In Defense of the Album

Warning, I might go full-on into indie-snob jackass during this entry.

Alright, so through a series of early morning TV and early internet browsing, I came across the following link today.

Ok, I could sit here and bag on the article for, well, the easy targets. That all we have as this guy’s credentials is his Twitter, that the writing just isn’t that good, or that it’s on freaking MTV’s website. But you know what? I’m actually going to face this on the points that it makes. Or tries to. Alright, let’s begin.

He says: that the album is dead and that singles are the life blood of the music industry, and that we’re all going for music on phones and by song as much as possible. The Billboard charts are then very loosely referenced, and the death of the album is only a few years off.
My counter
: For conventional popular music, the single has always been the lifeblood because it is what gets the radioplay, which generates sales, etc. The album here is “dead” in the sense that mediocre artists no longer have to put 3-5 singles on an album and crank out filler on the other 8-12 songs to make money. This is why album sales have declined so much in the mainstream; how many times have you heard a great song on the radio, bought pirated the album, and realized that the only good songs are the singles? People have caught wise to this, and thanks to one-song buying, they only get the singles and avoid the crap. The album is “dying” because artists can no longer put total shit on an album, mix in some singles, and reap the benefits.

He says: this is where I started cracking up. “Who’s to say you are wrong [about the power of the long-play]? Well, I am. And so is Katy Perry.” Other direct quote, Perry’s new album Teenage Dream “may very well signify the end of the album as we know it.”

My counter: I…I don’t know where to start. According to this, Katy Perry is going to be the end of an enduring music model. Katy Perry. The woman whose two biggest hits have been 1. an ode to drunkenly (and superfluously) making out with your girlfriends and 2. An anthem to the skin-bearing, bimbo beach bitches of a certain West Coast state. You remember a minute ago how I basically said that the album highlights the weaknesses of mediocre artists who can’t make more than a few good songs amidst 8 bad ones? Katy Perry is one of those artists, and she always will be.

He says: “This is perhaps the first album in history that lends itself to the shuffle function on your iPod.”
My counter:
No, it’s not. In fact, ignoring a precious few suggestions/conventions, the general policy on track lasting has been any order you like. Take for example, Weezer’s Weezer (The Blue Album). Ignoring the first/last tracks, you could put things in any order and it’d still be 10 loaded power pop songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio. And hell, the “random” button has been a feature since CDs were around, so there.

Alright, enough “he said/I said”. Here is why the album won’t go out of style. The album will exist as a medium as long as there are artists who put out quality songs from beginning to end. There’s always going to be artists like Katy Perry, Train, Jason DeRulo, and Miley Cyrus who treat albums as a few singles+B-sides bundled together. And there’s going to be artists like Arcade Fire (#1 album on Billboard last week), the Dead Weather, and Gaslight Anthem who put together albums that work as cohesive units. And artists like this have been around since the dawn of popular music. And they always will. And that’s why the album will endure: artists who put out high quality albums will be rewarded. Those that don’t will not. The end.

He says: “So perhaps the best thing you can say about it [Teenage Dream] is that it’s not a particularly solid album, but it’s one heck of a greatest-hits collection.”
My counter:
Greatest hits? Dude, have you heard the title track?

About bgibs122

I enjoy music and music culture; I hope you do, too.
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