« Predictions for 2004 | Main | Hip-hop News Sites Suck »

The Album Review is Dead?

The wonderfully witty Devon Powers of Popmatters.com reasons that reviews for full length albums will soon disappear because people are choosing the digital single more and more over the complete album. Devon writes:

"When 10,000 songs are available in your pocket, why choose one album at all? ...this problem is compounded insofar as, from a listener's perspective, MP3s do a better job of music criticism than music critics do. Why read about an album's significance when you can simply download a couple of songs and decide for yourself? Why not pop those tunes into your iPod and walk around, see if they stick, and if not, erase 'em, never to think about it again?"

Well, she's right but for the wrong reason. I do agree that music journalism will change this year but not because people are ditching the full length album. Buyers still want to buy a full length something whether it's an artist's album, a compilation like the "Now That's What I Call Music" series, or a mixtape. Even when it's digital fans are still buying the whole album. Apple reported that with the iTunes music store "over half of the songs purchased to date were purchased as albums, further dispelling concerns that selling music on a per-track basis will destroy album sales."

So music journalists don't need to switch their focus to the single, as Devon suggests. Anyway...who would actually read a single review that is longer than two sentences? In the same amount of time it takes to read a magazine's opinion about a song I can actually listen to it and judge for myself.

And that's why music reviews will change.

In the past we relied on journalists to tell us if an album was good or not because we couldn't preview it ourselves. But now there's a big increase in ways we can listen to what an artist has to offer before we buy through means legal (album samplers, official web downloads, radio) and less legal (file sharing, mixtapes, Google's keychain).

I recently bought Lyrics Born's "Later that Day." I wasn't familiar with his other material other than a guest appearace on a Blackalious album. So before I bought the album I went to the guy's website to listen to the samples. I heard two great songs from the disc- Callin Out and Bad Dreams. What did I do next? Cop the singles? No, I bought the whole album. But that's besides my main point.

Music writing can stay relevent by changing it's role from telling us what an album is like, to just announcing that an album worth checking out is available. It will become like the television review- useful but just barely. Television is like what music will become- too available to need a review.

In my example above I first was prompted to listen to Lyrics Born samples by an article I read on MTV.com. Actually their website does a good job of overall of giving me enough info to spark my interest in an artist without loading me with an article that's longer than what I have patience to read.

So is this change a good or bad thing? I don't really care myself, though Oliver Wang has lamented the ever decreasing word count in music publications.

January 22, 2004 in Commentary | Link Me | Related Searches | Related Music

Subscribe Hip-hop News

    powered by Bloglet


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Album Review is Dead?:


Work it on out, Madison. Had I done my homework at Blogfam I would have known you existed a while back. Adding you to my site now. I'll see you in the NYC at the end of the month.... Holla!

Posted by: ej at Feb 4, 2004 10:03:20 PM

Interesting perspective... I guess I the current direction of popular music will change music journalism... But I know personnaly I enjoy reading reviews to see if I agree with albums I've heard.

Posted by: Rocka at Feb 5, 2004 11:14:23 PM