Do you remember when new music was a physical adventure?
My memories of Hip Hop and R&B are engraved and inextricably linked with long lines at FYE and Christmas wrapping paper that housed some of the greatest CDs that have shaped the current landscape of today’s music. When I was younger, I would hit the nearest mall with my sister, flipping through an infinite catalogue of genres, nostalgic album covers and tracklistings only to discover what would be the soundtrack of our lives growing up in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia.
Buying music back then really meant something. Not just because CDs were $15, but because it involved traveling to a brick and mortar building and selecting music solely on opinion, captivating artwork or the radio single, only to reconvene to our three story home to read the lyrics and judge the body of work based on the creative direction. Back then, misc listeners appreciated the nuances, storylines and often unexpected soundscapes that highlighted an artist’s daring and brilliant nature. Taking a sonic or political risk in the 90’s and early 2000’s was welcomed. Now, artists are confined to a finite box of direction, narratives and sound that’s infinitely uploaded to a “New Music Friday Playlist” only to repeat itself. Back then, there was a trickle down effect – where the artist shaped the sound. Today, it’s more of a trickle up effect and artists are constantly finding themselves conforming to the taste of their consumers. And let’s be honest, not every consumer should have that much power when it comes to the consumption of art. And because of this trickle up effect, music has officially lost it’s touch.
In 2017, that physical experience has been reduced to a robotic, cyclical and often strategic slew of tracks on a digital catalog. New music is becoming oversaturated across the globe. Friday’s are officially the day for new music releases and every Thursday evening at 11 PM EST, computers screens across the globe are open in anticipation of what is slated to be the next best release of the year. But, it is in this digital pursuit that we lack the appreciation of pure artistry and expression. In 2017, I am still longing for the days of $15 CDs and FYE storefronts.
Nevertheless, streaming has revolutionized the listening experience, exposing us to new music and artists who may have never stumbled across our digital playlists. But other than just exposure, streaming has made us impatient, unappreciative and less critical in the ways we process information, sound and creativity. This is not to say that music is doomed for eons to come. But what I am suggesting is that we place less demand on artists to constantly produce. Rather a focus on creation is precedent, which I believe would add to the quality of our music and hopefully restore the appreciation that our forefather had for Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross and the list goes on.
So I ask you again, don’t you miss the days when music was a physical experience?