Absence breeds fondness, or so they say. Certainly it’s easier to remember someone fondly when they don’t happen to be constantly in your face, waving their various annoying quirks like a particularly irritating baton. This is speaking in personal terms of course. But do the same rules apply to musical artists? It’s a strategy—or, depending on who you ask, a fortunate decision made for all the right reasons and without regard to music sales—oft employed by artists who find themselves either on decline, in need of some respite, or bored by their constant shower of success and acclaim. Leaving seemingly forever, dropping the mic to general dismay before showing up again in six months like:
Regardless of what LL Cool J tells me, I’ll call it a comeback. So let us delve into the industry’s most recent and illustrious comebacks from the expected to the shocking and everything in between. The Rolling Stones have been on the scene for just shy of forever, and shocked everyone when they recently announced their final world tour. So, like the masters of musical suspense that they are, Keith and the band dangled the possibility of a world free of Mick Jagger’s skinny, long-surviving rock n’ roll physique It’s a basic principle that works as well for musical artists and bands as it does in economics—create scarcity, whether real or imagined, and the saps (otherwise known as consumers) will line out the door to get at whatever threatens to fade into nothingness. Look what implied lack of supply did for Hostess. One whispered, vanilla-scented rumor that the company is going under is heard on the wind, and suddenly people are treating Twinkies like people treated Beanie Babies in 1999.
In this case, the musicians themselves are the product in question—the Twinkies and HoHos that people will rush into the grocery store like a mob of post-apocalyptic looters to stock up on. Mick, Keith, and the rest of the gang are about to paint themselves even further into the black with their comeback-tastic announcement made only a few days ago—the Stones are venturing into the studio once again. Yep. They’re recording again. And you can bet the legions of people who shelled out hundreds of dollars for the farewell tour tickets will be shelling out yet again to get their hands on that sweet, sweet recorded gold—a Mick Jagger dinosaur of an album that was thought to be extinct but resurrected through some well-placed mosquito blood. Or just the desire to make millions of dollars. You choose.
Comebacks can also be healing in a way. A phoenix-like resurrection of something you were sad to suddenly find absent. That’s the kind of serious statement Mike D, one third of the Beastie Boys, made when he told Rolling Stone of his intention to make music again. The result? A kick-butt remix of AWOLNATION’s hit, “I Am.” This comes after a two year silence in the wake of frontman Adam “MCA” Youth’s untimely death in 2012. In a recent interview, Mike D was quoted as saying, “When I heard ‘I Am,’ it had the anthemic dynamics that we associate with Awolnation…I had a different version in my head of what the song could be, so was happy to be able to manifest that” (via Rolling Stone).
More serious examples of the phenomenon aside, one might say that comebacks are one part ego, two parts business sense. And that’s a ratio I can get behind, especially when it results in killer music. So keep on keepin’ on, or coming back, as it were, ye disenfranchised musicians of the world. I salute you.