Posted by: markfender | April 8, 2015

Rock Opera

Attention Musicians: You only get one rock opera.

tommy-movie-bluray-elton-johnRock music is already pretentious. There’s leather pants, feather boas, and prancing. Screaming/singing/humming emotional journeys is all well and good, but then you gotta dress up in the most ridiculous way possible. We, as consumers, accept that there needs to be an air of showmanship around popular music. It’s all connected, somehow, and even expected.

Connecting all of your songs into one coherent story is pretty much the height of pretentiousness. Most of them are just about disaffected youths who go on spiritual quests, usually with the help of terrible role-models: Mr. X, St. Jimmy, or even Uncle Ernie. A lot of them end in death. They can be popular and effective pieces of musical theater, but that’s the thing – they’re theater. A band doing a rock opera is essentially showing off. And since musicians are already showing off by being rock musicians, it just seems slightly tedious for us, as an audience, to have to celebrate you for your ridiculous demeanor, your music, AND your storytelling abilities.

And yet, they’re a pretty cool achievement. If you can pull off a coherent story told through separate musical pieces, it’s certainly something to celebrate. You’ve reached the height of grandiosity. From atop your golden throne, you can look down at your fawning audience and know that you’ve reached the heights of rock stardom.

Which is why you can’t do it again. Now, you’re just showing off. And while people will accept that your first rock opera somehow was burning a hole in your soul and needed to be told/sung, there’s little justification for doing another one. What heights are you trying to achieve, except to say “Yep, there’s another one.”? There is no need for Operation Mindcrime II. There’s no need for 21st Century Breakdown following after American Idiot. (I’d argue that there’s no need for Quadrophenia after Tommy, except that it might just be that Pete Townsend is the exception that proves the rule.)

Rock musicians: you get ONE rock opera. Better make it a good one.

I don’t even know what to think about Coheed & Cambria.


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