Why is it wrong to sound like yourself?

One of my pet peeves is how some music reviewers criticise an artist’s new release because they sound like themselves. There are some artists that constantly or regularly change or develop their sound so they are expected to change. Some artists don’t. What is so wrong with that?

Blow Up Your Video, AC/DC's 12th studio album

Blow Up Your Video, AC/DC’s 12th studio album


A rather infamous quote from AC/DC Angus Young in the late 80s sums the situation up beautifully – “I’m sick to death of people saying we have released 11 albums that sound exactly the same. It’s actually 12 albums that sound exactly the same.”

I remember reading a popular music magazine’s reviews back in 2002 that criticised the album “Corporate America” by Boston. I don’t mind criticising an album with good reason but to have a go at Boston for sounding like themselves was ridiculous. If the writer had taken the time to research the band they would have realised that its leader, Tom Scholz, is fastidious about how a Boston album sounds. His main aim was to create what he felt was the “perfect” rock album. He even went to the extraordinary lengths of demolishing and rebuilding his studio twice in a decade, two albums in a row, just to to create the perfect location for capturing those sounds.

Boston's 5th album in 25 years, Corporate America released in 2002

Boston’s 5th album in 25 years, Corporate America released in 2002

The irony was that other reviews in the same issue by the same writer were giving high praise to a number of new act’s recordings for sounding like punk bands from the late 70s. So in that writer’s eyes it was OK to sound like someone else from 25 years before just not yourself! Another WTF moment in my humble opinion.

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One thought on “Why is it wrong to sound like yourself?

  1. sleepydwarf

    I love the fact that I can rely on some of my favourite artists to sound like themselves every time. I know their music and I know what to expect and am rarely disappointed when they do *them*. But the really good ones still manage to keep each new release fresh, whereas some others are same-old same-old every time and you wonder why they bother to release any new material. It’s a fine line I think.
    Then again I also love some of my other favourite artists manage to reinvent themselves almost every time – yet still remain true to who they are and totally authentic in just about everything they do. (You know who I’m thinking of in particular.)

    Reply

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