98 problems

You know who needs to shut up? Jermaine Dupri needs to shut up.See, last year I made this prediction about the world of music in 2007:

To help steer people back to albums, I reckon we’ll see more concept albums, with bands (and record companies) trying to convince us that all the album tracks are equally important, and, like, we must respect their artistic vision and go on a musical journey.

Well, this week record producer/rapper Jermaine Dupri wrote a blog for the Huffington Post called “A Good Album is More than Just a Collection of Singles” and all my dreams came true.Dupri defends pal Jay-Z’s decision not to allow the songs on his new album “American Gangster” to be sold on iTunes as individual tracks. If you want it, you have to buy the whole thing.JD’s basic argument is that consumers should not be allowed to buy album tracks individually because it deprives the artist of income and destroys the album’s artistic integrity.Jay-Z has to eat, but so do music buyers. So why should we spend our money on a whole album rather than just a few tracks? After all, we might need that extra money to feeding ourselves? It’s cos it’s art.Dupri says:

“Creating each album as a body of work that means something gives the consumer something better to listen to, It’s that simple. … Every record is in some way a concept album. The whole always strives to be better than its parts.”

There’s room for thematic albums, but a good song should stand on its own. I can listen to “Justify My Thug” without having to listen to it as track 11 of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album”. It doesn’t require the album’s context to function as a song.And what about songs off an album that are released as singles? Are they especially written to function both as a contextual album track and a stand-along single? Dupri brushes over the subject, probably not wanting to draw attention to the 21 singles he has featured on in the last 10 years. Yes.It’s not even like the idea of the album as an artistic whole has a great history. Simon Grigg, who is knowledgeable about music, wrote earlier this year about the death of the album. He noted that until the Beatles and the Beach Boys came along in the 1960s, albums barely existed:

Before that pop albums didn’t matter at all. Nobody knows the name of any of Fabian’s albums I assume he released at least one, or for that matter, raising the credibility stakes a tad, Chuck Berry’s or even, outside the hardcore fans, Elvis’ longplayers…they were simply places to collate hit songs with the odd filler.

The album is a totally arbitrary concept, anyway, based on the physical size of on a LP or CD. In this digital age, there’s no reason to cling to the concept of an album. An artist can package as many or as few songs as he likes.The album is dying, being replaced with ideas that are taking music in a new dimension, and savvy producer Jermaine Dupri and Def Jam Recordings CEO Jay-Z really ought to realise this and do something bold instead of calling it disrespectful.

6 thoughts on “98 problems”

  1. Hi robyn!

    While I focused more on the puff daddy article about 360 deals

    http://www.crainsnewyork.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071118/FREE/71118035/1008/toc

    this is what I said on my blog @ http://kurbpromotion.wordpress.com

    Bob’s also had another go at Jay Z for his prehistoric decision to not allow his album to be broken up for sale as singles online. The argument maybe that Jay Z’s had 10 no. 1 albums and he can do what he likes, but if you’re not Jay Z . . . don’t try this foolishness at home. It’s about access people. Make it accessible. Become a star. Then we’ll worry about the cash later.

    http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2007/11/20/jermaine-dupri-on-the-huffington-post

  2. At the risk of sounding like a codger, but your supposition that back in 19-dickety-2 or whenever the “the album is a totally arbitrary concept” is based on, disregards the more modern idea of “the album as a work”. Not necessarily something as annoying and fatuous as a “concept album”, but nevertheless something which transcends its status as a time-based compilation of singles and b-sides.

    Having said that, though, even my own albums which are ostensibly concept albums (just don’t actually call them that… more a meta-song, an ephemeral grouping of tracks in a particular order designed to impart some meaning or moment or fleeting feeling or other to the listener) there’re still the “single tracks” too which can be pulled out and listened in fragante delicto*.

    * ?

    So um, I find myself at the commencement of a third paragraph, my previously ingested brace of martinis have sent my point scurrying off into the hinterland. Oh wait, were they just talking about hip hop albums, which surely everyone agrees are heavily infiltrated with unlistenable filler, and that’s not including those fucken ubiquitous skits.

    [break for air and martini]

    I’ve experimented on this. Play “Word on a Wing” from Bowie’s Station To Station; it’s not the same without being preceded by Golden Years and the bizarely theatrical title track. Not at all. So in conclusion, don’t lump our precious albums in with your “mediums to transmit the next pop chart-bound single and a couple of remixes”. Right pass the Werthers Originals.

    PS. Hi Peter Mac, I just bought a H.Picassos 7″ and I am feeling gooood. Also my Anti Nerd Machine tshirt is going well. Thanks.

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