R&R People+Culture: The Thrill Is Gone-The Death of Album Anticipation
I think the first album that I ever bought with my own money was Janet Jackson's iconic Janet album. I was in 6th grade and I'm not sure why I chose Janet's album for my first independent music purchase, but that album changed my life. I listed to all 16 tracks, from Morning to Sweet Dreams, EVERY night before I went to bed. Those songs were my anthems--they gave me the power I needed to endure the ambiguity of growing into my early teens and the sometimes ugly awkwardness of puberty. All of these factors molded me into a Janet fan who thought it was absolute torture for her to make us wait 4 to 5 years for her next release. As excruciating as the wait for her following album, Velvet Rope, was I honestly have to say that I miss feeling that way about an album release now. Maybe it's because I'm older, but I haven't anticipated an album like that in a while. I think the last time was when Jill Scott released Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 the summer before I started college. I remember preordering the CD ( this was before iTunes, which I am addicted to now), from Amazon and tracking the shipping everyday to see where my package was. I bought the album immediately after hearing her single Do You Remember on a local college radio station. Ordinarily I wouldn't have impulse bought an album off of one song but the haunting yet jazzy quality of Scott's music caught me and back then singles were not as easy to buy as they are now on iTunes.
Skip forward 10 years and I'm still buying music but as I said earlier, the thrill of anticipation is gone for me. Artists like Janet used to take at least 4 years to craft an album that was well worth the wait. Now, partly due to the way music is marketed to audiences with a progressively decreasing attention span and the threat of Internet leaks, artists are considered irrelevant if they wait a year between releases. Random singles and videos being put out every few weeks make for an artist whose single is not anticipated with excited giddiness, but in many cases, a needy fame addict whose end product is woefully underdeveloped and quite frankly annoying and gimmicky.
Nicki Minaj and her label mate Drake are the queen and king of this phenomenon, gaining so many cameos and hype that Nicki is starting to be compared to Lauryn Hill (what blasphemy!). I give Nicki credit for being the first female rapper to fill the feminine void in hip hop that's been there for a while, because many have tried before her and failed, but she's NO Lauryn Hill. She does have talent in creating a trendy brand that has resonated with many who have been thirsting for a female MC and she is a verbal gymnast, but if she has more to offer as Irv Gotti suggests, I would say the time to show and prove is now. I would love for her or any other woman to be the new voice of reason among the chauvinist clamour that we call hip hop.
I find it hard sometimes to even pay for albums from artists that I actually like since they now insist that 7 songs is an album. No, 7 songs is a sampler, like the ones that would sit in the lobby of my freshman dorm at Hampton. I consider an album to be between 15 to 20 songs...minus interludes which are sometimes used to create the illusion that an album has more songs that it does.
There is hope though. I'm thankful for artists like Little Brother, Erykah Badu, Lizz Wright, Goapele, Sarah McLachlan, Teedra Moses, Amel Larriex, and countless others that don't get half the shine they deserve for keeping the flame of album anticipation burning. As a music lover, I want to wait-even if it means waiting 5 years-because if waiting means that I get an album that's so enchanting that I must listen to every track before bed then it's well worth the wait and my money.