“A Tyler, The Creator album this year sounds right, it’s been two years since Flower Boy.” I woke up to this quote this morning in the comment section of an article that claimed a Tyler, The Creator album is coming before June 30th, according to a Sony Corporation financial forecast statement. The very same morning I read a review on ScHoolboy Q’s newest “CrasH Talk” album that explored the idea that the album felt like Q was clocking into work. So, as an artist, what’s the right play here?
The days of rolling out a lead single or two and gauging the interest of listeners before announcing a release date are long gone. Album releases today range from day-of surprises to years of tedious waiting (still waiting on that Jay Electronica tape, pray for me). Both of these tactics have their benefits and merits.
We all know the deal, we see a package in the frozen food section of the grocery store. It looks delectable—the picture on the box has the cheese melting just right, the meat looks sumptuous, and the veggies look green and fresh. We break the box open as soon we get home and nuke it in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes (isn’t technology incredible?), and before we know it, we’re eating. Now, the quality of these meals can be questionable from time to time. Sometimes it feels like the outer portions of the meal are molten lava, while the middle portion is colder than the stare your significant other gave you after you dusted off the last of the Oreos. Let’s just say, it may not be what we expected, but we got fed. But sometimes… sometimes the meal gets it just right. And that’s when we get something special. That’s when we get something that works but we don’t know why. That’s when we get Slime Season 3 or the SATURATION series.
Just because an album didn’t take a long time to make, doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. There are numerous success stories over the internet of songs that were produced start to finish in a matter of hours. This is because music isn’t a science. Time spent does not equal quality. When it comes to creativity, sometimes the first idea is the best idea.
These projects are the full beasts you pick up from a specialty butcher that treats its animals better than you treat your first-born child. The beast (most likely a pig) is put on a spit for a full day with the skin crisping around the glistening fat of the pig. Veggies are hand-picked from only the finest fields and seasoned with herbs grown in the host’s backyard. The anticipation has been building for so long that you have drool crusted at the edges of your mouth. These meals are special; these are your Blonde, your Sir Lucious Left Foot… But sometimes it’s your Views.
Just because more care was taken producing these projects does not mean it will be tasty. By spending so much time being completely consumed with the project, the project could come off overcooked (overproduced), a certain spice could be overpowering (a theme or motif can become overused or dull), or there can just be too much food (re: Grateful).
Plating the meal.
There are two types of people in the world: those who get their meal and immediately get their phone out to take a picture of the presentation, and those who immediately dive in, burning their tongue to the seventh level of hell. This parallels consumers who don’t care about singles and will listen to a project regardless of their quality, and those that base their impressions solely off singles before deciding whether or not an album is worth their time.
Singles are the huge topping-encrusted ice cream cone that graces the company’s Instagram page. They’re not the treat on the menu that will make everyone happy, but they typically target wider audiences. And while singles have historically been a means of promoting an album, some outsell the artist’s project outright and can be a means of sales all on their own. Lil Nas x has stated he sees no reason to release his debut project, solely based on the strength of “Old Town Road” and its longevity on the charts. He’s making so much money off that one ice cream cone he doesn’t even need to unveil the rest of his dishes to the world.
When it comes to food consumption, 30% of the world is overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization. For music consumption—though there is no quantifiable equal here—I would say the population is even more extreme on the obesity scale. The average music listener consumes music at an unprecedented rate with streaming services. Once a project has been digested, the question pops right back into the artist’s timeline: how long do we have to wait for the next album? Or, when’s the next meal? The listener is never satisfied, and so the only answer here is to ensure the artist is happy with what they're serving. And that's all our fat asses deserve.