What is it about a song becoming a single that can improve your opinion of it?
As evidence of this phenomenon I present Fleur East’s shimmering new release More and More. In speculating on what she would choose as the second single from her debut album I completely overlooked More and More, the third track and, in hindsight, the perfect follow up to lead hit, Sax.
Of course, before last week’s announcement I’d heard More and More and I liked it. I’ve been playing East’s Sax, Love and Flashbacks almost every day since it came out – pushing repeat on some songs, not on others. But the act of More and More’s release as a single somehow elevated that track in my eyes, and ears and, as its lyrics say, “I just want to play [it] all night long”. Last week More and More’s “plays” in my electronic library told me it was the sixth most played track from the album (behind Sax, Serious, Breakfast, Over and Over, and Never Say When). Now it has double the plays of Sax – and climbing.
Our love affairs with songs do tend to be a case of serial monogamy. I know within days, or weeks, another new single by another artist will soon catch my fancy, destined to be played ad infinitum while driving, working out, ironing, doing the dishes, breathing…
This is nothing new for me. The first time I heard Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 I liked, but didn’t love, the title track – until it became the second single when I realised it was the most perfect blend of social commentary and dance music ever crafted. I similarly overlooked Whitney Houston’s So Emotional from her second album until it became a single and I filled up both sides of a C90 cassette with it so I could satisfy my need to listen to it repeatedly for hours on end. When I discovered Taylor Swift had chosen Style as a single I had to remind myself of it, I could hardly even remember it was on 1989. It’s now the most played song in my electronic library.
I was raised in an era where radio made or broke songs. There was something persuasive in hearing a song on air and if a station was pushing a hit then you’d hear it several times a day whether you wanted to or not – familiarity often led to concupiscence. Post-the 1970s music videos were another layer of persuasiveness – seeing the video or live performance definitely adds to a song’s appeal. So is it some type of Pavlovian conditioning – I salivate at the release of a single?
Or is the phenomenon an ugly ducking fairy tale – the wallflower song, lost in the shuffle of the album, transformed into “all that”? I am a sucker for a makeover success story.
Of course, a single release doesn’t always guarantee a song will suddenly become my new favorite. Even a billion-dollar video and added rap couldn’t make me put Swift’s Bad Blood on repeat. And like the rest of the world I never warmed to Katy Perry’s Unconditionally, despite it getting released after Roar – its play count in my library stands at a listened-to-it-once-then-once-more-when-it-was-a-single 2. Sometimes, no matter how much a song is pushed, you just can’t love it more and more.