For the sake of the album, don’t just take what you want

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that Post Malone released his new album, “Hollywood Bleeding,” and that one of the tracks featured none other than the “Prince of Darkness” himself, Ozzy Osbourne. This made me curious. Ozzy Osbourne is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and although I don’t actively listen to Post Malone, I have enjoyed the songs from him that have popped up on the radio. But, even though this particular track featured one of my personal heroes, I struggled to appreciate it thoroughly.

The track itself, “Take What You Want,” isn’t half bad: Although Ozzy is not prominently featured outside of his haunting voice in the chorus in the very beginning, Post Malone and Travis Scott’s verses compliment each other well. The beat is also dark and brooding, reminiscent of the mood that permeates Ozzy’s early Black Sabbath records. So no, the song was not the problem; it was the comments from Post Malone’s fans in the Twitterverse.

The tweets ranged from merely ignorant to very stupid. They can be best summed up through this simple satire: “Wow Post Malone is so humble for shining light on new artists. If it wasn’t for him i [sic] wouldn’t know who Ozzy Osborne is crying emoji” (Twitter, [@_cixelsyd], 09.07.2019).

You’re kidding me, right?

Not knowing about Ozzy Osbourne is a clear sign that these unbeknownst people have either lost a few brain cells somewhere or have been living under a rock. The number of albums that Post Malone has sold wouldn’t even make Ozzy break a sweat. The man has had the most successful solo career of any singer in heavy metal—period. Even more important than album sales, he pioneered the genre with Black Sabbath in the 1970s, worked with legendary musicians like Randy Rhoads (RIP) and Zakk Wylde in his solo band and wrote countless hits and anthems like “Iron Man,” “War Pigs,” “Crazy Train” and “Children of the Grave.”

At 70 years old, Ozzy Osbourne has battled decades of drug and alcohol abuse, struggled with Parkin Syndrome and lived an exhausting life of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. He has toured the world hundreds of times, starred in a successful reality show with his family in the early 2000s titled “The Osbournes” and found the time to reunite with Black Sabbath to record the band’s final album in 2013. He even bit the head off a bat. To put it quite simply, Ozzy Osbourne is a legend—for better or for worse. Even if you haven’t heard his music, there is still a myriad of ways that you could have, and should have, heard of him.

Sure, Ozzy Osbourne was the king of the world in the 1980s, but today he is just “some old guy,” so you might be able to get away with not knowing who he is. The idea of forgetting established musical acts isn’t just isolated to Ozzy, however. The same situation occurred in 2015 when Kanye West released a few songs featuring Paul McCartney and it baffles me even more to think that someone would not know who Paul McCartney is. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t everyone born with the knowledge that the Beatles are John, Paul, George and Ringo? This goes to show that Post Malone’s fans not knowing about Ozzy Osbourne reflects a larger trend: Young people lack education on different types of music.

For my part, I’m a metalhead, but I’ve branched out and acquired various other tastes aside from metal music. I have been a big fan of indie rock for a long time, including bands like MGMT, Tame Impala, GUM and others like them. I grew up listening to jazz fusion bands like Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers (thanks Dad). If someone throws on a classic throwback song from the late 2000s/early 2010s, I will most likely end up dancing my ass off and screaming the lyrics as loudly as I can. I love everything from synthpop to garage rock, gangsta rap to classical and blues to new wave.

Now, I understand that not everyone listens to such a wide array of genres. As a musician myself, I should listen to various genres of music. Doing so expands my guitar-playing repertoire. I am mostly inspired by rock and metal guitarists, but also heavily influenced by relatively niche jazz guitarists like Al Di Meola and Guthrie Govan. I mostly listen to music with the purpose of learning more.

However, I think we can all benefit from expanding our musical tastes, whether one plays an instrument or not. While musical opinions can often be divisive, sharing my ideas and preferences with others has often led me to discover new music that I otherwise would never have heard of. I like the concept of exchanging favorite albums and artists with friends, just like you’re recommending them a good book. If you apply yourself, you can lose yourself in a good book, just as I often lose myself in a good album.

Sadly, as Hari Sreenivasan of NPR points out, streaming culture is slowly killing the album (PBS NewsHour, “How music on demand is killing the album,” 02.06.2019). Because we can pick and choose individual songs to listen to, we’re no longer obliged to purchase a whole album just to hear one song, meaning we’re no longer listening to full albums. This, in turn, has changed the way albums are written; these days, it feels like when an artist releases a new “album,” they have just put out a collection of singles that could stand on their own, like Ed Sheeran’s “No.6 Collaborations Project,” or DJ Khaled’s “Father of Asahd.” Thus, it is not surprising that we no longer take an interest in the process of making individual songs fit into a cohesive whole, leaving artists like Ozzy—who pioneered the album as a longer art form—in the dust.

So, if you’re reading this article and you’ve never listened to Ozzy Osbourne, do yourself a favor and put on “Master of Reality,” by Ozzy’s first band, Black Sabbath. While I can’t guarantee that you will enjoy it, at least you will have tried something new.

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