Mon. February 11
Justins Timberlake and Bieber: The Art of Coasting
In 1988, the celebrated magazine Spy ran a cover story on “coasters.” Coasters, the editors of Spy explained, are those celebrities who have achieved success and decided to just coast on it for a while–or indeed for a lifetime. Burt Reynolds, Bruce Willis, Candice Bergen–these were just a few of the people that, according to Spy, “can relax because they’ve done it.” While Spy noted that Bruce Willis was one of the quickest to start coasting–“he put Moonlighting behind him even before it was behind him”–even the venerated legends of Hollywood weren’t spared: George Allen and Bob Hope made the list. Which is to say, coasting isn’t always bad, if you’ve had a great career and have earned it. It was only really bad if you started coasting too early.
I think it’s time to relaunch a regular tally of coasters. Because frankly, there are too many early coasters today who are getting away with it. A lot of them seem to be in the music industry. Justin Bieber has only released three albums, one only containing seven songs, and every time he does put out a record it is quickly supplemented with remix discs, acoustic discs, 3-D movies, the works. He is at the height of his popularity, only eighteen years old, and he has already erected an impressive infrastructure to enable decades of coasting. Hell, he’s coasting already.
Consider: the Internet exploded a few weeks ago when Justin Timberlake released “Suit & Tie,” a single off of his forthcoming album. In the last ten years Timberlake has released two records. Two. He’s also been featured in a few films, and in none of them was he very noteworthy. Yet he is worshipped by the media as a “one man corporation,” a multipronged threat who can sing, act, cook, and juggle (OK, I added that last one). And while it is unfair to compare artists to The Beatles, several years ago Timberlake brought up the Fab Four when he was talking about songwriting. “You know how in some Beatles songs the bridge is as good as the verse and the chorus?” Timberlake said. “Well, I want to do that.” Go back and listen to the bridge to “Suit & Tie.” It is a sluggish, awkward, and lazy rap by Jay-Z. It probably took them three minutes to come up with it. Coasting. (Do I have to go over what the Beatles accomplished musically in the time that Timberlake has been doing, well, nothing?)
The American public has become too complacent with coasters. Artists now have hype machines that are so large and powerful that they tend to roll over dissent. We once expected our musical artists to prove themselves with several records, even double albums over time. We loved to watch them push creative boundaries (The Clash put out not only a classic double album, London Calling, but a daring triple one, Sandinista!, and Radiohead is still innovating). Timberlake is referred to a the “busy singer/actor/investor,” and the world breathlessly waits for his next album, which only has ten songs on it. But not to worry–Timberlake has been named the “creative director” of Bud Light Platinum. “Bud Light Platinum brings a refined, discerning aesthetic to beer that plays well with what I’m doing,” Timberlake said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to not only being a part of the creative process, but in bringing other talented musicians to the forefront as well.”
Of course. Every good beer needs a good coaster.