Short Songs, Long Albums, and Way Too Many Singles
    • WEDNESDAY, APRIL 04, 2018

    • Posted by: Elissa Fertig


    Cardi B released a new single today, "Drip (feat. Migos)," and no one in our office wanted to write about it because honestly, we're tired of writing about all of Cardi's new singles when there's a new one every day. She came out with a music video for "Bartier Cardi" just yesterday and the song "Be Careful" a week ago. Her first full LP Invasion of Privacy is out this Friday and my question is: why didn't she just wait two days until the release of her album so that we could hear the single then?

    I'm not saying I don't love Cardi B - would I really be a woman in 2018 if I didn't love Cardi B? I'm just saying have some patience, Cardi, you know? And the fact that she releases so many songs with the rap group that houses her cheating boyfriend Offset is an issue in itself. "Drip" is good, but it might have been better if I'd gotten to hear it on the full LP.

    My complaints aren't really Cardi's fault, but rather a symptom of a phenomenon Pitchfork outlined about the rise of super long pop albums for streaming time. Basically, at the end of 2014 Billboard made a massive change in the way they compile charts in order to better reflect the age of streaming - one of the biggest upheavals in the music industry since 1991 when hard sales data became available nationally rather than purely in locally owned record stores.

    As physical sales and people's attention spans drop, albums as a whole piece of music do less well than individual songs, and the rise of playlists only encourages this trend. Because of this, Billboard changed their policy so that 1,500 streams of a single song are equivalent to the purchasing of ten tracks, or a single album. More songs means more streaming means more money.

    The question of whether or not this has actually affected the length of pop albums is a no-brainer. The Weeknd's Starboy clocked in at 18 tracks and 68 minutes in length (though his latest LP/EP did his best it seems to right that wrong with only 6 songs), Zayn's Mind of Mine has a similar runtime at 18 tracks, too, and The 1975's I Love it When You Sleep...gets 74 minutes front to back.


    None of these are as bad as Drake's ultimately offensive 20 song-long album VIEWS that, while bloated, broke single-week streaming records (probably partially because he included "Hotline Bling" on it) and even the least-streamed song, "Keep the Family Close", has 36 million streams on it. If you don't think that's paying his way through his poorly informed dance lessons (see below), think again.


    While the average album length has hovered right around 14 tracks for the last five years, it's safe to say that cash is the main motivator here. Billboard's attempt at keeping up with the times has only served to encourage artists to put their money where their overly-long albums are, instead of keeping things concise. I could write more about the definition of selling out and the influences of capitalism on art (spoiler: not good very bad) but that's not my job, and it's probably not part of your job to be reading this, either, so let's just stick to the facts, shall we?

    One other shift in the way we listen to music and how it influences musicians is the length of hip-hop songs. Take "Gucci Gang", for example.


    Gucci Gang is the shortest song to reach the Top 10 of the Hot 100 chart in 42 years, and Lil Pump's self-titled debut clocks at 36 minutes for fifteen tracks. Oftentimes, the albums are still slightly longer than average but the songs themselves barely get through the hook before they're over. XXXTentacion's 17 is 22 minutes long, 6ix9ine's Day69 burns through 11 tracks in 27 minutes.

    Sometimes it seems obvious that these rappers shorten their songs just because they're running out of things to rap about, or they never had them in the first place. Meme rappers like Ugly God, Ricegum and Danielle Bregoli or Bhad Bhabie get their kicks off of spectacle, and happen to make music on the side, short tracks like "Hi Bich" clock in at 1:45 and are kind of about nothing.


    SoundCloud rappers abound, and people often see uploading their content online as a virtual workspace where they can put out demos, half-baked tunes that can still get tons of streams from people browsing online, and no one ever has to know that they're not done (even if it's obvious - see: Juice WRLD).

    The lesson to be learned from all this is the lesson that we seem to keep learning no matter what we do: the internet is a big scary place and it does big scary things. The smallest online movement can turn into a tidal wave and changes to the most insignificant-seeming rules can completely revolutionize the way we listen to music, and not always in a good way.

    So even if Vine is dead and vinyls are selling better than they have since 2011, the world is still full of fast and furious content that can blow up and die down with the click of a button, all in a matter of minutes. And music, whether we like it or not, is no exception.
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