Natural Progression

Musicians have recently more than ever been jumping from one art form to another. explores the rate of success and failure amongst our daring songsters

“Everybody wants to be famous, nobody wants to be nameless, aimless, people act shameless, try’n’a live like entertainers”, and in an attempt to highlight the truth in these lyrics, not content with making millions from music, Dizzee Rascal wants to be a photographer. Rascal’s photographs are inspired by things he has seen as a touring musician. “I’ve travelled around a lot since my first album and I’ve seen so many mad, different, interesting things, and I always took pictures along the way.” Mad and different are apt descriptions for his works, some of which include a fishing net against a cloudy sky, and a ripped leather chair. It would be difficult to argue that they show real ingenuity, as his subjects are fundamentally mundane, and sadly without the aid of an expensive lens, they could only be described as decidedly ordinary.

It would seem that many high profile musicians of our time are intent on broadening their horizons and critical reception in a variety of genres. Kele Okereke, lead singer of Bloc Party, announced earlier this year that he has been writing a book. Believed to be an “erotic memoir” of short stories, it would seem that the singer has been focussing all his attentions on literature, rather than progressing with the band. Storytelling is a natural progression for the lyricist, a good song is inherent on the fact that it effectively tells a story, and therefore the fact the Okereke should want to write does not seem to be out of the ordinary. He says that: “there’s just nothing to do when you’re on the road all the time, so it’s good to do something to engage my mind.”

What is difficult, however, is to discover whether the uptake of a different artistic medium is based purely on vanity – the vehicle of fame catapulting them into the public domain regardless of their talent – or motives?

It is not a trend confined to the young and fresh: Madonna’s The English Roses became the fastest and largest selling book ever by a first time children’s author. It’s printing in 40 languages and availability worldwide is surely undeniably linked to the singer’s massive status as a musical icon. Bob Dylan, who could arguably be deemed the forefather of this monopolising of the artistic market, wrote literature that is well known worldwide.

Clearly success breeds success. Musicians are special in that they evoke an almost idol-worship culture within their fans and listeners; they are boundless and the opportunities they are given outside the musical sector reflect this golden lifestyle.

Although undoubtedly linked, skills are not necessarily transferred and we mustn’t forget to filter the “shameless” efforts of some musicians in favour of those with a real interest and talent. Whilst Dylan’s this has been highly successful – probably due to his status as one of the greatest lyricists of all time – his painting and artistic endeavours are somewhat dubious. The Drawn Blank series is painted by what appears to be an unaccomplished hand and would arguably not be half as popular had they not been his. It is almost a right of Dylan’s to be able to occupy all spheres of expression.

Alex James, Blur bassist, Doctor of Arts at Bournemouth University, and Artist in Residence at the Department of Astrophysics at Oxford describes the relationship between his three passions, music, art and science in a differing way and with enviable succinctness: “Art and science are both methods of approaching truth. They meet somewhere and in that place, there is music.”

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