Is Creativity Dead? Let’s Discuss Eras
IS CREATIVITY DEAD? LET’S DISCUSS ERAS
What was your reaction when Billie Eilish posted the iconic photo of herself with blonde hair? I, and the other 23 million people who liked the photo, didn’t think she was just trying something new. This was the beginning of a new era. This photo was a farewell to the Los Angeles singer-songwriter’s debut era When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and a window into her sophomore album Happier Than Ever.
Many music artists use eras and world-building as a strategy to build up anticipation for their upcoming album. Take the Weeknd for example. To promote his album After Hours, he wore the same red suit his character wore in the music video for “Heartless,” as well as in other music videos such as “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears.” He would even wear the suit to do promotional performances on talk shows or award shows to continue his narrative.
It wasn’t until his 2021 Super Bowl Halftime performance where we got to see the red suit for the last time. If you’re not a fan of the Weeknd or you haven’t been following the story, then the halftime show may have left you feeling like it was lackluster or confusing. However, to those who have been on this ride for the past two months, it was a show that left you feeling like you were witnessing the end of a film, symbolizing the end of an era.
Music enthusiasts know the standard format of an album release. You get the lead single that represents the album the best, and maybe a second or third single to establish themes that could be discussed, or its artistic approach. But is this format dying out? Do eras still hook people in anymore? Well, these are tricky to answer.
In the age of social media, we have seen a shift in marketing music. Before social media, artists needed to rely on their creativity so people would buy their CDs, cassettes, and vinyl records. Buying physical music was an investment because it wasn’t cheap. And the music industry knew that. They needed to prove to the general public that they are worth their money.
This isn’t the case today. Now, the most popular strategy to market an artist’s music is by going viral. We saw this in 2014 when Musical.ly went public. Yes, it was a bunch of teenagers lip-syncing to songs, but it was effective. And it introduced a new way of marketing to the music industry. Still, because it was something new, there were many skeptics. This skepticism was popular until TikTok became public in 2016. It was the same concept as Musical.ly but was combined with the void left by the deletion of the short-form video app, Vine. Soon it became undeniable that whatever song was currently viral on the app also did well commercially.
Dances were created for songs such as “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé and “Say So” by Doja Cat. Both of these songs have gone on to peak at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, promoted their associated projects, and were even nominated for multiple Grammy awards.
But, aiming to be viral or having a dance associated with an artist’s song can ruin the magic of an album rollout. If you hear a song over and over again on TikTok, it could saturate the substance of the song. Creativity can easily be lost in marketing the album instead of them working hand in hand.
Nonetheless, there are still artists that value an era. Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and Harry Styles are a few mainstream artists that used imaginative creative directions to promote their newest albums. The public responds well to this by creating outfit aesthetics, makeup looks, or anything that makes them a part of these musical worlds created by the artists.
At the end of the day, people need to stop looking for originality. Pretty much everything you can think has been done instead. Instead, we should celebrate eras that are innovative and experiment with the limits of artistic expression.