Is Beyonce Peaking? The 12 Year Mark

Since it's my diary, I can write what I want m-kay? Over at my twitter account (3WCHOG), I speculate that Beyonce may be now peaking as a pop-star and that from here it's all downhill.  The former Destiny's Child lead singer has released a new single "Bow Down/I Been On," is truly awful.  Musically it's atrocious and the lyrics are vulgar:  especially for someone who has carved out a pretty good niche as a female artist that is appealing to younger audiences as well as older audiences.

My theory is that the biggest pop stars:  Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Mariah Carey--the biggest of the big--only have 12 years of relevancy before they become irrelevant retro-acts.  Great artists can have less (Jimi Hendrix only lasted about 3 years before dying and the Beatles had a good 7 year run before choosing to break up while on top), but no artist can have more than 12 years of being truly relevant. (I'm not talking about their first album to their last album.  I'm talking about their period of relevancy in which they influenced the music scene and set the tone).  12 years. That's my theory.

I'd argue Prince was relevant from 1978 to 1990 (Batman Soundrack).  He still wrote a lot, still a great performer, but not a part of the cultural musical fabric anymore.  It's nostalgia.

Madonna?  1983 to 1992 "Bedtime Stories" produced by BabyFace.  After that, her influence really waned.

Michael Jackson (solo artist) 1979-1991 (Dangerous).  Dangerous was a lousy album, but he still got his airplay even though it sold half as much as "Bad" which sold half as much as "Thriller."  The albums after that nobody remembers and were not on the radio.

U2 (and I say this as a fan) 1987-2000.  That's being generous actually.  They ceased to be the biggest ban in the world, or influential, or trendsetting with "Pop" and the Pop-Mart tour.  "All that You Can't Leave Behind" in 2000 was an album that was completely tanking.  Were it not for the September 11th attacks and their embracing that moment (especially with their song "Walk On," their period of relevancy would have ended in the mid-1990's.

Bruce Springsteen 1975 to 1985 (The Live Album from the Born in the USA Tour).  After that, Tunnel of Love (my favorite album) did poorly.

Some of my favorite artists like The Police or Duran Duran had even shorter lifespans.  Led Zeppelin and the Doors ended tragically before their relevancy ran out.

Some often forgotten people who had excellent but shorter runs were:  Phil Collins, Kool & the Gang, Hall & Oates, The Bee Gees, Abba, and Guns N' Roses.

Perhaps it's that 12 years is a good portion of a generation and after that, there's no way to not become a nostalgia act.  And of course, it's rare that any artist can put together a string of great albums.  The absolute best artists may produce 4 or 5 really great albums in their careers.  But even then, they usually peak pretty severely.

Of course an artist can come back with a great album (Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind", Paul Simon's "Graceland," Aerosmith in the late 80's/early 90's, and David Bowie's latest come to mind), but it doesn't make them musically relevant.  They just remind us of their good musicianship and why there were once relevant.

I don't really believe Beyonce writes her own songs.  There's no evidence of that.  She doesn't show the slightest inkling of knowledge about music.  She's got a pretty airy voice compared to Whitney, and her type of R & B is not my thing.  But she is an incredibly hard worker (like a machine) and she built up a great brand---one which was appealing across a pretty big demographic sway.  But it's about time for her star to fade.  She comes off as nice, but she is one of the least interesting personalities out there.

With her new edgier, "R" rated single, she is making a miscalculation that a lot of clean-cut artists make:  they think dirtier will keep them relevant as they age.  But the reality is that millenials prefer the clean cut sound to the darker, negative vibe.  But I'm sure all her producers and writers (especially her husband Jay-Z) are all Gen-Xers and will steer her (like they did Britney) toward a harder edge as she ages.  Beyonce has dabbled in this before, but the new song is over the line, in my opinion, and will cost her.  Janet Jackson made the same mistake--getting more sexual and raunchy.  She lasted from 1987-1997 ("The Velvet Rope" ushering in her demise as a relevant artist.

"There is a season to everything.  A time for hits, a time to play Vegas."

To hear Beyonce's lousy new song.  Here it is.