Are Albums Still Relevant?

Yasmine Medjdoub

Are albums still relevant? Do musicians prioritise creating viral singles, or is a song’s place in an album still important? Impact’s Yasmine Medjdoub explores.

The Rise of Singles:

The music industry has witnessed a shift in recent years, with the rise of streaming platforms fundamentally altering how we consume music. Unlike the physical limitations of CDs and vinyl, these platforms offer instant access to vast libraries, allowing listeners to cherry-pick individual songs rather than committing to entire albums. This phenomenon has fostered a ‘singles-driven’ culture, where instant gratification reign supreme.

are albums, once considered the definitive artistic statement for musicians, still relevant in this new landscape?

Artists now face pressure to craft radio-friendly singles that capture attention within seconds. Platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and even TikTok often prioritise singles in their algorithms, making it crucial to secure early listens and climb the charts. This focus on immediate impact is exemplified by the success of artists like Ice Spice, whose viral hits such as Princess Diana catapulted her to stardom. As streaming continues to dominate, the question arises: are albums, once considered the definitive artistic statement for musicians, still relevant in this new landscape?


The Artistry of Albums:

While the singles market thrives under streaming, albums retain a distinct artistic value. Historically, albums have served as a canvas for musicians to paint a sonic landscape, crafting a collection of songs that tell a cohesive story or explore a specific theme. Unlike standalone singles, albums allow artists to delve into their creative vision, showcasing their musical and lyrical prowess through a connected narrative. Beyoncé has spoken about how artists aren’t releasing a full body of work in her 2013 HBO documentary ‘Life Is But a Dream,’ where she states, ‘People don’t make albums anymore, they just try to sell a bunch of little quick singles, and they burn out and put out a new one, and they burn out and put out a new one.’

This deliberate arrangement fosters a sense of artistic unity

The sequencing of songs within an album is far from arbitrary. It allows artists to curate a specific listening experience, guiding the audience through various emotions and themes. This deliberate arrangement fosters a sense of artistic unity, where each song becomes a piece of a larger puzzle, contributing to the overall message and artistic statement the artist seeks to convey. In this way, albums transcend the limitations of individual tracks, offering a richer and more nuanced artistic tapestry than any single song can achieve on its own.

While singles remain crucial for promotion and initial engagement, many contemporary artists are finding ways to integrate them seamlessly into cohesive albums. These are just a few of some of my favourite full-length albums:


Ariana Grande: ‘thank u, next’

Released in 2019 following a series of personal losses, the album explores themes of love, loss, and personal growth. Each song, though potentially successful on its own, contributes to the album’s overarching narrative. Singles like 7 rings offer catchy hooks and radio-friendly appeal, while deeper songs like ghostin and in my head delve into the emotional complexities of heartbreak and self-discovery. This combination allows the album to cater to both casual listers and fans. The albums sequence is deliberate, guiding the listener through a journey of reflection, vulnerability, and ultimately, self-acceptance. ‘thank u, next’ transcends the limitations of a singles collection, presenting a unified and relatable story.


Kendrick Lamar: ‘DAMN.’

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ released in 2017, demonstrates the continued relevance of the concept album in the modern era. Kendrick Lamar, a renowned lyricist and storyteller, crafted a project that takes listeners on a journey where he celebrates, critiques and explores his black heritage and his career success. The album features several commercially successful singles, like the thought-provoking DNA and HUMBLE, which stand out as individual masterpieces, yet they also contribute to the album’s overarching narrative. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Kendrick Lamar said ‘DAMN.’ was partly a reaction to Donald Trump’s 2016 election and the rise of civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter. ‘DAMN.’ showcases how a modern album can excel not only through individual tracks but also through its ability to weave a cohesive and thought-provoking narrative. The album’s critical and commercial success, including the Pulitzer Prize, cemented its place as one of Kendrick Lamar’s best albums.


Beyonce: ‘Lemonade’

Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ (2016) redefined the visual album experience, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression. The project, primarily a visual exploration of betrayal, anger and healing, is accompanied by a meticulously crafted soundtrack. Songs like the empowering Formation stand out individually, but their true power lies in their contribution to the album’s visual narrative. ‘Lemonade’ is her most emotionally extreme music, and her most sonically adventurous from the country track Daddy Lessons to songs like Don’t Hurt Yourself featuring Jack White. ‘Lemonade’ demonstrates how a modern album can transcend the limitations of traditional listening experiences, offering a multimedia exploration of themes that resonate deeply with listeners. This album transcends the limitations of a traditional music album, solidifying its place as a ground-breaking work of art that defies categorisation.

These three albums, each unique in their approach, demonstrate the enduring power of the album format. By seamlessly integrating singles into a cohesive narrative, exploring complex themes, and pushing creative boundaries, artists continue to find innovative ways to engage listeners and deliver impactful artistic statements through the full-length album experience.

Yasmine Medjdoub

Featured image courtesy of Clay Banks via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article videos courtesy of @Ariana Grande, @Kendrick Lamar, @Beyoncé via YouTube.com. No changes made to these images.

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