Creativity is an essential element in coming up with new and admirable art pieces, such as songs, but not every product of it will achieve success and have the desired effect on the audience. Sometimes the artist’s taste and eagerness to try new things will not match their fans’ expectations.
When a fan is devoted to a musician or a band, they want what they love to remain in the same or similar lines as before; however, artists’ experiences and creative processes push them into different routes. Neil Young, for instance, changed his style in his album, ‘Trans,’ to reflect his situation and feelings about his son’s condition through a new musical method. It was not well-received by fans or critics, but it was his creative approach.
Similarly, Styx was criticized by their fans for their 1983 single, ‘Mr. Roboto,’ yet there was a difference. The band achieved great success, and it became their third-highest-charting song, even though it marked the beginning of the end for them.
Styx’s former vocalist and songwriter, Dennis DeYoung, wrote the song for their album ‘Kilroy Was Here,’ and followed a conceptual path during its creation and execution. He told a story set in the future when rock was illegal and used a vocoder to give synthesized sounds for a robotic effect. The musician even rejected an offer to perform at the US Festival as a band to bring this project to life, according to James Young‘s 2019 interview with the Arizona Republic.
Young stated that DeYoung aimed to make this project exactly the way he wanted to and risked losing some of their audience on the way. Due to his insistence, the band unwillingly followed him, and after the song’s release, they lost some of their male listeners as its tone and style alienated them.
The guitarist recalled his former bandmate’s ambition as follows:
“Dennis was a strong-willed individual and had the most success as a writer and lead singer in the heyday. So when we were gonna go with his idea about this robot thing, I said, ‘We run the chance of really alienating our male audience.’ And Dennis turned down headlining the US Festival in 1982, which was a globally advertised event that offered us more money than we’d ever made in a live concert times three or four…In a power move, [Dennis] said, ‘I’m not gonna do it unless I get to do exactly what I want.’
I said, ‘I don’t believe in it, but you’ve led this band to this point, and I’ll back you on it.’ And it all went bad. It cut our album sales in half because the male audience was absolutely alienated by ‘Mr. Roboto.’ Not all of them, but a large chunk. And our concert tickets were down from sold-out arenas in 1981.”
Following the single’s release and the high-budget performance prepared for it, Styx lost the interest of their first generation of fans, and creative conflicts started to occur among the band members. Tommy Shaw, who reportedly never liked the song or its concept, left the band right after the ‘Kilroy Tour.’ The band didn’t want to go after DeYoung’s artistic approach and went on a hiatus until 1990.
Because of the inner conflicts it caused, ‘Mr. Roboto’ was referred to as the song that doomed Styx, but the band started to include the song on their setlist in 2019. Regarding the matter, James Young stated that the song brought a new generation of fans despite the displeasure of the band members and the older generation. So, they made peace with the song.
Young expressed the reasoning behind the band’s decision by saying:
“What that song did is it killed a whole lot of people’s interest in our music. But it spawned a second generation of fans. Pre-teens and early teens, whoever made that a gold single. Our merch guy would tell us, ‘People are wondering why you don’t play ‘Mr. Roboto’.’ And I would say, ‘Well, that’s Dennis’s song. Let Dennis have that.’ But this is our 20th concert season without Dennis, and if this is what the fans want, then let’s do it, but let’s do it upright.”
It might have killed the interest of some fans and caused some conflicts between the band members, but Styx’s ‘Mr. Roboto’ was a commercial success and had its own audience. Thus, it only makes sense for the band to embrace the song after all these years.
Originally published at www.theshocknews.com