(Featured Image: Prince by Allen Beaulieu, 1980; photo from Prince: Before the Rain.)
Normally, I write my “state of the blog”-type posts in June, since that’s when dance / music / sex / romance celebrates its official anniversary. But I guess the new year has me in a reflective mood, and in any case my low level of activity in the last month or two probably begs some questions. So, here’s what’s going on with d / m / s / r, and what I at least hope you can look forward to in 2020.
Let me begin with my customary apologies for falling behind on my posting schedule; trust me when I say that I’m as tired of writing these as you probably are of reading them. Last month was, as I’ve mentioned both on the blog and on social media, a pretty lousy one for me on the health front; this, coupled with some end-of-year crunch at my day job and general holiday-season stress, heavily impacted my ability to write on my own time. When the dust finally settled and I had some time to myself, my initial plan was to try and catch up before the new year; but I quickly realized that I was burned out, and needed to actually let myself rest. I’m confident that this was the right decision, and that giving myself a vacation has allowed me to start 2020 off on the right foot. Those of you who are patrons, rest assured that I did not deduct any fees for this month, since I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain in December. While I reserve the right to do this again in the future, I do think things are now “back to normal,” and I will be able to deliver a full slate of content in January.
But what is “normal,” anyway? In the midst of my end-of-year burnout, it occurred to me to ask myself (as I have, albeit privately, before) why I was doing this, and whether it was worth continuing to do it. On the one hand, this is an easy question to answer. I started writing d / m / s / r because it was the kind of thing I personally wanted to read: an exhaustive, song-by-song evaluation of my favorite artist’s catalogue, telling the story of his music from beginning to end. Such a thing didn’t exist then, and still doesn’t now, because it is an absurdly huge task, and anyone with the talent and expertise to do it justice assuredly has better things to do. As for myself, I have never claimed to have either talent or expertise; only that I am stupid and stubborn enough to attempt it in the first place. The fact that there are people out there who actually want to read along while I roll this boulder up the hill remains a source of gratitude and humility.
At the same time, though…this is stupid, right? According to my WordPress dashboard, d / m / s / r got a total of 33,936 page views in 2019–which is great! It’s far and away the most popular project I’ve ever been involved in. But that’s also less than the 39,884 views it got in 2018, which was itself less than the 47,772 views it got in 2017. Don’t get me wrong: this has never been about page views for me. But I’m also aware that the Prince community is a small and crowded field, and I am far from the most popular (or qualified) voice in it. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that feels tempted to cede whatever territory I have to the many other smart, talented people out there writing, talking, presenting, and otherwise drawing attention to this important musical legacy.
For now, at least, you’re stuck with me–again, I am stupid and stubborn, and I still think I have something to contribute to this fast-growing field of “Princeology.” But I’m also afraid of stagnation. I know that what I do is a niche of a niche, and will never have the following of other projects in the same space; I made my peace with that around the same time that I decided it was a good idea to write text-heavy pieces about mostly obscure, 40-year-old pop songs. Yet I also know that I could be doing a lot more to grow my audience and make sure that I’m reaching the people who want to read text-heavy pieces about mostly obscure, 40-year-old pop songs–because I know that plenty of you weirdos exist, because after all, I’m one of ’em. I want to end 2020 in a much better place than I ended 2019, with more regular readers, more patrons, and most importantly, a steadier flow of high-quality content. If I can’t do that, then well, maybe it is time for me to cede the field to my smart and talented colleagues. But I’m pretty sure that I can. I hope you stick around this year so we can find out together.