Elvis Costello has had a long and versatile career. He first really got his start in the 1970s, when pub rock was taking hold in England. As the decade progressed, Costello got involved with punk and new wave music. He has worked on a vast number of hit songs, many of which have influenced the world of rock and pop culture for many years. For instance, his debut album My Aim is True contained the song “Less Than Zero,” which would later become the title of the first novel by big-name author Bret Easton Ellis.
Like many major recording artists, Elvis Costello was known for writing very emotional songs about the opposite sex. He was able to write about a woman in a way that told a complete story, not just from the perspective of the man who was falling in or out of love with her but also from the perspective of the woman herself. He became known as a musician who was keenly in touch with the human condition, able to virtually dissect people in his lyrics.
While the music itself was very different, comparisons have been drawn between Elvis Costello and Jerry Lee Lewis. This is largely due to the influence that the British punk phase had on Costello’s work, the high energy and sheer power driving his songs. Much like Lewis, this is even prevalent when Costello is accompanied by no other instruments, but rather accompanying himself with a high-energy piano score. However, he did play with a band quite frequently. He formed a band called the Attractions early on in his career, and they provided the grooves that backed up many of his melodies.
The basic style for which Elvis Costello and the Attractions became known was one of sheer chaos. While some recording artists pride themselves on melodies in which every single note appears to have been painstakingly set in place, Costello’s music is known for sounding nearly improvisational in nature. He does not have just one sound or one style, but rather he is the type of artist who will play around with whatever is popular at the time and imbue the music with his own twist. As such, his music appears to spring forth from an inner well of creativity.
In 2004, Costello was recognized for his multitude of achievements in the music world when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over the course of his career, he has not only managed to stand apart on his own but has collaborated with a number of major artists ranging from Burt Bacharach to Paul McCartney to Bruce Springsteen. He has also performed with modern punk band Green Day, as well as Fall Out Boy. He even once collaborated with John Mellencamp and author Stephen King on the soundtrack for their musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.
These numerous collaborations would not have been possible if not for Costello’s versatile (some might even say erratic) style. His body of work is ever-expanding, demonstrating his love for music itself as well as the myriad forms the art has taken over the years since the 1970s. Elvis Costello entered the music business at a time when the landscape of the music industry was changing, and he has done his part to ensure that it continues changing at a steady pace to this day.
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