I was talking to Mark this afternoon about the state of the music industry, something we do from time to time, usually when I’m certain that it’s finally reached rock bottom. There’s something foreboding in the November release calendar. If this year is really the music industry’s last gasp, then November will be its death rattle.
Who isn’t releasing albums in November? Justin Timberlake. He — and the tireless Rihanna — are the only major stars who come to mind that aren’t squeezing albums into 2008’s Q4. It’s shocking. I keep going back to Maura’s post that suggested that this could be a sign that the end is nigh for multimillionaire artists and the companies that back them. Is this it?
If it is, there’s only one album that I’m even remotely curious about in the holiday glut of new releases. It’s Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak. Few artists have such a totalizing aesthetic. Mr. West synthesizes cool ideas unlike any other artist working at his level. Time and time again, I’ve looked for any reason to dismiss his work as pastiche, but to do so would be a big mistake. Kanye West borrows, steals, and co-opts styles unlike anyone since Madonna, sniffing out trends and taboos and elevating them to the mainstream.
Watch Kanye West’s new video, “Heartless.” His coolness is undeniable.