25.2.09

'Song' vs. 'Album'

I've noticed a trend in music: most people write songs that stand on their own.  An 'album' is just a collection of these songs on a CD that the artist thought good. 

This is one of the big differences between 'modern' music and 'old' music.  On many 'old' albums, certain songs just don't make sense unless they're heard in context.  Take, for example, Pink Floyd's Eclipse.  That song sounds ok-ish played by itself.  But when you play Dark Side of the Moon, it fits perfectly.  It's part of a story.  It used to be that an album was a story.  Now, it's not so much that way. 

Same way with jam bands--there are times when you have to hear three, four, five songs in a row to hear the story that the music is telling.  Each song may sound good, but when you play them connected together, there's something bigger than each song. 

I'm wondering what's changed that casued that.  I've got a couple of theories:

1) Radio hits: make one song that's a radio hit.  Ignore the album
2) iTunes: no longer do you have to buy the whole album.  Just pick your songs.
3) Could it be related to why songs are now about three minutes a piece?  Whereas a lot of 'old' songs are around 6-10.

What are your thoughts?

2 comments:

Matt said...

Well this is certainly true. People our age tend to listen to a lot of singles and mixes, I think. It's partly because of digital music and MP3 players and random song features, but I think it's also how music is marketed. The concept of a radio single and all that.

But this trend is also evident in other areas of life. Generally speaking, people don't read newspapers cover-to-cover anymore. They see a headline that catches their eye and click though to skim the article.

People are too "busy." We're trying to do too many things at once and doing a poor job of it.

I tend to listen to albums as a whole for the reasons you described. And I've almost always had the tendency. I even listen to new albums this way although most of the music I listen to isn't exactly "mainstream."

Mercedes said...

Same here...although I do skim some blogs.

What's frustrating is when you get an album from a good artist and it's not well laid out. Probably due to the fact that fewer folks will actually care about the layout.

And I hate the shuffle feature. If I want to listen to a bunch of songs, I'll either put on an album or pick ones that fit together by hand. Kinda like making an album of multiple artists.