Just noticed Megan Thee Stallion is suing her label over the definition of an album, which I find fascinating since I’ve had arguments with people for decades over the definition of an album. I always stubbornly went with the old Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll rule (album = 3 or more songs adding up to more than 25 minutes total, or even between 20 and 25 if you’re an EP-hating poot.) Megan’s going by her contract, which, according to the Pitchfork story, stipulates only that an album “must be at least 45 minutes in length; Something for Thee Hotties is 45 minutes and 2 seconds long.” But her label claims the release, “a collection of loose singles and B-sides,” is a “mixtape” even though the record was all original material, not merely borrowed beats with Megan doing her Megan thing on top.
The whole idea of “mixtapes” has seemed bogus to me ever since they stopped being, like, various-artist compilations, though I kind of get the odds and sods aspect — I guess now Black Market Clash and Elvis Costello’s Taking Liberties would be called mixtapes, too? What I’m curious about here, though, is the legal definition of an album, which amazingly I’ve never given a moment of thought to before, nor noticed anybody else doing so. Is 45 minutes standard business practice; and if not, what is?
What about super-long releases that (bizarrely, I always thought) get marketed as “EPs,” like those old Underworld and Jean Grae ones that lasted something like 90 minutes? Would those have been contractually considered albums, or no? And conversely, what about those hip-hop ones in recent years (including a bunch on Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label) so short that they would have been called EPs in some earlier and saner era? And what about this thing lately where some country singer (or whoever) puts out an EP and then, several months later, expands it into a full-length (or, for that matter, albums that that ultimately get expanded themselves)? How do all those phenomena fit into this equation?
Also, how the heck can you have a “B-side” if you don’t put out vinyl singles with actual, like, sides? Second song on a CD single, I suppose, but in the streaming era? Would that just be when you put out two songs together in the same streaming “package” –though lately isn’t the practice more often to digitally release a single, then put out another single with the first single attached, then put out a third single with both previous ones attached? If you’re going to attach them at all?
The whole idea of singles in the streaming epoch is a potential conversation on its own…Seems like they’re basically back to what they were in the pre-Sgt. Pepper’s ’60s, in the sense that they come out before the album as much or more than after. I haven’t kept up with Billboard lately beyond the charts; they must have dealt with some of these questions at some point, I’m sure. But you can too, if you want.