|A brief commentary from a music listener.|
This last week the mega popular, multi-platinum artists known as the The Gorillaz released their third and most likely final album, Plastic Beach. Internationally fans from every corner of the world ran out to purchase or download this new album. A few teaser videos released to Youtube and various media outlets had peaked the general public's interest and created quite a buzz.
Quite a few here at as well as myself have given it a generally positive nod. In fact, as I'm typing this out I'm now listening to it in it's entirety for the 6th time since my purchase on Tuesday. Ten, fifteen years back this wouldn't be such a strange thing but as I got to the 4th play through a slightly bothersome thought occurred to me.
When was the last time I'd listened to an album in it's entirety more than two or three times tops before moving on to some new musical obsession?
A couple years? Five maybe ten or more?
Certainly attention spans change as the years carry forward. You watched your favorite childhood movies 50 times in a row over the course of two months but can barely watch even a good movie twice through once you start into adulthood.
And yes, as a teenager new albums could be something of an event with entire afternoons filled with uninterrupted listening of ones favorite handful of albums but I think it's become very clear that these moments we used to set aside to sit and enjoy albums in their entirety have significantly diminished with so many media outlets offering an unending stream of instantaneous links to other artists and forms of entertainment viciously competing for our attention and spending dollar.
Typically, more and more people are listening for the hit singles. Everything, the video, the radio play, the advertising, the web links are all focused on getting you to at the very least pay for a few uploads of your favorite tracks.
It's been no major secret that the CD industry has been on a fairly steep downhill slide for the last decade due to the prominence of illegal and legitimate downloading of music and has been forced to consolidate down to roughly three major labels and a handful of viable independents. Artists have adapted and are seeking revenue streams, touring and merchandising more to make a decent return from their chosen professions.
The most unsettling general change from all this though would be found in the listener.
Starkly, in some instances, we are starting to treat this art we once cherished as if it were completely disposable. We listen to what we like and simply click on to the next track in our MP3 players custom shuffle to get to the next track. We listen to play the songs we love until they are completely whored out and we can barely stand to hear them anymore and then seek out new consumables to do the same to.
If you think I'm just waxing on about every other music listener consider the massive success of the NOW- That's What I Call Music Discography's:
|The NOW That's What I Call Music! series is a joint venture from EMI Music North America, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.|
The NOW That's What I Call Music! series debuted in the U.S. in 1998 after the brand had been a multi-platinum international success for 15 years. The series has generated sales exceeding 200 million albums worldwide, including more than 74 million copies in the U.S. Every album in the numbered U.S. series has reached Billboard's Top 10, with NOW 3 the first non-soundtrack, multi-artist collection in history to reach #1.
This particular venture was designed to specifically cater to lazy f*cks who aren't motivated enough to turn off their radios and televisions for a brief moment and go down to their local record store or simply look about online and really work to discover new sounds for themselves. People buying these would rather be hand fed an ideal of what good music is rather than make a personal decision for themselves.
And they've sold like meth to bored small town kids. Similarly, You can go to your local Wal-Mart and pick up your Everyday Low Price music along side the fairly cheap ingredients to cook up meth in your kitchen right now to the same affect, producing a nation of uninspired, drug addled drones all listening to the same one hundred songs for the next two years.
I think about decidedly commercial albums like Stone Temple Pilots, Core. It was an immediately rocking album, every other song sounded like a hit single. Then the slightly more creative and "artsy" Purple and then the decidedly more out there Tiny Music...Songs from The Vatican Gift Shop and how I wasn't an immediate fan of the latter two but how I really came to enjoy the intricacies and depth found in them after repeated listening to them during work out sessions. I didn't get up to change the track. I simply let them play from beginning to end, regardless of my like for one song over another and really grew to enjoy them.
I think about the immediate commercial success of De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and then the slightly more polished and successfully selling follow up De La Soul is Dead. Then I think about Buhloone Mindstate and what an entirely different album it was, set aside from anything else, hailed in many top ten Hip Hop Albums of all time lists by people in the know on the subject and truly one of my personal favorites.
Then I think how it sold barely 23,000 copies it's 1st week of release and sat at #40 on the Billboard Charts, sinking off into obscurity and general unavailability.
I guess the point of all this is I feel our respect for music artists and their work has just declined because we have been offered too many options on listening to their marketing approach as opposed to the overall message they are trying to communicate as people presenting an album that most likely has over 10 tracks as opposed to the three we choose to focus on.
Rather than marking the quality of an album's presentations from beginning to end we give them just enough success on a few catchy songs to make it to their next album. In turn, they grow so fearful of not putting out another hit album that they refrain from taking creative chances and churn out some recycled, watered down version of the thing that made them popular to begin with and then we have the audacity to call them "sell outs" when it was us who didn't support them on the occasions where they tried something new.
An album from any serious artist is a portrait.
The tracks are arranged with peaks and valleys to inspire imagery and moods, scenes and situations. From the opening track to the closing song, a message clear or vague is attempting to be communicated to us by the person.
In such busy times, how well are we listening?
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