A recent New York Times article argues that the album format is on life support in this age of iTunes singles and the iPod. The article, The Album, a Commodity in Disfavor by Jeff Leeds posits that music fans are more interested in downloading singles than whole albums and points out that “last year, digital singles outsold plastic CD’s for the first time.” But a quick read of the article makes it obvious that he is primarily talking about the “pop” album (for want of a better term), you know the American Idol/Christine Aguilera pop tarts who rule the commercial airwaves. But that has always been the case for this format.
From the long time staple of AM Top 40 radio, the 45 RPM single, technology has finally caught up to find its replacement. Fans of Wilco are still going to buy their albums, that won’t change, but here today, gone tomorrow fans of Britney and Avril just want to hear the hits baby. They also have come to realize that of the 12-14 songs on the CD, holy shit only two of them are actually any good!
The one hit wonder pop phenomena has always relied on the single as its most effective way to promote its stars. The albums were merely a way to resell the same song with a bunch of filler. Let those fans have their icing. I prefer the cake of a fine rock and roll band like the recent Apples in Stereo or Sloan albums which bring me on a sonic journey all over the rock and roll map. Sure some songs are “better” than others but did you ever notice that two people could never agree on which ones? Long live the album, in whatever format the music industry foists on us next.