Why We Should Stop Listening to Music On Shuffle

Before there was iTunes, Spotify, and other streaming services online, one of the few ways to purchase and listen to music was by buying a physical CD, vinyl, or tape of your favorite artists. Of course, this isn’t news to most of us, as even high school-aged people could still probably tell you what the first CD they ever bought was - streaming is still new! And with this new way of listening to music, it is easier than ever to make a playlist of songs from all your favorite artists combined, or to just throw a band or album on shuffle. While this makes it easier to have more variety in your listening experience, are we missing out on something when we mess with an album’s track order?

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Track order has been something an artist must think about since the beginning of the album form, but one of the most notable ways track order influences your listening experience is the concept album. While many different albums are credited as being the first concept album, dating back to the 40’s and 50’s, some common examples are The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon, but even newer artists have made concept albums such as Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino and Beyonce’s Lemonade. The general notion of the concept album is that the tracks have a greater meaning when taken as a whole than when observed by each individual song. This can be done through track titles, lyrics, transitions - really anything that translates to a greater overall theme. The order in which you listen to these albums matters greatly, like reading a story chapter by chapter.

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Concept albums aren’t the only times that track order counts, though! Her Campus Siena sat down with a local musician and Siena alumnus, Dominick Murdock, to get a weigh-in on how much track order matters to the artist.

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When Murdock is working on an album for his band, Scotchka, he says that “some songs will be put together on purpose, and other songs will be put together because it sounds like a good transition.” If you’re listening to your music on shuffle, you might miss how some of an artist’s tracks flow into each other, or how the themes of two songs relate to each other.

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Of course, singles tend to be more important with how we consume music today. Music videos, radio, and streaming sites that make playlists for you create an environment where an artist has to try and push hit singles to get themselves on the board. As Murdock pointed out, artists now are “releasing 4 singles out of a 12 song album. I don’t think it necessarily takes away from [the listening experience], because people who are invested in the artists may choose to listen to the record straight through, so I don’t think the singles really matter.”

Some genres think more about track listings than others, but usually they’ll want to put their stronger songs first to keep the listener interested. According to marketplace.com, bands are advised to put their best material up front since social media has brought our general attention spans way down. So not only will you be getting the best material the fastest on newer albums when you listen in order, if you stick it out, you might find some hidden gems. And if you find a concept album you like, do it the justice of listening to it as it was meant to be listened to.

You might not always want to skip the “shuffle” button when you’re listening to music, especially if you’re switching between multiple artists, but try the order it was originally listed in every once and awhile! Think of it as your favorite artists making a playlist just for you. As Murdock said, “An album is like a ski mountain. You might have your favorite trails, but you get the best experience when you start from the top and go all the way down.”

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