Monday Motivation: Sum 41

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

The likelihood of encountering a catch-22 in your development as a professional in any facet of the entertainment industry is so high it might as well be considered a given. To live is to grow, and to grow is to develop interests and tastes that may not fit into the mold of the person you once were. This is true for almost everyone on Earth, but only a small percentage of those walking among us are tasked with creating something from nothing using only their imagination and musical prowess that is packaged and sold to the masses as some form of entertainment. For those people change can be harder than because accepting that you are no longer who you once were means you might not ever create the same way again, and if that is true then there is a good chance the people who once supported you without a second thought may soon reconsider their allegiance to your creative output.

Sum 41 burst onto the international music scene with the release of their single “Fat Lip” in 2001. The song, which arrived just as bands like Blink-182 and Green Day were pushing pop-punk into the mainstream, was an instant smash at MTV and top 40 radio. I was fourteen at the time, and as such I –  not to mention everyone in my graduating class – was the target market for the song. We sang the track together on field trips and in the back of class before the first bell of the day would ring. We also sang along on our bikes as we explored our town, and in the back of our parents’ cars (until they had enough and shut off the radio). For a few months it seemed like the world would never be without “Fat Lip” again, but eventually a day came when our culture’s obsession with the track began to subside. Fortunately for the band, they had additional singles (like “In Too Deep”) ready to go.

The singles that followed “Fat Lip,” as well as the album that followed the record that contained “Fat Lip,” were both considered successful in the eyes of the music industry. The rap-punk mix of “Fat Lip” was never outright recreated, but the band had a knack for pop-laden punk hooks that could not be denied. They never saw the same fame that came their way when they first were introduced, but for a few years they were considered one of the biggest punk bands in the world.

When a band achieves the kind of global status Sum 41 reached with the success of “Fat Lip” they find themselves with an untold number of new fans who likely them specifically for a single sound found on a single recording that is just one of many found on that group’s latest album. People are curious to hear more, as anyone who finds themselves enjoying anything typically is, but to be more specific they are curious as to whether or not the band can harness a similar sound and find success once more. If the band choose to try something different, or if they abandoned the sound that catapulted them into the public eye to begin with altogether, those same fans who rushed to support the group initially may begin to seek out other entertainers.

This is where things get tricky. On the one hand, creative people have to be willing to risk losing their audience in their pursuit of authentic self-expression, but at the same time they need to continue selling records and concert tickets in order to fund their creative endeavors. When a band like Sum 41 finds themselves evolving beyond the sound that launched their career the backlash from the general public can be downright mean, and for many the idea of losing the affection of the masses can be too much to bare. So much so, in fact, that many artists from all over the globe will restrict themselves from pursuing new ideas in order to maintain the status quo. This is why some bands will release what is dubbed as an ‘experimental’ album before releasing one that sounds like everything they have ever done in the past (with the exception of the experimental release). They fear being disliked, so instead of growing they just keep revisiting the same themes and ideas over and over until they have accumulated enough money to take a few years off. That might mean years of regurgitating old ideas, or in some cases even decades.

The reason I chose Sum 41 for today’s Monday Motivation post is because they have never compromised their artistic integrity in an effort to pander to the masses. The band knows they do not have the following they did when “Fat Lip” was the biggest song in the world, but whenever you see them or hear them you get the feeling they could care less about this fact. For them, the music is the ultimate accomplishment. Fans are nice, and they certainly help make further creative expression possible, but Sum 41 has always placed a lot of importance on keeping themselves happy with their output that is rarely found in musicians today. Could they do what they did before all over again? Sure. Do they want to? No.

This week, Sum 41 will release their new album 13 Voices through Hopeless Records. The album is the result of the band coming together in support of vocalist Deryck Whibley, who made headlines last year for his struggles with addiction. Music was always a way through the band times for Whibley, and together with his bandmates he has crafted a record that entertains while also providing a platform to vent frustrations and confront demons. To hear the album is to understand the struggles the band has undergone over the last two decades, which has now culminated in an album that ties together themes from previous records without revisiting the ideas that made those recordings unique. This album is everything the band has been working toward, and to know they are still playing the game by their own rules inspires me to do the same every single day.

James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records (RIP). Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.