It’s a question I recently put to Owl City. I found his answer really interesting:
“If you create something and it’s sincere and you’re not writing a song to get airplay solely based on ‘I have to write a song this way because I know it will get played on the radio’. If you finish a piece of music and you’re so thrilled about it and nobody can convince you to change it, that’s where you know you’ve captured a level of success that the industry doesn’t know how to measure.
“So much of the way the industry is run is based on ‘we have to make this kind of sound because we know it’s going to do well or is hot on the radio right now’. If a song is finished and means something to you, whether it goes to number one or doesn’t get released at all there’s something special about that.”
Is success money-dependent?
Before you point out it’s easy for a musician with a contract at Universal to make such comments, let’s remember where Adam Young came from. For many years, Adam was using his sleepless nights (he’s a long time sufferer of insomnia) to make music in his parent’s basement.
Uploading his music to Myspace, he had an audience which started with a handful of fans. Today he has over 500,000 friends on Myspace (I know! Who are these active users of Myspace? I haven’t met one for about 10 years)
The point is that Adam Young knows what it feels like to make music that doesn’t make it big. To him success is not associated with numbers – both in terms of size of audience and size of pay packet.
On the other hand, it’s all very well talking about how true success is just staying true to yourself. But many would argue that if ‘staying true to yourself’ results in bankruptcy then Adam’s comment loses its impact.
Is success everlasting?
I believe that one of the most important things anyone could ever learn about success is that it’s always temporary. Superhero’s lyrics: “In the end it’s all gunna burn up so we’re just taking what we need for the journey” highlights this. The truth is when we die – and whether you believe in an afterlife or not – our possessions, our success, our wealth and our fame remain on earth.
Look at the Pharaohs of old who were buried with all their wealth. Where are these great kings now? What’s left of their bodies may be left in those pyramids or museums but they didn’t take their armies or treasures with them to the afterlife as they once believed. Their soul, their personality and who they were as individuals is long gone.
Reflecting on death isn’t something I’d normally recommend, but when it comes to the topic of success, this is a helpful avenue to go down. If all your success, wealth, possessions etc is temporary then the rat race is at worst questioned and at best loses all of its power on an individual’s life. If you understand that the legacy of how you treated others would be remembered and celebrated a million times more than how many DVDs you collected or how many promotions you received, perhaps we’d all live a little differently?
Is success poor?
There’s been quite a bit of talk in the Christian world of late about living “radically” and giving literally everything away to the poor. Such preachers will take Jesus words out of context to provoke their audiences into believing that God requires the same thing of every individual - to sell everything and give all the money to the poor. (If this were true then the rich would become poor overnight and the poor would become rich overnight – so nothing would actually be solved. The roles would merely be reversed.)
Giving away your worldly possessions. Giving millions to charity. It sounds very admirable, and of course it is…
But I come back to Superheros lyrics – which I believe to be based on Biblical principles. They do not read: “In the end it’s all going to burn up so we’re not taking anything anywhere”. No! We live in a world where some things are necessary for our time here on earth.
Money is not the root of all kinds of evils. But loving money is. This allows for a system where Christians don’t have to feel guilty about being wealthy or having nice things, but they do have to guard their hearts to make sure they are not worshipping money.
It seems to me a balance must be struck between being truly generous with our time, money and possessions – so that we can help those in need – and recognising that having nice things is not sinful or wrong.
If we can learn to just take what we need to get us through the journey (our time on earth) and not feed the consumerist monster that lives inside of us all, then this tricky word ‘success’ may start to make more sense.
Is success salvation?
I’ll leave you with a thought from Paul on his view of success. As you can imagine, it’s a lot better than anything I’ve written so far:
“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them crap, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
And that’s my musings on success, with the help of Owl City, the Pharaohs and St Paul. Now it’s over to you: What is success? Let me know in the comments.
Welcome to the third annual holymansam.wordpress.com Music Awards!
First up is Best Album
The nominations are:
Mylo Xyloto – Coldplay – The band have furthered their reputation as a group of musicians incapable of making a bad album. The barely pronounceable Mylo Xyloto was a great success, but you knew that already. The highlight was undoubtedly the band’s first single “Paradise”. Other notable elements include a collaboration with Rhianna and their stunning opener “Hurts Like Heaven”.
Wasting Light – Foo Fighters – This is a strong contender for Foo Fighter’s best ever album. It’s everything you’d expect from the band and more. Pure and simple rock music at its best.
Hands All Over – Maroon 5 – There was no need to write a song as terrible as “Moves Like Jagger”. Neither was it necessary to choose such an overly sexualised album cover. But neither of those two points take away the fact Maroon 5 have released an outstanding and massively underrated album. It’s always controversial to compare anyone to the legendary Michael Jackson but I’m going to be cheeky and dare to claim that the vocal ability, songwriting skill and all-round funkiness of this band is comparable (though not equal) to MJ’s.
Odd Soul – Mutemath – This is Mutemath’s most mainstream sounding album to date. As well as producing some of the best alternative rock music I’ve heard all year, they put together this outstanding music video for Blood Pressure.
Vice Verses – Switchfoot - The band proved they are in a league of their own with this excellent release. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from the band and more. Those of you in the UK may not be familiar with them as they aren’t big here, but now you’ve read this, you cannot claim ignorance. Check them out! [Read my full review here]
Aaaand the winner is….
The next award is for the Worst Song of the Year.
Rebecca Black – Friday The hate surrounding this song is probably more disgusting than the music itself. Nevertheless, it hasn’t been popular and all in all it’s easy to see why!
Maroon 5 Feat. Christina Aguilera- Moves Like Jagger The fact that this song is “catchy” is no defense. It’s not a redeeming feature when there’s lyrics like “take me by the tongue”. You can keep it Christina, no one wants it.
Justin Bieber- Never Say Never Ahh Bieber, why are you so unpopular? Part of me wants to say he makes people happy, leave the poor kid alone! As much as I dislike his music, I can’t help but feel sorry for the boy. I’m sorry Justin, but this isn’t a personality competition. And for that reason, Never Say Never gets its nomination.
and the winner is…
Best Song Of The Year (click the song title to hear it)
Furious – Jeremy Riddle. This is the best worship song that has been released all year. So powerful.
Dark Horses – Switchfoot. With their amps turned up higher than the “Meant To Live” recording, this is Switchfoot’s greatest single to date.
Black & White – Royal Tailor. Funky goodness from a band that appeared out of nowhere. The whole album was a most pleasant surprise.
Blood Pressure – Mutemath. They deserve an award of their own just for the video to be honest…
Slumber - Needtobreathe. This is the kind of song that almost anyone would love. Simple acoustic songwriting at it’s best.
And the winner is….[CLICK HERE]
Finally the last 3 award winners are…
Independent Release Of The Year – We Began by Chasing Owls
Worship Album Of The Year – Spirit Break Out by Worship Central
Band/Artist Of The Year – Owl City for Adam Young’s achievement of following up what could have been a “one hit wonder” with another fantastic album, that pushes the boundaries without re-inventing the wheel (mixed metaphor fail).
That’s it for this year folks! Thanks for stopping by. Please go ahead and share your best and worst of 2011 with me in the comments below.
As most of you know, I’m a part of Radio Sonar.
One of the privileges of paying £20 to be on the uni radio station is having the opportunity to have a say in what music is put on the playlists.
So every Thursday afternoon a few of us gather, listen to a minute of the latest song and vote. A List? B List? C List? or BIN!?!
It’s not exageration to say most weeks results in a fairly full bin. However once in a while you hear something that really grabs your attention.
One minute it’s a dark and cold Thursday evening, the next- “Fireflies” by Owl City is playing and everything somehow feels more…well…warm.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to pay Fireflies most weeks on Sonar, and it’s not just Southampton that is appreciating Owl City. The track was number 1 for three weeks in the UK Charts.
But I’ve never been one to judge a man (in this case Adam Young) on one track. So when an email from the man himself landed in my inbox tonight inviting me to listen to another of his songs for free, I jumped at the chance! Hot Air Balloon did not disappoint I really can’t wait to get my hands on the full album. It’s been out a couple of days and is called ‘Ocean Eyes’.
The more I look into Owl City, the more I love.
First off, there’s the voice. He reminds me so much of Dave Elkins- lead singer of a band called Mae. The likeness is actually crazy. Click here (and listen to any of the songs) to see what I mean. Mae are perhaps one of America’s most under-rated bands. They really deserve some more recognition both there and here in the UK.
But even more interesting than that. I’ve just found out a guy called Matt Theissen does backing vocals on Fireflys. Matt is the lead singer of another excellent (and under appreciated) band- Relient K. I’ve been following the Relient K guys ever since I was 13 so to see Matt pop up with Owl city is kinda cool!