Album Releases: Standard vs. Deluxe Editions

Album Covers

I don’t know about you but when new albums are released, I more often than not end up getting the deluxe edition of an album. I’m not talking about a re-release deluxe edition; I mean, album gets released and there are two versions available on that day. If it is an artist or band I love, it is an obvious decision for me, but I would still heavily consider it for a regular artist as well. Why? Because for a couple of dollar difference, you get more music! Who doesn’t want that? This music fan absolutely does! I feel like it’s gone are the days where the bonus tracks are just remixes of the songs on the album (though one or two still crop up in the mix from time to time); you legitimately get brand new songs that for some reason didn’t quite make the cut in the standard CD release. But lately, I’ve found that there are a lot of gems in these bonus tracks on the deluxe releases.

Take for instance, Kelly Clarkson’s latest album Piece by Piece. It’s her most pop album yet, with its electro pop inflections, but Kelly’s voice transcends everything and doesn’t make the songs derivative (in lesser hands or voices, some of the songs might not have worked as well). But one of my favourite songs off the album is a bonus track, only found on the deluxe edition, and that’s “Bad Reputation.” It’s a fun and sassy pop/soul/R&B track that invokes a very retro, yet decidedly modern feel to it. In terms of Kelly’s overall discography, it’s like if was a lost track from the Thankful days and upgraded to fit in with Stronger/Piece by Piece.

Maroon 5, with Hands All Over, Overexposed and V, have included a wonderful cover song in each of the deluxe editions (Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” Prince’s “Kiss” and Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy,” respectively). Again, there are some gems in the other bonus tracks. Hands All Over featured “Last Chance” a song that will serve as a precursor to “Maps”; and “No Curtain Call” which shows off a more arena rock edge. Overexposed got the special distinction of including an updated version of “Wasted Years” – a song the band had written and performed live in between Songs About Jane and It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. V, meanwhile, featured what could be the next phase in the M5 trajectory – pop/dance/rock by way of Mark Ronson – in “Shoot Love”.

Both parts of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience are fully realized, complete albums, but that didn’t stop JT from releasing deluxe versions with additional songs. Three of the bonus tracks – “Dress On,” “Blindness,” and “Electric Lady” – were like throwbacks to 90s R&B, while “Body Count” sounded almost like Justified-era JT.

It has actually been a little funny in regards to album releases, with me being in Canada. When news gets out of releases, I read more from U.S. sources, so my thought processes are quite American-based for such pop culture things, forgetting of course that some things don’t get to Canada in the same way. As luck would have it, that weird difference has sometimes worked in my favour. I believe the deluxe editions of The 20/20 Experience were Target exclusives in the U.S, but here in Canada, that was our standard version. The same goes with the Begin Again soundtrack, wherein the deluxe edition was only available digitally in the U.S., but we got it as our standard.

So anybody like me and prefer buying the deluxe edition of albums? Has it proven to be a worthwhile investment, with songs that are truly gems? Let me know in the comments!

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Music First Listens

There’s a funny thing to be said about how technology, or moreso the internet, has an effect on how we listen to music. (Well, in reality, it can relate to all aspects of entertainment, but I want to focus on just music.) With the exception of artists releasing singles before their album drops, prior to an album getting released it often happens that the album gets leaked onto the internet whether officially (like through MTV.com where you are able to stream the entire album a week before it’s out) or unofficially (just your normal websites). When an album actually gets released, you can go on iTunes, the artists’ website or whatever and hear 30-second snippets of all the songs on the album. The point is: you can hear an album before you buy it.

Recently, I went to see Maroon 5 in concert again, and one of their opening acts was a new artist by the name of Ry Cuming. The Maroon 5 guys are good friends with Ry, so they’ve been supporting him through having him come on tour with them and encouraging their fans to check out his album when it got released in July. Knowing that Ry was opening for Maroon 5 and obviously being a big fan of theirs, I decided to check out his album. Unfortunately, Ry’s album isn’t being distributed in Canada, so I couldn’t just go to HMV and pick it up; instead, I ordered it off of Amazon (good ol’ trusty Amazon!) It then occurred to me that it had been a really long time since I had bought an album without having heard it first, with absolutely no preconceptions. I bought an album, not knowing what I was going to get.

I read somewhere online recently an interview that Drake did, where he addressed his album “Thank Me Later” leaking a good 2 weeks before its release. He said he didn’t care all that much about the leak because it meant that people could hear what they were getting before they bought the album. It’s a sentiment that I definitely agree with. I mean sure, the bad thing about albums getting leaked before their release is that it’s out there for free. But if people really like it, then they’ll buy the album.

Now, I’m one of those people who still like buying the physical CD and not off of iTunes, so for me, I just think back to the days when I was younger and bought CDs, not knowing what the music was like. I mean sure, when you download an album or stream it online before it comes out, you’re listening to the songs for the first time, but the feeling’s not exactly the same. It’s happened to me on several occasions where I listened to the leaked album, love it, play it on repeat, and then it actually gets released, I buy it…and that’s it. I pretty much buy the CD, take it out of its plastic, and then put it on my shelf. The idea of buying the physical album, putting it into your CD player and listening to it, now just seems lost with the times.

So back to the catalyst of this post, consider me pleasantly surprised when I got Ry Cuming’s album, put it into my computer and just listened to it. It was a nice feeling (and a very good album). Thinking about it now, I think the last time I bought an album without listening to it first was Kyle Riabko’s “The Parkdale Sessions.” I think when I got the album, I realized that I already had a couple of the songs, but the rest was all new to me and I loved it. Granted, I’ve been a Kyle Riabko fan for a long time, so pretty much anything he did, I was gonna support him regardless. But yeah, it was different to buy an album by someone I didn’t know and not listen to the music before I bought it. In all honesty, it could’ve been terrible, but let’s just call it musical instincts, in the belief that it was gonna be good. Having other musicians support and endorse you and your music kind of helps too.