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As surprise drops surge in popularity, don't let album rollouts die

Album rollout cohesiveness, like in Doja Cat's "Planet Her" rollout, is becoming rarer and rarer among current artists.  – Photo by Doja Cat / Instagram

Remember the days when an artist would release single after single, accompanied by a music video, and then continue promoting their latest project up until its release?

That's an album rollout — a lost art that's been mostly forgotten in the days of short attention spans, social media and spontaneous drops.

Album rollouts used to be the normal process for releasing an album. Artists would work on creating their album for a year or two, and they would follow it up with promotion. They would drop the lead single for their new project and its accompanying music video, and then, they would promote the new song on radio shows or by performing it at award shows or late-night talk shows.

Album rollouts helped create anticipation and solidified a new era in an artist’s career. If an album was generally themed or had some sort of specific vibe to it, the album rollout could help that vision come to fruition and engulf the listener in this new world the artist had created.

Today, many artists have changed the traditional boundaries of what an album rollout can be.

Some artists roll their albums out quickly with seemingly little to no thought behind the visuals or cohesiveness in the album's era. Others have intricately designed and planned rollouts that create a beautiful world for the listener.

In the past few years, we've received a mixed bag of album drops from the industry’s most prominent artists. For example, Taylor Swift’s Grammy-winning album “folklore” was released as a surprise drop, meaning nothing was teased or released beforehand.

In the case of “folklore,” Swift tweeted that she had been working on an album and that it would be dropping that same night. No teasers, no singles and no music videos — just a brand new album at the drop of a hat.

While this album is absolutely phenomenal and highly critically acclaimed, I would’ve loved to see “folklore” go through a traditional album rollout.

As the years have gone by, fans have been receiving less and less traditional album rollouts. Few artists still experiment with the rollout process, but the few that do lead the pack in creating amazing experiences for their listeners.

One of my favorite album rollouts of the last few years was for Victoria Monét’s 2020 album “Jaguar.” I found this to be one of the most unique and successful attempts at an album rollout in recent years. Monét is criminally underrated, and this album as a whole was, as well.

“Jaguar” plays into themes of love, lust and self-confidence in one of the most beautifully composed and well-written albums I’ve heard in years.

Monét’s album artwork, live performances, merchandise and music videos all fit wonderfully into the new world she has created that celebrates Black excellence, invigorating live instrumentation and retro rhythm and blues.

Another recent album rollout that was carried out phenomenally was Doja Cat’s 2021 Grammy-nominated album “Planet Her.” From the announcement of the album’s title, fans were expecting something sci-fi-like and otherworldly, and that is exactly what Doja delivered.

Every piece of Doja’s album rollout fit perfectly into the puzzle, helping to truly envelop fans in the world of “Planet Her.” The music videos, live performances and album artwork were all created to fit the alien-like character that Doja created for this era, and she definitely delivered.

While surprise drop albums are exciting occasionally, nothing will ever compare to the lost art of traditional album rollouts. There is nothing better than the anticipation of fans as their favorite artist slowly drops the album’s singles one by one, teasing fans on what the next era of their career will sound like.

While I believe album rollouts aren’t meant for every artist, and some even do better without them, there is something so magical and exhilarating about album rollouts that many younger generations won't be able to fully experience.

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