Albums Still Matter
Drake’s latest musical project, More Life was called a “playlist” and apparently Drake wants to be remembered as a “forward thinker”. First of all, I don’t think Drake knows what a playlist is, and second of all, Apple is obviously using him to try and experiment marketing albums as playlists for some unknown financial benefit. To be clear, I was interested in the idea of a major release of a playlist from a star such as Drake, even if I dislike most of his discography except his “mixtape” If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
What I was expecting was a project with maybe 40% new Drake songs and a mixture of new and old songs by other artists that Drake admires, pieced together cohesively. You know, the way everybody makes playlists. Obviously I expecting too much. More Life was essentially more Views. The majority was a collection of unfinished sounding songs that didn’t make it on Drake’s last album. The exceptions were 2 songs performed exclusively by other artists in Sampha and Skepta. In short, 20 of the 22 songs were still new material performed by Drake.
Many publications over the years have been writing about the demise of albums, in particular now that the majority of musical consumption is through streaming. Some may point to the shorter attention spans of the younger generation. Yet, saying people no longer have the patience to listen to albums is like saying people will eventually only watch YouTube videos instead of movies. People will always watch movies because movies entertain and tell stories, to a degree that few other art forms can.
Admittedly, this is not the case for all people. Some people are just not that into music. Many people are just casual listeners, which is fine. These people are the ones that would probably prefer to hear singles or “playlists” instead of albums. Yet, every once in a generation there are a handful of artists that have such an impact on culture that they can seemingly stop time and attract all kinds of listeners to truly experience an entire story told through music. One of those artists is Kendrick Lamar.
While Drake may have dominated the attention in the music world for a week or so with his “playlist”, that attention has now been eclipsed by the release of Kendrick Lamar’s lead-up single The Heart Part 4 and now album, DAMN.. Drake will likely continue breaking streaming records in the company of people like Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. He’s also likely to continue breaking records owned by Michael Jackson and The Beatles based on the skewed way of how streams are counted as purchases. But in the words of Kendrick himself, there's “a difference between accomplishments and astonishments”. Drake will always make hits, but Kendrick Lamar tells stories, and stories are why albums still matter.