Bad news: just when you thought that 2020 could not bring any more fresh misery, and as if streaming hasn’t made the traditional album release complicated enough, a new trend has emerged: the two-stage album drop. Not to be confused with the double album – ie too many songs all at once – the idea is that fans get only half an album now, then inexplicably have to wait ages for the second part.
So you can stream the first five tracks of Hayley Williams’s first solo album, Petals for Armor, now. But, as some kind of test of our patience, or exercise in delayed gratification, the second part will be out in May, which, with 2020’s TikTok-length attention spans, is actually 12 years away.
Adam Lambert’s fourth album, Velvet, is also being released in two stages: Side A came out in September 2019, but since then, he has revealed fans will have to wait until March for the full thing. Similarly, Jack Garratt’s Love, Death and Dancing is also in two volumes: four tracks were released last month, with the other half of the album arriving at the end of May.
Robyn, always 10 years ahead of any trend, kicked this off with her Body Talk album. Part one came out in June 2010, with another eight songs following in September that year. The final, actual album came out that November with the “best of” the first two parts plus five new tracks. “I got all these great songs so why not?” she told Popjustice. “I didn’t want to wait with a release until they are all recorded, so I decided to start putting them out right away.” Which makes sense: if a two-part album drop is driven by the artist wanting to get new music out there as soon as possible, then great. But if it’s just to build anticipation, somebody out there is really overestimating how much hype there is around a new album by Jack Garratt. And if it’s to placate impatient fans, be warned: it took Robyn a full eight years to follow up Body Talk.
In a world of streaming and instantly getting what you want when you want it, from Deliveroo’d Thai to Amazon Prime’d drain unblockers, waiting for months to hear the second half of an album seems weirdly primitive. Do casual music fans really have the time and patience to navigate a complicated system of staggered album drops? Or is this all part of trying to breathe new life into the album format when people seem to care more about playlists?
An optimist might say that it is better to have half a Hayley Williams solo album than nothing at all, but if hearing an entire album at once is this complicated now, where will it end? Three-part albums? Four parts? Each song individually released track by track, but only on leap years, meaning that by 2068 you’ll have the completely finished version? Stop this now. One album, released all at once: that’s the rule.