Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Eminem, Demi Lovato. What do these very different artists all have in common? They all have had to deal with their personal struggles in front of the entire world and people still rooted for their triumphant return. Although it didn’t work out for all of them, the public wanted to see them succeed. But wasn’t it us who tore them down in the first place?
It seems to be a familiar theme in the music industry: young artists arrive on the scene, fresh and full of life with promising careers ahead of them. They soar to the top of the charts, until they come crashing down. They start acting out, doing drugs, or making offensive comments. The people who helped them get to the top now become the ones who kick them when they’re down. People start to see them differently. Whitney Houston, once known to be one of the greatest talents of her generation, was reduced to being just another crackhead. Michael Jackson, hailed as the King of Pop, became known as the plastic surgery-addicted pedophile. Britney Spears, once America’s Sweetheart, shaved her head and was labeled as crazy. The list of celebrities gone wild could go on forever.
Our society puts these artists on a pedestal and as soon as they show signs of being flawed individuals, they feel the need to take them down a notch. Tabloids have created an entire industry by speculating on which star will crumble next, and audiences love it. You have to admit that we’ve all taken a few hits at the troubled celebrity of the week just to get a laugh at least once in our lives.
So why do we love a comeback so much?
“With a comeback story there’s always a chance of the artist making a complete fool of themselves,” said Concordia student Michelle Lee. “We all love to watch someone crash and burn every once in a while.”
Unfortunately, that couldn’t be more true. We’re the ones who pushed these artists to their breaking points in the first place, so why wouldn’t we want to see them fail again? Are we so messed up that we are entertained by other people’s lives falling apart?
On the other hand, not everyone sees it that way. It’s also an opportunity for fans who have stuck by the artist through everything to prove their dedication and show that “their support was not in vain,” as Dawson College student and aspiring singer Chelsea Cameron puts it.
“A comeback story shows resilience and staying power in a cutthroat, competitive, and ever-evolving industry that thrives on the next, new thing.”
The worst part of this phenomenon is what comes afterwards.There are three possible outcomes: an artist can successfully pull through the dark times to once again come out on top, allowing everyone to forget their troubled pasts; an artist can attempt to make a successful comeback, but be stuck with the harsh stigmas that their past indiscretions have branded them with; and then there’s the unlucky artist that doesn’t get a chance at a second win and gives in to the pressures of life in the limelight, leaving us much too early.
Regardless of why we love them, sometimes there’s truly nothing better than a successful comeback. We may get a sick sense of satisfaction from watching people crash and burn, but in the end, we love to see them succeed, too. To witness a musician you love bounce back from a trying few years can be both empowering and heart-warming. They’re standing up in front of the entire world, saying “I’m back and stronger than ever.” It may be strange that we root for their demise, yet cheer for their success, but really, what could be better than a happy ending?