Two for Tuesday: Two Interesting Album Releases

2013 is the year of interesting album releases. With all the music-playing mediums, promoting albums have become a bit of a game: Fall Out Boy came back overnight from a long hiatus with a new single and music video; Miley Cyrus brought a new sound to mirror her new image and used her shock-factor VMA performance to “make [people] talk;” and Eminem used the VMAs, Beats Audio by Dre and his Sirius XM radio station, Shade 45, to build anticipation for his Marshall Mathers LP 2 (which is due out next week).

Perhaps the most interesting were Jay-Z and Kanye West’s album releases.  After combining their talents for the excellent Watch the Throne in 2011, the two have returned with solo efforts released this summer only weeks apart, making comparisons inevitable. What’s interesting about this pair of releases is both Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail and Kanye West’s Yeezus were released shortly after their respective announcements. Not only that, but neither had lead singles to excite the public. However, that’s where the similarities end. This Two-for-Tuesday, we’ll explore the differences in the album releases and promotions.

Yeezus

Promotion for Kanye’s album began with a cryptic tweet reading only “June Eighteen.” That could have meant the release of a new album or his future daughter’s due date (it ended up approximating both). Following that, Kanye’s face was projected on buildings around the globe singing a new song from his album that he later performed on SNL.

In an interview with The Guardian, Kanye said, “with this album, we ain’t [gonna] drop no single to radio, we ain’t got no NBA campaign, nothing like that … we ain’t even got no cover. We just made some real music.” The minimalist tracks feature anti-consumerist messages, such as “New Slaves” which suggests that materialism is a way for corporations to control us.

The unconventional release generated considerable buzz and despite leaking online, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. However, one week later, sales dropped by 80%, the highest week-to-week drop in a year. Reviews were mostly positive, with some listeners being off-put by the music and others calling it a new trendsetting phase in his career.

Magna Carta… Holy Grail

The man renowned for proclaiming himself not a businessman, but a business, man has never had qualms with the corporate sponsorship; his own wife is a spokesperson for Pepsi. Jay-Z’s album was announced during the fifth game of the NBA Finals, explaining that one million copies would be available on a Samsung Galaxy app before the record’s official release.

 

 

Unfortunately, the release itself was plagued with errors. Overloaded with users, the app crashed upon release and the few users who did manage to get through balked at the privacy settings. Killer Mike, a rapper who has collaborated with Jay-Z in the past, publicly refused to download the album for this reason. Reviews were mixed, saying the focus of the album was more on the marketing than the content, with unfavorable comparisons made to Yeezus.

But it looks like Jay-Z met his standard of success. While Billboard refused to count the million purchases made by Samsung as individual sales for its charts, the RIAA changed their rules so the album could be declared platinum soon after it was released instead of a month after, as had typically been done. Nevertheless, if this is the future of product releases, they may do things differently next time.

Cover Photo Source: Anirudh Koul via Flickr

Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.