By November 16, 2006

When musicians move on, and fans stand still

I have been a huge fan of DJ Shadow since Endtroducing dropped in 1996. I go back to listen to tracks like “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” or “Organ Donor” and marvel at not only how innovative the music sounded back then, but how much it still moves me today. DJ Shadow introduced me to the turntabilist music genre, and is a huge influence on my listening habits to this day.

All things must change, and a decade after his landmark solo debut DJ Shadow released The Outsider last September. I just found about it thanks to Maxim magazine, of all places. I gave the album a spin, and I can definitely say that DJ Shadow has refused to risk musical stagnation. The Outsider is different than any other DJ Shadow album — and unfortunately for the fans of turntabilism, that’s a horrible, horrible thing.


I understand the desire for a musician to break away from their established sound, or the desire to avoid typecasting. DJ Shadow made slight modifications to his methodology and sound successfully before. I am thinking specifically of the acoustic drums on Preemptive Strike, but also the more vocal-heavy songs on Private Press, . Endtroducing was 100% sampled, and the mix of self-created versus composite sounds on Shadow’s two followup albums was a smart and logical transition.

The Outsider features a lot of rappers and artists from the Bay area. The vocalists sound, and the lyrics read, like any typical pop-rap that you can hear on satellite radio or independent terrestrial stations. Whereas Shadow’s previous albums were groundbreaking, The Outsider sounds more like a tweener movie soundtrack, or perhaps even an album by someone else but produced by DJ Shadow. Aside from the opening monologue, there is little on The Outsider that is reminiscent of his previous style. Was this intentional? Absolutely. Here’s a quote from Shadow once the album started getting a lukewarm reception:

Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that. So I think it’s time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist.

So, this is what happens when a musician moves on, and his fans stand still. I reckon Shadow will move on to producing other hip hop-style artists, and it will be another four years or so before we see another solo release. After listening to The Outsider a few times, I hope it might be even a little longer than that.

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2 Comments on "When musicians move on, and fans stand still"

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  1. “So I think it’s time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist.”

    Here’s another quote: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

    In other words, one can be a fan of an artist, but that doesn’t mean one has to lap up everything s/he produces. I don’t think that means the fan is necessarily standing still.

  2. Herschell / Special*Dark says:

    “So, this is what happens when a musician moves on, and his fans stand still.”

    Amen.

    ~Spec