Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stairway to Singles

What's your favorite album?


Maybe you have a stock answer ready to go. Maybe you need to explain why this album means this, and that album means that.

What's your favorite single?


I can bet you don't have a stock answer for that. It's an odd question. If narrowing down an album is difficult enough, try finding one singular song that sums up you.

Your answer to the former of my two questions is becoming less and less important. The days of albums are dwindling. I don't mean vinyl records or even CD's, I mean the concept of an album. A gathering of songs by an artist for distribution.

What got me thinking about this was that, for the first time, I read how the #1 Downloaded Song is Flo Rida's "Right Round," which shattered the 1,000,000 download mark faster than any single in history. That used to be the way Billboard wrote about albums.

Now, instead, there is Flo Rida, who has the #1 Single on iTunes as just that, a single. There is no album, no other tracks. He has generated over $1 million in gross income purely off of a single. A single that is using a sampling of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me 'Right Round (Like a Record)" that was released in 1987!

What this all means is that in a world where album sales have fallen, artists want more and more money, and record companies looking to cash in quick, what is stopping the whole industry from just becoming a giant one-hit wonder factory?

Release a single on iTunes, get in on the radio, and let the money pour in. People don't want whole albums any more. They want to pick and choose individual songs for their library. More often than not, those individual songs are going to be songs like "'Right Round" or Lady GaGa's "Poker Face." There's no interest in hearing other songs, just the one's people know and want to hear.

Consider how music has become completely static over the years. Starting with the boy bands you had a formula. Sure it's been around forever, but it was done well by Michael Jackson or George Michael. Those 80's icons that made memorable songs. Instead as music has become more and more bastardized, we get less and less iconic names and more forgettable songs.

Go listen to "Gives You Hell" by All-American Rejects or Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You." Are people going to revere these songs and artists like those of 20 years ago? Hell no. There are #1 singles from 4 years ago I can't even remember who sang them.

When you can take a subpar late 80's pop song, use the hook, rap over it about girls or going out or what clothes you wear, and make millions, that is sending the wrong message to everyone. Music loses it's creativity and it's motivation. How can there be any in a world where relevant, intelligent, and should be iconic bands, like TV on the Radio or M.I.A. are left to the minority to fight it out for minor acclaim?

It used to be that one-hit wonder was a negative. It was embarrassing. It showed that a blind squirrel can find a nut. Every so often you'd get a great on-hit wonder that would live on forever. Now, to be a one-hit wonder is a great thing. Just keep on doing it. Don't worry about a whole album. Just spurt out pop-infused blather over a catchy hook and let your $.99 roll in hand over fist. Artists are becoming less artists and more jukebox. Hey J-Kwon, give me a song about being "Tipsy" or if I'm in college, maybe I just want to spend three and a half minutes listening to a song about how much I love college?! Thanks, Asher Roth! I mean REALLY?! with Rob Grundlock. This is taking us to a place that I don't want to go. A place that society pretty much demands, and no one is going to go out of their way to stop.

There are no Nirvanas or Led Zeppelins coming because they don't do what popular culture demands of their artist, they make music...not singles.

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