The Creative Paradox - Artistic Freedom Ground up in the Fame Machine - Stereo Stickman

The Creative Paradox – Artistic Freedom Ground up in the Fame Machine


What did we learn from the recent documentary covering global superstar Lewis Capaldi?

The acoustic singer and songwriter rose to fame from a quiet corner of Scotland, writing powerful pop songs and delivering them with a faultlessly passionate vocal sound.

It’s a dream that drives the many who step up at open-mic night, pale-faced and scared to make eye-contact – or perhaps overly zealous and intent on world domination. In any case, only the few get chosen, stumble upon the right pathway or email address. The rest merely get to witness the rise of another.

We saw it happening, we liked the personality, his refreshing honesty and unedited appearance. We sank into a reflective slump.

Lewis Capaldi shot to stardom overnight (not really, come on indies). Before we knew it, his was a household name. He’s not the first, far from it, but could he be one of the last?

In the case of Lewis Capaldi, fame came with its usual pressure – bigger stages brought greater fear, the sweetness of anonymity became a thing of the past, and the impact on his health and well-being was undeniable.

Maybe it was only the songwriting and performing he loved, the intimacy and freedom, the connections and one-on-one conversations – all of which is now under the thumb of some giant corporate hand. Does it make sense at all to place such a thoughtful treasure under such a whopping bright light? The poets of yesteryear often saw no such stages, thus their work continued to connect and grow and ignite something genuine (albeit, often due to a life of unbearable despair, but that was at least a relatable kind of turmoil).

The very best songs come from a place of real reflection, of talent, musicianship and (hopefully) originality. They’re often written at the start of a career – not exclusively, but in a staggering number of examples. It’s a time when a creative has something to say, and no particular reason for saying it other than they felt the urge, and it came out – in a musically expressive, freely creative way.

To then capture that individual, in a metaphorical butterfly net of sorts, and throw them onto the conveyor belt of fame and aspiring popularity, is surely to employ vast amounts of pressure and, essentially, squeeze their very soul and carefree expression out of existence.

Some can handle it, this bizarre situation in which the world feels as if they know you better than anyone, and yet you know nothing about them. Perhaps it’s like constantly bumping into someone who claims they went to school with you – they list events, memories and moments, only to confuse you with uncertainty and guilt.

Lewis Capaldi is one of many who’ve suffered an unexpected difficulty on reaching some level of fame. There are, in reality, thousands. Kurt Cobain makes for a lasting example – an undeniably raw artist, and someone who openly rebelled against the capitalism of the contemporary music industry.

Prince is perhaps another, and Jimi. Then there’s Tracy Chapman, who bowed out gracefully and, one would hope, now enjoys a life of solitude and freedom once again – her legacy rightfully in tact. I could mention so many others who struggled with their newly found pedestals. Susan Boyle, Wet Leg, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Billie Eilish, Elliott Smith. Feel free to comment your thoughts and stories.

In short, Lewis Capaldi is in good company.

Some artists who rose to the top continued to learn and recapture control of their journey. Some, however, crumbled under the weight. Others stepped aside on realizing the sheer magnitude of it all.

It’s not a natural setting for a contemplative artist, this industrial machine of fame and vast global reach. Not for any human at all, really. So why do we continue to employ it?

The truth is, things are changing drastically – the indie realm has taken back control to a bold degree, with platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Spotify allowing artists to reach as many as they can, without the support of any outside mediums or an industry at large. They can post, they can earn, they can thrive, or they can step aside. There’s less corruption, less power scattered above, less of a need for puppet-masters.

The music label and promotion teams still matter, they help those who want and deserve it, but there’s far more of a balance on the smaller scale – a career can happen, without the need for infamy or a Hollywood star. This is better, surely? More sustainable, and in favour of real art? Let’s see how things pan out in the coming years.

Got any thoughts on this topic? Drop a comment – Let’s talk!

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

One response to “The Creative Paradox – Artistic Freedom Ground up in the Fame Machine

  1. Thank you for the revelation in this article. My name is Alex (Liosha in local) I’m from Belarus. I haven’t done music before, but I’ve always loved it. As a child, I made a couple of beats that we listened to and it seemed to us not bad. A few years ago, I recorded a beat track with lyrics by poets from all over the world. It was not in my native language (English). I studied this language in school for several classes and practically do not know it. I memorized the endings and pronunciation a little. So I do not know this language and speak only Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian and a little Polish. I still didn’t understand what I was singing about). I’ve tamed the words to my flow. And something came out. I’ve never done this, but I enjoyed the process. And I liked what happened, of course, if you make a huge discount on everything. There is a lot to work on. But for me it’s like psychotherapy. Sometimes it seems to me that I’ve gone off the rails, but I’ve found a lot of like-minded people here. These are people who do what they love. And none of them told me that I was crazy))). I have released two more songs in Russian. I started to catch the style, I can try to adopt the style of the famous in my own way. And my eyes were opened to the vast world of creativity. What I’ve been missing all my life. And it was lonely and not easy. I feel at ease. And here you can combine all my skills with mine, I can already say safely – Hbbi. The more I am with music, the less I care about the petty problems that caused me to split up. Now these trifles are solved by themselves. I want to experiment with RnB, Rap, Pop. Maybe I can even perform somewhere in a narrow circle. These emotions were not enough for me. I am what I am. I’m glad I found it and can cling to the music.

    after I read your article I try to fight with myself and ask myself this question ?

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