Don’t Call It A Comeback: Stevie Nicks And The Beastie Boys Return After Long Absences

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Today’s new releases are dominated by highly-anticipated and mostly well-received studio recordings from two career artists returning from extended absences: Stevie Nicks and the Beastie Boys.

Stevie Nicks has not released a solo studio album since 2001′s Trouble in Shangri-La, which came amidst the 1997 reunion of Rumours-lineup Fleetwood Mac, which began with the ultra-successful tour and live album The Dance (after which Christine McVie left the group) and ended with the allegedly rancorous recording sessions that led to the nevertheless successful Say You Will in 2003. After 2003, she continued to play shows, and in 2008 released a live DVD, but has not released solo recordings until today.

The Beastie Boys, meanwhile, when they weren’t on hiatus due to MCA’s battle with cancer (now thankfully in remission), released instrumental album The Mix-Up in 2007, and before that, the thoughtful To the 5 Boroughs in 2004. But neither could have featured a music video like “Make Some Noise”; the last time the Beasties had that much fun was Hello Nasty, thirteen years ago.

As legacy artists with large fanbases, both Nicks and the Beasties have been getting their share of press leading up to today. For these two, “a return to form” doesn’t just mean “nobody bought the previous album.” But does their songwriting persist? And do they remain relevant?

The reviews are still rolling in for Nicks’s In Your Dreams, but they are more favorable than not; in Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield called the album “her finest collection of songs since the Eighties.” And the Beastie Boys, ever the critical darlings, have gotten rave reviews for Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2: in the New York Times, Jon Pareles praises their “strictly old school” sound.

Note the similarity? Both artists are praised for sounding like what they used to sound like. Artists who release an album a year are considered successful if their second album has more or bigger hits than the first. Artists who release an album every few years get praised for evolution. But artists who wait a decade apparently get praised for stasis. The only exceptions are radically-reworked artists like Santana, who, with the help of Clive Davis, found a new audience with 1999′s Supernatural.

If listeners and buyers agree with critics, that would suggest that music fans look for a consistency from our long-term artists that we reject from newer groups. Why does time change our perspective in such a way?

[Photo Credits: Reprise Records/Capitol Records]

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