Spotify: death of a shuffle button

Are running orders an art in themselves?

Lyndsey Sleator
5th December 2021

In an increasingly commercialised music industry categorised by fast streaming, music superpower Adele has taken a stance in favour of artists’ creative intention by making Spotify remove the shuffle button at the top of albums. But why should we listen to albums in order?

We have lost the art of deep listening to short attention spans and the power of singles, leaving us with the question of whether albums are even necessary in a world where attention is only given in short bursts? I think albums are not only necessary but crucial to allowing artists to take listeners on a journey; a journey preserved by the death of the shuffle button.

An album is a story and I am a firm believer that authorial intention in music should be recognised just as much as those who write books- and true fans will always take the time to listen. Many albums are moulded in a way in which the songs merge into each other and listening in order is not only crucial to the sound but entirely essential to the collective meaning behind the work. An incredible album that comes to mind is Tyler The Creator’s impeccable 2017 project Flower Boy, an album that would not be the same if not listened to in order as it could easily be one masterpiece of a song flowed as one. Music is an art and a journey of an artists’ mind.

Even listeners mould their playlists in this way, as I am also guilty of creating my own playlists on Spotify in an order in which the songs merge together as one as there is something so satisfying about this connectivity in music and musical flow- songs on their own are amazing but listening as an ordered collective is how meaning is grasped.

Adele has given her own reasoning to this move, stating on Twitter that “We don’t create albums with so much care and thought into our tracklisting for no reason..” and while many may argue that this change is entirely undermined by the fact that you can revert this change in you Setting, I don’t think this is the point.

The point is that it has finally been recognised by the biggest music streaming platform in the world that artists spend years on curating an album and at least deserve for their work to be listened to in the way they intend it. This is a clear victory for the human side of music.

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