I used to be one of those people who purchased an album after listening to a single tune, particularly when I was young. I’d say about six or seven out of ten times whenever I did this there was, as usual, the one hit tune and the rest would be mostly filler.
Times have changed and I’m older and most of the music I purchase comes from money I work to earn which means I need to be much more selective about who I choose to support. Then again, artists can’t really get away with releasing an album full of subpar material and just one really good tune, especially when major labels sometimes have to settle with an album selling less than 500,000 copies and achieving gold status.
Today I went on a shopping excursion intending to purchase computer peripherals when I started browsing the shelves of the store that has a red circular logo. Most of the time they have reduced items temporarily on sale, which varies between albums nobody bought to surprising gems, such as when I found Coldplay’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends there, which I immediately purchased.
Let me stop for a second by making a contradictory statement: I purchased Coldplay’s latest after listening to “Viva la Vida”. I suppose I did perhaps listen to the free “Violet Hills” tune they were giving away but it was “Viva la Vida” that made me want to purchase the album. The thing about Coldplay however is that they’re one of those established bands where you almost know for a fact that whatever material they decide to release is going to be nothing less than excellent. That is unless you decide to go and do something crazy like Garth Brooks and his questionable “Garth Brooks in….The Life of Chris Gaines” stunt back in 1999.
It’s also worth noting that when I happened to spot Coldplay on sale I was already very well aware of the heaps of critical acclaim the album had received, which also swayed my purchasing decision beyond the temporarily more affordable price of course.
Critical reviews and accolades have also influenced me to purchase an album on a whim as I did so today during this aforementioned shopping excursion. Last night I was reading my May issue of Blender. Every issue they focus on an up and coming artist that happens to be the latest…”musical act of the month”.
May’s issue of Blender focused on Santogold Santigold, an artist that sounded vaguely familiar. Apparently Santigold is something of a slightly easier to digest version of M.I.A., an artist who I also discovered through Blender and is finally (and thankfully) getting the popular recognition she deserved way back when she first released Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape. After reading that Santigold received Bjork’s seal of approval I figured I’d keep a lookout in case I ever came across her self-titled album which consequently I did and purchased without knowing at all what it sounded like.
Santigold was among four other albums I ended up purchasing on sale, the other ones being Nine Inch Nails — The Slip (copy number 93,485), Sarah Brightman — Symphony, the deluxe version of Maroon 5 — It Won’t Be Soon Before Long and We Started Nothing from The Ting Tings. In the Ting Tings’ case, I heard a remix of “That’s Not My Name” I downloaded for free from Zune Marketplace and I found it a little too catchy.
So ten bucks was all it took to make me renege on my decision not to purchase an album based on a single tune or in Santigold’s case any tune but for that price I figured it was worth helping out some musicians who could use what little royalties they get from album sales these days.
What does it take for you to make an album purchase? The one catchy tune and word of mouth or professionally written accolades from people who “know” what music is all about? I have yet to listen to Santigold nor do I have any clue what The Ting Tings sound like beyond “That’s Not My Name” but if the money is there and the music sounds good, why not help someone trying to make a living by doing what they love?
One thing that’s always irked me about new artists is when they decide to self title their debut album. There’s nothing inherently wrong with self-titling your first album since, after all, in most cases it’s supposed to present you to the world and establish your name but I’ve always interpreted it as a lack of effort and creativity.
Even if it’s something as simple as naming your album after one of the tunes, at least it beats just calling it Taylor Swift. In her defense, not everyone is blessed with such an awesome birth name that screams superstardom so she’s an exception to the rule. Heck, even Leona Lewis, who probably had zero involvement in the production of her highly successful debt album besides providing the gorgeous vocals at least had the common courtesy to call it “Spirit”.
With that, I present my unordered list of what I consider some of the coolest album titles I’ve ever heard because they’re clever, funny, or simply amusing in some kind of way.
- Sugar Ray — Lemonade and Brownies
- New Radicals — Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too
- Collective Soul — Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid
- Modest Mouse — We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
- Oasis — Definitely Maybe
- Queens of the Stone Age — Songs for the Deaf
- Elton John — Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player
- Britney Spears — Oops! …I Did it Again
- Xscape — Traces of My Lipstick
- Radiohead — Pablo Honey
- Soundgarden — Superunknown
- Death Cub for Cutie — We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes
- The B-52s — Wild Planet
- Public Enemy — Fear of a Black Planet
- Public Enemy – How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?
- Salt and Pepa — A Salt With a Deadly Pepa
- PJ Harvey — Rid of Me
- Ultra Nate — Grime Silk & Thunder
- Everything But the Girl — Amplified Heart
- Peaches – Impeach My Bush
- Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers
- Army of Lovers – Massive Luxury Overdose
- Senses Fail – Life is Not a Waiting Room
- Yoko Ono – Yes, I’m a Witch
- Fastball – All the Pain Money Can Buy
- M.I.A. – Piracy Funds Terrorism
After wasting two hours of my life watching the insipid popularity contest that was the MTV Video Music Awards, I remembered why it is I’m slowly bit surely becoming more and more disillusioned with the state of popular music these days and the drivel they’ve been playing on the radio as of late.
Having been a member of eMusic for a week or so now, I’ve come to notice how much stuff gets overlooked in favor of such nonsense like “Fergalicious” or “Buy U a Drank”. Mind you, I too can appreciate popular catchy tunes like “Makes Me Wonder” and “The Way I Are”. It seems to me however, that even the tune with the most ridiculous lyrics still gets tons of attention when there are artists out there who can in fact write catchy tunes that actually have something to say.
Unfortunately, it’s these artists that are poorly marketed and thus fall under the radar and release an album that fails to sell as well as it should, like M.I.A. for example. Instead, the Billboard charts remain dominated by what’s on popular radio and the latest tune that keeps getting played over and over incessantly (I’m looking at you “Big Girls Don’t Cry”).
I wonder if perhaps this so-called sales slump the industry is currently in doesn’t have something at least partially to do with the fact that popular music in general well, it sucks. I do honestly think these labels need to go out and hunt down some good independent talent.
But there boys and girls lies another issue. For one, I’ve kept tabs on the music industry long enough to know that major labels are mostly manipulative money hungry corporations who dictate what you can and can’t release and thus stifle creativity. And that’s why so many artists who were once on major labels and had talent have gone the way of doing things on their own terms, even if that means sacrificing exposure and large sales (Aimee Mann for example).
Thus, I implore you to seek out the hundreds of musicians and singers out there who are doing their thing not necessarily for the sake of worldwide fame and money, but because they actually have a passion for music and have something to say. Just like many major label artists, I’m sure you’ll come across some indie band or something that well, they make it obvious why they remain an obscure act but for every “dud”, there’s a gem among the others that have lost (or never had) their luster.
And by all means keep supporting the major labels. Oftentimes talented artists do come along that manage to gain the acceptance of radio (Alicia Keys, Outkast) while not being some manufactured garbage. I say find a happy balance, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll come across.
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