I haven't done something like this for a while, so for our new readers, let's get you up to speed:
What is Advancement?
It is basically the opposite of the theory expressed by Sick Boy in Trainspotting: “Well, at one time, you've got it, and then you lose it, and it's gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed.” (Ironically, he told this to Renton, who Advances in the movie by renouncing drugs and "choosing life.") The Advanced Theory says that Sick Boy had it all wrong, that Bowie and Reed hadn't mysteriously lost “it,” they just changed “it” to something that is harder to appreciate. And since change is scary to most of us, we declare that the problem is with the artist and not us.
Of course it is difficult for anyone to accept that Mistrial represented artistic progress from Transformer or that "All For Love," Sting's collaboration with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart, could be more advanced than "Roxanne." (It's difficult for me too.) But a great artist is great because he challenges himself and his audience rather than doing what is comfortable. Artistically, "All For Love" was more exciting for Sting than writing another "Roxanne." And what could be more challenging than doing a song you know your fans will hate just on principle?
Finding these kinds of challenges is essential to the Advanced because it is relatively easy for them to write great songs (in the traditional, non-Advanced sense) because songwriting comes naturally to them. This is not limited to Advanced musicians of course. Late in his life Tolstoy got more satisfaction from making mediocre shoes than writing sublime novels. To Tolstoy, the challenge of driving a nail into a sole without breaking it was more stimulating than writing the greatest novel of all time. After all, he did the latter twice.
Before the Advanced had to look to Honda or Rod Stewart for inspiration, the challenge of breaking through to an audience was enough to motivate them to write music. As they aged, though, they began to understand that catering to an audience is limiting. Some reacted by making music designed especially to make the audience mad. But this is ultimately just as limiting because it is still allowing someone other than the artist to dictate what the art will be. So eventually instead of trying to please or infuriate others, they make music that they find interesting, regardless of how people might feel about it. And that's when true Advancement begins.