When choosing an album to listen to each week, I often end up pondering what are the rules of the game and does the potential offering fit? As Monica will tell you, rules are good, rules control the fun! Most of the rules of my album adventure have been in play since the beginning – one album choice each per week, old versus new, no greatest hits, etc, etc.
Back then it seemed easy, but now it is getting increasingly complicated. And yes, at the end of the day it’s just a game and it’s my game and I make the rules and no one else cares, but I do think it shines a light on how the music industry is evolving.
The concept of the album is getting harder to define. An EP was usually just a few songs so easily distinguishable, but I have seen EPs with more like nine songs and then it’s more questionable. An EP with nine songs isn’t relevant, an album with ten is.
Suddenly, there is a thing called mixtapes (not a new thing, obviously we’ve all been making mixtapes since we were kids) but does that count as an album? Mabel released a mixtape of some of her stuff, but then also has an album out soon, so they feel like two separate things?
I remember reading a while back an artist on Beats 1 was asked the difference between a mixtape and an artist, and responded that the mixtape doesn’t have a tour bus. As in, if I’m not actively going out and selling a show based on this record, it’s not an album. Which helps, but then, does everyone tour every album?
Also, and this has come to a head because of Ed Sheeran’s latest release, where do we stand on collaborations and covers?
My first instinct is that collaborations are fine. Vampire Weekend recently featured two guest vocalists on several songs throughout the album and that was fine. (Mostly fine because it’s Danielle Haim and she’s awesome, and This Life is the song that will be stuck in my head until I die.) And Ed Sheeran featuring a different guest or two on each song is also fine. Although I do wonder about how an album featuring so many different artists can really fit the “body of work” description rather than the “playlist of awesomeness”.
And then that always leads me to my biggest conflict: Tom Jones. I am obsessed with Tom Jones’ collaborations album but can’t listen to it for these purposes because a) it is full of covers and b) doesn’t that basically make it a compilation album? I feel like all those different artists put a different spin on the songs but that doesn’t make it a new piece, telling a story, being a concept album, etc, etc. It’s just Tom Jones singing his favourite songs with his friends. And that, unfortunately, doesn’t count.
I’m sure, eventually, I might give in and listen to the album and review it as normal. But I’m equally sure that there’s no chance of running out of other albums to listen to so I can keep on putting the problem off.