Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Singles Driven Society (or Death To The Entire Album)

The recent re-release of all the brilliant Beatles’ albums have gotten me thinking lately about entire albums. Full length albums are not appreciated like they used to be. I can remember not being able to wait for the full length record to arrive. My friends and I would hear about a new release coming out from one of our favorite bands and we would mark the date on the calendar. We’d run to the mall or the record store, or wherever cassettes were sold and be one of the first kids on our block to have the latest release from whatever band. To own the new album on the day it came out was a big thrill.

Times have changed. Nowadays, kids can just download an album from the internet (legally or illegally, that’s another post for another day), pop it in their IPods, and be done with it. The rush of owning and smelling and cherishing a new release is gone. The instant gratification society has killed the enjoyment of a brand new album that took months to put together.

The bands of today are picking up on this fact as well. Radiohead has recently mentioned that they are done making albums. They will only record singles and release them as they see fit. Smashing Pumpkins have made news recently by stating they will release their new album one single at a time as the songs are finished. While it brings a whole new wave of marketability, it means certain death for full length albums the way we used to enjoy them.

When my parents were teenagers, rock and roll started out this way. Singles were huge and full length albums were rare. 45s sold like hot cakes, but only the real superb bands (i.e. The Beatles) could sell a full length album. It was a thing of beauty that was reserved only for the best.

And this knowledge is what forced bands to craft amazing works of art. Think Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon, or Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. These artists knew that they had to fight for sales, thus they worked their asses off to only give their best. Now with the insanity of the instantaneous internet, bands are churning out mediocre songs at best and launching them on ITunes. It’s a shame and it destroys the full album experience.

Entire albums are almost unknown to my daughter. She knows the few I buy for her, but even then, she only listens to a few select songs and moves on. There is no sitting and playing the entire disc from start to finish. “No one does that,” she once told me. I still do that, but it wasn’t worth the debate. Sometimes there is no changing a 12 year old mind.

So, could this be the end of the entire album? Are the newer bands going to move in the direction of singles focus? When the dinosaurs like Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones have passed on, will the new crop focus solely on singles? Would you even care?

I definitely don’t want to see music move in this direction, as I love nothing more than a new release of an entire album. I like to hold it in my hands, smell the manufacturing plastic, feel that small rush as I rip open the packaging and pop the CD in my car (or home) stereo. I don’t ever want that feeling to end. Perhaps I am being just a tad too nostalgic. Would you miss albums if they were gone, or are you happy ringing in the new singles driven society? Share your thoughts.

Comments are open. Feel free to post some.

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