Singled out

This whole listening to albums thing has gotten me thinking about the general status of the album as art form. Many of us music freaks decry the current state of pop music. "What happened to albums?" we say. Everybody just wants the new single on the radio from iTunes. "It's killing music," we say.

But lets take a step back. The concept of an album as a cohesive representation of an artist's musical vision didn't really appear until the mid 1960s. Early Beatles albums were nothing but a few singles held together but several filler songs. There was no overarching musical theme, they just wanted your money.

So maybe the single is pop music's natural state. Maybe albums were just a fad. Sure there are indie rock bands out there still putting out great collections of tunes but they're in the minority. I guess time will tell, but it's probably wrong to bitch about a single driven musical world when it is has actually the norm through the years.

All that leads me to today's album. A collection of catchy singles held together by a wretched set of filler songs. Yes, I'm speaking of 14:59 by Sugar Ray. I can't tell you how it happened but I actually own two Sugar Ray albums (the second of which, gratefully, is not on Declan). Back before I was able to avoid the Cumbawumba Factor, I fell for "Fly." Don't ask me why. It was summer and it needed a song.

Anyway, "Fly" sounded nothing like the rest of the album. Sugar Ray was really a bad punk band in disguise. After the success of the single, though, they realized they could make more money selling out. So bring on 14:59.

Released on January 12, 1999, 14:59 is full of stuff that tries to sound like "Fly." I'm sure you remember "Every Morning" and "Someday." They were also bold enough to include a cover of Steve Miller's "Abracadabra." As far as pop singles go, they're not bad.

What is bad is everything in between. Crappy song after crappy song is shoved into the spaces between the singles to give us enough for a whole album. By the time it's all over, it's even hard to remember the good stuff.

So maybe it is right to decry the decline of the album. Maybe we should demand more for our money. Then again, if this album had been released a few years later, I probably just would have spent a couple bucks on iTunes for the songs I wanted.


Shawn said...

I don't really have anything to say...I like the album reviews though.

I think you've already surpassed the number of releases in a certain artist's series, 'Thirty Men Dying Slowly'... The only people dying slowly are those waiting to see a new picture over there.

So, I admire both your reviews and your stick-to-itiveness Eileen.

Eileen said...

I think Josh made it to ten or so photos so I have a few more days to go.

I've been trying not too think too much about how long this may take. It didn't really occur to me when I started doing it and I have no exact album count but I figure it will take me well over a year if I listen to an album a day.

See you in 2007!

Shawn said...

Are you allowed to do other things, or have you made a total commitment to your work?

Eileen said...

I am allowed to leave the house.