Much has been written about the traditional long-playing album’s death, a casualty of the rise of streaming music services. Single songs and playlists rule, right? Maybe, maybe not. This article from UDiscoverMusic believes the latter.
The long-player is a relic, we’re assured on a daily basis. An artform that stubbornly refuses to recognise its obsolescence and was stepped over by the single on music’s evolutionary ladder, consigned to a sad extinction sometime in the early 00s. Who, in this pop-ist, piecemeal day and age, wants to argue that the album isn’t dead? That, in fact, it remains the ideal artistic form of the 21st Century, not just the 20th? That’s some Luddite-talking stuff right there, right?
And yet… they stab it with their steely knives, but they still can’t kill the beast. Maybe instead of Eagles, we should be quoting Pointer Sisters: we want a lover — and an artist — with a slow hand. Take it from Anita: not everything great in life is over in four minutes.
Is the album dead?
The fortunes of the album are tied to that of rock’n’roll’s in a lot of people’s minds. If one is in decline, then so is the other. That’s not an arbitrary connection. When most of us think of the great albums, we think The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St… records that had some kind of a thread, however loose, connecting 10–16 tracks, reflecting a kind of glorious pomposity that is most familiar to the Fender-wielding male. But we can’t wholly depend on them to keep the album vital into the 2020s and beyond. It was an artistically contemplative pop singer, Frank Sinatra, who essentially invented the album as we know it, so it’s appropriate that it’s thoughtful pop singer-songwriters such as Taylor Swift who are saving it in the 21st Century.