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Column: What is Musical A.D.D.?

Sounding Off

Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column focuses on what is known as “musical A.D.D.”

Ever notice how people these days seldom listen to an entire album, from start to finish without changing to something else?

Well this behavior, that we so oafishly refer to as “musical ADD,” is defined by a person’s inability to listen and appreciate something from start-to-finish.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We in no way mean to offend anyone with actual Attention Deficit Disorder, which can be a real and sometimes debilitating learning disability.

However, the lack of appreciation for an entire studio album is not something new, and didn’t just happen overnight.

Back in the days of vinyl, people used to listen an album from beginning to end. Sure, they had the option of skipping around. Lifting the tone arm wasn’t difficult and picking out a specific track was pretty easily identifiable by the notches on the wax.

As technology developed and we became introduced to tape cassettes, people found it easier and easier to rewind or fast-forward to a certain track. Still relatively cheap in the ‘80s and ‘90s, cassettes helped begin this age of “musical ADD,” but were flawed in their faulty design. Many times, if you rewound a tape too much, it would get caught and make a mess. All you would need is a pencil to fix it, but good luck finding one out on the open highway.

Enter the Walkman

When CDs came about, “musical A.D.D.” had officially become a thing. People would carry around cases filled with hundreds of albums just to hear a select few songs from their collection.

With the new technology, you started to see more and more new cars being fashioned with six-CD changers so you could skip around freely. It was a far cry from the hustle and bustle of having to load up your cassette deck with different tapes.

Around this time, computers had become a common household appliance and burning albums was the newest fad. People would burn mixtapes and swap music, making it so much easier to turn friends on to the next big band.

But it wasn’t before long that people discovered ways to compress the files that we would so lovingly burn disc after disc. Sadly, most of those CDs became waste and over the years have also started to pile up in trash dumps and landfills.

Apple Changes the Game

The iPod forever changed the face of music as we know it, whether we’d like to admit it or not. It was then that we had the ability to siphon of the music we didn’t want to hear and play only select songs.

The Apple Store was one of the first to provide listeners with the ability to purchase individual songs, without buying the entire album. Singles became increasingly popular as MP3 players and other more modern forms of listening to music began to emanate.

However, the rise in digital music also opened the doorway to more tech-savvy listeners finding new ways to illegally pirate music without paying.

Amid the online digital revolution, we also saw the rise and fall of several Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sharing networks, such as Napster, Kazaa and Limewire to name a few.

The ability to have your entire music library at the click of a button made a major impact on the way listen to music in our daily lives. Before long, you couldn’t avoid seeing them on subways and buses all over New York City. These “Pod People” who seemed more in tune with what they had queued up next, than whether the train just missed their stop.

“Musical A.D.D.” is nothing new… in fact, it is human nature. We are very quickly impressed or dissuaded from listening to an album in it’s entirety, based on our initial reaction to a single. That’s not to say that as listeners, you should try to put on a full-length album by an artist you strongly dislike. But, what’s the harm in making it a point to listen to new albums from beginning to end? I find that it gives you a better understanding of an artist’s overall vision.

Others argue that the composition of an entire album, while once pertinent in the world of music, is now no longer as important as a single. I feel this is because much of society today lacks the patience necessary to fully analyze and appreciate an album in its entirety.

Needless to say, even the best of us will fall victim to “musical A.D.D.” from time-to-time and it’s important to recognize the symptoms. Some of the ways you can determine if you are experiencing “musical A.D.D.” include:

 

  • Turning off the music in someone else’s car.`

Apart from being a major bonehead move, turning off someone else’s music because you would rather listen to something else is one of the biggest tell-tale signs of “musical A.D.D.”

 

  • Excessive screen tapping and scrolling.

Excessive searching is a major tell. You know someone is looking for the next track when you are tapping and scrolling away.

 

  • Automated Shuffle

We all too often forget to turn off shuffle when we get in the car, prompting us to skip around instead of listening to an album through to the end.

 

  • Hit the five-song skip cap

If you’re the type of person who uses up all five skips on free streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, you may wish to invest in upgrading to a premium account so you can have all the skips your heart desires.

 

  • Purchasing Pre-orders

We all love to hear music before the album drops, but pre-orders seldom get released all at once. By pre-ordering an album, you are more likely to listen to a single as a one-off track, instead of waiting to hear the album in its entirety.

Spotting these symptoms as they occur will help you to better avoid the pitfalls of “musical A.D.D.” and improve your ability to appreciate an album from start-to-finish. This can be very important to keep in mind, especially when discussing concept albums, which are often built around a central storyline or theme.

Despite the fact that much of the music being released these days continue to cater towards the “musical A.D.D.,” we can all be better when it comes to listening to new music all the way through.

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