October 11, 2012
Dear Liam, Louis, Niall, Harry and of course Zayn,
Hey guys! How are you all doing? We’ve never met, or anything like that, and honestly, I’m not as familiar with your music as I’d like to be. But my kids love you! My daughter, Truly — she’s 11 — she has a poster of Niall hanging over her bed, and she already has a ticket to your show in Los Angeles NEXT AUGUST! That’s so far away, but she told me that she already knows what she’s going to wear the show! Girls are crazy, right? Ha, ha!
…Look. Let’s skip the formalities. I’m very familiar with your music. I’m Dr. Dre; I’m familiar with all my contemporaries. I’ve been watching you kids since you were on “X Factor” and I’ve watched you become superstars. Global superstars. And now I have some questions.
Back when I was a young MC — before the muscles, before Eminem, and way before any of you were alive — I had people telling me, “Take your time.” As in, “Don’t drop half-assed albums like the rest of the artists out there — take your time, Dr. Dre, and reflect on your feelings before you speak.” As I was coming up and forming my solo career after N.W.A. (again, this was all well, well before your time), a lot of my peers had been clogging CD stores with sub-par albums they had spent sleepless nights working on. So what did I do? I took a nap. A lot of naps, in fact. I realized that, if regularly putting out music made you ordinary, I wanted to be extraordinary. So I waited seven years after “The Chronic” came out to drop my second album, “2001,” in 1999. People thought I had broken a mirror with that gap, but I was just letting the fans salivate, you know?
I came back with hits like “Forgot About Dre” and “The Next Episode,” and people sure liked them a lot. But even with that seven-year gap between albums, I felt like the wait… just… wasn’t… long enough. I felt rushed! I felt like hip-hop fans were taking me for granted, as if they were saying, “Oh, don’t worry about Dr. Dre, he’ll come back with something in a few years.” I was too reliable. People love a good comeback story, but you need to go away for a while to come back, right? So I went away. I kept telling people that this “Detox” album was coming, that it was just a few months away, but in actuality, I knew that it wouldn’t be release within at LEAST a decade. “Detox” has been finished since like 2002 — there’s a collabo with *NSYNC on there, son! — but I’ve needed to let the anticipation simmer, and reach a point where my fans absolutely cannot survive without the high they get from that Dr. Dre fix. That’s why it’s called “Detox,” duh! (Don’t tell anyone else, but it’s gonna be released on October 31, 2018. I love Halloween!)
All was going according to plan… until One Direction showed up, and made me re-think my entire life. That’s some heavy shit, but that’s what happens when I watch five teenagers take over the world in a year’s time, or when I hear “What Makes You Beautiful,” the best pop song of this or any year, echo through the corridors of my Compton Bat-Cave. The first time I heard your first album, “Up All Night,” was when it came out in the States in March; tears were welling in my eyes during the song “Tell Me A Lie,” and Liam, your performance on “Gotta Be You” is simply outstanding. At the time I thought, “There’s no way One Direction can top this album. The only way they could is if they take a decade-long break before their next one.”
And then, a few weeks ago, I get an e-mail from Xzibit. “New 1D!” it read, with a link to your new single, “Live While We’re Young.” “From their new album!”
At first I was crestfallen, thinking that you guys had rushed through your follow-up for a quick cash grab. But when I heard “Live While We’re Young,” I knew that my entire music business philosophy had gone up in smoke. It’s a song that’s so perfect — so full of youthful energy and indomitable vibrancy — that it refracts its light into the listener’s soul, like a pop-vocal prism. And now, less than eight months after releasing “Up All Night” in the U.S. and less than a year after releasing it in the U.K., you guys are releasing “Take Me Home” in November. A whole new collection of immaculate pop, tossed out before the end of 2012 like a piece of bellybutton lint. Two albums. One year!
I’ve done some serious soul-searching since I heard “Live While We’re Young” and about the new album, and it’s led me to writing this letter. It seems like you guys have figured out how to release a lot of music, but in a short amount of time. But how? How have you maintained your popularity and high quality while flooding the market? Did you actually record “Up All Night” when you were toddlers, and shelve it for a dozen years? But if that’s the case, why release “Take Me Home” now, and not in 2031? Did you guys see “Looper” yet? If you have, is that how you managed to do all this? How many albums will you release in 2013? If it’s more than four, I’m gonna retire. Why would you want me to retire?
Obviously… I’m distraught. I’m a fan, but first and foremost, I’m an artist, and I need answers for my own piece of mind. Please share some thoughts on your respective creative process, One Direction, and maybe when the dust settles, we’ll have both learned something from each other.
I anticipate your response.
All the best,
[Photo by/CC RockyandNelson on Flickr]