The clean version of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy leaked today (November 9). I’m going to reserve judgment on Kanye’s new album until I’ve given it some more spins, but my initial problem, which we all saw coming, is that I’ve heard almost all of these songs already. I didn’t hear anything totally new until I was ten tracks in. Usually, when this much of an album leaks so far in advance, it spells doom for sales. Artists will tell you that excessive leaks are bad, bad, bad.
BUT WAIT, Kanye released most of these songs HIMSELF. Nefarious bootleggers and bloggers only got their dirty hands on three songs ahead of schedule.
Here lies the blogger’s dilemma. We crave new music, leaked or official. The most well known rap blogs pride themselves on exclusives and posting new songs the moment they drop. Can I complain that the album is stale if I’ve been diligently downloading and posting all of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Friday leaks? Maybe the insatiable appetite of the hip-hop audience is to blame.
So is a stale album the price we pay for a twelve week marathon of Yeezy love? Maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Kanye isn’t the first rapper to have a promo campaign based on weekly releases. That distinction belongs to Crooked I (I think), whose Hip-Hop Weekly series of freestyles dominated rap blogs between 2007 and 2008. But G.O.O.D. Fridays became much more than a promo mechanism. Friday nights, and when he was running late, Saturday mornings, became synonymous with exciting new Yeezy tracks that you could collect like Happy Meal toys. It helped that they were real songs with high profile guests. It was the most exciting buildup to an album release since 50 Cent set the world on fire prior to the release of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in 2003.
The advent of iTunes and the mp3 player has cast doubt on the future of the album format. The focus has undeniably shifted to individual songs, rather than full albums. Artists, industry types, and even fans have complained about how audiences have become fickle, forgetting about albums a week after they drop.
So instead of releasing songs every week to promote an album, maybe the twelve week promo campaign could replace the album entirely. Rather than teasing the audience with videos and mixtapes, the artist could fully engage fans over the course of months like Kanye did with G.O.O.D. Fridays. Weekly sponsorships could even possibly supplant album sales.
People have toyed with the idea of serial music releases before. Ditching the album format would require a giant leap of faith on the part of record labels and artists. The logistics are daunting, but it’s something to think about. Personally, I had a lot more fun with G.O.O.D. Fridays than I did with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.