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Is there such a thing as too much music?

0 Culture / Editorials / Features / Let Me Tell You About... / Music

We live in an era that contains an incredible influx of music. With singles, EPs and albums being released at an astonishing rate, it is clear to see that the market itself is well and truly saturated in nearly every single genre. Never before has an artist’s repertoire been so easily accessible, which of course is a huge step for the industry, however it comes with a negative side that, without sounding overdramatic, could damage the sanctity of music in the long run.

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The ability to listen to music at any given time is a wonderful tool but sadly it is being misused. 20 years ago, an album being released was a somewhat monumental occasion. Social media buzz wasn’t necessary to create a hype towards a new release, the artist’s talents and previous achievements were enough to carry the excitement. CDs; although currently on the verge of being obsolete, were pretty much the golden chalice of that generation. A CD collection was a rite of passage for any serious music connoisseur and owning a Walkman was part of the initiation process. Walkmans were a bulky, time consuming and intrusive commodity, which meant you actually had to do some work if you wanted to enjoy music rather than flick open an app in a matter of nanoseconds. This strange ritual of popping open a CD jewel case was integral in appreciating the gift of music. The absence of social media meant you had to decide for yourself and by yourself whether it was a dud or a classic. Now I am not pioneering for the return of an ancient device, but rather illustrating the fact that we gave much more time to a release.

Today, an album release is as common as your local Tesco Express, and music is just as accessible. Music is anywhere and everywhere. The ability to listen to an album and speak about it on a social platform can be a great experience as proven with Stormzy’s debut album GSAP that untied the culture as we adored an amazing project, however, it can also be a toxic wasteland and has the profound ability to negatively affect how a listener feels about a release, even before they’ve listened to it.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a rant about social media, it’s about the sacredness of music being stripped away due to over-saturation and a lack of patience. The beauty of sitting with an album over a length of time has sadly become a lost art form in our day and age. Which is rather surprising given that the process an artist takes to create a solid body of work is still a gruelling, time and energy consuming task; regardless of whether they’re established in their genre or a newcomer. Any artiste who is worth their salt is likely to have put absolutely everything they have into making a piece of art that not only represents them as an individual but stands as the barometer to which their greatness is measured.

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As part of my commute, I regularly grab a cup of coffee before I delve into the realms of my illustrious 9-5 job. Last Monday on my visit to my local Starbucks, while I was placing an order for a scrumptious Hazelnut Cappuccino with Almond Milk (you haven’t even begun to live until you’ve tried one), the barista noticed I was listening to the iconic KMT on Drake’s More Life mixtape, to my shock he asked ‘is that Drake’s latest album?” I replied ‘yes’ thinking we would discuss our favourite songs, only to be told that he hasn’t listened to the mixtape yet.

Come again sir? It’s bloody April and you haven’t listened to a project that came out two months ago? Do you reside under a rock? Were you raised by a pack of wolves? What the heck is wrong with you?

Now I didn’t actually say any of this to him otherwise he probably would have spat in my coffee but he went on to explain that the reason he had chosen not to listen to the tape yet was because he wanted the hype to disappear so he could enjoy the album without a biased external influence. Someone get this man a freaking nobel prize. A mind-set so simple yet so effective. He refused to be goaded by friends egging him on to listen to the tape because everyone’s talking about it. If more fans adopted that very idealism, then they would probably stop demanding new music after two weeks because they’ve had that album on repeat since it came out. It would also stop fans from judging an album prematurely because they are trying to be relevant and ride the wave. More importantly, you’d be able to at least appreciate music even if you eventually came to the conclusion that you don’t like the album.

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Imagine for a moment that you are the artist, you’ve spent an endless amount of hours writing and rewriting songs as well as working tirelessly to make sure each song connects to create a seamless and consistent project. You’ve literally slaved away in the studio for months, maybe even years just to perfect your precious work. Not to mention spending a small fortune to create art that is of a high sonic standard. The big day arrives where you will finally release your work, only to be told by fans, critics and keyboard warriors, after one maybe two listens that “it’s whack.” This happens on a regular basis.

When Kendrick released DAMN, within a matter of hours I scrolled through my timeline to find many saying it was weak, rushed, and his worst project to date. The album came out at midnight and by 9am you could already find published reviews from publications who I’m pretty sure had not listened to the album weeks prior to release. It boggles me how anyone could make a solid judgment on a project without giving it time to breathe. To critique years’ worth of labour in the space of a couple of hours is an illogical concept. Furthermore, that particular idealism is heavily flawed as you will subconsciously base your judgements on the artist’s previous project, the music that is relevant that you are currently listening to and your own personal preference of what you feel is that artist’s strengths.

The Previous Flaw

Using an artist’s previous project to determine if their current offering is any good is a common trend used by countless fans, but how do you expect artists to release timeless projects if all they do is continually copy their previous work? It would have been a travesty if Michael Jackson had decided that the sound he created on Forever, Michael would be the blueprint for every single album he would release, and the same goes for the very artist you believe should stick to the stuff that works. How can you slate an artist for taking a different step creatively and a week later, in the very same breath applaud them for pushing the boundaries of a music genre? That is pure and utter madness.

The Relevant Flaw

If an artist is defined by one of his peers, they automatically lose the one thing that sets them apart, their originality. Mumble rap; for lack of a better description is clearly a popular genre and is relevant in terms of what the majority is listening to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every artist should then follow suit. While I’m sure you appreciate the melodic repetition of Future, you’d probably also be rather irked if your favourite conscious rapper adopted the same style in their music because that is what’s currently popping. Relevancy is an aid not a necessity.

The Preference Flaw

This argument is a sticky subject because your preference is usually the main reason why you loved that artist’s music in the first place. However, it can also be a selfish mentality. You have to give musicians the space to create music that will stand the test of time, which means at times you may not appreciate the direction they have taken, that’s absolutely fine but at least give it a chance before demanding they return to their first love. Artists who rise to prominence based on an incredible project they’ve released did so without consulting you beforehand to find out what you would prefer to hear. Preference is yours, and yours alone.

In summary, we have to find a healthy balance, especially as music streaming has completely changed the way we consume music. The strides companies like Spotify & Apple Music have made towards accessibility are incredible but we don’t want to regret this innovation years from now because of an over-saturated music market.

Words by Daniel

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