Are Deluxe Albums Still Relevant?
Deluxe albums have become a staple release for artists worldwide, and are usually an enhanced or expanded version of the original record. Ideally, by adding bonus tracks that were cut from the original tracklist, the artist enriches the listener’s experience while listening to the whole album.
However, many deluxe albums end up as the same record with a few extra songs tacked on. This can make fans question if this is actually meaningful to the fan experience, if it is solely a strategy to boost album sales and streams, and if there is a more thoughtful way to release bonus content for fans.
As one of the most successful and influential pop stars in the world, Taylor Swift is no stranger to deluxe albums. Most of her albums follow the standard formula: the original version of the album, followed by a deluxe edition with a few additional songs, sometimes released on the exact same day.
For fans that pre-order or pre-save releases, these editions can quickly become a hassle to repurchase. It seems hardly fair to ask supporters to purchase and stream two different versions of essentially the same thing.
Taylor Swift’s tenth album Midnights had multiple deluxe editions, such as the “3am Edition,” “The Til Dawn Edition,” “The Late Night Edition,” and a limited CD only available at Target, each featuring a different combination of additional songs. These editions have become so tedious to track that fans have created charts to mark the differences.
The “3am Edition” was released three hours after the record’s release, and included seven bonus tracks. Considering if the original thirteen songs truly made up the concept album that Swift wanted them to be, it could be beneficial to treat the additional songs on the “3am Edition” as a separate EP. Instead of welding together a scattered 20-track album, the additional songs would be more impactful if given their own space to breathe.
On the other hand, the supergroup called boygenius recently released an EP, titled “The Rest,” as a collection of songs that did not fit into their recent album “The Record.”
“I don’t know if it was strategic; it’s just these are songs that weren’t ready for the record, and then we spent time on them, and they’re ready now,” said Lucy Dacus, a member of boygenius, during an interview with Zane Lowe from Apple Music.
Instead of adding songs as an extension of their album, they used this release as a representation of their continued friendship and evolving collaboration. Unlike traditional deluxe editions, the songs on “The Rest” are self-contained. Rather than solely depending on the original album, the EP is both a companion to “The Record” and a project on its own.
One of my favorite works in which an artist expanded upon their previous work is Faye Webster’s “Car Therapy Sessions.” The EP includes new orchestral arrangements of Webster’s past songs and one new track.
Similar to boygenius’ EP, “Car Therapy Sessions” is a standalone release that compliments her previous discography. The usual laid-back, groovy, indie-folk production is replaced with sweeping, motion-picturesque strings and flourishes.
“[The EP is] for people who are already fans of the song, then this version is more impactful if you already know it,” said Webster in an interview with Unpublished Zine.
With so many creative options available, there is no reason for a deluxe edition to be a copy of the original record with a few extra songs and a different album cover. Artists should present bonus content in a way that puts the original record in a different light, whether they are revisiting past work, adding tracks that were originally cut, or including demos. As the main supporters of our favorite artists, we deserve thoughtful, unique releases.