After more than three decades of music - at times award-winning, edgy, radio-friendly, provocative and now, classic - the iconic alternative rock outfit of R.E.M. has called it a career. The band, which hailed from Athens, Georgia, transcended not only geography but generations, managing to maintain relevance with powerful messages and pop sensibility infused into classic, guitar-driven music with passionate lyrics. To call R.E.M. influential would be an understatement, as the band has undoubtedly left its mark on both music and American culture. With such a significant footprint, it's clear that fans of R.E.M. will find it difficult to let the band go. According to Michael Stipe's statement on the band's website, the feeling is mutual.
"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision," Stipe wrote. "All things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way."
The idea of leaving on the band's own terms is a good one, as too many bands linger around after they've worn out their welcome. That won't be the case with R.E.M., as the band will likely be remembered in a good light. This move also frees up R.E.M.'s members to pursue their own projects; there has been some speculation that frontman Stipe may be prepping for a solo run. Whether that occurs remains to be seen. And while we're in a speculative state of mind, we couldn't help but think about what other frontmen might do well after they retire from the group setting.
Thom Yorke : The Radiohead frontman has already dabbled in independent musical ventures, releasing the acclaimed The Eraser in 2006; the album was a moody, brooding electronic effort that reflected elements of Radiohead, albeit with more of Yorke's individual eccentricities included. After the album, Yorke returned to the fold along with the other members who explored alternative projects, and Radiohead is still kicking today. But if that stops any time soon, Yorke could undoubtedly have a successful solo run.
Chris Martin : There's no indication that Coldplay is going anywhere, but as the band's career has progressed, Chris Martin has become a symbolic representation of the band, a larger-than-life figure elevated to celebrity status, far beyond that of his bandmates. Martin has a distinct voice and a dominant personality, so he shouldn't have a problem establishing himself on the scene without the rest of his band. Martin has at times been compared to Yorke, but we're not quite ready to make that comparison. Still, he seems talented, so there's no telling what he could do.
Bono: Bono is the prototypical famous frontman, as the Irishman has established an identity separate from U2 in such a dramatic way: wooing world leaders, being granted honorary knighthood, earning a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and being named Time's Person of the Year. While his solo humanitarian efforts are undisputed, it would be interesting to see how Bono operates without The Edge and the rest of U2. We know Bono has skilled vocals and passionate lyrics, but what else would he offer?
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- Michael Stipe