Whatever happened to the album concept?
Hey honey, can you go to the store and pick up a few songs? My iPod needs filling
That sounds a bit silly, but it seems to me that that is what’s happening to the popular song these days. People buy single songs for .99¢ or rip one or two tracks from a CD to load up their iPods. Then they categorize them so that they have songs for sunny days, rainy days, break-up days, and laundry days. The songs become a commodity and random fodder for our daily soundtrack. And don’t even get me started on ring tones!
It’s not all the fault of the consumer either. Songwriters are lured by the possible exposure and money they can earn from a commercial endorsement or the placement of one of their songs on a WB network show. And like these shows, the music is getting predictable and boring; they say the same things in the same ways with the same musical approach. I listen to these songs and I just say – So What? -
Thus I’ve come to create a whole new category of pop music called, in my book, “So What Music”. The songs are well played, the singers, for the most part are ok, and there is nothing really ‘wrong’ with the songs except that I’ve heard them before in some guise or another. I’m an XM Satellite radio subscriber and as I bounce around the twenty or so channels that offer popular songs of some style or another I realize that there really are not a lot of signed artists that offer something ‘new’. Perhaps that’s why they are signed – oooh I’m being cynical – maybe, but it does seem that the bigger acts are the ones that appeal to the middle. And, I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s been happening since pop music became pop music, but… So What?
When I was a kid I went to the Kresge’s dime store and bought 45′s for 75¢ and traded those around with my friends, but I also bought albums (when I had the cash). The albums I bought usually had an arc to them and I would listen to the first side and then want to turn over to the other side to hear how the thing ended. Born To Run is a prime example and I can’t listen to just the song Born To Run without humming She’s the One right after it. It’s the next chapter in the story. These albums had songs that had depth and imagery and the albums themselves had an arc to them that demanded that I listen to the entire CD.
So who is doing this these days? If you take a listen to this week’s podcast I feel that the three artists that are spotlighted do and I can name a few signed artists like Elvis Costello, Springsteen, and an up and coming favorite of mine Ryan Adams. We as discriminating listeners have to wade through a lot of mish-mash to get to the real good stuff. But it’s well worth the search and hopefully this podcast is a good place to jump off.