With the success of his last two projects (Views and More Life), Drake has demonstrated that his most popular music has come when he’s put his own unique spin on borrowed bits and pieces from around that world. That’s why his new playlist More Life is so diverse, unique and yet still unmistakably Drake. It’s a global project in a globalised world, and it feels like a greatest hits compilation of Hip Hop’s number one artist. Here we look at whether the project’s ‘playlist’ model could have disruptive effects on the whole music industry:
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By calling the project a playlist, Drake has fully embraced the the dominance of curated lists and songs in the music industry right now. Spotify’s editorial playlists form a core part of their brand and are directly tailored around our tastes and moods. Their most successful playlists have millions of followers and are incredibly influential. Recent tracks such as ‘Bad and Boujee’ were driven to Billboard success on the back of major streaming figures from Spotify. Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book brought in GRAMMY awards despite not being distributed using conventional record label models. Based on these successes, one could argue that Spotify streams have eclipsed even radio play in terms of influence.
Capitalising on this trend, streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal have all invited major artists to create their own playlists in an attempt to attract the huge fan bases that these artists bring with them. However the results have rarely felt authentic. It feels like labels like Def Jam and XL have often teamed up with PR companies to create these playlists - and at the same time attempted to plug some lesser known artists on their rosters.
More Life is authentic.
The playlist is a coherent grouping of tracks mostly by Drake, and it’s physical format is no different from an album - but its thematic focus and sequencing make it distinctly unique. With its introspective nature and global influences, More Life feels like a deeply personal travel journal written by an artist at the tail end of a world tour. We feel like we’re taken on a journey through South Africa on ‘Madiba’. We see that Drake fell in love with the UK, dedicating interlude spots to Jorja Smith and Skepta. We see him team up with collaborators such as PARTYNEXTDOOR and new collaborators such as Young Thug.
In 2015, Drake told the Fader ‘I’m really trying to make music for your life’, and it felt like that - it’s a playlist that a casual music fan can put together with some work.
At 22 tracks long, some people have accused the album of having too much music. However it would seem that ‘More Content’ has been a consistent theme in Drake’s oeuvre over the past two years. Since 2015, Drake has released more than 70 official songs across 4 albums. He’s collaborated on a number of tracks with Rihanna, Future and Nicki Minaj. He has aired 39 episodes of his bi-weekly Beats 1 radio show and constantly updates his Instagram account with pictures ranging from candid and comedic shots his mother and father, to drunk photos with current and future stars. The streaming dominant landscape rewards artists like Drake and Future (who recently released two albums in one week) - artists that want to remain relevant need to churn out music all the time. From an album release cycle of for example every 3 or 4 years in the 1980s - to multiple releases within a year in 2017. Technology has driven that change.
In the 1980s, the rise of the CD concentrated power in the hands of labels. Labels could sell music in a cheaply manufactured format typically for far more than it cost to make. It kept profit margins higher and artistic independence restrained. The digital revolution of the 00s led by Apple and darlings of the internet boom such as Napster completely changed the equation. The iPod killed the CD as a means of music distribution and storage. File sharing sites such as Napster paved the way for free torrented music streamed online. And thus the music industry’s monopoly over content was smashed.
More Life could perhaps be the formative sketches of a new template of album release in a maturing era of digital distribution. It’s an artist driven format that encourages collaboration and enables artists to churn out the level of content that they need to be relevant in an increasingly quick release cycle. With more playlists, major artists might look to have a higher number of collaborations on their projects, and in so doing incorporate a wider range of influences in their projects. As a result, the overarching sound of their projects is likely to be more diverse - and the dominant sound of music is likely to evolve at a faster pace.
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