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Complex: Albums Are Getting Too Long


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BUtterfield 8

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On the week of June 28, three out of the top five albums on the Billboard 200 had a duration of 50 minutes or more. Polo G’s Hall of Fame has a total of 20 songs, clocking in at 54 minutes; Migos’ Culture III has 19 tracks and runs for one hour and 15 minutes; and Lil Baby and Lil Durk’s joint project The Voice of the Heroesruns for one hour with 18 tracks. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either. In the streaming era, there are no physical limitations on the length of an album, and it’s become common for tracklists to reach or exceed 20 songs.

For years, fans have complained about long albums, and yet artists keep releasing 20-plus-track projects. Minimalism is taking over the fashion and architecture industries, but it seems to have skipped the music industry. So, if less is more everywhere else, why are albums getting longer?

For artists, there are obvious benefits in putting out an extended body of work—more songs usually means more streams. For fans, though, consuming an excessive amount of music from the same artist in one sitting is often tedious and doesn’t make for a great listening experience. The longer a tracklist gets, the more likely there will be redundancies and songs that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

If you ask any rap fan about long albums over the past five years, there are a few examples that will be mentioned more than others. In 2016, Drake released Views, a 20-song album with a runtime of one hour and 21 minutes (naturally, it broke streaming records at the time). In 2017, Chris Brown dropped his 45-track album Heartbreak on a Full Moon, which clocked in at two hours and 38 minutes. In January 2018, the Migos followed with Culture II, a 24-track album that ran for an hour and 45 minutes. Then, six months later, Drake dropped his 25-track project Scorpion. The LP was intended to be a double disc, and the project ran for one hour and 30 minutes. 

According to Rolling Stone, the duration of the top five streamed albums on Spotify rose almost 10 minutes between 2013 and 2018, to an average of 60 minutes. Although, as Pitchfork points out, there were times in the late ‘‘90s and early 2000s when the average rap album was even longer than it is now. But double albums like OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below or Dipset’s Diplomatic Immunitywere the result of calculated decisions in an era of physical production costs, whereas long albums in today’s streaming era often lack artistic intention. 

It’s worth noting that artists, especially in hip-hop, are always sitting on a lot of unreleased music. Migos collaborators have gone on record stating that they can make songs in under 20 minutes, and artists often have dozens of songs in the vault, waiting to be released. Even so, the decision to bulk up albums seems to be driven more from a commercial standpoint, rather than a desire to “feed the fans.” When Billboard and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) began incorporating streaming numbers in chart and certifications calculations, it gave artists an incentive to bulk up their albums. The longer the album, the more likely it is to generate streams, which can lead to a higher ranking on Billboard or a platinum plaque. Both Migos and Drake debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2018, while Chris Brown’s lengthy album debuted at No. 3. This strategy is even more important right now, after the COVID-19 pandemic put a strain on yearly income and left artists looking for ways to make up for touring revenue. 

Joey Badass once told Complex that a good album should have no more than 14 songs, with the duration likely varying between 30 to 45 minutes: “I don’t care if it was Michael Jackson, I am not listening to 25 songs. Less is more in my opinion.”

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Edited by BUtterfield 8
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Meanwhile Gaga’s albums be like 

i personally think they’re getting too short. i loved the 14-16 track albums we had 10 years ago. duration of song isn’t the biggest deal to me, but i love having a variety of songs from a body of wor

Since when are albums getting too long, if anything songs and albums are shorter than ever at the moment because of streaming.

Chromatography

i personally think they’re getting too short. i loved the 14-16 track albums we had 10 years ago. duration of song isn’t the biggest deal to me, but i love having a variety of songs from a body of work. i hate this new trend to have 11 or less tracks 

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ItWasntLaauv

Since when are albums getting too long, if anything songs and albums are shorter than ever at the moment because of streaming.

Edited by ItWasntLaauv
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LaLuna

Well my favorite album has only 9 songs so :bear:

Speaking of short albums, wanna hear the shortest song ever?

No it's not a joke, that's actually the whole song :ladyhaha:

FATHER, SON, HOUSE OF GUCCI
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Economy
3 minutes ago, Concertaholic said:

 

sad on a budget GIF

I just had a surge in childhood memories :giveup:

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ProfessionalClown

They’re getting too short what are they talking about??? So many albums are verging on 30-40 minutes with 12 songs. That’s barely anything.

Also do people not realize it was really popular for ages for albums to be REALLY long? Like?? 

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CHIPCHROME

Growing up a Lana fan I didn't really think about it like that... imo albums are getting shorter

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Original Diva

The amount of tracks are getting longer, but the duration of these tracks is decreasing (due to streaming).

excuse me no
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WheresMy911Alice
3 minutes ago, ProfessionalClown said:

They’re getting too short what are they talking about??? So many albums are verging on 30-40 minutes with 12 songs. That’s barely anything.

Also do people not realize it was really popular for ages for albums to be REALLY long? Like?? 

I think the problem is the wrong artists are releasing albums that are too long :billie: 

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