Longevity and Relevance in Music


Frank Ocean for his new album Blonde. Anna Rollins Graphic.

By Holden Cole, Reporter

The three most anticipated releases this year were from already established artists who are seemingly at the height of their fame. Frank Ocean’s “Blond,” Drake’s “Views,” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo.” “Blond” is being considered by many to be the album of the year, “The Life of Pablo” top three by most as well. “Views” spent 12 weeks atop the billboard top 100, and in just four months has gone triple platinum. However to many of his fans, myself included, it was a disappointment because Drake released something almost purely for the sales. While both Ocean and West’s albums may be remembered for their hectic releases, they will also be remembered for the quality music they contained. Both pushed boundaries in music in different ways, and both pushed their own boundaries in a way we hadn’t seen before. The most glaring issues with “Views” wasn’t really even the music itself, it was the fact that we had heard it from him before. The production, melodies, and features seemed all too familiar, he didn’t create a new atmosphere like he had with his previous three solo album releases. “Blond” is on the same level as “Channel Orange” in terms of quality, but it’s a whole new sound that Ocean is exploring. “The Life of Pablo” may not have had one cohesive sound like every one of his past releases, but it was still a completely new style that West was exploring. This is what sets them apart above all else from other pop releases of the year such as Views.

When artists begin to get complacent with their sound that’s when their popularity and quality start to go. Now, I’m not saying that this will happen to Drake in the popularity aspect, but quality wise he has already taken a dip. Both of his last two releases, “What a Time to Be Alive” being the other, he played perfectly for sales, not for something new. This is something true across all genres, not just pop and rap. Guns N’ Roses’ second album, “G N’ R Lies” is nowhere near the quality that their debut, “Appetite for Destruction” was. Billy Rae Cyrus, who I thought was just Miley’s dad growing up on the “Hannah Montana” show, burst onto the country scene with his debut album, was unable to find continual success after. These artists did nothing to change their sound after their debuts and rather than waiting to take time to craft another all time great album, they both decided to attempt to capitalize on their success and cash in as quickly as possible. Though it may have worked for immediate success, it didn’t end well in the long term.

Another problem that a few artists have faced is trying to change too much. Kid Cudi is the best example of this, with his most recent release of “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven.” His first two albums,Man on the Moon” and “Man on the Moon Two” are two of the most influential hip hop albums of the 2010s, not to mention two of the best of their time. Since then, Cudi has gone nowhere with his next few releases, and while I will never say an artist can’t put out what they want, the quality has quite obviously dropped.

Finding the sweet spot in your evolution as an artist is one of the hardest things to do. Not only just with your sophomore release, but each after that as well. Artists that do this will be remembered forever as some of the best that could span generations. Those that don’t may fade into only memories as those that could sell records.