5 Ways Bands Could Make Compilations Actually Interesting
Recently my colleague Nathan Smith cobbled together the Destiny Child's compilation Beyoncé doesn't want you to see and it gave me an idea. Compilations are both the most necessary and aggravating albums in an artist's catalogue. One the one hand, it's always nice to have a good, definitive greatest hits album. On the other hand they are by nature money grabs designed to either get fans to buy the same song twice on different albums, or draw in new fans with the promise of not having to sit through the stuff the market forgot.
Hell, in many cases compilations aren't even put together by the band. They're put together by the record label in order to get a product on sale to capitalize on Christmas or recent events. Meat Loaf had a string of these starting with Hits Out of Hell, and you've seen legions of them in the impulse section of Walgreens and convenience stores. Even when the bands do get involved most comps have this weird fatality about assuming there will either never be a future song worth including, or just flat out admitting another comp is down the road.
Which is why I came up with five ways bands could make comps that really break the mould.
The Best of Not the Band in Question: Sometimes an iconic band spawns equally iconic solo projects. The best example of this would probably be Bauhaus. Peter Murphy, David J, Daniel Ash, and even Kevin Haskins went on to do notable, or at least interesting stuff (Did you know Haskins composed the music to Myst III?). It might be interesting to get the four members in a room and put together a Best of Not Bauhaus allowing the four to showcase what works they most appreciated outside of the band that got them started. Locally, you could get a killer version of this idea from the members of Deadhorse.
A Super Concert Album: One of my favorite Meat Loaf albums is Live Around the World, where dozens of different takes from concerts all over the globe were cobbled together to make a super mix. It's an awesome album, but you could go so much further. Take a band like Kiss or the Rolling Stones who have recorded probably thousands of their concerts over the course of their careers. Wouldn't it be neat to edit them together with the absolute most perfect takes ever done across a decades-old career?
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Your Best Album Plus More: I distinctly remember as a kid calling Fleetwood Mac's Rumors their Best Of, and my father saying, "It is, but not on purpose." There are other good albums by Fleetwood Mac, of course, but you can only own Rumors and never really miss anything.
So when the 15th anniversary or whatever of your iconic album rolls around, maybe you could think about getting that specific team back together just to jam the songs. This would be an especially true in a band like The Cure that has had so many very distinct incarnations. After getting yourselves back in the mindset you were when you first laid down those tracks, just keep going. See if you can hammer out a couple of "era" songs. It's not a reunion, it's just to make sure that you said all that needed to be said.
An Actual Worst Of: Bands only call their Best Of albums The Worst Of if they have literally exhausted every other avenue of marketing and humor. Just once I'd like to have a band select ten or twelve tunes from their career that they literally wish they'd never recorded, and tell us why in the liner notes. It would make for a very interesting tour, seeing as how it would probably be songs that they had rarely if ever played live.
A Submission Video Compilation: One of the things that I find interesting when I cover music videos is how often the band itself is never really involved. The record label finds a director and sends them off into the wilderness with a camera and cash. The vast majority of songs a band records never get video adaptations made, so you could just farm it out to aspiring directors. If someone well-known, but not exactly massive like Blood on the Dance Floor sent out requests for vids they'd be inundated with top-quality stuff without ever having to lift a finger or show up, like that fan-made Decembrists video above.
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