Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo is being updated and changed weeks after release: could this be the new standard?
“Ima fix wolves”. These were the words uttered on Twitter by hip hop artist and self proclaimed god Kanye West mere hours after releasing his highly anticipated seventh LP The Life Of Pablo and unsurprisingly, this resulted in a bit of backlash. Some saw this as an inevitable outcome due to the amount of time Kanye had allocated to the release, others saw this as another opportunity to take shots at the ever controversial star.
However, could Kanye’s brilliant mistake be a blessing in disguise and shape the way we see albums as an artform?
Now first things first, let’s be clear here: I’m not the first to have this thought. In this day and age, there’s very little chance you’re going to say anything totally original unless you say something extravagant and idiotic like “oxygen is bad” or “I prefer Oasis to Blur”.Now that the default disclaimer is out of the way, it’s time to focus on the topic at hand which was brought on by this week’s surprise update to Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo.
Although he had promised this for quite some time, this is also the man who said he’d release his album last year and look what happened there, eh? Adding a tweaked version of Wolves including Sia as well as an individual track for Frank Ocean, it’s safe to say that there was a great interest in the changes, so much so that Tidal had to extend the free trial for those who wanted to listen to Yeezy’s messy masterpiece.
Upon hearing of this, it seemed clear to me that Kanye had taken a page right out of someone else’s book. However, this wasn’t another artist he had copied but instead something else entirely: gaming. This isn’t hard to believe considering that West is planning an album named after a video games console and is making a game himself where the player leads his…dead mother…to the afterlife (another topic for another day, ok).
Anyway, a brief little history lesson. The year is 2010 and Square Enix release Final Fantasy XIV to overwhelmingly mixed reviews, some critics calling it “unfinished” (seeing a similarity here) which resulted in Square having to go back to the drawing board. What did they do? Made an entirely new version, updating huge chunks of the game and satisfying the demands of fans, all under the same title of “Final Fantasy XIV”.
This isn’t an isolated incident and infact is quite common place in gaming. While it’s becoming a criticism that some developers will send out huge Day 1 patches, the fact of the matter is that games nowadays are bigger than ever and these patches help creators make sure their product is to the best quality possible.
So could the same approach work for music? It’s not impossible as stranger things have happened: the rebirth of vinyl and the rise of streaming music would have been crazy talk if suggested a decade ago. Not only has the way we listen to music changed but the way it is released has too, artists like Radiohead and Death Grips deciding to take a different approach by allowing fans to pay as much as they want or releasing the album for free respectively.
It’s a win-win result right? Perhaps not as there is some pretty understandable gripes, the standout one no doubt being, in my eyes, the fate of music journalism. If an artist constantly tweaks an album to their liking then every review becomes out of date almost instantaneously, meaning those who tend to rely on these critics might be put off from giving these albums a listen.
Then there’s the argument that it could excuse an artist’s incompetence, meaning that any sort of criticism could be retorted with “it’ll get sorted with an update”. Some will say that updating an album means that it doesn’t give them time to age and develop as it becomes a piece of contemporary art.
Despite all of this, the idea of an artist being able to update an album even after its release without charging the listener a penny is an interesting one indeed. Already there will be an artist somewhere coming up with some sort of ridiculous concept album that will benefit from this approach. Not only will it allow for some creative outbursts but it’ll help extend the lifespan of an album as even after the likes of The 1975 and Kendrick Lamar dropping releases, The Life Of Pablo has remained relevant.
The Life Of Pablo is a very fitting name, Kanye learning and improving it by ironing out all the problems some have came out with. Whether you think this will result in certain enjoyable quirks being removed or a genius move, music has proved once again why it’s the most exciting piece of entertainment.
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