The re-released album is a simple enough business venture. A successful album is expanded upon, remixed, and redistributed to the masses and their outstretched ears, which translates to a stream-fuelled commercial win. Interest in a record is reignited, often months after original release, adding a sense of longevity to an album cycle. The ‘deluxe’ album promises something explicitly special to the listener. The reality is often less impressive.
Fully fleshed out albums, scrupulous in their tracklisting and intent, are watered down for the sake of a rerelease. Their initial brilliance is dulled by the inclusion of ‘scrapped’ material that sets the record off balance. Closing tracks are replaced by a miscellany of new material intended to entice an audience once more. An album shifts from an expression of artistry to something more contrived, becoming an explicit vehicle for money-making that often undermines the original work’s value.
Recently, Dua Lipa’s newest venture involved the rerelease of her acclaimed 2020 album Future Nostalgia, a club-ready record of slick, bewitching disco released as the coronavirus pandemic erupted. The Moonlight Edition, eight tracks longer than the original, boasts a new artwork, single, music video and pointedly loud promotion. But even a swathe of airtight marketing can’t extract it from the difficulty faced by many a deluxe edition; it is simply the remnants of a record, rather than a project with its own bones.
This is how Lipa’s Moonlight Edition feels: hollow. There are a couple of great tracks—‘Fever’ with Angèle is as sexy and pulsating as they come, and ‘If It Ain’t Me’, a self-described ode to “sad disco”, would have slipped into the original record with ease. But what they are proffered amongst is a sea of unsure, subsidiary songs that lack any tangible purpose. What’s brilliant about Future Nostalgia is its discotheque sleekness. The Moonlight Edition inflates a streamlined effort with a meandering track list that fails to have any obvious intention. After a forty minute near-flawless party, we are flung into a repetitious, less assertive catalogue that fails to keep the disco alive. New additions range from unimpressive to genuinely inexplicable, highlighted most ardently by closing track ‘Un Dia’, a misplaced summer collaboration. The stream grab here is transparent, the song neither new nor particularly good, but rather in need of a home and a bit more traction. Under the Moonlight roof it goes.
Joining Lipa in the world of deluxe is Ariana Grande, who recently released a very slightly expanded version of her October album, Positions. The fresh set includes four new songs, including an interlude, each clocking in at two minutes or less. Brief and fairly uninspiring, they add little more than empty noise to the end of an otherwise solid album. The songs blend into one, like an extended finale, boring and almost tedious. Positions made waves upon its release for its grapple with female sexual prowess. The sultry edge of Grande’s first release is lost in its second, the new additions acting as dead weight at the end of an album defined by its fun, sex-tinged buoyancy. Gone is the eloquent lust, replaced by a dull crop of songs rife with a rushed type of inconsequence.
Without the intentionality of the original production of an album, deluxe versions lack shape. The album ends, and a sub-album begins, awkwardly picking up from where its mothership left off. Even new songs with vigour lack the purposefulness of being a part of the main body, existing in a secondary, less vital sphere. An artist’s best song could exist in this sub-album purgatory and still feel oddly incongruous. It seems a waste.
Commercially, deluxe albums make sense. But artistically, they falter.Emily Anderson
Successful albums of good quality seem destined for the deluxe trajectory. The repackaged record is thrown back into relevancy and climbs the charts with a renewed vitality. Currently, Lipa’s Future Nostalgia sits newly atop the worldwide Spotify Albums chart, almost a year after its initial release. Commercially, deluxe albums make sense. But artistically, they falter. The little substance they have to offer becomes lost in the second-hand nature of the release itself. Songs feel subordinate not only as quality lessens but because of their omission from the original body. They rack up streams in an exchange for an album’s integrity which, ironically, popstars so wish to keep intact. They remain a fairly safe business venture, but the deluxe-expanded-moonlight editions of albums do little more than solidify the notion that sometimes the hardest thing to do with a great thing is to leave it alone.
Words by Emily Anderson
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