Why Are Albums Getting Longer (And Worse)?
    • TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2018

    • Posted by: Chris Deverell


    One of the chief complaints lodged at Migos' Culture II, and one that I happened to share, was that the album was simply too long. Clocking in at an hour and 45 minutes spread out over 24 tracks, the album, besides being creatively stunted, was simply too arduous a task to listen to and appreciate. And now Rae Sremmurd wants to go and take that crown from Migos.

    The young-buck brothers from Mississippi announced the other day that their next project, SremmLife 3, will be a triple-disc album. Seriously. According to brother Swae Lee, the "album" will be composed of individual solo works for him and brother Jxmmi, with the third act being a combined Rae Sremmurd effort.


    Swae Lee also stated earlier this month that the album would drop sometime in January, though with only two days left it seems unlikely given how little hype or promotion has surrounded the album(s) besides the overall length.

    And while it seems like the brothers are trying to one-up Migos in terms of unnecessarily long pieces of work, the fact of the matter is they're simply just following the market. If you take a look around at recent music release you'll see that albums, mixtapes, and projects are only continuing to get longer and longer.

    Drake has been a big offender in this category, with his last two releases, More Life and Views, totaling 42 songs together and nearly three hours of run time. Everywhere you look you see bloated, oversized "albums" that could hardly be called as such. Outkast did it back in 2004 with Speakerboxxx/The Love Below hitting 39 tracks total, and recently A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples, and Future are all guilty of it, and while Gucci Mane tried to be sly about it, we all know that the three albums he released in 2017 were basically one big project instead of individual endeavors. E-40, who really should be focused on other things at his age like his 401(k), dropped a mammoth FORTY-FOUR TRACK album in 2016, and that was just a deluxe album, not a double or triple feature.


    (seriously look at how long it takes you to scroll through that track list)

    And if you think I'm just picking on rap and hip-hop, plenty of other artists are guilty of this offense. James Blake, Zayn Malik, and Ariana Grande are all guilty of releasing albums that clock in at over an hour in runtime, while Chris Brown released a freaking Christmas album that was three minutes longer than the runtime of Titanic.



    (which if you'll recall, needed two VHS tapes to fit its 3 hour 15 minute story)

    So what's going on? Why are artists suddenly valuing quantity over quality? And let's be clear, most of these projects are lacking on quality.

    The reason, plain and simple, is that people aren't buying albums, they're buying singles and streaming albums piecemeal. In 2014 Billboard changed its tactics to include streaming performance into its metrics. While controversial, the move was necessary, and at the time Nielsen senior analyst David Bakula backed the move, stating, "To just look at album sales and say this is how we measure success is really leaving out that half of the business is coming from streams and song sales."

    This is important, because there's a couple of different ways that an artist can technically "sell" an album besides actually selling an album, and one of those manners is through streaming. For every 1,500 streams from an individual album, Billboard counts those streams as an album sale. With that in mind, it's no surprise that artists are beefing up their albums, they're simply trying to get more streams and thus album sales.

    This is why you'll see albums that weren't critically acclaimed (like Drake's Views) still do so well on the charts. It's a formula that values quantity over quality, and one that will likely continue to reward mediocre efforts such as Culture II so long as the streams keep coming in.
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