A few years back, a friend and I were discussing music, and came to realize that there were a lot of artists who were formerly great and had come to suck. The specific group that this discussion centered on was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We wondered when a group that performed joyous R and B inflected songs started performing song after song in which Anthony Keidis bemoaned his poor sex and drug-filled rock star's life. In the course of this discussion, we came up with the idea of the "suck-point"-- the point in which a formerly great artist started to suddenly suck.
Around the same time, I began to hear the phrase "jumping the shark." It referred specifically to an episode of the old "Happy Days" show in which Fonzie ski-jumped over a shark. It marked the point where the show was struggling for plots, and was rapidly becoming unwatchable. I realized that it was pretty much describing the same phenomenon-- something that was formerly great, now suddenly sucking.
For some artists the suck-point is clear. For Stevie Wonder, it was his horrendous Grammy-winning single "I Just Called to Say I Love You." The amazingly talent guy who'd written and performed so many of my favorite songs-- "My Cherie Amor," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "Living For the City"-- was now turning out such tripe. It was heartbreaking.
I was highly amused when I went out to see the movie "High Fidelity," and there was the exact same discussion about the exact same artist.
For other artists, the suck-point is less clear. For the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the suck-point was camouflaged. It was in the middle of one of my all-time favorite albums, bloodsugarsexmagik-- the song "Under the Bridge." If it had been a lone, retrospective song, it would have been great. Unfortunately it was the beginning of a growing string of piss and moan songs like "Scar Tissue," "Soul to Squeeze" and "Otherside."
There are others, like REM and U2 that haven't actually gotten bad-- they've just ceased to be interesting to me. I wish they'd quit just because every time I hear them, I remember how unbelievably great they were when they were turning out albums like "Reckoning" and "The Joshua Tree."
And then there are others who, every time you think they are about to suck, turn out an amazing album, like Bob Dylan, with "Love and Theft."
Do you have a favorite band or artist who reached their suck-point? Who were they and what album or song?