RIP Teena Marie

27 12 2010

As a rock n’ roll guy, I have a hard time copping to liking fluffy pop stuff.  But I must admit I always kinda liked this song.  It’s too bad that Teena Marie has passed, apparently of natural causes.  Godspeed Teena.

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Shuffling and short attention spans: the death of the album

5 12 2010

During recent conversations I’ve been in online regarding pirating copyrighted music — mostly through free file-sharing software — I’ve learned that younger music fans do not see unauthorized free downloading of songs as stealing. They justify it several ways:  1) some artists put out their albums free online and then use they tours to make money (which is dumb since you can make royalties long after you are nursing home and wheelchair bound);  2) the music industry is behind the times and we’re just “forcing them to change their antiquated business model”; 3) you older folks used to make mixed tapes of song.  We’re just doing the same thing digitally.  Of course, that ignores that the guy that made the mixed tape bought both the blank tapes and the cd’s from which songs were borrowed and copied to tape.  One tape was made especially for a girlfriend.  We didn’t have 4000 guys come over and burn the CD or songs from it.

Perhaps I’m straying far afield.  The idea is that the mindset of the younger — teen, early 20-something — fan has changed dramatically.  They readily, almostly gladly, declare that “the album is dead.”  Downloading is great because people don’t listen to albums anymore.  We just go out and find the songs we like and mash them all together in whatever for or fashion is suitable at the moment.

“Nobody listens to albums anymore.  We just listen to individual songs.”  That statement, made by one of the piracy defenders, really jumped out at me.  I grew up in the day of the album.  After the Beatles, pop artists and rockers were expected to put out an album full of good material, with 2 or 3 strong singles to boot.  A great album, even if it wasn’t a concept album, was tied together nicely with some kind of common movement or even a loose theme.  With some notable recent exceptions — Gorillaz Plastic Beach — albums only exist to contain a lot of songs.  Their utility seems less obvious, particularly since only the hits tend to have any value.

I’ve been asking, “How did we get to this point?”  The Beatles made the album a work of art and thereafter the album was the standard.  It was like that until the late 90’s, at least. If a band didn’t have a decent album to put out, its career would die in the water.  Lack of album material lead to an endless stream of one-hit-wonders. “How did we stray back to the pre-Beatles days when only the song — or 2 or 3 — mattered? To answer that, I came up with a crazy theory that is a bit chicken-and-egg.

Shuffling — The earliest CD players had shuffle functions so that you no longer had to listen to an album in sequential order.  You could mix up the songs with the press of a button, a feat not easily completed with a phonograph or cassette player.  Single disc CD players soon became 100 disc carousel players.  You could store over a thousand songs in your multi-disc player and put them on shuffle.  That was the precursor to the digital music player with shuffle functions.

Short attention spans — Kids won’t admit it, but their constantly moving minds won’t permit them 47:30 necessary to listen, start-to-finish, to some great old classic rock album.  Oh, some of the young whippersnappers today like classic rock…but only in one song bites.  Everything’s been given to them in sound bites.  Why shouldn’t music only be in short bursts?  One Beatles or Stones song is enough for now.  It’s time to move on to Kings of Leon or Jay-Z.

If you have a short attention span, why would you try to fall in love with an album cover to cover?  Just get your hands on the song that your friend played for you, download it, and move onto the next fresh track.

Because kids these days don’t listen to albums, I theorize that “artists” no longer try to make them.  It’s as if we’ve come full circle.  In the early rock early, especially just before the Beatles broke in England and the States, pop artists made records full of filler, 10 crappy songs to justify selling a 12 inch platter for 2 songs.  Singles, of course, were what most kids bought, but record companies push long players to squeeze more money out of the kids.

Albums still exist today, but they’re full of filler.  They’re made for old farts (like me) that still see that albums are the measure of a band’s talent.  To me, if you can’t put together 12 solid songs, I’m probably not interested in the 1 or 2 groovy tunes you’ve managed to get on the radio.  People like me buy CD’s, but we are select in what we get. They’re also made to sell to the little kids that don’t know better and who haven’t figured out that only 2 songs are worth listening to.  Those little kids don’t use their own money for music; it comes from the old farts still buying albums.