The art of ‘selling out’

I’ve always been annoyed by people who stop liking certain things just because they’re popular, most specifically in music. People will all of a sudden turn on a band or artist, saying that they don’t like them anymore because they "sold out."

First of all, what does selling out really entail? After all these years, I still haven’t figured this out. But it really angers some people and turns people against things faster than the Yankees bullpen can blow a lead (sorry Yankees fans, I had to do it). One of the most glaring examples of this in recent years is Green Day. In 2004, they released "American Idiot," which I think I’ve listened to about 50,000 times since then. Of course, all my friends and I loved it. But after it started selling like crazy, and the video for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" took over MTV, they turned on it instantly, saying, you guessed it, they sold out.

That kind of behavior is just ridiculous. Personally, I don’t care that a lot of 12-year-old girls think Billie Joe Armstrong is hot, I love Green Day and I have since fifth grade. Some turned on them because they were popular, while others turn on bands if they change their sound slightly, and it just happens to create a surge in popularity among that group. What people don’t realize, and what bands like Green Day do realize, is that if you want to have a great musical legacy and gain the respect of your peers, you have to tweak your sound a little bit.

There are numerous examples of this throughout the history of popular music. Look at The Beatles. They could’ve made "A Hard Day’s Night" over and over again, but they wouldn’t have the same legacy if they didn’t make "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver." R.E.M., another one of my favorites, has released 14 studio albums, and they all sound completely different from one another, Pearl Jam is the same way, and they also have great musical legacies. U2 could have lived off "The Joshua Tree" forever, but they made "Achtung Baby," which sounded nothing like them, and they continue to experiment to this day. So you can’t blame Green Day for making a political rock opera that sounded more like pop in some places instead of writing more songs about sniffing glue. Only one band has had a 30-year career without changing their sound, and that is AC/DC. They are the exception, not the rule.

Another aspect of this phenomenon is the "overrated" effect. When something gets really popular, after a while people will start detracting it and say that it’s overrated. This happens a lot with movies. I call it the "Titanic Syndrome." "Titanic" is the highest-grossing movie in history, everyone went to see it. Ask anyone about it now, and they’ll tell you how overrated it was and how it didn’t deserve any Oscars or anything like that. Pretty soon, there will probably be people who’ll think "The Dark Knight" is overrated, and say that Heath Ledger only won because he died.

Listen, lots of things are overrated. The movie "Crash," the original "Star Wars" movies (except for "The Empire Strikes Back"), Dean Koontz novels, Mariano Rivera, you name it. All I’m asking for is some consistency. Don’t say you love something, and then turn around and say that something is overrated or a sell-out. But if you do change your mind on something, own up to it. Don’t say that you’ve always thought "Titanic" was overrated, even though you said 11 years ago that you wanted to run away with Leonardo DiCaprio. I don’t ask for much from people, but I’m asking for this.