Sometimes it’s best to let the hype die before listening to a release.
I’m in the gym today and for some reason, I felt the urge to put on QUAVO HUNCHO by the man himself, Quavo from Migos. The album dropped back in October and despite being certified Gold by RIAA, the overwhelming perception is that it was disappointing, too long, and repetitive. I’m not sure what people expected with that last critique….it’s Quavonce Knowles. Certainly, the first two have more factors at play beyond the music itself. Are those factors as salient though with time passing?
The way these promotional rollouts occur and certain artists overall being, it’s natural to have high expectations. Quavo released the tracklist and star-studded was certainly an understatement. Everything seemed like it would go smoothly, but I reckon that we expected way too much and thus were unable to take the music for what it was. However, my listen today in the gym and my listen at 4 AM the day of the album’s release were very, very different. That’s the beauty of it. A fresh set of ears and freedom from the expectations and hype. You never know how you’ll feel.
When it comes to Quavo, he’s been the same artist most of his career. He surely became a more prominent figure in 2016, but you know what you’re going to get. I’m personally confused as to why anyone expected anything different. Solid beats, catchy, repetitive hooks and great features. The fact it was his solo album definitely drives the conversation and perception a certain way, especially because fans were calling for it. For me, all it did was make me concerned about the actual verses on songs since he wouldn’t have Offset and Takeoff to carry them.
Listening again though, I still won’t say the album was great. However, I was definitely too hard on it. I was a victim of my own expectations. Drake actually delivered a really good verse on “FLIP THE SWITCH,” 21 Savage tore the beat up as per usual on “PASS OUT” and Saweetie matched her man’s energy in the best way on “GIVE IT TO EM.” Even “HUNCHO DREAMS,” his slightly distasteful response to Nicki Minaj, was catchy. Maybe it’s his flip of the “In My Feelings” chorus or the fact I know Nicki was riled up after hearing it.
The point is, we have to stop being prisoners of the moment. We have to let things age and be open to second chances. I’ve said it before, I didn’t like Blonde upon its release. It sounded like elevator music. No more than two weeks later, it was different for me. I’d absolutely be lying, though, if I didn’t say I was crippled by the expectations I had due to Twitter and Frank Ocean‘s elusiveness.
It’s natural, Twitter goes crazy every Friday with albums. The issue is people expect gold then and there. If it’s good, they hype it beyond measure and aren’t willing to hear any feedback that could be considered bad. If something is average, it’s subjugated to trash and any further conversation is dismissed. It’s an annoying, toxic culture that I, unfortunately, can’t help but engage in. However, there isn’t a single album out there that ANYONE can listen to first time and be able to recognize every intricacy, technicality, and gimmick. There’s no possible way one could certifiably call something fire or trash off of one listen unless solely gauging it off of how it quite literally sounded. We know music is way more than the sonics.
You can’t pick up on all of the lyrical content, the references, the motivation or the inspiration. Which is okay, as fans that’s the beauty of revisiting. You continue to learn more and more and engage with the artist as you delve deeper into the content. I know this isn’t the fans’ fault entirely, as streaming and the surplus of releases has made it so we don’t sit with one album for months like we used to. This reality is leading the industry down a dark path, though.
We have the power to change the discussions. We have the power to not write off a Drake song immediately just because it’s not amazing off first listen, even though we know one month down the line we’ll probably love it. We have the power to go back to albums like Dreams Worth More Than Money and listen for what it was, rather than the controversy surrounding it upon release. Hell, I think Kamikaze by Eminem would be better received today without all of the headlines and drama that surrounded it.
Music doesn’t and shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. The beauty of streaming services is that just as easily as we can click the new albums, we can search for older works and see how we feel about them with time passing. I’m certainly not guaranteeing that every revisit is going to make you love an album you didn’t like previously, but it’s like being the nerdy kid in high school who finally buys a nice outfit – you’re going to break it out immediately, hoping people love it. If for some reason people don’t, perhaps seeing it in a different environment like a party or the mall will yield a different outcome. Timing is truly everything, but the timing doesn’t favor many when they have to compete with other big artists in the same week, along with big releases from previous weeks or anticipated projects.
I understand the urge to be the first with an opinion, but the first opinion is almost never the right one. Rory from Joe Budden Podcast said it best, people listen to albums looking for one thing to have an opinion on and then run with it. It’s like listening to respond in a conversation rather than listening to truly understand what is being said. I’m sure there are many folks who have listened to albums they initially didn’t like and are conceiving ways to circumvent their previous slanderous Tweets. We seent ’em.
Seriously though, I just want it to be back to the days where music was a shared experience. We aren’t trying to tear each other down with our opinions that we assume are superior to others. We aren’t quick to tear down an artists’ work simply because of the expectations we had for it not being met. It’s completely okay to not listen to an album the day of its release. I do it from time to time. There’s nothing like sitting down with a clear head, putting your headphones on and entering into the mind of, say, Wale when he dropped SHINE. Good album, go revisit that.