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Why music needs losers.

I watched an incredibly inspiring video of J.K. Rowling this week. She courageously described her descent to financial and emotional rock bottom, and the overwhelming feeling of failure. She then explained that her failure was ultimately the key to her success, how having nothing left to lose gave her the courage to do something incredible.

We all like to root for an underdog, watch the downtrodden come good. The lucrative commerciality of the X-Factor style “sob story” has long been recognised within the music industry. “My Gran broke her hip”, “my job was given to robots”, “my hamster fell off a cliff”…translation: please buy into me.

And it works. But why does it work? Why does the world love, for want of a better word, a loser?

There are a few people in the world who seem to be able to skip merrily down life’s bumpy road, artfully dodging the potholes of failure, puddles of disaster and steaming piles of disappointment that the rest of us seem fated to step in. However, they are pretty few and far between and, to be honest, not always inherently likeable.

Instantaeous, unfettered successs is rarely inspiring and tends to leave a bitter taste in the mouth, finishing with a subtle sense of undeserving. It seems unfair, unjust somehow that some people just seem to have all the luck.

What is both inspirational and humanly relatable is ultimate success in the face of failure or adversity. We can happily fly the flag for the poor, downtrodden soul who crashed and burned but then rose from the flames, against all odds, in a blaze of glory – feeling they deserved every inch of their success.

The term “loser” is a pretty derogatory one. The less-than-quick-witted display of the forehead L has long been used by school children (and adults who are, frankly, old enough to know better) to demonstrate their feelings of a person, the “loser” being some sort of clueless, dummkopf outsider – different from everyone else. The simple fact is though, there are far more losers out there than non-losers. Because, at some point, we all experience loss. We all fail. From love’s labours lost to financial failure, from an F in maths to being the Mum who forgot it was world book day. We all fail at something.

But that’s ok. It’s human. And it’s pretty much inevitable.

And the fact is, music needs losers. It needs the failures and the deadbeats and the underachievers. Because complete and total loserdom leads to legendary lyrics. Because profound loss leads to powerful, passionate performances. Because, when you have lost everything and have nothing left to lose, you might as well follow your dreams – and artists are, let’s face it, the big dreamers of our universe.

Music is the soundtrack to our lives, framing and enhancing each moment and each memory in sound.  Sure, the world needs the “I feel good”, “because I’m happy”, “Mr Bluesky” energy – because sometimes the sun shines, things go right and life is awesome. But we equally need the “I’m a creep”, “Loser”, “All By Myself”, “Back To Black”, “With Or Without You” comfort blanket which lets us know, when we have our loser moments, that we are not alone.   

So, keep on failing. Maybe your fall from grace and rise from defeat will be what inspires someone to put one foot in front of the other. Maybe your misery will ultimately be melodious. Maybe it’s ok to lose.

Written by Beccy Clark
Songwall Contributor 

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