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.