It's fashionable to be making ambitious resolutions around this time every year, so here's mine for 2014: I resolve to cease using the word "flop" when it comes to musical projects. That word is ready to be retired, for our collective sanity.
To some extent, we all ride the roller-coaster narrative of pop music. We monitor the various movements of a pop artist's career -- their singles, albums, tours, noteworthy performances and extracurricular activities -- as if their lives were amusement rides, ratcheting up a few clicks at a time, spiraling downward every so often, and only growing dull whenever standing still. The practice of anticipating a spectacular fall from an unsustainable peak feels like a cocktail of danger and excitement... and is followed by the inevitable climb upward that feels equally invigorating. It's a fun ride! But it's also a fake one. The velocity of the storytelling always works against the friction of fact, as we collectively declare that one artist is "flopping" when they're doing no such thing.
Sensationalism swallowed up 2013 in especially disconcerting ways. Justin Bieber, a veteran artist but also a 19-year-old, was perceived to be cratering, thanks to some dizzying tabloid stories from his international tour, the lack of a hit single to follow a handful of Top 10 songs in 2012, and a new documentary, "Believe," that became an also-ran at the box office last month. "The Downfall of Justin Bieber" was a tidy story to tell, and after his pre-adulthood upward trajectory spanned multiple years, some even welcomed, or trumpeted, the thrillingly depicted slide.
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