My current musical obsession as of late is Jhene Aiko, the ultra-cool, multi-ethnic songstress known for collaborating with many TDE artists. After downloading her only mixtape on a whim, Sailing Souls, I became hooked on her light vocal delivery and reserved romantic ideals (i.e. R&B music that’s not explicitly about fucking. I’m looking at you, Trey Songz!). Likewise, I got into Imagine Dragons due to a good friend’s recommendation. Their niche brand of electronica-infused alternative rock is not new, but it’s really good; good enough for me to want to buy it on CD even.
That’s where the dilemma lies. Due to my quite expansive musical tastes and desires, which I’m sure many people reading this article share, finding tunes without the Internet would be a completely miserable affair. In fact, regarding the fact that the first album I really got into was The Low End Theory, an album that was released before I was freaking born, I probably would never listen to anything but the one album that happened to catch my interest or a mix CD from a friend’s collection. I would have never discovered Jhene either, unless she got big or I lived in her hometown.
I posit this as I decided to pick up a copy of Imagine Dragons’ debut album, Night Visions, at Wal-Mart. Yeah, it’s a bad start, but hey, miracles happen because Christmas and unicorns right? Anywho, the first warning flag was simply eyeing their “New Releases” section. Excuse me, but didn’t Michael Jackson’s “Bad” come out in 1987? Sure, the artist takes huge precedence, but a re-release is a re-release. The other albums included in the category were in fact new, but not even pressing debuts or “hot” albums. Sorry, Brandy.
But I wasn’t expecting the album to be there. I expected it to nestle among the other important-to-noticeable releases from 2012 like Bob Dylan, Mumford And Sons, Green Day, Nicki Minaj, etc.
I was nearly foaming at the mouth at how deprived and understocked the section was. First of all, the music section cleaves sharply between “secular” and “gospel,” per Wal-Mart’s family-friendly guidelines. I’m OK with that, as long as I can get what I wa- Oh wait, the music that actually matters seems to take ten years to get here, seeing as how Destiny’s Child’s Survivor still gets stocked here in large quantities. The only way new major releases become sold, like Wiz’s new ONIFC or Kendrick’s m.A.A.d city, is if the songs are bowdlerized to oblivion and then given five bonus tracks. Needless to say, Night Visions was nowhere to be found.
I did find at least one copy at Best Buy, though. The major problem there was the small quantity and the fine-toothed comb one needs to actually search for certain releases they might actually have; even new (I found one copy of GKMC on its release day. And no, people don’t buy CDs from the hood Best Buy.). The other barrier “rock-blocking” avid music fans from their beloved tunes is the monopolistic price affixed to damn near everything.
Best Buy and Wal-Mart are actually a safe contenders in terms of value. Nothing ever gets past $11.88, although that is rather steep in my opinion. The most egregious offender is Cactus Records, a solid music haven roughly 10 miles from my house. It’s got an awesome collection of vinyl and CDs, ranging from the most glossy pop record to the more avant-garde, post-anthropological Scott Walker release. Yet every time I see something great, like a classic Ice Cube album or even a pristine copy of Dark Side Of The Moon, the price makes my wallet hurt. They sold last year’s 40-minute undun record for $14.99, a value that’s simply unwarranted.
There’s a lot of personal bias riding on this piece, being that I have a measly cash flow and the amount of music I really want to buy ranges from 2-3 albums every other week, but even the most casual listener will have a frustrating time trying to actually buy music nowadays. And simply saying “Well, that’s what iTunes and Amazon is for now. Stop being a hipster, you… hipster.” does not cut it. I completely agree and practice the purchase of mp3s, but having a CD of your favorite album has many merits that a digital file lacks in droves. I also enjoy vinyl, but for some reason car companies never got to installing LP players in their vehicles. Let’s not forget the fact that I kinda got ripped off trying to buy some.
And let’s not all ignore the fact that Apple sells their gift cards in some really shitty ways. Need to buy one album? Get the $15 card, so you don’t have enough to buy another! Oh, just need $10? Well then, get the $30 pack, ensuring that you’ll be forced to scour through our selection of “low-priced” $7.99 albums until you settle for the realy popular album you’ve been avoiding for years!
IDK, my ugly time trying to purchase music in the flesh only inflames the reason why so many choose to pirate nowadays. Whether it’s buying premium concert tickets or scoping out that one copy of their album in the only independent music store in town, supporting artists we love is a hassle.