Infinite Playlists Kill the Concept Album


What happened to sitting in a comfortably lit room, listening to an hour of music without interruption, knowing that the artist you so respected would be approving of your dedication to that style of work — lyric-by-lyric and song-by-song — in consistent album format?

At what point did the megalomania of endlessly shuffled playlists take over the experience of listening to music?

A couple of common and obvious answers are: the internet, mp3 players, and file-sharing. These interlopers have allowed endless playlists to take over. Such technology has carted away the power of the album format, devouring it wholly — all but vanquishing the highly respectable concept album. Hence the ability of musicians to be heard exclusively for a duration of time, to the desired artistic effect, is now fully denigrated.

One solution, if not an outright return to album format, may be to set up a playlist as a sort of mixed tape, wherein meaningful connections can be made — that is, if anybody endeavored to take the time.

There are emergent properties of the mixed tape which make it profoundly interesting. It’s a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. By selecting a meaningful sequence of songs, the creator of a mixed tape is able to form something entirely new, and to achieve a level of artistry on the same line as the concept album artist.

There is a place in this world where people still pay homage to the mixed tape; it certainly isn’t in the great and free land of the Ipod. Take a journey to a distant latitude, where time is quite quizzically reversed, and experience what it would be like to sit in an old beater-car, with the faintest tape hiss dropping into a flow of artfully matched songs, the driver successively waxing inspired with each meaningful linkage. Possibly the notion of the mixed tape being a gift would be greatly significant to the driver — as a present from a lover or a friend. The idea that someone had cared enough to make it could result in random smiles toward other drivers.

There is much to be said about the mixed tape, and about tactfully keeping a decent concept album together.

Thus, wherefore art thine playlists asunder?

Is it better to listen to a shuffled spattering of songs?

Answers vary, but the recommendation remains: make playlists that resemble mixed tapes, or that consist of one single album. Listen to music that makes you feel good consistently, and don’t be a slave to the endlessly shuffled playlist.

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