Pulling a Beyoncé: Why are artists releasing “surprise” albums?

Beyoncé. Wolfmother. Death Grips. The Raveonettes. Kid Cudi. Skrillex. 
A seemingly arbitrary list of artists, differing in both genre and status, are among a growing population of musicians who have chosen to release an entire album with absolutely no warning or promotion. This trend received its unofficial title of “pulling a Beyoncé,” after BB releasing her unannounced self-titled album on December 13, 2013. The Internet was driven towards hysteria. In its first three days, having no prior release date or singles, Beyoncé sold almost 800,000 copies. Although Beyoncé was not the first to try this unorthodox release, her great success using it has inspired others to do so. But, is it really all “About the Money,” or do artists have their own reasons behind the “surprise” album? Why is “surprise” in quotation marks? Enjoy.

beyonce

One thing that is for sure, fans, myself included, go absolutely nuts when one of their favorite artists pulls a card out of Mrs. Carter’s playbook. Even the press seems to be intoxicated by these mass influxes of new material. While doing research for this article I ran across posts about: who should release a surprise albumwho shouldn’t release surprise albumwho is most likely to release a surprise album; and whether or not this approach even works. Sorry Wolfmother, for you, it does not.

So, we know that in most cases fans flip over surprise albums. And perhaps artists see the unexpected release as a gift to their supporters. Everyone knows waiting for an album to drop can be torture. Maybe musicians reward fans by attempting to break up the monotony that is the typical year long cycle of an album’s campaign. It’s a tried and true method that never ends: tease first single, release single, announce album release date, tease single’s music video, release video, debut more new tracks, appears on Fallon promoting the single, video, and album, so on and so forth. Instead of months spent digesting how much they need to hear the album, the listener can actually hear the album. Different. Weird. Exciting.

This brings me to my next point: releasing a surprise album has proven to make a musician or band more reputable. It’s simple. By abstracting the norm, the action appears defiant. When experimental hip hop outfit Death Grips was dropped from Epic Records for leaking their second album No Love Deep Web, they came off looking like fucking renegades. So much so, that they did so with both their third and fourth albums. This group was about music! Their label was standing in the way of them delivering music to the fans, so they said “Fuck it. We can do it ourselves.” Now, doesn’t releasing an album without any release date or promotional campaign seem like rebellious thing to do?

deathgrips

But, I will give it to Death Grips. They were an authentic act. But this is where the surprise ends. Lets take Beyoncé for example. Beyoncé is on Columbia Records. Columbia is the largest flagship label owned by Sony Music, a company worth almost $5 billion. With Beyoncé being one of their highest-grossing artists, do you really think Sony would be happy if just one day she said, “I think I’ll release my album today.”? An album that cost millions of dollars to record? Try looking at Kid Cudi and Skrillex. Both are on huge record labels. Do you think their bosses – and yes, they have bosses – would be okay if they decided to release an album with zero promotion, and not consult them?

There is no surprise. The release of a “surprise” album is just as calculated as the typical promotion cycle. The story is that there was none. The resulting media frenzy is promotion enough, and the artist appears more genuine for doing something “different.” The record label executives ride the independent wave right to the bank. The action appears nice, but the thought behind it is corrupt. They capitalize on the actions taken by artists like Death Grips, artists who actually want fans to experience their art. This greed could eventually lead to diminished feelings towards these pure artists. One day their actions may appear more calculated and less authentic.

But what do you think? Why are artists releasing “surprise” albums? These are just my opinions. I’d enjoy hearing yours.

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Radio Lab: Straight Outta Chevy Chase dissects the “realness” of Hip Hop

No, this isn’t a cultural manifesto on Chevy Chase and the Vacation movies. It is, however a smart look into one of the most important components of hip hop: realness. What makes something real? Who decides what is real or not? A majority of the podcast discusses a beef between hip hop superstar Nicki Minaj and radio DJ Peter Rosenberg. I really enjoyed listening to it, so I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/straight-outta-chevy-chase/

 

You Blew It! to release Weezer cover EP, “You Blue It” on 7/15

Still riding the wave of popularity behind their sophomore album, Orlando natives You Blew It! are set to release an EP of choice Weezer cuts from the band’s 1994 album, Weezer (The Blue Album). Two songs, “My Name is Jonas” and “Surf Wax America,” have already helped build anticipation for the EP. You can pre-order You Blue It over at Topshelf Records. Good job boys. Brilliant pun. Enjoy.



Summer Preview: Noisy Ghost, Bonnaroo, Dinosaurs, and more!

I apologize for my absence. Finals suck. School sucks. Work sucks. I know. But it’s summer now, and I’ve got some big things cooking. Enjoy.

Noisy Ghost PR

I know I don’t usually talk about myself,  but I just need to take a moment and gloat. This summer, I will be interning at Noisy Ghost PR, a promotion sister-company to Graveface Records. As you may know, Noisy Ghost contacted me a few months ago and asked me to help them promote a show at Will’s Pub. Apparently, I did something right, because I was able to score an internship. Noisy Ghost represents experimental artists like Xiu Xiu, The Stargazer Lilies, and Bad Bad Hats, and I am beyond excited for this. But in reality, this wouldn’t have happened without everyone’s support. You rock. Keep up the good work. Alright, gloating over.

30 Days of Bonnaroo

Nope, gloating not over. I’m going to Bonnaroo! It’s going to be fucking great! To get excited about seeing some new acts, I’m going to be breaking down a new Bonnaroo artist EVERYDAY starting May 12th. I just might die. Stay tuned!

Jurassic Park on Vinyl?

Jurassic Park is literally my favorite movie. And Mondo is releasing the soundtrack on vinyl featuring some incredible cover art. There will be two different packages: one pressed on clear amber vinyl, and one on black. BUT, there will be a dilophosaurus colored LP randomly inserted into some of the packages. Those bastards. This creates an impossible decision: take the risk to get the dilophosaurus pressing or get the slightly less awesome amber pressing. Luckily, you have some time to make your decision, because the pressing isn’t released until June 11.

JP_Both

I lied. There’s no more.

RSD 2014 Preview: The Good, The Bad, and The Expensive

(There is no bad)

Officially founded in 2007, Record Store Day is a celebration of the community, pride, and hard-work that goes into every independently owned record store. In the past few years, Record Store Day has grown into its own holiday, where artists small and large deliver a limited supply of releases old and new. Record Store Day Ambassador Chuck D, from the legendary hip-hip group Public Enemy, remarked on the impact of record stores, “The record store made musicians listen beyond themselves. It both complemented and supplemented the radio, in fact the best radio stations in the past followed the vibe of the record stores of their regions, thus growing and nurturing each other.”

I’m here to point you in the direction of my favorite releases, some of which my entire life savings ($164) on. This Saturday, thousands will gather at their local record store and indulge in the essential need that is music. Where will you be? Enjoy.

RSD 2014 Logo

The Vinyl Warhol’s RSD Picks (feel free to send me any of these)

??? – Side By Side Series 7″ : Always a fun, cheap way to get a unique RSD tradition. Two artists, an original song by one, with a cover by a different on the back. Last year I got The Stooges’/The Black Keys’ renditions of “No Fun,” on red and orange marble vinyl.

Cage the Elephant – “Take It Or Leave It”: A solid single from the band’s latest album, Melophobia. The B-side features an unreleased track called “Jesse James.”

CHVRCHES – Recover EP: One of last year’s hottest new acts, CHVRCHES has dominated both underground and popular music. They’re also playing at Bonnaroo!!

Haim – Forever: Another new giant from last year. Seriously infectious pop rock hits!

Jay Z/Linkin Park – Collision CourseOddly charming mash-ups of songs from both musical giants (See: “Big Pimpin’/Papercut”).

RPM Turntable Football – A Two Player Game Played at 33 1/3 RPM: Just look.

The Velvet Underground – LoadedA classic from a band where all of their albums (I don’t count are classic Squeeze) are classic. “Rock & Roll,” “Sweet Jane,” and “Cool It Down,” come on?

Liars – “Mess on a Mission”: Great tune from this band’s latest release, Mess. And just look at that! I did a blog talking about it.

LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye Box set: Saving the best for last. This five LP set is a remastered recording of the band’s final concert at Madison Square Garden. The price is $130, but I’ll be damned if I’m not leaving RSD without it.

View the complete list here! So, whatcha want?

 

Music News: Big Guava Festival

Good day friends! It’s been a stressful week full of rain and sorrows, but I just know that tomorrow is going to be a brighter day. Even though it’s cold and rainy now, it will be hot and rainy soon enough, and that means summer. And summer means music festivals. But, if you’re from Florida, you know that we don’t have any big music festivals. Our festivals are usually centered on farming, eating, or guns. But, this summer is the start of something great. Enjoy.

Big Guava Music Festival: May 2-4 2014

 
Three days, more than 20 acts, and enough fun to blind small children, that’s right kids it’s the Big Guava Festival. Produced by the all-powerful musical overlords Live Nation, Big Guava Fest is something new and exciting for Florida music lovers to lose their minds over. I randomly stumbled upon Big Guava, and could not be more enthralled. We’re talkin’ Outkast. We’re talkin’ Vampire Weekend. We’re talkin’ me pooping my pants in anticipation. I cannot wait for this summer!

This is the first time I can recall Florida having a decent sized music festival, and it’s something that we’ve needed for a long time. Anyone who has ever been in Florida during the summer knows it’s hell. But, what could be a better reason to brave heat? There’s going to be so many great acts, from many different genres. Haim is playing. You guys know how much I love Haim. Oh you don’t? Well here’s a subtle plug to remind you. And here’s another so I can tell you how excited I am that Deap Vally is also playing.

And here’s a graphic with everyone who’s playing!

Tickets to the three day event are $191.10 after fees. This is an event is a beautiful thing for central Florida. Hopefully it will become an annual event, grow larger, and kick ass. See you there.

Musical Ramblings: The Grammys

If you were unaware, or like most people you didn’t care, “music’s biggest night” was last night. But, I did watch The Grammys, and found it a, more or less, entertaining evening. So here are some of my thoughts about the winners, the performances, and The Grammys as an institution. Enjoy.

Follow The Vinyl Warhol on Facebook and Twitter for more music updates.

Who got lucky?

Every year I feel like The Grammys slip more and more into irrelevance. With the explosion of the internet, there has never been more accessible music, and 99% of it is excluded from Grammy nominations. Even some the most praised albums of last year (ie. Yeezus, Modern Vampires of the City, Reflektor, … Like Clockwork) received little recognition from The Recording Academy. That, along with the fact that “artists” like The Baha Men, Katy Perry, and Lil Wayne are all Grammy winners, makes The Grammys reputation for good music go right down the toilet. Okay, enough ranting, let’s get to the show.

Despite the paragraph above, I actually really enjoyed The Grammys this year. The night started off with Beyonce and Jay Z performing a steaming rendition of “Drunk in Love”. The two of them had multiple cute moments throughout the evening, the best being Jay’s acceptance speech, where he thanked his wife for bringing Baby Blue into the world. Feels for days.


Throughout the rest of the night, there were performances of varying levels of boredom, peaking with Taylor Swift’s performance, which made me want to eat a gun. Even the “oh so amazing” Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performance was pretty lame. They didn’t even play a Beatles song, and Ringo wasn’t even the only drummer on the stage. Oh Ringo.

By far the best everything of the night was Daft Punk. Their performance with Pharrell, Stevie Wonder, and Nile Rodgers was incredible. I’m pretty sure it’s the only moment in history where Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, and John Legend were dancing to the same song. Remarkable.


I want to quickly mention the “What the Fuck?” Macklemore & Friends performance. When the gates of heaven opened up, revealing Queen Latifah and Madonna I lost it. The wedding ceremony was sweet, but even more amazing is the fact that Queen Latifah is a licensed reverend and there is a person that goes by the name of Trombone Shorty.

Oh yeah, and people won awards. Robot Rock.