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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

One of my favourite memories with my dad over the years has been our conversations about music and our shared interest in classic rock. Sometimes on Sundays he would turn on the radio to the classic rock station and tell me about the history of each artist and the record associated with each song that came on. My appreciation and love for Elton John came from my dad telling me about “Funeral for a Friend”, from Elton’s album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, when it played on the radio one night. “Funeral for a Friend” is an eleven-minute song, different from anything I had ever heard before. The beginning of the song builds so slowly that I thought the volume needed to be adjusted

There’s something to be said about the emotional and musical ride that this 11-minute song takes you on. My dad told me at the time that hearing the full version on the radio was somewhat of a rarity. Longer songs, even Elton John’s wildly popular “Tiny Dancer” which is around six minutes long, often only appear on the radio as their shorter versions. 

Recently, I heard a song from the band Styx, called “Come Sail Away, on the radio. I loved it and was surprised by its six-minute length, which reminded me of that conversation with my dad. It made me think about the beauty of a longer song. A story can be told much differently with a longer song than it can from the averaging three-minute songs that we are used to hearing. Both are beautiful, however songs of six minutes or longer, there’s more time for instrumentals that play an integral role in a song’s storytelling or emotion.

Songs are becoming increasingly shorter. An article from The Verge shares that because of the rise of streaming, artists are more inclined to create shorter songs. Artists are now being paid per stream which is equal to listening to 30 seconds or more of a song, meaning a song needs to be played for only at least 30 seconds to earn revenue. An album made up of shorter songs earns an artist more than an album of the same length but with fewer songs of longer lengths. Shorter songs also reduce the risk of someone becoming uninterested in a song, making it more likely they’ll listen to the whole album. The more an album is listened to in its entirety, the more exposure an artist will receive based on the algorithms of streaming platforms including Spotify.

The structure of songs has also changed. Shorter songs require earlier hooks, both of which lend well to listeners’ decreasing attention span. It’s understandable that we are so easily distracted or dissatisfied if something doesn’t instantly grab our attention in a world of seemingly infinite on-demand options. We have gotten so used to making the unconscious or conscious decision to find things that immediately please us. 

There isn’t the same opportunity to experiment and gradually build a song if it’s three minutes long, which, I would argue, is a part of a longer song’s magic. Six to ten minutes of music allows you to get lost in it, requiring a person to be present and appreciate the artistry. In the era of the three-minute or less TikTok and the ability to take in multiple forms of media at once, I think it’s important that we challenge ourselves to do things that don’t distract us to the point of overstimulation. For instance, reading a book, watching a well-made movie without your phone, listening to an album in its entirety without skipping or listening to a long song. Engaging all of your attention in something and fully appreciating it for what it is, is meditative and stimulating in its own way. We are forced to consume art even if it’s not instantly pleasing or thinks about the value of something even if it’s not immediately apparent.

Ultimately, the art of a longer song is not yet dead. Modern artists continue to experiment and release long songs, such as Wallows’s “Do Not Wait” and Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” (Taylor’s Version). Swift wrote the ten-minute version of “All Too Well” at the same time as the rest of her record Red. It wasn’t included on the original record for a number of reasons, a major one being that ten-minute songs aren’t typically included on records. 10 years later, the ten-minute version of “All Too Well” has so much richness and depth in its storytelling that we didn’t have with its original version. I do see the value in both lengths. It’s hard to say whether the longer version would have been as well-received when Red was first released in 2012 as it did in 2021 due to Taylor’s ever-changing fanbase and individuals have started to feel more connected to Swift’s story in recent years. It does tell us one thing, though: the longer song can definitely be worth listening to.

I do hope that listeners and streaming services alike do not let the longer songs become so financially unrealistic that they become obsolete. There’s a lot of magic in the longer songs too.

Celia Callaghan

Queen's U '23

Celia Callaghan is in her third year of Commerce at Queen’s University.
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