When Tears for Fears released the album “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” in 2004, the future of the British pop duo, or lack thereof, seemed clear.
“I think it was the last hurdle,” singer and guitarist Roland Orzabal said on a recent video call from a home he owns in Los Angeles. “I think it’s a great way to put a stop at the end of a sentence.”
Tears for Fears experienced a period of considerable success in the 1980s, highlighted by worldwide hits including “Shout”, “Head Over Heels”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and ” Sow seeds of love.” The group endured a nasty disbandment in the early ’90s, after which Orzabal continued under the Tears for Fears banner while his first bandmate, singer and guitarist Curt Smith, performed. showing solo albums, both of which were steadily declining in profits before they patched up. their difference.
But in the music industry, there’s rarely a full stop at the end of a sentence. While pop music is often a measure of the present moment, it is always woven into the unrelenting past. Bands rarely break up; they continue to interrupt. A successful career can outlast the performers who once powered it. Nothing, not even death, can stop the roaring engine of trade. Scooping up new hits and new stars is a gamble, but the past is the most certain thing the music industry has to contend with.
For a while, Tears for Fears joined, quite casually, in this nostalgic industrial complex, playing their hits on periodic tours of casinos and wineries and around the summer festival. But while the lifecycle of what the industry calls a legacy act is increasingly rich, it’s not as appealing.
Smith said in a separate video call from his home in Southern California. “We are a legacy act that will never work because we need new material to keep us excited. Trying to find that new material is the hard part. ”
This was the concrete starting point for a protracted adventure that would eventually yield the band’s first album in 18 years, “Tipping point” due Friday. But this tension between commerce and art is hardly unusual for any artist with a portfolio of past hits. Collating it usually takes time.
Tears for Fears is just one of a number of veteran plays that have re-emerged as a recording entity in recent months after a long stint on the sidelines. Abba, Jethro Tull, Wet Wet Wet, the Temptations, Boo Radleys and Men Without Hats have all released their first albums with new material in more than a decade, or are about to. For some, the pandemic may have played a role in their comeback. With the closure of tours spanning the past two years, many artists have experienced a drop in income. And with long periods of sitting, it’s no surprise that musicians often write songs.
Eddie Roeser, guitarist and vocalist for the Chicago alt-rock trio Pushing more than necessary, who released their first studio album in 11 years, “Oui” on February 11, said, “the only way to play together and have fun is to work on new things.” Urge scored modest hits in the 1990s with “Sister Havana” and a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’re Be a Woman Soon,” but Roeser remained wary of being “a hit machine.” biggest. Anyone who makes music professionally is scared to come up and play a song that people come to see the show. “
In the 1980s, British synthesizer duo Soft Cell often refused to play their biggest hits, “Love Hurts,” in travel. “We were so fed up with it,” said David Ball, the group’s multi-instrumentalist. “Nostalgia Machine,” a song from “Happiness Not Included,” Soft Cell’s first album since 2002 (scheduled for May), is a bold nod to past obsessions. of the industry. “The reality is that everything is recycled and reused,” says Ball.
He and singer Marc Almond initially reconnected at the behest of Universal Records, to discuss the Soft Cell boxed set the company will release in 2018. The pair agreed to perform what then. considered the “last” performance at London’s 02 Arena that year.
“I said to Marc, ‘Don’t say’ the final. ‘ Never put ‘final’ on anything,” Ball said with a laugh. “At the time, we didn’t anticipate the pandemic. I think people had a lot of time to sit and reflect, and he thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t say that.” “The duo sent back and forth new tracks during the Covid lockdown in the UK, and made the entire album remotely.
Advances in home recording also support the Doobie Brothers, who released “Liberte,” their first album of new songs in 11 years, in October. Singer-guitarist Tom Johnston said: “To get the whole band on it took weeks or even months to do it. show an album. Now, “we can finish an album in a week and a half.”
Tears for Fears began working on the new material more than six years ago and said they were directed by their then-manager, industry veteran Gary Gersh, in collaboration with professional musicians. in a series of writing sessions. “They’re going to come up with this accompaniment that sounds like the classic Tears for Fears,” says Smith. “But we have already done it. In the end, it was a kind of disappointment. ”
The pair performed well, and by 2016 there were 12 completed tracks. They began negotiations with Universal, who already owned the rights to most of the band’s catalog, but the label offered to stop releasing a new album and instead drop the second set of biggest hits – the first came out in 1992 – packed with two new songs.
“Universal said, “The Greatest Hits will get you back into the limelight, then we’ll move on with the album! Orzabal said. But after the hit pack was released, there was no agreement to compel Universal to release a new album, and it wasn’t picked up.
This created an existential crisis for the band. Orzabal wasn’t sure what to do with these new songs; Smith wanted nothing to do with them. “It all sounded like a bunch of futile attempts to create a hit single,” Smith said. “I said, ‘If this is really something you want to do, you should, but I can’t participate.’”
Before Orzabal could decide on his next move, the rest of his life felt sad. His then-wife, Caroline, died after a long period of depression from alcoholism and depression. After her death, Orzabal struggled with her own mental health, spending time in and out of the hospital and recuperating.
He wrote the title track of the new album about the painful experience of witnessing Caroline between life and death in a hospital bed. The song energized him, and a conversation was arranged with a record label to discuss the release of the new Tears for Fears track. After the meeting, their manager quit.
“He emailed us afterwards and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Orzabal said. “He said we’re a legacy artist and that’s all, and there’s no point in putting out any albums.” (Gersh, who is now president of global touring and talent at AEG Presents, declined to comment.)
In pure business terms, it’s hard for a veteran act to justify spending time and budget on writing, recording, and releasing new songs when the money is spent on tours, buying Shop and get your old hits in movies, TV shows, commercials or even TikToks.
Johnston of the Doobies said: “Now, going into an album is not the same as before. “You don’t get the same payback as you used to. So where before, you would do an album and tour in support of the album, now it’s the other way around.”
For veteran artists, live performances are significantly less likely to drive sales or new music streams than they are to boost an artist’s comeback catalog. Tears for Fears lived through that time advertising “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” which is annoying, but as Smith notes, “It’s still our income.” The band’s past commercial success gives the luxury to make decisions based solely on artistic merit. He added: “The hardest thing for managers for us is that they always deny the fact that we don’t care much about whether we’re going to be hugely successful.
In the end, what cleared the way for a new album was a return to making music the way they had when they first met as teenagers. In early 2020, Orzabal and Smith got together and, with a pair of acoustic guitars, released “No Small Thing,” the folk rock epic that opens the new album.
“It’s just the two of us, before the pandemic, with no band of musicians, no record company interfering, no managers, no enmity,” Orzabal said. They reviewed material from previous sessions, eventually remaking some of those songs for “The Tipping Point,” to be released by Concord Records, an independent label.
“The best thing that happened to us,” Smith said, “was to be left alone.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/arts/music/tears-for-fears-heritage-acts-new-albums.html What happens when the ‘Legacy Act’ wants more than just playing hits?