So I was just sitting around in a coffee shop, half-reading a friend of mine’s manuscript (he was kind enough to let me read it before it is getting published), half listening to Joey Bada$$’s album (or is it a mix tape?) Summer Knights and admiring his lyricism.
Joey is really really good at putting words that rhyme together in a way that makes so much sense, yet boggles your mind because you end up wondering how he was capable of putting those words in the order that he does. I’ll recommend you one song of his that demonstrates my point: Hillary $wank. Go Youtube that if you want to know what I’m talking about.
But what I noticed from listening to the 17-track compilation was that each song didn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the album. It’s just that, a compilation of 17 individual songs. It made me think about Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid MAAD City, which was 12 songs that formed one whole story. That, to me, was mind-blowing. Kendrick demonstrated to his listeners how it was possible to write a whole album, instead of just writing individual songs. This album was what made me want to write rap songs, since not only was he a rapper and singer here, he was a story-teller. And a brilliant one at that.
I’m sure that he wasn’t the first one to do what he did in this album. I’m sure he copied that concept from those that came before him, but I listened to this one, so Good Kid MAAD City will always have a special place in me.
Listening to whole albums isn’t exactly the “mainstream” way of consuming music. A lot of people choose to listen to single songs only. Even back in the day before iTunes was around, it wasn’t uncommon for people to buy whole albums in the form of vinyl records, cassettes or CDs just to listen to one or two songs while neglecting the other ten.
I used to do that as well. I mean, listen to individual songs only. I didn’t buy any albums just to listen to single songs over and over, of course, since I wasn’t earning any money at that point. I was introduced to the concept of listening to whole albums by a friend of mine who gave me Sum 41’s Chuck. Every song in that album sounded fantastic to me, and I started appreciating the band for being able to make so many good songs in a row.
The album after that was My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade. At one point, I wanted to learn all the guitar to all the songs on the album, so infatuated was I by the album from start to finish. I think I ended up purchasing one copy of the album. I don’t remember how I got the money to do that, but I listened to that album so much in the car, I memorised the words to all the songs on the album, even the bonus track.
The next album that I memorised from start to finish was Panic! At The Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Such good songs on there, and the lyrics were so different to anything I was listening to at the moment, I couldn't get enough.
I think listening to artists’ whole albums gives us the listeners a clearer picture of how good (or bad) a band is at what they do. Really good artists are able to produce good songs to fill a whole album. And if we’re able to see that, we are able to appreciate the artists’ craft better.
It does definitely take some amount of patience to get through whole albums, but more often than not, it’s worth it, because you get to know the artist better, and in a way, get more intimate with them, since you gain a picture of what concerns them and how they do that as well as getting to delve into why they feel strongly about what they decided to write about. I’m really glad I’m able to listen to whole albums for those very reasons, and maybe even more.
My favourite albums published in 2014 include Run The Jewels’ Run The Jewels 2 and Taylor Swift’s 1989. If you don’t mind sharing with me, what were yours?