For my research blog, I looked into the way that Jay-Z marketed and released his most recent album, titled "4:44." I found it interesting that the album was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the year, and yet not many of my friends had heard it.
This was because Jay-Z has chosen to put his newest work exclusively on his own streaming service, called TIDAL. Because of this, many Spotify and Apple Music listeners have missed out on Jay-Z's new music.
At first, I was a little bit frustrated that only TIDAL listeners could stream this critically acclaimed LP. But, as I did more research, I found that this decision has given an aura of mystery and power to this album that is lacking from many new records in today's music industry.
The only place that a non TIDAL listener can go to listen to 4:44 is to the collection of music videos for each song on Youtube. But, many of these music videos will skip a verse, or cut up the songs with interviews and other clips.
For example, the video for the title track, "4:44" (which is named for a song that is exactly four minutes and forty four seconds long) is an 8 minute video. (https://youtu.be/zSkA61esq_c)
The video for "Smile" ends with Jay-Z's mother reading a poem that she wrote. (https://youtu.be/SSumXG5_rs8?t=6m6s)
And even still, the video for "Moonlight" does not even start the song until the five minute mark.(https://youtu.be/FCSh48OlvMo?t=4m52s)
One might even go so far to say that these are not as much music videos as they are short documentaries and/or short films that accompany the song. They were created to complement the album, and not to showcase the album itself.
I have seriously considered going out and actually buying a physical copy of
Jay-Z's 4:44, not because of the actual album, but because the quality of the art and the production that surrounds it.
In many ways, 4:44 is sending us back in time to a world where every song imaginable was not at our fingertips. A world where the album meant more than the hit single. And for an album to have that kind of power in 2018 is something truly special.
Some screenshots from the videos:
The Story of O.J.
Here is the Youtube playlist of all of the 4:44 videos