Column: Is the top ever high enough?

One Direction shocked fans with their announcement in Aug. to take a "well earned break," as member Niall Horan tweeted. (Music News Australia/Flickr)

It’s fairly common knowledge that striking success in the music industry comes in many shapes and sizes, but ultimately is something extraordinarily difficult to achieve. 

There have been countless stories throughout the decades of artists at the peaks of their careers deciding to leave what they have found success in. 

The idea of leaving everything behind, even temporarily, after achieving the impossible is an interesting idea. When one’s peak is reached, does the journey towards the top become hazy in memory?

In recent events the band Fun., after their huge release of “Some Nights” in 2012, has since gone on hiatus. One Direction has also allegedly announced they’ll be going on hiatus within a year. In past recollection, bands like the Beatles and Oasis also broke up at arguably the height of their careers. 

Although the reasoning for the breakups can have logical bearing such as artistic differences, animosity within the band dynamic, the desire for change, and/or the ambition of becoming a solo artist—when so many artists would dream of getting to the position of some of these super-groups, it’s shocking when their differences overcome the work they built to get to where they are/were. 

Being in a collaborative group is a delicate balance of egos, creativity and respect—if not given, it will not be received. When this balance is neglected, past success seems to fall second to existing problems between band-mates.

The simple fact that success is not the end goal for some who have found it can explain some people’s decisions to walk away.

An example outside of the music industry is Larry Sanders, who quit professional basketball and all the money that came with it. In an interview with The Players’ Tribune, Sanders said, “as a person who grew up with nothing, I know money is important. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to play in the NBA. But at the same time, that’s not what fuels me. I’ve never chased money. It’s never been how I define success. Happiness isn’t behind a golden gate.”

An artist, or in this case anyone who has found lucrative success in an industry, might not desire attaining fame or fortune, but instead just want to create a life doing what they love to do. Ultimately the questions of what defines success, whether or not the artist desires success, and when success is not worth achieving anymore changes between circumstances. 

Often, the nitty-gritty details of every breakup are not formally revealed to the public. Many factors play into a group disbanding—sometimes, the reasons won’t make sense to the audience, people who weren't involved in the day-to-day trials of the group. 

All too often career success is automatically equated with happiness and fulfillment. It can be confusing and even potentially devastating to some fans when that idiosyncratic chemistry of a group is lost forever. 

But when you are the artist in a position that poisons the craft, or at the very least tarnishes the excitement of making music, sometimes change is necessary no matter how far you’ve come.


Brett Steinberg is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brett.steinberg@uconn.edu. He tweets @OfficialBrett.