There are win­ners and losers in the pop game, but most acts fall into the lat­ter cat­e­gory

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

With six months of the year gone, there are plenty of best-al­bums-of-the-year-so-far lists around to gauge the cur­rent lie of the land. Look­ing through them, one thing is clear: plenty of ma­jor re­leases came and went quickly.

Artists are lucky if they get a burst of at­ten­tion the week of re­lease be­fore our at­ten­tion wan­ders else­where. Bey­oncé’s

Lemon­ade may have dom­i­nated 2016’s dis­course, but you’d be hard pressed to find a 2017 re­lease with such an im­pact.

For ex­am­ple, Ken­drick La­mar’s Damn hasn’t had the same mo­men­tum as To Pimp A

But­ter­fly. Jay-Z stymied his chances of mak­ing a splash with

4:44 by ini­tially cur­tail­ing its re­lease to fail­ing stream­ing ser­vice Tidal.

Lorde may have re­turned with a bang in the shape of

Melo­drama but she’s lucky if any­one is still talk­ing about her a few months after re­lease. We re­ally are on to the next one be­fore you know where you are.

Add those sur­prise al­bum re­leases into the mix and you’ve an­other rea­son why pop’s at­ten­tion econ­omy is so skew­ered. I in­ter­viewed Jack Gar­ratt last year about his de­but al­bum and he was con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­ity of James Blake and Frank Ocean putting out sur­prise re­leases that could have clashed with his record.

Three months later, Blake brought his own al­bum for­ward a week to avoid go­ing head-to-head for at­ten­tion with Bey­oncé. A week after Lemon

ade ap­peared and sucked up all the promo oxy­gen in the room, Ra­dio­head stuck out A Moon

Shaped Pool and every­one went off in that di­rec­tion.

Like with ev­ery­thing else in the new mu­sic in­dus­try, it’s the es­tab­lished head­line acts who are the win­ners in pop’s at­ten­tion econ­omy. It’s far eas­ier for every­one to write and talk about Ra­dio­head’s new al­bum, for ex­am­ple, be­cause they know the band’s his­tory.

It’s harder to de­vote the time to find­ing out about and writ­ing about a new band’s de­but or sec­ond re­lease. So you have an in­creas­ing num­ber of al­bums that are re­leased and sink with­out trace be­cause some­thing from one of the more es­tab­lished acts came along, at­tracted every­one’s at­ten­tion and few peo­ple spent the time re­quired to de­ci­pher the new act’s work.

Over-sup­ply is also a fac­tor. There is only so much band­width, time and space to process all of these re­leases. The su­per­fans and the BeyHive will go all in on a new al­bum as soon as it ap­pears, but it’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter for the vast ma­jor­ity of mu­sic fans.

While the kind of mas­sive choice a stream­ing plat­form such as Spo­tify of­fers is a god­send for many of us, it can bam­boo­zle and baf­fle the less com­mit­ted. No won­der they take refuge in the safe mu­sic of their youth and/or Kings of Leon.

On the pos­i­tive side, all of this choice means that the dom­i­nance of old has been de­stroyed once and for all (bar Bey­oncé). Sud­denly, it’s all up for grabs and the sur­prise hits (which still oc­cur, as we saw last year with Chris­tine & The Queens) can come from any­where. That can only be a good thing.

FÓGRA: This is my fi­nal col­umn for The Ticket. Thanks to all the ed­i­tors who’ve put up with me for the last 850 is­sues and the sub-ed­i­tors who’ve en­sured it all makes sense. Big­gest thanks of all to you, the read­ers, for keep­ing the faith and let­ting me know what you liked and didn’t like about On the Record and its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions. I’ll see you down the road.

A week after ‘Lemon­ade’ ap­peared and sucked up all the promo oxy­gen in the room, Ra­dio­head stuck out ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ and every­one went off in that di­rec­tion

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