Short albums are a fad that leave much to be desired

Short albums are a fad that leave much to be desired

Short albums are a fad that leave much to be desired
July 25
12:00 2018

Some people in the modern era believe our attention spans are shrinking due to the instant access to huge amounts of content and our constant multitasking. We used to be limited to the hundred or so channels our cable TV offered, and whatever CDs were in the store. We now have the ability to observe the self-expression of every creative with a camera, microphone and internet connection.

Because of the sheer amount of people able to make content, consumers become more loyal to the quality of products rather than the creator providing them. For video content, a subscription feed is utilized to allow viewers to pick single videos that interest them. Similarly, with music, there is the ability to save specific songs on an album without buying the whole thing.

This dynamic of consuming content gives creators an incentive to make things that catch attention, and satisfy quickly. In hip-hop, such content is often referred to as “fast food music.”

In the past year, artists like Kanye West and J. Cole have released projects that are 20 to 60 minutes shorter than their previous works. Like many successful people do, they both actively try to keep up with younger artists, as longevity is so closely tied to their legacies. A young name that both these artists expressed gaining inspiration from is the late XXXTentacion, who happened to make very short albums. Before and after his death, X had a youthful fanbase that was as passionate as it could get, and his only released albums were 21 and 38 minutes long. Oftentimes X wouldn’t do more than one verse on a song, cutting track times down to barely two minutes.

Other young artists who came up along with X — Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Pump and Famous Dex, to name a few — are notorious for infrequently reaching the three-minute mark on songs. Who knows if so-called “mumble rappers” of the new generation really think short tracks are more effective or if they just get tired that quickly.

One thing for sure is that legends the likes of Jay Z, Pusha T, Kid Cudi and Nas are decreasing album lengths to as little as 20 minutes, and it makes for a completely different listening experience. No matter how much I enjoyed “4:44,” “Kids See Ghosts” and “17,” every album made me feel like they were taking me for a fool.

It’s not like it’s impossible to make a long project with no waste — every project Kendrick has dropped has been a respectable length filled with purpose, and Kanye’s 68-minute masterpiece “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is proof he’s capable of more.

The bottom line is that short albums are a trend as redundant as wearing sunglasses inside.

Artists claim that short albums leave the fans wanting more, which is true. But it also leaves them frustrated and forced to lower their expectations. Even if every 20-minute album an artist makes happens to be great, it will take three albums and three times as long for fans to feel that the artist had really accomplished something.

Featured Illustration by Allison Shuckman

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Patrick Cleath

Patrick Cleath

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