I remember watching an interview with Paul Simon regarding the inversely proportional nature between the complexity of some of his songs and their commercial success. He stated that he has written songs that he felt were masterpieces that went virtually unnoticed by the listening public. Others (he referenced “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” that he felt were very simplistic shot to the top of the charts.
It’s a simple fact that sometimes simplicity can connect with a broader audience. I’ve also heard Herbie Hancock, when asked about genres that might not receive the critical acclaim that jazz generally does explain it this way (paraphrasing) – “In the world of cuisine, hamburger is just as significant as Duck a l’Orange.”
And Americans eat a lot more hamburgers.
And therein lies the artist’s dilemma – as you hone your skills you might begin to appeal to an increasingly narrow audience. On occasion the planets align and a Stevie Wonder, an Alicia Keys, a Christina Aguilera or a Steely Dan find commercial success despite their talent, but any artist understands Simon’s perspective on this topic.
And that concept certainly isn’t limited to the music world. Visual artists – Can I have an Amen for the Mona Lisa…or for Dogs Playing Poker?