Taking a look at the Billboard 200 and seeing Juice WRLD’s “Death Race for Love” at the top spot confuses me, as it should confuse most music enthusiasts. Don’t get me wrong, I was listening to “Ring Ring” while I was looking at the site, but I didn’t think that the one song that I play louder than most would warrant a 22-song album to hit the number one spot. For reference, Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” album is second on the list. Her 12-song configuration has three that currently control the radio, and five additional above-average listens that prove to be pretty catchy and listenable. Mr. WRLD, on the other hand, has the same number of good songs, but 14 that are hardly audible, and more importantly, exactly the same as each other.
This brings forth an interesting debate regarding how music is ranked in the year 2019. No one but my mom’s mom’s mom buys whole albums anymore, because we all have Spotify or Apple Music. So now the numbers that rankings use are total streams. Subsequently, the albums that have more songs end up ranking higher than those that do not. Using rap’s new front-runner group Migos as an example, “Culture” and “Culture II” show that the better selling, more “popular” album isn’t necessarily better by any sense of the word.
“Culture” was 13 songs, most of which are still memorable and are played at social gatherings consistently, (mainly “Bad and Boujee,” “T-Shirt” and “Slippery”). “Culture II” was an album twice as long, with many more streams, ranking higher than its predecessor, despite “Walk-it Talk-it” and “Stir Fry” being the only significant songs on the project. The other 25 songs prove to be replicas either of each other or of previous works. For example, “Open it Up” is the same song as “Deadz.” Even though this provides the listener with a rather boring and monotonous experience, “Culture II” became platinum so much faster, sold more in the first week than its prequel, yet is not stuck in people’s heads at all.
So back to Juice WRLD and Ariana Grande: Juice mixes pop-punk with “trap-rap” sounds to create a rather interesting project about his depression and drug abuse. But this mixture can only be a new experience the first time and maybe even the second. After twenty straight songs about lean and a broken heart over a snare drum, I’m going to stop listening. Standouts for the album include “Feeling,” which is a one-take freestyle that is incredibly catchy and a great example of his ability to rhyme off the top of his head, and 10 Feet, a series of bars over vocals and instrumentals that show his real feelings about life and death.
On the other hand, Ariana Grande’s signature “I’m awesome, go ‘F’ yourself entire male population” message throughout her work somehow doesn’t get old. It is the concept of the album, but she says it in multiple ways, tones and over different music so that the listener can follow but not be bored by monotony. Additionally, on “Needy” she goes back on everything she’s said before about not needing boys and about breaking up couples for fun to tell her audience that she can need a significant other, someone in her life that cares for her. And then for the rest of the album she lets everyone know that right now just isn’t that time for being needy. Another standout is “Ghostin” which is a ballad over a sample Mac Miller song about her love for her late lover, and how that affected her relationship with ex-fiancé Pete Davidson.
To wrap-up, albums should be ranked more on their percentage of good work rather than the number of total streams. I say this only because the new rules for going platinum and winning awards has encouraged artists to focus their efforts on a few singles, and then just hop in the studio a few more times so they can get their numbers. Dear rappers, there will never be a 20+ song album that is an incredible body of work from front to back. Unless, of course, it is the accumulation of songs that fit the same idea that have been held for an album for an extended period of time.
Modern-day rappers are releasing multiple albums per year to boost their Spotify streaming numbers without actually adding substance to their discography. The best example is NBA Youngboy, who released 75 songs across six albums in 2018. He has great numbers because of this, but is no way even an above-average rapper. I think the reason I’m complaining about this is because I listen to the same ten songs over and over again until I get bored (and I’m almost at that point) so if artists spent more time making ten incredible songs than thirty that are, might I say, garbage, I’d have a lot more to listen to.
Final rankings: Juice WRLD’s album is 3/10 because only 8/22 songs are good and Ariana Grande’s is a 7/10 because 8/12 are good. If you have problems with this, well, don’t take it up with me; it’s the math you’ll have to argue with.
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