Artifact

Between 2007 and 2009, the global economy faced a financial crisis. USA experienced the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 had multiple causes. Using business and economic terminology, I could explain the multi-faceted issues surrounding this controversial topic. But I’ll spare you the details. Basically the underlying reason is financial institutions lent out too much money and their borrowers couldn’t pay it all back. That’s the problem with credit.  When poorly implemented, credit can be very catastrophic.

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During the economic recession, the average American had increasingly less discretionary income to spend on luxury goods and services. The financial crisis impacted all industry sectors including the music industry. Also, there was a new player in the music industry. Digital music. It was rapidly gaining widespread popularity. Apple’s iTunes was the dominant distributor of digital music. During 2008, there was a significant drop in the sale of physical CDs. CDs were the main source of revenue for this industry sector. Yet this continued to still be the most popular format of music. With the digital era, it gave rise to a whole new beast. The illegal downloading of music. It prevents artists from being properly compensated for their efforts.

Since their inception in 1998, Thirty Seconds to Mars has experienced their fair share of hardship in the music industry. Their self-titled debut album didn’t garner much mainstream popularity. Thirty Seconds to Mars released their sophomore album in August 2005. A Beautiful Lie was a breakthrough album for them. It essentially launched their music careers.

Let’s put this into perspective in terms of the music industry at that time. Rock music genres had gained mainstream popularity around the mid-2000s. This certainly helped Thirty Seconds to Mars. They joined the ranks of other popular rock bands such as Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Seether, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Franz Ferdinand to name a few.

From their sophomore album,  the second single “The Kill” finally put them on the map. The band’s hard work had finally paid off.  They were floating on cloud nine. Also, the band wanted to create a documentary about the production of their upcoming third album.

Sadly, their success was short-lived upon discovering they owed Virgin Records nearly $2.5 million. Up to this point, the sales from their two albums had not generated any profits. Also, the record company hadn’t paid them their due royalties from these albums. They wanted to leave Virgin Records. In mid-2008, the band attempted to sign with a new record label. EMI, parent company of Virgin Records, filed a $30 million lawsuit against Thirty Seconds to Mars. According to EMI, the band had failed to produce three of the five albums obligated within their 1999 contract.

Here is some background information about EMI. In August 2007, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd, a UK-based private equity firm, acquired EMI for $4.7 billion. Terra Firma’s takeover implemented an entirely new restructuring plan for EMI along with 1,500 to 2,000 job cuts. The restructuring plan was intended to pay off EMI’s massive debts to Citigroup. Terra Firma’s belligerent business practices quickly deteriorated the relationship between the record label and their artists.

Artifact_2They fought hard for their survival. During this time, the band was recording their third studio album. The record company had absolutely no involvement in this process. In fact, Thirty Seconds to Mars used their own money to hire well-known music producers, Flood and Steve Lillywhite, along with a small staff. Jared, Shannon, and Tomo channeled all the tumultuous emotions of the legal battle into the new songs. This documentary offers intimate, behind-the-scene footage of the band’s recording sessions and legal meetings. Yet, Artifact simultaneously explores the complexity of the modern music industry along with the relationship between record label and their artists. First-hand account interviews from musicians, EMI executive and employees, and music journalists gives eye-opening insight to the much uglier side of this ruthless industry.

The documentary has an overall somber tone. But there are light-hearted, sentimental, and humorous moments sprinkled in throughout the film. You learn more about the upbringings of Tomo and the Leto brothers and how it shaped them into the people they are today. Also, Artifact incorporates beautifully panoramic shots of Los Angeles consistently throughout the documentary.

Between 2008 and 2009, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s financial reserves were stretched very thin. They almost became broke from the mounting costs associated with making the album and paying legal fees. In addition, they funded their documentary, Artifact, on a very limited budget. It is unlikely they’ll even generate much revenue from it. Without a doubt, this time of immense tribulation made Tomo, Shannon, and Jared much stronger people. This explains the heavily emphasized tone of struggle and perseverance in the songs off their third album, This Is War. In 2009, the $30 million lawsuit came to an end. EMI renegotiated a new contract with the band. Both parties wanted to make amends to their previously contentious relationship. The war was over.

Thirty Seconds to Mars fought like hell to pursue their music careers even when the industry didn’t appreciate nor recognize them. This band prefers to stay out of the celebrity limelight which is almost unheard of nowadays. With their hard work and perseverance, Thirty Seconds to Mars have fulfilled their rock star dreams over the years. Their music is well loved by the worldwide community of their Echelon family. Over the past three weeks, I’ve formed a whole new appreciation for Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Artifact was directed by front man, Jared Leto, under his longtime pseudonym  Bartholomew Cubbins. Also, he worked with Emma Ludbrook to produce this film. The documentary premiered at 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. This documentary received favorable reviews from critics and audiences. It would go on to win more awards from other film festivals. Well-deserved accolades!

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I would highly recommend Thirty Seconds to Mars’ Artifact to everyone. You don’t need to be a musician to enjoy this compellingly riveting documentary. It is an emotionally engaging work of cinematography. So worth all 103 minutes of your time!

My Chemical Romance

MCRBack in middle school, “scene” genre was considered part of mainstream popular music. Oh the nostalgia when rock music was played on the Top 40 radio. It saddens me I didn’t begin to explore the “scene” genre until 2008. At this point, this genre’s popularity was slowly waning within mainstream music. Rock was beginning to become a niche music genre again.

My Chemical Romance released their third studio album, The Black Parade, back in October 2006. The Black Parade is essentially a rock opera album. I was well-aware of this band’s popularity among my fellow school peers. Yet, I wasn’t willing to give this band a chance. It wasn’t the right time in my life.

My love for rock genre music has exponentially grown since 2006. Of course I only discovered some “scene” artists several years later. In certain circumstances, time better allows you to embrace something with a more open-mind perspective. I can now approach certain pop-punk artists from the mid-2000s I had previously refused to listen to. My Chemical Romance definitely falls into this category.

One of my college friends is a huge fan of My Chemical Romance. She had often recommended this band to me. She swore they fit well within my rock genre musical taste. But I was still very hesitant.

So what exactly convinced me to listen to My Chemical Romance’s music? In short, my obsession with Andy Black’s solo album, The Shadow Side, played a key role. On Andy Black’s solo album, the co-founders of My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way and Mikey Way, contributed to the track “Louder Than Your Love”. Gerard co-wrote the song lyrics. Mikey played bass guitar parts for the song. Somehow, this finally convinced to listen to My Chemical Romance. I cannot even tell you the reason why for this sudden, impromptu decision. Only took me ten years before I was willing to give this band’s music a chance. It is strange how some things work out.

I listen to my fair share of rock bands. Generally, I’ve gotten used to tenor vocal ranges when it comes to lead vocalists. Yet, I can still differentiate the various tenor vocals among the lead singers of my bias bands. Of course, some lead vocalists have unique singing vocals. Black Veil Bride’s Andy Biersack and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way falls into this category. Andy Biersack has a beautifully deep raspy baritone vocal tone. Gerard Way has an intriguing sing-screaming tenor vocal tone. Both are definitely acquired tastes and not everyone’s cup of tea.

Almost two weeks ago, I began my journey to discover My Chemical Romance’s music on Spotify. They have an extensive selection of their full studio albums, live albums, and EP albums. Best of all, they have all the uncensored versions of their songs. Censorship of profanity in bias rock band’s music is one of my biggest pet peeves. Among my bias rock artists, there isn’t that much strong profanity overall. Typically “clean” versions of explicit rock songs are pretty shitty. It doesn’t even properly edit out the swear word. You can still figure out what the swear word is despite the censorship within the song. Apologies for that slightly off-topic rant.

Anyway, I created a My Chemical Romance playlist on my Spotify. I was a bit thrown off by the sing-screaming vocals of Gerard Way at first. Some of lead singers in my favorite rock bands have sing-screaming vocals. Red, Linkin Park. AFI, Black Veil Brides, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Three Days Grace to name a few. But nothing quite like Gerard Way’s vocals. His sing-screaming vocals are distinctive. Pretty clean cut in regards of easily making out the lyrics in MCR’s songs. But not so refined it feels too polished. Yet, it conveys a wide range of intensely raw emotions. Not only different types of frustrated or angry emotions. After two or three days, I got accustomed to the lead singer’s unique vocals.

Now I comprehend why people love My Chemical Romance. Out of most “scene” genre artist, this band has heavier tones injected into their music. I tend to gravitate to bands whose music has darker undertones. Even many years later, I cannot explain why this is the case with some of my rock genre music. Some things in life are just inexplicable conundrums. Anyway, I’ve really come to love My Chemical Romance’s music. I don’t necessarily have strong connection with their song lyrics. Although, My Chemical Romance meets the three essential elements I look for in rock music. Beautifully complex layering of instrumental sound, emotionally-charged vocals, and confessional lyrics. Also, not too repetitive lyrics or song beat. These are more than enough reasons for me to become very attached to a band. In addition, I really love the creative cinematic theatrics incorporated into their music videos. Not many of my “scene” bands have included theatrical elements into their music. The exception to this are AFI, Panic! at the Disco, and Fall Out Boy.

Sadly, My Chemical Romance officially announced their disbandment back in March 2013. Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys was MCR’s last full studio album before their disbandment. Following their break-up, the band released their greatest hits collection album, May Death Never Stop You. in March 2014. This greatest hits collection album included content spanning their 12 years music career and one unreleased single track titled “Fake Your Death”.

MCR recently posted an extremely cryptic video teaser promoting the date of September 23, 2016. This sent fans into a frenetic frenzy. People basically assumed the band was reuniting. Nope. Not the case at all. My Chemical Romance later revealed the significance of September 23, 2016.

In honor of its 10th anniversary, The Black Parade album will be re-issued as a deluxe edition. This version will include The Black Parade’s full-length album along with never-before content such as 11 demos and outtakes from the album’s original recording session. The actual 10th anniversary is October 23, 2016. I shall be eagerly looking forward to their The Black Parade/Living With Ghosts album.

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Unfortunately, I have the tendency to discover some bands after they’ve officially broken up. Just my luck. Now I will never have the opportunity to see My Chemical Romance live in concert. I shall vicariously live through concert videos posted on YouTube. Also, I have Spotify to get My Chemical Romance music fix. That is more than enough to make me content. Overall, My Chemical Romance has earned a new fan even if I’m very late to the party.