I was reading Facebook last week and I saw a post from a friend of mine mourning the loss of the album within the music industry. The comment struck me because, as most of my readers know, music plays an important role in my life. Music provides much cherished lifelines back to important memories throughout my life, and many songs will forever make my memory stir and stretch in my soul.
He has a point, though.
The technological explosions that we have seen over the years has offered us many wonderful things. Digital media can be a wonderful thing, but we have become a different sort of consumer, particularly in the realm of media. The trend in music has caused many of us to be more micro consumers, grabbing individual songs, rather than macro consumers who used to purchase full albums.
In some ways this is nice. When I hear that one song by an artist that I hate which actually appeals to me I can purchase it without all the surrounding drek. But, this transition back to a single based music industry, like the one in the early days of rock n’ roll, does have its share of consequences.
One of the reasons that the album standard in music was so successful was the ability to make groups of songs that flowed together. Many albums had a continuity to them in theme or tone that allowed one to have an experience that the single can never really deliver. A well crafted album is a true work of art. Part of that flow is that many of the best songs by some artists are never heard on the radio, as they never get released as singles. These gems are hidden away on the album, waiting to snare us with their beauty and eloquence (and, yes, I think those terms can apply to any kind of music from classical to heavy metal).
Perhaps the biggest loss that is resulting from the death of the album is the death of the concept album. The ability of a true talented artist to tell a tale through music is one of the most rewarding listening experiences out there. Without albums being the standard we may never see another “Dark Side of the Moon” or “2112.” The concept album becomes legendary in itself when it works, and the quiet death knell of the album in general will certainly seem to be a death sentence for this, its most distilled and visceral form.
So, I’ll continue to seek albums out personally. My luck in that area has been good the last few years. I have discovered The Rescues “Let Loose the Horses” and I’ve even recently added a new concept album, Within Temptation’s haunting new “The Unforgiving,” to my library.
I, for one, am not going to let the album go quietly into that night. I will continue to support the format. I will do so because the best music, the most artistic and telling expressions of the human state, cannot be summed up in a single song. They must be explored much more deeply than that, and the album gives a more complete voice to the artist.
Besides, single-centric music gave us ridiculousness like “Friday.”