In light of the polarizing responses to Bring Me The Horizon’s latest release Amo, Dylan Tuck dissects fan reactions to changes and questions, just who is music made for?
If a lead-singer of a band comes forward to mockingly joke they’re loving “how much [a] record is polarizing peeps”, you know something is up. So while Bring Me The Horizon frontman Oli Sykes is hardly going to lose sleep over fan negativity, the response to his band’s new release Amo has been interesting and does raise a few questions.
Amo highlights a sonic shift in sound that sees the Sheffield lot mixing things up in more than one way, dropping the meat-on-strings metalcore style they became renowned for and incorporating far more electronic and pop influences – even collaborating with pop-star Grimes and beatboxer Rahzel. It’s a really genre-blurring release, and a million miles away from what the band have ever done before.
Many fans of the band have loved the new sound for its experimental texture, its willingness to delve deep where a lot of bands wouldn’t dare to go – you don’t see many rock bands go full on grime-metal and still making you want to go elbow-swinging in the pit like “Why You Gotta Kick Me When I’m Down” does – but it works, and actually, absolutely slaps. Many other bands, artists and hot-shots within in the alternative scene have also taken to social media to show their admiration for such a daring release, while the majority of critics have been involved with the Bring Me The Horizon love-in too. To give an example of the scale of success I’m talking about, these guys have just got their first ever number one album in the UK albums chart. It’s a big deal.
Yet, outside of this shiny bubble of positivity, there’s a voice disrupting the good vibes, self-righteously scribbling the words “sell-outs” frantically on the walls of this positive little world. In fact, if you listen, you’d hear a lot of voices – a mob-load of pissed-off, disgusted metal-heads, filling comment sections with their flaming torches and lobbing all sorts of shit at the band – how dare they change, what an outrage, right? Nope, wrong. While not everyone is actually getting violent about it, there’s certainly a large number of people clearly dissatisfied with the “new” BMTH.
It’s not uncommon in the alternative scene (particularly metal) to find fans criticising bands or artists for trying something out of their comfort zone. Metal-heads are, and I mean this whole-heartedly, the absolute worst for this. You see it time and time again when bands attempt to drop the heaviness even slightly to mix things up, and fanbases get parted like the Red fucking Ocean as a Moses-like, heavily-tattooed guitarist from Sheffield discovers that keyboards exist, lays down the down-tuned strings, and prepares himself for an Atlantic-sized wad of pissy backlash. A release is a little less rip-your-organs-out-and-wear-them-as-a-grizzly-necklace? That band’s a joke now. Did you hear that band’s new record? The frontman only screamed his lungs out on eleven songs, they’re so lame. You get the picture. So imagine the reaction to Amo, with its zero-fucks-given for smashing EDM, electro-pop and heavy-rock into a big old bowl and mixing it all together into a tasty cluster of all sorts, like putting sugar, chili and cement into a batter – except the results were delicious.
Yet, all this really asks is who the hell is music for? The artist? Or the fans?
Radio One Rock Show host and generally much-loved icon with in the scene, Daniel P Carter put it wonderfully on Twitter: “Imagine an artist making great work for their own enjoyment and not for anyone else. When Adrian Ghenie moved away from figurative painting to more abstract work, I don’t think he had a shit ton of people tweeting him ‘the exhibition at Thaddues Ropec is dogshit m8’.” Music as an artform (which it is, don’t call me pretentious) is arguably far more publicly criticised than others simply because it is common culture, highly mainstream and absolutely everywhere. Because of that, and due to the nature, popularity and accessibility to humanity’s next biggest mistake – social media – everyone can now have an opinion on things – be it good or bad. That’s not to say other artforms aren’t criticised, it’s just that music in particular seems to be the big, bad boss of the art world that everybody seems to beat the crap out of. Carter is right, you don’t really see a lot of other artforms criticising change – be it film, art, theatre, yadda, yadda. So, when change is apparent, is it alienating fans for the sake of doing it – something you couldn’t imagine an artist, who most of the time may be both financially, artistically and critically dependant on their music being a success with fans, critics, you name it – or just that they want to expand, and try something new?
When put like that, what band would purposely think to themselves ‘right, that last record was a great hit with our fans. Here’s a solid idea, lets ditch what they loved just to mug them off’, while sinisterly laughing at how hilarious it would be to take fans’ money and release pure shite. It just doesn’t work like that. What really happens is, like you and me and everyone else on the planet, people change. They grow, they see, hear, feel new things and, with that, their attitude to their profession, position, lifestyle, mentality may change with them. For an artist, that change is expressed through, you guessed it, the medium of art. Bring Me may have started as five lads from Sheffield who just wanted to create cut-throat deathcore that was as heavily ‘Shreddy Brek’ they could possibly make, but they formed 15 years ago and experienced a lot of life in that time – as any other band would, heck, as any other human would have. That’s why so much of Amo tackles issues with love, as since their last record That’s The Spirit came out in 2015, Sykes has been married, divorced very publicly, and married again – and that’s just over three years. Most artists create what they want to, what they want to hear or listen to themselves – if you were on tour for half the year, you’d want to be playing songs that you liked, right?
So no, music isn’t made by artists for the fans (at least not all the time), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for the fans to enjoy. BMTH have changed dramatically in the small space of two albums, and for those in the scene who hate the sound of anything other than metal and feel attacked by the group ditching that style, I’m afraid the problem’s on you. There’s nothing wrong with loving a band’s old sound and wishing they made more records in that vein, but to critique because it’s simply not ‘their old sound’ is unfair. If it’s bad, don’t listen, critique it if like – as long as you can back it up. If it’s good, then enjoy it. Music is for everyone, but it’s not made with the intention of pleasing everyone – that’s just how it is.