Are You an Album or a Single Man?

September 12, 2009

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always listened to albums. Not just a few songs on a CD, but the whole thing, start to finish. I find that even now, I do much the same, always listening to entire LPs, and not just picking and choosing a few songs and skipping the rest. I think this might go back to my dad, who would play Pink Floyd’s The Wall in the kitchen while preparing supper. Growing up on concept albums could really endear someone to the format.

I’ve never been a “single” guy, buying a CD for one or two songs that are on the radio. Even when I had an album by a quite popular band, I seemed to enjoy the more obscure songs than the ones that got radio play. A good example is Barenaked Ladies’ Stunt, which had big hits with songs like “One Week” and “It’s All Been Done”. My favourites however, were among the other songs, like “In The Car”, or “Told You So”. It wasn’t like I was trying to be unconformist or something, I was just a kid, and besides, how cool would I look if I was bragging about listening to the “good” Barenaked Ladies songs. It’s like boasting about watching the cool Star Trek (this isn’t a shot at BNL, but I’m just trying to say they’re a dorky band).

I think that I feel a certain committment to a band when I buy their album. They wrote 13 songs, not just 3, so I should listen to them all. I can’t justify making a purchase when I am only going to like a small handful of what I’m buying. I guess now with file sharing that problem is easily avoided, but I’ve often felt guilty going through my iTunes and seeing a band with only two or three songs. I even made the decision a few years ago to stop buying any greatest hits compilation or similar CDs, because I think it’s cheating. Am I a real fan of the band’s music, or am I just a casual listener who just wants to hear the “good” songs and then move on.

Now, I’m not saying that listening to singles is a bad thing (though it kind of looks like it in retrospect here) but that I just seem to have a different mindset about music. I feel like I have an obligation to committ fully to it, and I guess I take it more seriously than others. I know plenty of people who don’t really care what they listen to, or just use music as background noise. I find it impossible to do this. I can’t listen to something with indifference, all music invokes some sort of response in me, be it good or negative. Very rarely do I hear something and just go “meh”, and move on (unless it’s a Coldplay song, hahaha….sorry).

I believe that the album may have lost it’s significance a long time ago, the last real time I think it held a lot of prestige was the 1970’s, where you had bands like Led Zeppelin selling millions of albums without having hit singles. During the 80’s, music seemed to become more manufactured, in the way that albums seemed to become groups of songs, and not a cohesive unit. This is where I define what I like about an album. I think that a good, quality album should have all of it’s songs feel like they fit together. They should be similar, but not identical, and flow well in and out of each other. I always ask myself this question, “If you were to rearrange the order of the songs on this album, would it still be as good?”. This is to say, the songs are important in their places, and not just interchangable pieces.

Now we have the iTunes store, where buying just one song is easier than ever, and it seems to be extremely popular. It allows people to get that one song, without buying the whole album. Sure the option is there to buy all of the songs, but more often than not the singles of the day are the most bought items. I guess people don’t have time to sit down and just listen to a record.

So here’s the question, are you an album or a single man (or woman)? Am I just a musical dinosaur living in the past, and the album is a dead format? Am I just a music snob (don’t answer that…) ? Let me know what you prefer to listen to, and why.

– D

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2 Responses to “Are You an Album or a Single Man?”

  1. Beef Says:

    I’m neither. I’m a performance man. I dont want to pay for singles. I dont want to pay for albums. I want to pay the performers. Historically, Albums nor singles were not the focus. The focus was the Show, the tour, the concert. Albums/Singles were promotional items, ‘listen to this song and if you like it, you should come see my show’. Screw records, whether they are one song or several. Go watch a concert

  2. darcymatt Says:

    I agree in part, as I go to as many concerts as I can, and that was the initial purpose behind putting music on the radio etc. I like to go to concerts for bands because they get way more money than anything they will see from a record label.

    However, it is impossible to see concerts by bands who are broken up/dead, and I don’t think their music should just die because you can’t buy concert tickets. I still like to appreciate them.

    Also, some albums are made to be a stand alone work. The Beatles made Sgt. Peppers with no intention of ever doing a concert tour again, and it’s one of the most praised albums of all time. It started the trend of artists focusing on making albums that were more than just concert advertisments, and instead trying to make a lasting work of art.

    Of course that doesn’t apply to every band out there, but there are exceptions.

    So, in essence I agree with you to a point, excluding my above comments.


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