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Things Have Changed: What Happens When We Stream All Music

Back in 1980, I had been living in New York for less than a year when Elvis Costello And The Attractions released Get Happy!! -not the best album ever but in retrospect maybe my most important, personal experience -if only for “New Amsterdam,” the picture of a twenty something guy adrift in his life. It dropped in February 1980 and by the summer, one of the worst of my life, I was listening to it incessantly. Not once or twice, I listened to it so much I personalized the skips (vinyl -don’t ask) and hisses were part of the entire experience.

Forty years later, I was blown away by Kanye West’s Jesus Is King, released in late October -I haven’t listened to it in a week.

One reason is my age, I no longer obsess about music (or women) in the same manner that I used to. The other reason is opportunity. There is simply too many options, and to try and keep your ears alert you have to listen to a lot. Playlists more than albums, songs more than albums, a smorgasbord of sound: and everything new, and old, available at the punch of a keyboard.

This isn’t even slightly bad news. Yesterday I was reading about India’s new pop -EDM beats on Indian pop, plus anti-Muslim racist sentiments (here), I would have loved to hear it and guess what? I heard it instantly. Now, I have a handle on a music that could have taken ages (and money) to discover, and I would have probably ended up in Flushing checking it out. In the early 1990s, when I went on a Patsy Cline kick, it cost me hundreds of dollars and months of hard work, to track down everything she ever recorded. Now? Not so much. The result is a certain lack of concentration. When you spend your last dime for an album with an alternative take on “Honky Tonk Merry Go Round”,” you better be paying attention.

The adventure in finding music is over, and, when it does become difficult (I’m sodded if I can get my ears on  12 Songs of Christmas the Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Fred Waring album), it is exasperating and not fun at all.

I will never be the man who knew every word of Get Happy!! (some of them misheard, it’s not “I want to be a…” it is “i want to be his funeral director” -from morbidity and finite to violence and finite) but at least I will never, ever be left guessing.


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