Once you find a favourite artist you immediately become obsessed. They may have a unique style, or write songs that you can relate to or perhaps their music is linked to some of your favourite memories. You start listening to it on repeat, committed to listening until you’d rather shove needles in your eye than hear it again. We get excited when that artist releases a new track or album, we read interviews and listen to teaser clips. However, one thing often makes many music fans a little nervous and that’s experimentation.
Trying new things is heavily encouraged within our society, yet we sometimes choose to remain loyal to one food, genre or lifestyle. It starts out young; I’m pretty sure we can all remember our parents saying, ‘How do you know it tastes gross if you haven’t tried it?’ or ‘Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.’ It’s so interesting that, in a world with depths and peaks unexplored, we fight so hard against change. We’re afraid of the unknown, terrified of what lies beyond our comfort zone and paralysed by the fear of failure. This is just for ourselves, so why does this fierce loyalty extend to music artists?
Now, some artists will regularly play with new genres and styles to the point where fans expect it; Prince, Lady Gaga and early Ed Sheeran all tested themselves often. However, if one artist remains true to one genre then decides to shake things up seemingly out of the blue then fans can sometimes resist this change. For the sake of my word count, I’m going to focus solely on electronic pop legend Owl City. Before you say it, I know that’s weird, but frankly Owl City, A.K.A Adam Young, is amazing and I want to talk about him. So, strap yourself in ‘cause here we go!
If we turn back time to 2007 (I’m absolutely not having an existential crisis about the fact that it was a literal decade ago) the world received Owl City’s first album ‘Of June’. It laid down the foundation of his sound; dreamy, poetic and chilled electronica. Owl City’s sound was unique and underrated until 2009 when he released Fireflies, a track on his soon to arrive album ‘Ocean Eyes’. People went nuts over ‘Fireflies’ and it climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.K. Singles Chart. It has since had a resurgence with a tweet that turned the lyrics into a meme. Although he had reached the charts, Owl City remained true to his sound. However, he changed his tune in 2011 when he released ‘Midsummer Station’, an album that heavily incorporated pop while trying to keep the dreamy and poetic staples. It received a fair amount of backlash from fans who felt that he was just adding to the empty hollow pop that we were sick of hearing and that he had lost his particular sound.
Now, I was also unsure of how to feel about this transition. In fact, on the first listen I was really unimpressed and agreed with many that it just did not sound like him. However, the more I listened the more I found him and, when I received surprise tickets to see him in Hamburg in 2012 on his ‘Midsummer Station’ tour, I freaked out. Seeing him on stage being passionate, excited but most of all thankful for this new evolution was the final thing that made me change my mind. From then on, I have cheered every new step and experiment. I still supported 2014’s ‘Mobile Orchestra’, although it is one of my least favourite albums. Then came the scores.
2016 brought a brand-new project for Adam Young. He challenged himself to write and produce an album a month until the end of the year. Each album centred around a historical event such as the voyage of the Titanic or Apollo 11 which he tried to portray in the style of a film score, desperately trying to convey each moment as he sees them. In his own words;
‘And so, as I listen to the works of the composers I first fell in love with, I feel a great longing to create my own version of that same wonder and euphoria that moved me as a young impressionable musician. I want to create worlds of sound that tell stories and tales in ways that cannot be described with words. I want to explore a vast, wild universe of storytelling and create in others the same fascination and curiosity I felt.’
I will say this right now; as someone who is a massive film score fan, I adore this entire project. The fact that these were all created in a month each is a feat. That combined with the fact that each album and track is so expressive impresses me. My favourite tracks are ‘The Pilot’, ‘Land Ahead’ and ‘Southampton’. Sure, it’s not electronica, but I am so ridiculously proud of Adam. This project is amazing and soulful that I feel like I got to know him better in a weird way. I listen to these albums all the time and they helped me get through many a university assignment. I’m greatly looking forward to what surprises you have for us next, Adam.