Post Pablo Depression and other industry wide side effects of the new (though not really improved) Kanye West.
I’ve listened to “The Life of Pablo” and have been forced to come to grips that Kanye, and perhaps the music industry in general, is no longer here for my satisfaction…and it makes me want to burst into tears. What I feel is a (stirred) cocktail of denial, anxiety and pure unadulterated disillusionment. And who can I thank? The very folks that I could always rely on to give me the musical form of everything I didn’t know I needed. Late last year there were five albums(as far as urban music goes) whose arrival I anticipated in 2016. Rihanna, Kanye, Drake, Bey, and Frank(fingers-crossed)Ocean. Albums received: 2 out of 5. Bangers received: Not as many as I would like out of a whole lot. What gives? Questions need answers folks, and when the only thing google search results present are articles spewing rhetoric like “genius”, “masterpiece” and every synonym inbetween — a guy’s gotta reach his own conclusions. I have two.
1. My enjoyment ≠ Their Income
Recent years have shown tremendous change in the inner workings of the music industry(obvs). Streaming music subscriptions, the undoing of the traditional marketing campaign and the shift in what we understand a complete, ready for public consumption album to be, among many other things, all form a lava lamp of checks and balances that is the current state of music — most would agree. One additional aspect that seemingly goes unnoticed but has a huge impact on the projects that make it to our ears is the void of label obligations that used to tie major artists to target markets, fiscal years and release dates.
Major artists are the new unsigned hype.
What do you do when you aren’t contractually obligated? Whatever the hell you want. Def Jam isn’t calling Rihanna telling her she’d better have a project signed, sealed and delivered in time for a Q4 release date anymore. We heard “Anti” when she was good and ready for us to hear it and it sounded how she wanted it to sound. Period. When she can get Samsung to buy a milli off the top, and sell concert tickets before the project even drops, why does she have to make sure I like how it sounds? She doesn’t. The world wanted the uptempo, hi octane pop that exemplified the finer moments of her career and she delivered everything but. As far as she’s concerned she’s winning on her own terms. Feel free to take it or leave it while she rolls her next blunt, unscathed and most CERTAINLY unbothered. No contracts = no requirements, even the one that said your listeners and loyal fanbase had to enjoy your offering because you needed a hit. It seems that HAVING to create a hit is a dead and buried notion to my favorites whose very existence was cemented by their uncanny ability to consistently deliver one. Which brings me to point two…
2. Art, imitating selfies, imitating Art
What makes a hit today?
It isn’t sales figures…those have meant less, year over year, since the day you could buy songs a la carte.
It isn’t radio, because with curation taking over every part of our natural born lives people are eating, watching, conversing with, listening to and overall engaging more and more of exactly who and what they want, when they want.
So then what is it?
Is it Kanye inundating all corners of the inter webs hailing “Pablo” as everything a person could ever want in an album, especially since everyone was at MSG to see the joint fashion show and that’s just ‘soooo different’?
Is it the Beyoncé Solar Eclipse approach of dropping a video for a new song then performing said song on the highest viewed stage in America, whether or not we said we even cared to hear it?(rude!) Super Bowl performances used to be “Hey Top Artist, perform that song we all know and love!”, and is now clearly “I’ll just perform whatever I want and you’ll like it…or not…I’ll be fine either way…shrugs”.
That’s what I have to look forward to? Artists that makes music to just THEIR OWN ears? What happened to the idea of being hand-delivered composed, high quality amazingness that’ll become the soundtracks to my life’s moments? The tracks that take me to another place and expose me to delightful earfuls of your God-Given purpose on earth? Ego, and the inability to declare “this isn’t good” is what happened and it’s ruining the music industry, and subsequently, my mood. I’m supposed to like it just because you said I should? Nah. In the early 2000’s if it didn’t at least go platinum it was widely considered and accepted as trash…a failure, and next time(if you got a next time) you’d better do something different. Scream how great it is from the mountaintops all you want, but you see those sales numbers?…nobody cared, try again. In the present landscape we don’t have a consistent, reliable metric that triggers the “You know…you really ought to do better” reset button and I think artists are spoiled by that very real luxury.
I also fear that “influence” has ruined all of you, creators and listeners alike. The idea that since someone is a proven creative force means that everything they bring to the table must somehow be an example of that fact is insane. Kanye stans(Kanye included) humorously attempt to render pseudo-existential reasoning with the “you simply don’t get it, it’s just so far ahead of what you’re able to comprehend” responses to any commentary that isn’t 100% pure premium praise — adding intensity to my eye roll.
Kanye’s heavy-handed influence on music and fashion of the past 15 years is not up for debate — it’s fact, but doesn’t automatically make “Pablo”(or his clothing line, lol) pedestal worthy, IMO.
Sorry. If my ears don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t matter if they COULD HAVE, or SHOULD HAVE or HAVE MOST OTHER TIMES. This time, they don’t and that’s OK…
except… its not because… it does NOTHING for everything that was supposed to be my new music queue! I was counting on you, all of you! Who can I run to…to fill this empty space?! Everyone’s releasing whatever they please giving not a single damn about what Matt would like to hear. It’s offensive! But for now it seems, at least in the immediate term, I’ll have to live with that. “FML”