Novelty Always Wanes In Popularity When It Eventually Turns Into Familiarity.

Americans love novelties. Hell, the world loves novelties, but Americans especially. We love those one-trick ponies, those one-hit wonders, those flashes in the pan because they hit it big in a hurry, they envelop us briefly, and they fade away into obscurity with the hope that we never have to hear from them again. With time comes reflection and the potential for regret, but at the time, when we're grooving to the sound or laughing out loud in delight, nothing else matters.

We love novelties - well, not me, but people LIKE me - because that's what we've become: a country, a culture of mass consumption and mass disposal. We don't mind forgetting something as soon as it's learned and in fact it's encouraged; leaves more room in our lives to chew something else before quickly spitting it out. We are entertainment bulimics: we binge on anything and everything we can get our hands on as quickly and voraciously as possible, and then we throw it back up five minutes later once we realize that Taylor Hicks album is going to make us fat.

Think about it this way: how did we all take the follow-ups that were released by the guys who brought us the Macarena, or whatever single Afroman dropped after his college-radio phenom got played out? How many spins did that sophomore Hanson album get? Anybody heard from Sisqo lately? That's because those guys - and too many more to list here or even in an unabridged encyclopedia - lack talent. Eventually, everybody realized this (for some, the "There Is No Santa" moment came later than others) and stopped listening to their music and buying their albums. But, at one time, for one three-to-six month period in their lives, all of these guys were wildly popular. Because of their novelty. Because they produced something nobody could remember hearing before in just such a way as to have it deemed Catchy As A Motherfucker. Or herpes or whatever you like.

And then we got bored with it and threw it out like Paris Hilton's dog. Fucking song got too ugly to carry around, what are you gonna do? Doesn't mean you won't look back on pictures of it in a few, dozen years with fondness. It just means you don't want Whoop There It Is pooping in your handbag anymore.

The same can be said for styles of music, specifically what we like to call Retro (see: The Black Crowes). The Strokes are a prime example of this: they came out at a time when music was suffering from a Limp Bizkit-infused illness I like to call Really Fucking Shitty Music Syndrome (RFSMS). The Strokes, and bands of their media-hyped ilk, came along to diffuse RFSMS, but in the process came to embody their own shade of RFSMS, a Turn of the Century Garage Band-infused strain of the syndrome. We loved The Strokes for their fresh sound in 2001 ... they sound as they ever did in 2007 ... and yet we no longer find them fashionable or worthy of our CD-buying dollar.

{{the fact that most of us no longer budget our lives with that CD-buying dollar in mind is another topic for another day that will probably never be discussed}}

So what happened? How did we go from hailing The Strokes as 'The Saviors Of Rock' to nailing them to a cross and leaving them to decompose in the sun? Well, first of all, their last album was at least three songs too long (more like eight if you want to be technically discerning), but you have to go back to what I said in between the two ellipses: "they sound as they ever did." Granted, The Strokes were nothing special; plenty of rock n' roll bands sounded like them before, plenty of rock n' roll bands have sounded like them since, so it's hard to call them a 'novelty'. But, actually they were. They fall under the 'Revivalism' umbrella of novelty acts: one who critics enamor because they remind them of musical groups they loved in their youth.

Nothing quite spells Novelty Revivalism better than being compared to The Velvet Underground.

The fact of the matter is, the more famous, beloved acts you're compared to, the more likely it is you'll eventually fall from that nostalgia cocoon in the critical eye of anyone associated with a media outlet into the quandry that is Has Been. The aforementioned One-Trick Ponies. Sure, you come up with this album of fantastic songs, songs the likes of which haven't been heard since we were counting chest hairs in our parents' bathrooms, but what have you got for me now that we've built you up in our minds as The Greatest Thing Even Greater Than Sliced Bread & Marmelade Jam Combined?

Julian Lennon got that kind of treatment when he started making music because his father had just died and it had been almost a full generation since the Beatles ended; where is he in the pantheon of rock music history? Throw another generation into the stew and you've got Oasis in the very same boat; now they're a mocked laughing stock who fell off the coattails and drowned trying to catch back up again. Any minute now, expect England to air-mail us the Beatles III only to see them eventually crash into the Twin Towers of Obscurity.

I'm looking around now and I've got my eye on a couple of contenders for the next fresh-from-the-oven batch of Has Been turnovers. Musical acts who are touted for their fresh sound, unique looks, and unbelievable marketing appeal. Expect 'genre-bending' Gnarls Barkley to succumb to the iron fist of One-Hit Wonder justice and expect Amy Winehouse's follow up album to be chock-full of anonymity.

Here's the problem: all of these artists say after their first brush with mega-success, "I don't want to go into the studio and make (Big Hit Album or Big Hit Single) II," and all the fans say of their favorite new musical act, "Golly, I can't wait to hear what fresh new sound they're able to come up with next." But really, it's all a pack of lies. First of all, fans fear change. They can't handle their favorite bands or favorite singers making these drastic departures from what they originally fell in love with. See: Weezer. And on the talent's end, they're almost always incapable of making anything BUT Big Hit Album or Big Hit Single II. Really, they're just hoping that their contract they made with the devil doesn't have an expiration date.

And it's that double-edged sword when the follow-up comes out: too similar and they're panned by critics as derivative and not growing (see: The Hives); too different and they're panned for not sticking with what worked (see: The Killers). Even a band like The Mars Volta - whose whole concept is to be ever-changing and ever-evolving from album to album - is taken for granted for consistently putting out radical new music every time because for them to shake things up would be to not grow. They're no longer eye-catching, they're no longer the fresh-faced novelty of the Prog Rock scene because we've grown used to the fact that - three albums in - this is what they sound like. Of course, a band like Radiohead - who gets better with each new album released - will always be compared to their old glory (OK Computer) and will always be praised whenever a song sounds like it derived from The Bends sessions.

Yeah, it's GOOD, but why couldn't they sound like they used to?

You know if they did that, they'd just be a British version of U2, right?

Seemingly, gone are the days of a band appreciating over time. Gone are the bands whose full catalogue is lauded for its ingenuity and staying-power. What we've got now is the Quick-Strike Offensive: drop as many atomic bombs as quickly as possible and hope the radiation carries them over for a few more years than actual talent would normally dictate. Flash in that pan while it's warmed up and ready for your presence and try not to crisp up too quickly before we take the spatula to you and dump the next juicy piece of bacon in your charred wake.

Which brings us to the Three Album Test of a band's (or singer's) popularity. Album One: strike oil with a hit single that storms across America over the course of a summer. Take that momentum and quickly produce Album Two: which is technically your big Make or Break time. If you've got a hit of equal or better proportions, it doesn't really matter what you do with Album Three: which is the clincher. Album Three will either have you preparing your Hall of Fame induction speech or it'll have you looking for another record company that might want to take a chance on damaged goods. Going back, though, if your second album flops on the ground like a strangled fish, most likely you'll still get a chance to throw on that third album anyway, based on the success of your first; it just may take a little time (see: Fiona Apple).

The same can be said for just about any over-exposed art form. Actors, they get that breakthrough performance and everything hinges on the next movie they put out. Hit it big there and you're making 20 mil quicker than you can say, "Hey, get that camera out of my face, I'm trying to eat dinner with my family." A writer, writes a hit novel (which doesn't become a hit novel until it becomes a hit movie), has a follow-up that produces a series of hit movies, before you know it you've moved up to Broadcast Network Late Night Talk Shows from those inferior Cable Network Late Night Talk Shows. With the alternative in both respects being the same as with musicians (except for Stephen King and Keanu Reeves who are somehow untouchable and keep getting movies made).

The point is, nobody would ever turn down being a Novelty, because you'll do whatever it takes to get your artistic production out there for as many people to see and appreciate as possible. It's stupid to say you'd rather never have success than be a One-Hit Wonder, because even just that one hit will set you up for life and give you a piece of history most others could never imagine. You just have to realize that anything marginalized, anything inspiring reminiscence, will ultimately be turned against the very purveyor himself; for, 'tis better to have been a part of the revolution in its infancy than to hop on after it has already become widely accepted.

After all, American Idols are found on the way to the supermarket; Kurt Cobains will last forever.