The Freeing Relief in Owning Your ‘Flop Era’
Consider for a moment: Cher.
Maybe her 1998 dance-pop comeback, “Believe” was one of your pre-pandemic karaoke standbys, as it was mine. Perhaps you were among the legions of stuck-at-home movie watchers who, during the various lockdowns of 2020, either discovered or rediscovered Moonstruck — the “morbid spaghetti rom-com,” co-starring Nicholas Cage, that landed our heroine a Best Actress Oscar for her starring role in 1987. No matter what your relationship is with Cher, I’m willing to bet that you picture an icon.
Cher has been an icon for longer than I’ve been alive. But before she was an icon, she was a flop. Understanding the artist’s “flop era”— as the writer Harron Walker cannily dubs it, in a new column for W — can be precisely the ticket for owning a floppy time of your own.
“A flop era, if you’re not familiar, refers to the more fallow period of a pop star’s career, one in which she — and we’re almost always talking ‘she,’ here — fails to replicate the success found in earlier parts of her run,” explains Walker.
The flop era, in other words, is what happens after the young artist has delivered on her youthful promise, but before she’s put in the time to find a reinvention that sticks. It’s that phase between realizing what you can do and knowing what you ought to give. It’s the lull after a breakup or a layoff, or, perhaps, the span of life lived in the vise grip of a global pandemic. Maybe it’s all of the above. What a flop era isn’t, is the end.
After all, look at Cher.
“When she was cycling through another entertainer’s greatest hits on the set of her latest variety show, she didn’t know she’d win an Oscar or that she’d still manage to top the charts when she was 52,” writes Walker, citing the sub-iconic shlock of Cher’s post-Sonny, pre-screen stardom, mid-1970s ventures. “She was in the negative space of her career — but she would have had no way of knowing that until the next phase properly began.”
For a whole lot of people, 2020 was a flop. And — big surprise — a mere change of the calendar year failed to magically fix things. Are you feeling let down? Yeah, same.
It may be worth your while to let Cher be your totem.
Embrace your flop phase for all that it is, for its offers of growth and impermanence. Know it, name it, dress it in a Bob Mackie gown. You just might find that when the other side presents itself, you’ll be ready for whatever comes next.