Have Features Replaced The Buzz Track?
Once upon a time, pop stars disappeared between eras — only emerging when their lead single was ready to promote. With the onset of the digital age, the time between albums became noticeably quicker. Many artists started releasing annually, which was the norm in the ’60s and ’70s and still the model in Asia. Another quirk of the rise of the mp3 was the buzz track, a non-single from the album used to generate excitement and awareness about an upcoming. It also proved to be a useful tool for damage control. (There are no flops, just buzz tracks).
However, a funny thing is happening in 2017. The buzz track has seemingly been replaced by a club or hip-hop feature. Particularly when it comes to pop divas. Selena Gomez & Kygo have a global smash with “It Ain’t Me,” Demi Lovato teamed up with Cheat Codes for “No Promises,” Ariana Grande lent her voice to Calvin Harris’ “Heatstroke” and has a collaboration with Major Lazer on the way, Hailee Steinfeld joined forces with Machine Gun Kelly for “At My Best” and Camila Cabello has songs with MGK, Pitbull and Cashmere Cat.
What do these pop divas have in common? Well, they all have lead singles in the can and albums planned for late summer/fall. Only instead of previewing their own material, they are raising their profile via another artist’s record. The appeal is obvious. They get to reconnect with fans and generate excitement for their new albums without the pressure of having a hit or worrying about a negative reaction. It seems like a win/win, but the flip side of this is oversaturation. Particularly, if the feature is a hit.
Will fans be as excited about Selena’s new single with “It Ain’t Me” still on high rotation at pop radio? Is Camila’s solo debut still news given the success of “Bad Things”? I think the new generation of listeners are so used to a constant stream of content that it probably won’t matter, but time will tell. It should be noted that pop’s upper echelon (Adele, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Katy Perry) hasn’t embraced the trend, but new music from any one of them is an event in and of itself.