the deck is stacked against them.

I think the catalyst for change with these boys will live and die in the next six months to a year. The fanbase is there and wants to support them, the talent is very obviously there and has been displayed time and again, now it’s about making good decisions. I’ve no doubt contracts and releases have already been signed, but I do hope for their sake that these are decisions that give THEM freedom and peace of mind to continue to develop their creative process.

I truly don’t think this is the last of One Direction.