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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Listen to music better. Put on the whole album.


There’s always at least one hour of my day, if not six or seven, that is accompanied with uninterrupted music blasting from my phone, headphones, speaker or TV.

I confess, I regard myself as a better listener than others. This is because I listen to music in the same way I read a book.

For me, the changing of titles from track to track is like turning the page and reaching a new chapter.

I guess I should preface that I don’t listen to all my music "left to right," but when in the mood, I’ll fill my commute to work, hour of doing laundry on Sunday or minutes of waiting for my air fryer to cook my Trader Joe's Orange Chicken by listening — front to back — to an album.

Now, listening to whole albums is almost a lost art. In many ways, we can attribute the death of this experience to Spotify and other streaming tycoons. These platforms emphasize clips, skips and quick cuts; nothing is to be listened to in full anymore.

To me, this is like skipping a chapter or even the climax of the novel. If I were to be reading “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” it’d be a crime to my understanding and appreciation of the books to entirely skip when (spoiler alert) Cedric Diggory dies, or when Voldemort returns.

For me, looking in a non-literary way, there were so many songs I realized I loved that were lost in the system of skips I’d been sucked into.

The overwhelming takeover of streaming has its obvious pros, but its cons are a little more hidden. Less popular songs routinely get less attention in a self-feeding cycle. If I don’t feel my curiosity piqued by a song title or it has low marks of listens, I’m just never going to choose to blast it over something popular that I already know I love.

Listening to a whole album helped me realize how much I love the song “Still Sane” by Lorde, which I never would’ve just chosen over the amazing, Billboard-charting “Royals,” which comes a few tracks before.

Further, artists really write their albums with intention toward the order of their songs. It’d be a crime to listen to Lana Del Rey’s “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” and skip through to “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have” in the same way you shouldn’t skip Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” all the way down to the last track, “DUCKWORTH.”

These tracks are intentionally last and if I always put them into a random playlist, in a way, part of the truth behind the song is lost.

Now, I’m guilty of subscribing to Spotify Premium and having various playlists featuring a number of artists, styles and the like. I love making a monthly playlist that encapsulates what I’ve been obsessing over and I always find something fun about my generated “daylist.”

But after a while, I get really bored of that. Full albums help me beat this.

Taking time to listen to full albums honors the artist’s wish and, selfishly, helps me defeat the burnout of feeling like I’m listening to the same songs over and over. Now, when I return to my precious playlists, the lyrics of my on-repeat songs are more meaningful, dimensional and novel. I probably even have new discovered songs to add to them.

Admittedly, it can feel really odd steering away from my beloved, perfectly curated playlists and tapping on the large, intimidating album to listen all the way through. Patiently listening through a whole album reinforces sitting with the uncomfortable. As I’m going through my daily skincare routine, for once, I don’t know the lyrics and beat drops of every song in rotation. It’s kind of scary, but fun. What new song will I find and hyperfixate over? Albums are more than the sum of their parts. Listen to it chapter by chapter: Sparknotes doesn’t exist for albums.


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