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People don’t make albums anymore

By Sheroog Kubur, June 29 2023—

In 2013, Beyonce mused about the music industry and birthed one of the most pertinent quotes of the modern music industry — “People don’t make albums anymore.” She was complaining about the tendency of artists to put out singles in hopes of achieving a number one track instead of treating albums as a full body of work. The music industry has changed dramatically since 2013, although the veracity of her statement still rings true. 

At the risk of sounding like another boomer that complains about the digitization of everything, the digitization of music pushed the industry to prioritize streams above all else. At the same time, streaming services mean that albums are clearly not what they used to be. While back in the day, fans would have to wait for the album release to purchase the CD or vinyl and experience it for the first time in order, now fans are able to pick out tracks they prefer and add those to a separate playlist. There is no longer a need for a meticulously crafted tracklist because the art of the album has become disjointed to the point where artists are more likely to put out a collection of singles than anything else. 

This doesn’t mean that the quality of music has declined in any way — in fact, some of the albums released in the 2020s have proven themselves to be staples of the decade, including Ungodly Hour by Chloe X Halle and RENAISSANCE by Beyonce among many others. There is still the capacity for the albums that remind us of the days before streaming but they seem to be spaced out among album after album of quick singles. But if the nature of streaming means that we are now able to filter through albums to seek out the most appealing tracks, does that not imply a more engaging way of consuming music? 

What it means is that we are once again reminiscing of a time that is coloured through our rose sunglasses. While it is true that the digitization of music has resulted in new forms of consuming music, there is still room for the creative vision to be seen through that many artists still embrace to this day. One of the biggest musicians and artists right now is Doja Cat, a performer heralded for her comprehensive vision as an artist, building an entire planet for her latest album release, Planet Her, and she was born in the digital era. It helps that her music is catchy enough as singles to gain social media and radio fame while remaining enticing enough to draw listeners into the full body of work. 

Rina Sawayama’s most recent album, Hold The Girl, is a case of what happens when artists are able to run wild with their creativity. Lyrically, the album carries themes of speaking to your inner child and returning back to a simpler version of yourself. Sonically, the album is a hodgepodge of Sawayama’s experimental production for each track. There’s not one aesthetic the album was going for, but rather an exploration of the album’s themes in different ways. This is a collection of singles done right — space for the artist to freely experiment with their sound and opportunities for the listeners to find what works for them. 

The point of the singles and albums discussion isn’t to say that one is better than the other. From a purely consumer perspective, the lack of cohesive albums means that there’s more room for individuals to personalize their listening experiences. The use of streaming services means that we are no longer bound by the confines of a single CD but are able to explore and express our individual tastes by creating playlists and hitting shuffle. The lack of albums isn’t a bleak omen for soulless music churned out by the machine — it just means everyone else has a chance to meticulously craft their own collection of tracks. 

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