Have you watched their latest album?

Two “new” “albums” landed on my desk this week, from two different labels, each suggesting that the link between visuals and music is as important as ever – and that the concept of the “artist album” remains under constant revision.

First up, the “debut album” by The Sun, an Ohio rock group whose 2003 initial Warner Brothers EP Love And Death I enthused about upon release. Blame It On The Youth arrives in what looks like the traditional CD format, except that it will do nothing if placed in a CD player: it is in fact a full-length DVD comprised of 14 promo videos. (In the process, it claims to be the first ever all-DVD album.) If, like me, you don’t have time to sit back and watch MTV(2) all day and prefer just to hear the music, that’s still an option: buried inside a separate folder are 14 .wav files. Copy them into your iTunes (as I have) and then burn a CD from that playlist if you so choose (I have not, yet); either The Sun think you’ll prefer to carry the files on a portable player than bother with an actual CD, or the marketing bods at Warner Brothers figure it’s worth the risk to carry out the experiment.
The Sun - Blame It on the YouthOrder The Sun’s debut album Blame It On The Youth through amazon: just don’t be surprised when you find yourself at the site’s DVD, not CD, pages

For my part, I’m all up for the idea, but for this: since when did videos become the main means of artistic communication? And how much more money was spent on these 14 promos than the “album’s” actual recording costs? Oh, and one other thing that the marketing department unfortunately didn’t notice; when I import the tracks into iTunes, they come up only with song titles. How better to render them “truly” disposable music files than to make them devoid of any reference to artist or album?

But to answer my own question as to when videos – or at least visuals – became the main means of artistic communication I only have to look at Colour The Small One by Sia, an album I received this week almost two years after its UK launch. And why? Because of how masterfully the album track ‘Breathe Me’ was used for the final scene of the Six Feet Under series finale. As I wrote at the time, I already had ‘Breathe Me’ the track on the new soundtrack Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends wherein it had, more or less, passed me by. But after that superlative use on television, I pulled out the CD, found the relevant track, and quickly went online to find out more about the artist behind it. I was not alone: within 48 hours, the Everything Ends soundtrack had reached number 2 on the amazon charts, while Colour The Small One itself reached number 14 on the same mail-order charts – as an import. There’s no poll so accurate of consumer taste as that which measures how the consumer is spending their money. No doubt about it, the ‘Breathe Me’/’Six Feet Under’ tie-in was an instant phenomenon.

Colour the Small OneColour The Small One by Sia: a sudden sensation based on its use in Six Feet Under.

Word has it that the Australian-born, British-based Sia (who has also sung with Zero 7 and who in 2000 had a top 10 UK hit with her debut single ‘Taken For Granted’) was dropped by her UK label Go! Beat following Colour The Small One’s disappointing sales. That’s as may be. Astralwerks, the label behind the Six Feet Under soundtracks, wisely secured rights to the album all the same. Colour The Small One will see release next January, 24 months after its initial damp squib in the UK. And you know what: it doesn’t sound half as effective on the CD player without the image of Six Feet Under’s Clare Fisher driving her hearse across America for visual accompaniment. The Sun may have the right idea after all.

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August 2022