I think I’ve been laboring under the unrealistic idea that an album must be perfect for it to be considered classic. As if anyone could ever achieve perfection, even in the context of just one little old album. Even if you have a relaxed definition of perfection where every song just has to be good, not great, such a goal is nearly impossible.
What made me realize that I was expecting too much? Well, since college I’ve been going through hell in my attempts to find a portable music solution. In high school it was easy enough to just bring a cd or two with my Walkman. Then in college I got a heavy-ass MP3 player by Creative. Finally I could walk around with ALL my music, at least 30Gb worth of albums. That may not sound like much but compared to carrying a few 700Mb CDs it’s a revolution. After that school year my refund checks dwindled and no subsequent player could compare in size, so after it broke I was back to deciding what music was worthy of accompanying me on my treks outside.
Then last year I stepped into the world of cloud music with Spotify. It was mostly dope, except I don’t have unlimited data on my iPhone, and Spotify has a bad habit of showing edited songs at the top of its search results, aand it was missing a lot of the underground shit I liked, aaaaaand on top of all that I have to pay $10 just to use the mobile app. So on to Sugarsync. For the same price as Spotify, I can put all the music I already have on my PC online and play it from my phone. Unless I ever decide to buy another huge MP3 player, it seems that I’ve found the best solution available at the moment.
But another problem cropped up (and here’s where I mercifully get to the point.) The top two places where I use my phone for music are in the car and at work. And I’m not trying to get into a 40 car pile-up so I can skip past the wack songs on the Blackstar album.
So just delete ’em right? Well I literally had to convince myself to do so. Why? Because I’m that self-righteous prick who “only listens to whole albums.” At least, that’s who I thought I was. But halfway through this inner monologue I realized that only when an album is new do I even bother listening to the so-so songs that inevitably take up space between the sure-shots. And that’s just to decide if i like them or not. Once I designate the songs as weak, why not just delete them?
Because I’m not one of those people: those cretins on iTunes who just buy 3 songs (probably the damn singles) from an album instead of listening to the whole thing as the artist intended! Maybe that works for pop but I listen to real music, my artists craft whole albums!
I was looking down on folks for not sticking to an ideal that I myself didn’t even subscribe to! Because either I’ve become more picky or average album quality has dwindled lately. I just know that I do a lot more skipping now than I used to. But let me admit right now that the great albums of yesteryear were not perfect. Life After Death was at least one cd too long, Reasonable Doubt had a few pretty mediocre joints, and Paid in Full was a rollercoaster of quality.
So once I accept that these “classic” albums are so imperfect that I want to take the virtual scissors to them, can I still call them classic? Am I really a fan of these people if I can justify deleting (gasp!!) some of their songs?!
My definitions clearly were in sore need of an update. Classic has to change from a perfect album to something more realistic, like an album that has some timeless music of great quality. Timeless as in it has to be good enough to come back to for years to come. As for fan, I think I’m adding mistaking die-hard fan with regular fan. I’m not a die-hard fan of anyone, everyone pisses me off sometimes.
Now I’m free to remove what I don’t like from whatever I like. Pretty much every album i have will eventually get some delete button love. Nas’ catalog needs some heavy editing, that dude is very consistent with his inconsistency. But Illmatic won’t be touched, of course, because perfection does indeed happen sometimes.