Stevie G: Keep ’em waiting and reap rewards

Quality over quantity is why the world will be ready and waiting when Kendrick, Travis, Frank, Beyonce or others drop albums this year, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Keep ’em waiting and reap rewards

Sade has been famously selective with her album releases and despite a relatively quick start to her career in the 80s, she has only released one album a decade since, the last coming in 2010.

They say absence makes the heart goes fonder and there’s many music fans who would surely agree. Some of the biggest stars in the world are taking more and more time between projects, but I personally think this is a good thing.

We live in a very past paced world these days and patience seems to run as low as attention spans. The need for a never ending flow of content is very much a sign of the times, but fans could do well to remember that the creative process isn’t always as simple as it looks. While much of the music industry was put on hold in recent years, the studios remained as busy as ever, but not all artists can churn out a conveyer belt of new tracks every few months.

Obviously, it depends on the music and the artist. Pop music is generally seen as more disposable and record companies like to strike while the iron is hot. Back in the 60s labels like Motown became really successful by churning out a huge number of exceptionally polished soul singles from some of the greatest music artists of all time. The whole structure of the company was similar to the car plants that dominated Motown’s home of Detroit. The releases were relentless, the quality control was kept very tight, and the operation was built on the back of many of those who never hit the limelight.

Writers, producers, choreographers, press and many others supplemented the stars like Marvin, Stevie, Diana and Smokey, and the backing band, who provided much of the music, the Funk Brothers, barely earned a living. Ultimately it was a slick operation, spearheaded by the vision and genius of Berry Gordy, but many artists later found it difficult to stay on this treadmill of hits. Marvin and Stevie found autonomy in the 70s, and released even greater work. But while Stevie created arguably the greatest run of albums at any one time, Marvin preferred to go at his own pace. The pressure of the music industry contributed to his other problems too.

It’s not an easy road to navigate. Every so often the world gets a Stevie Wonder or Prince or David Bowie, who go on these amazing runs, but many of the other greats take a more relaxed route. Sade has been famously selective with her album releases and despite a relatively quick start to her career in the 80s, she has only released one album a decade since, the last coming in 2010. Her artistry has influenced generations of musicians, including two soul legends who have been equally relaxed when it comes to churning out the albums.

Frank Ocean is my favourite artist of the last 20 years, and he has already followed the classic mixtape “Nostalgia Ultra” with “Channel Orange” and “Blonde”. You could arguably throw the “Endless” album in there too, but it felt more like a contractual obligation rather than a proper release. Fans constantly bemoan the fact that he hasn’t released any full album in nearly six years, but his full albums are as good as anything you’ll hear anywhere. I’m happy for him to take his time, crafting excellence that will last forever. Similarly, D’Angelo took what seemed an age to follow “Brown Sugar” with “Voodoo”, but this delay was nothing compared to the 14 year delay for the “Black Messiah” which followed. Again, it was worth the wait.

Even Rihanna, currently pregnant and busy building a business empire, has drawn criticism despite one of the most prolific runs in pop music history, culminating in “Anti” over six years ago. Eight albums by the age of 27 created a fanbase used to new music, but like Beyonce, she has slowed things down a little while remaining very busy elsewhere. Some artists could probably learn a thing or two and take a moment out as well.

Hip-hop traditionally moves fast and today’s stars are forgotten tomorrow, but both Kanye and Drake have occasionally been slack on quality control in their rush to keep on top of things. They are both still huge and both make big tunes, but Kanye often seems to rush things out, while a few of Drake’s recent albums could have done with less tracks.

I guess each artist is different, but when it comes to music, quality over quantity is something I believe is a fair choice. It’s why the world will be ready and waiting when Kendrick, Travis, Frank, Beyonce or others drop albums this year.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more