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Kim Schulze

The Dark Arts

2011-07-29 14:44
The tortured, tragic superstar is hardly a new concept. Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, John Lennon, and of course, the recently much-mentioned "27 Club". There’s a controversial idea that some people just aren’t meant to live forever, and were never going to.

Amy Winehouse’s music was a breath of fresh air in a world churning out "generic" pop. She was a retro sound with a voice with so much soul, not a single person could ignore its allure. Many would never have looked into it any further, all we need is the good music. But a closer listen to her songs would’ve told you that that sort of lyrical, soulful brilliance never comes without true pain and heartbreak behind it.

It wasn’t too long after Amy’s big break with Rehab that the stories began. We’ve read all the drama: the drug use, the drinking, the bad choices in husbands and lovers. Back to Black was released and had the world hooked. But it wasn’t long before all the attention focused on the crazy. A mob drawn to an over-exposed car crash; thrilled to see the truly talented and gifted; the deeply bruised and fragile, fall. We really hate seeing someone who has more talent in one buck tooth than we’ll ever manage to conjure up, succeed. Well, we hate seeing it for too long. We always want them to eventually falter; fail, and prove that they’re not invincible. There was never a gap for us to romanticise Amy Winehouse. We knew about the drugs and booze before her second single hit the airwaves.

Tortured heart

The truth is, we only get this kind of memorable brilliance once in a while, because the people who bring it to us will be perpetually tortured. Elvis was haunted by a prescription drug addiction. Joplin was taken by heroin. Drugs and booze are usually the main culprits; used, we can only assume, as a means of numbing an overactive mind and tortured heart.

We don’t really connect to a song about driving to work or loving weekends. How much cred would you give Rebecca Black? We need real writing skill to put into music and words emotions we can’t describe. Adele is another good example. Just like the monstrously talented before her, we also need Adele’s darkness to remain with her - even if it’s not as life-threatening as a drug problem. We need her heart to keep breaking to hear her beautiful, passionate voice sing about it; for her eyes to well up during a performance, to feel things us mere mortals can’t bare to.

And when artists do get happy and content, there’s a brief phase of joyful brilliance, followed by a "What now?'" stunt in creativity. She may not be a pure-bred songwriter, but Christina Aguilera is a good example of this. Her Stripped album was angry; full of heartache - brilliant. Then she married that ugly bloke and made babies with him. She was deliriously happy, and we got the fantastic Back to Basics album, with Candy Man and Ain’t No Other Man. Then, *poof*. No inspiration. Nothing more to say. How inspiring is a song about contentment? Contempt, maybe, but not content.

Russell Brand blog

Some people’s creativity burns them out. And we don’t realise how big or small a role the media-labelling plays in that. And don’t make the cop-out mistake of separating yourself from the media - you (we) lap it up. We take in every disaster celeb story with "oohs" and "aahs" and our two cents of sanctimonious pity and opinion. The public and the rag mags, and even reputable news sources, emotionally beat these people up. For not being 'good role models', for not 'straightening themselves out', for being so selfish as to not sober up long enough to give us more to listen to. The direct effect of this public flogging is debatable, and I think it’s safe to say a combination of the artist’s own inner demons and the pressure to please the public, or appease it, is what eventually whittles them down.

People are protesting that Amy should have been saved; "we" should have helped her. Are these permanently damaged souls savable? It’s always interesting to see the sympathy pour in once someone like Amy dies. Along with what I feel is very unwarranted hate. I referred a bunch of folks to Russell Brand’s blog about her. It was a touching piece that steered away from the rhetoric in the news. And something that gives those of us who will never understand the affliction of addiction a bit of perspective, and hopefully, understanding.

Everyone’s waxing lyrical about the meaning of this all; the tragedy of her death. It’s not as complicated as that, I don’t think. Addicts will tell you that it’s a battle every day, and a day they don’t die is a day they’ve won. She simply lost, that’s all.

* You can hear Kim every weekday from 9am - 12pm on 5FM for more candid opinions and hilarity. For extra sass and some profanity, follow her on Twitter: @KimSchulze


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