Last night, Cher alerted us to the fact she is in the recording studio AND recording a song by Lady Gaga and super producer RedOne called “The Greatest Thing.” So that’s cool.
What’s kind of weird though is that the song comes over five years after Cher wrapped up her massive Living Proof: The Farewell Tour, which she claimed would be her final concert tour. Three years later, of course, she began a very successful three-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, so it was really less of a “farewell” than it was a “see you guys in a bit.” And last fall while promoting her film Burlesque, she told a few interviewers she wanted to hit the road again for another tour – that she preferred arena crowds to the tourist-heavy audiences attracted to shows in Vegas.
Sure, the living legend never swore off recording (and thank goodness!), but it got us thinking about stars who announce their retirement … and then never really retire. Sure, they might go away for a hot second, but then they come back, often as big as ever, making the whole retirement hubbub look like an elaborate ruse.
Most recently, Lil Wayne has been talking retirement. His reasoning, which he explained to XXL is pretty sound: He wants to bow out while he’s still on top to spend time with his kids. “I’ma make y’all want me when I retire,” Wayne explained, adding that his commitment to his career is “unfair to my kids” because he is working constantly. “I do this every day of my life, and I’m not about to stop, ’cause that’s the only way you can succeed in this business, is to do it the way I do it. … But to do it the way I want to do it, to be comfortable to do what the f**k I want to do, you’ve got to work like no other.”
He’s achieved what he set out to achieve, made a ton of money doing it and now wants to dedicate himself to his four children.
But it’s hard not to wonder if he’ll really be able to give up the mic. This is a man for whom rapping is so instinctive that he phoned in a verse for Drake’s “Light It Up” from behind bars during his stint at New York’s Rikers Island.
It becomes more difficult to actually imagine Wayne’s retirement when you consider Jay-Z and Eminem, two rappers who at one time or another announced they would retire from making their own records to focus on other endeavors. Neither really retired, of course, they simply took time off and both continue to be at the top of their field. Just this year, Eminem received a staggering 10 Grammy nominations, including Album, Record and Song of the Year, for his multi-platinum Recovery, which ultimately took home two awards – one less than Jay-Z did at the same ceremony for “Empire State of Mind.”
Lest you think this phenomenon is exclusive to rap, consider Barbra Streisand and Garth Brook. Streisand announced she would go on her final tour in 2000 and made a very big deal about it, charging outrageous prices for tickets to the shows. Then she hit the road again in 2006. Brooks did something similar, announcing his retirement in grand fashion in 2000 only to play several sold-out shows in 2007 and begin a Vegas engagement in 2010.
In some cases, particularly Streisand’s, the move comes across as a way to goose ticket or album sales. They can charge higher prices, and dedicated fans will pay them thinking it’s the last time they will get to see their favorite artist live.
We don’t fault any of these people for wanting to take some time off … just leave it at that. To do anything else is grandstanding. Don’t say you are going away forever and then return, and especially don’t mount an elaborate tour as some sort of victory lap, charge outrageous ticket prices for the shows and then hit the road again after an extended break like it was no big deal. When you do this, it looks like a ploy.
As any artist, from writers and painters to actors and musicians, can tell you, it’s impossible to just stop. Your craft is in your blood. Regardless of success achieved, a writer is a writer and he or she will always write, just as a true musician – like Wayne, Em and Jay – will always want to make music.
These guys have achieved a status where they can set their own tone of their careers. No one is ever going to tell Lil Wayne he can’t make music, that they need an album from him every year or it’s all over. At 28, he’s already a legend. There’s no reason to announce your retirement, even if you believe now that it’s the truth, because there’s no way you’ll be able to stop making music. Call it like it is: You might take some time off, but everybody be cool, you’ll probably be back after you catch your breath.
And for goodness sake, Wayne, release The Carter IV. We’re getting blue in the face from holding our breath!
Do you ever believe an artist when he or she says they are retiring? Let us know in the comments.