Songs and Albums: A Shift in Music Habits

Posted: October 23, 2011 in Entertainment, Personal Whining, Philosophical Debris

Last week I was driving with a car full of teenagers when one figured out that he could sync his Blackberry to my car stereo using Bluetooth.  And at that moment my despotic control of the music in the vehicle evaporated (…at least temporarily)  The ensueing music, along with the way they approached some of the musical selections once I violently wrestled control back from them, made me realize that the album is dead.

Individual songs were played with no regard for the album at all.  In fact, the albums largely weren’t even on the Blackberry, just a few songs.  Downloading or purchasing songs means that you no longer have to be bothered with those other, inconvenient songs on the album that hadn’t become hits or you didn’t take an initial liking to.  One of the boys pointed out that not only is there no need to listen to albums, but there’s really no need to listen to the radio.  When I pointed out that this would prevent you from finding new music, he responded that he got his new music from YouTube or from the recommendations of friends.  Playlists rule.

Later on we were playing the Bruno Mars album, having the control of the stereo back, and although this is a popular artist, and they liked many of the songs, they didn’t recognize the songs as part of an album and there were cuts that they’d never heard.

I don’t know if I really like this new development.  I have always been the music fan who looked for the new, original stuff.  The top 40 stuff, to my mind, was mostly commercially tepid.  The real gems were often hidden, either with more unknown artists or in the lesser played tracks on an album.  The decade between the virtual death of The Edge as a truly alternative radio station and the discovery of satellite radio was torture, with most new music discoveries coming from articles in music magazines.  Now the variety of satellite stations allows for lesser known material to come to light.

Albums are not just one “buy-me” tune and a bunch of filler.  The other tracks allow the artist to explore stuff in ways that don’t need to be obviously commercial and, as such, are often the more interesting creativity.  Some, honestly, are just filler, but you learn to endure a little of the bad in order to find the hidden treasures.  There’s always the “>” button.

I worry that the new music listening habits will lead to a promotion of the mainstream over the alaternative.  Yes, it is true that with the Internet, listenters have access to all sorts of music.  But if they can easily cherry pick what they listen to, i don’t see how the result can be anything other than a narrowing of musical exposure.

That’s why I’ll fight to keep control over the car stereo.  It’s my opportunity to expose them to other music, outside of what’s on their playlists.  I won’t always succeed in capturing their interest, but that’s part of the process.

So, to end off, here’s a song that is a recently found gem.  I don’t know how well known it is, but I do know that I would never have found it if I was shackled to my I-Phone playlists.  I can only find a live version.

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