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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Taking Another Chance

Eidtorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

What should Tarkan do next?

After the deluge of mails Tarkan Deluxe received from readers concerning my "Take a Chance" article dated 6 February 2009 - sixty plus and counting - I felt I had to clarify some of the points raised, especially about my views that Tarkan's English language album venture was a disappointment.

Since we are not living in a new Victorian state, and with the air of freedom and tolerance Ali Yildirim generates on his blog, I feel comfortable to air and justify my own views.

However, it is indeed true that a majority of my articles on the Turkish pop-rocker usually touches upon what Tarkan should do next, and recently this has been my main focus as I feel that Tarkan has come to another turning point in his career. And on the subject of career turning points, there is a British singer who is on the verge of one, too.

From one bad boy to another

Robbie Williams at the 2000 Brit Awards © Toby Melville/PA Archive/PA PhotosI have compared Tarkan to our British counterpart bad-boy Robbie Williams before; the twists and turns of their contrasting fortunes have made for a fascinating soap opera.

Our own alien-hunting, walking breakdown of an entertainer has recently returned to Britain after hiding out in Los Angeles - where he is comparatively unknown - to plan his musical comeback. Recent news reports suggest a rapprochement with a key figure from his musical past - Guy Chambers.

For those who may not know, Guy Chambers was Robbie Williams writing partner on pretty much all his biggest hits; "Rock DJ", "Let Me Entertain You", and the all-conquering "Angels" to name but three. To Tarkan fans, the names Sezen Aksu and Nazan Öncel might come to mind here - think "Şıkıdım" (A-acayipsin, 1994), "Şımarık" (Ölürüm Sana, 1997) and "Hüp" (Karma, 2001).

Chambers fell out towards the end of 2002 with Robbie after the recording of Robbie's fifth solo album, Escapology. It may or may not be a coincidence that Williams' two albums since then are the lowest-selling of his career to date. Again with Tarkan, with no strong collaboration to name, much the same could be said for Come Closer and Metamorfoz.

However, while we in the UK wait to see whether Robbie learned how to swallow his pride and admit mistakes, my point in my recent article was that Tarkan did just that with his 2007 Metamorfoz after sabotaging his own English language album due to disappointing sales. The Turkish singer chose not to hide away, but rolled up his sleeves to prove his critics wrong. With Tarkan, enthusiasm has always made up for size.

What we're all in the British press waiting to see is if Robbie can respond to his own setbacks with equal maturity. Tarkan also seems at peace with himself, which, as Robbie (and Britney Spears) knows, is something money can't buy. And when Tarkan sings about gossips in "Dedikodu" (Metamorfoz, 2007) it is not affectation, it is autobiography.

Forging old ties with the new

But it's important to remember that once there was no need to scrutinise album sales, as it always seemed Tarkan would get everything right. All credit to Tarkan, musically he's emerged a better man for the experience rather than signifying a bloated, decadent phase like Robbie, and yet there are mistakes prevalent in Metamorfoz that signals he's still damaged from the Come Closer period.

Sensitive to criticism against any musical legacy he has tried to put down, Metamorfoz to me slightly fell under the influence of an I-can-do-it-on-my-own syndrome - acting like he has nothing to prove - but still wanting to show his domestic industry that he is indeed his own man, and all grown up to boot.

Possibly in a slight contrast to what I said in my last article - or simply because I like to mix things up a bit - sometimes maturing or changing doesn't mean having to become unrecognisable, even if you're not the same person you were years ago.

People in maturity can go back to their musical roots without falling into the trap of nostalgia. For argument's sake, what if Tarkan released a back-to-basics Turkish pop album, which simultaneously recalled the rolling rhythms and impassioned grooves of his previous albums while mixing up the past with a fresh, spontaneous sound. What would be the harm in that, some people emailed the blog to ask, surely this wouldn't sacrifice his musical integrity over commercialism?

Indeed, it sounds like an equation that includes the best of both worlds. This was something Tarkan knew how to strike the right balance with a few years ago, unlike his far-too-polished Come Closer and - to a smaller extent - his Metamorfoz record, which was almost stripped clean of any trademark ethnicity. No darbuka dared to beat for too long, lest fans got misty-eyed with nostalgia.

No one is asking Tarkan to press a gigantic musical rewind button in such a scenario, but it would be interesting to see influences from the mixed-bag of music that he would have listened to as a child, such as Stevie Wonder and Pink Floyd - and obviously the Turkish classical pieces that would have been in high rotation in his family home.

This type of maturity with retrospect vision, where the artist reflects on his past while looking forward - as he tries to do towards the end of Metamorfoz with tracks like "Pare Pare" - might arguably have won more critics over then by attempting to wipe the slate clean and start again, because Tarkan would have come off as more human.

To us old listeners, isn't that what endeared us to the enigmatic man in the first place all those years ago? His voice ached with longing, he was calling out to us. He needed us. His music and his fans were his lifeline, but Metamorfoz in its struggle to prove that Tarkan was on top of his celebrity status made us feel that Tarkan was singing at us, rather than to us.

On a personal note, I like Metamorfoz and agree with the blog's official review of it, but I can also understand those that have written in saying they want to hear the passion in Tarkan's voice return again.

If Tarkan's music is his lifeline, and his fans his lifesaver from the memories of a tough childhood, then his audience want to be reminded of that - they want to know they are needed. Risking a break from this formula or "special relationship" is taking a chance, indeed.

What I believe he needs to do is to take the chances he used to when he first started out in his career, and relinquish what could be described as his recent stranglehold on song writing duties to allow the creative process to become a democratic process that made his earlier albums so popular.

And resuming his working relationship - not his friendship which is a different thing - with Aksu might again be the first step on that road to Tarkan's own definition of success.

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
Read more Mark Mayhey articles on Tarkan >>

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