They say a band’s sophomore album is their hardest. Capturing success, catching lightning in a bottle twice — how do you manage that?
Of course, I’m suggesting I’ve had a “successful” second year of raising Gorgonna, and it’s been anything but that. Oh, it hasn’t been a complete failure either, but I’m trying to make this analogy work, okay?
Parental success is hard to measure — less so for famous musicians (I imagine you just check how many groupies you’ve got tucked away under each arm). There’s no quantifiable metric parents can look to that shows what we’re doing has much of, well, any effect on our offspring; those are rewards (or ramifications) we won’t see ‘til long, long into the future.
But for those of us putting the finishing touches on our children’s sophomore year, we’ve already seen the kinds of changes in store for them. Changes that weren’t creeping over the horizon, but were happening each and every one of 364 days. I watched Gorgonna morph from Baby into Toddler. I saw her successes — but I saw her failures, too. And now I’ve tweaked enough levels, run through the tracks enough, to fear that what’s happened in this second year could shape where she’s going for the rest of her life. It’s terrifying looking back on it, yet thrilling — I get an anxious pee-pee-in-my-pants-type vibe from it.
She’s pushing boundaries.
Some bands like to use their sophomore album to wipe the slate clean. Try new things. Step over the boundaries set in place by their first effort. In Gorgonna’s case, Year 2 was all about confronting those boundaries, comprehending them, and then trying to vault clear over them. In terms of complexity, she started looking at her AC/DC problems and began finding Meshuggah solutions.
Gorgonna became determined, spirited, even willful at times. She challenged our rules, trying to find our points of weakness (“maybe this time they’ll let me stand in my chair!”). And we’ve had to double our efforts to set those firm limits in place. Like a band whose hotel-room proclivities usually leaves the place in shambles, there are just some things a manager cannot allow. Not when safety’s at stake.
She’s improving her skills.
Bands that play enough together develop individually and as a unit. They improve their musicianship, expand their compositional creativity, or tighten up their live show. And I can attest (so far, anyway) that it’s been the same with my kid. Gorgonna is growing. Her skills — fine motor, comprehension, vocabulary, and love of reading — have risen dramatically over the past few months. She’s putting in the toddler equivalent of weeks at the rehearsal space, hashing out tunes in preparation of even greater feats. Some of her interests border on obsessive. It’s awe-striking, even scary in a way — and I’m the one who’s going to have to public-relate the shit out of her so those skills keep their upward momentum.
She appeals to different audiences.
Bands that change their sound enough the second go-around can alienate an established fanbase. Audiences expecting the same behavior as before can be sorely disappointed — that was mostly left behind with Baby 1.0, and it ain’t comin’ back. Gorgonna’s public presence — chill, reserved, inquisitive — has transformed with her increased awareness and mental processing power. She shies away if strangers (or even close relatives) look at her, but has little trouble in a roomful of strangers. This changes the “public performance” dynamic a bit, but for the most part Gorgonna’s simply more fun to have around with people she does know. She’s found a new audience — or at least a new style. And that’s changing the way I behave, too.
We can try to steer our progeny down certain paths, and occasionally these do result in short-term victories. But it’s the long-term that’s impossible to forecast; there’s too much daily interference obscuring those murky waters of divination, and we’re forced to focus on the present. “Please finish your peas,” or “let’s brush our teeth.” Maybe being present-minded is a good thing, but the sheer, unfathomable uncertainty of What Will Be is always, always scraping against my rear-most cranial zones.
Fathering Gorgonna is a binding contract. And, oh yes, it’s for life. The sophomore effort is simply the next step in a long, hopefully profitable career, but the stigma — whether that’s the Terrible Twos or the second album — is inescapable. Here’s hoping we all make it through.