Before I sold real estate, I was a rock and roll drummer with a record deal from Clive Davis and Arista records, so my love of music runs deep. My iTunes is filled with more than 17,000 songs ranging from classic rock to alternative, alt country to classical, and my beloved pre-Bitches Brew Jazz collection. So when a holiday like Labor Day comes along, I turn to my iPod for my BBQ entertainment.
If you’ve never owned an iPod, this may seem a bit foreign, but yesterday I had an epiphany. The iPod has feature called shuffle, which allows the device to randomly select songs from the entire catalog, but because my entire music collection is on my iPod, using shuffle could find me listening to Bob Dylan one minute and Pavarotti the next – not exactly party music. Thus my typical approach is to create a playlist and go song by song or artist by artist to find the day’s music. I actually own several iPods; one large capacity and the others the much smaller capacity iPod Touch. Normally I will load the smaller device with artists capturing their entire catalog or previously created playlists, but yesterday I did something completely different and entirely by accident: I loaded it with great albums and hit shuffle. And an amazing thing happened – great song after great song resonated from my speakers.
As I swam and barbecued, and spent time with good friends on the day we in America honor and recognize the importance of Labor, it occurred to me that the reason the music was so good, was that I focused on full albums, and not songs. In this moment of realization, I found a parable to our nation and our current economic woes. Since the beginning of the iPod era, we’ve become a nation of songs and not albums. We buy a song here and another there, but not the artist’s complete work and in doing so we miss the full experience that they had tried to create. So it is currently in America, we are missing the album in the pursuit of a policy of the hit single.
It’s a funny thing about hit singles: they’re great in the beginning but over time, they become tired. What makes a great album great is that there is a depth that comes from prolonged listening. It takes time and commitment to sit through a record over and over, but the rewards can be so satisfying. It is the album approach that our leaders in Washington need to take. We need to focus on the big picture rather than the quick headline because our long term economic prosperity cannot come from the short term satisfaction of the hit single. Certainly to be a great album there must be some hit singles, but there also has to be depth for the record to have staying power. So it is for our nation’s economic album as well. We need the hits for that quick satisfaction; a catchy number to get us going, but we must also have a full album’s worth of material. It’s time for our leaders in Washington to put together an album and stop trying to feed us single after single. We want and deserve a great album, not another one-hit wonder.