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Posthumous Albums: Are they Ethical? (232 hits)

“Life After Death” by The Notorious B.I.G, “MTV Unplugged in New York” by Nirvana, “Dreaming of You" by Selena, “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” by Pop Smoke,” Pearl” by Janis Joplin and “Circles” by Mac Miller; are some of the most notable, and celebrated albums from artists after their death. Throughout each, it is obvious that despite the artist's untimely death - the vision and final product of these projects were thoughts wanted and planned by them. All mentioned are pieces of art that sound and feel similar to the vision and world those respective artists attempted to make while they were still here, and for that these are albums that are often celebrated, not just as good albums for a posthumous release but great standalone projects regardless of the tragedy of the events occurred. Not all are like this though which is where the controversy of the “Posthumous album” comes from.

"If a work is not complete, then the artist is within their right to not want that to be represented as the work that they've produced" says Lewis Krauthamer, a Piano Professor at the University of the District of Columbia said

Such a point I think sort of relates to late hip hop star XXXtentacion who fatally got shot in June of 2018, and from a lot of his cult fan base after his death have accused his label and Mother of “tarnishing his legacy” with the music they’ve released of his post his death. Often categorized as feeling not done, "half-assed", a deep departure from what he would’ve done and wanted and a money grab, from his supporters and music critics alike, add credence to Krauthamer's point.

Similar to Pop Smoke’s 2nd posthumous album “Faith” released in 2021; a lot of backlash came from the fact that fans didn’t believe a Brooklyn Drill artist whose music was based around the bloodshed from him, his friends, and his enemies along with his come up in the inner city of Brooklyn would work with a Pop star like Dua Lipa who’s music both content-wise and sonically is a complete 180 from the late rapper or questioned how much artists like Kanye West, Pharrell, or Kid Cudi even enjoyed Pop Smoke’s music and how much they were just using it to gain clout and hype for their music and names. The Same with Juice Wrld’s 2021 album “Fighting Demons''. The space for a pop presence was seen as more acceptable on this album than on Pop Smoke’s because Juice Wrld through his poppy hooks, and even working with artists like Ellie Goulding before his death showed his versatility in that lane, but questions arose of where was Justin Bieber or famous K-Pop group BTS before his death? Why now? Personally speaking, both albums lacked the authenticity of what those respective artists' earlier projects or even their early posthumous albums sounded like. The further we were removed from that person being here, the music felt less like them and more like labels trying to recreate them.

A point that is said from those who are in support of posthumous albums, is that no matter who gives the okay to release it in the process often fans will find, and leak music anyway, and at times with bigger artists like Juice Wrld or Lil Peep those very leakers will often charge hundreds to thousands of dollars to fans for leaks of music they stole from said artist leaving no money for that artist’ estate and charging supporters of those musicians ridiculous prices to hear the last of their work so if that’s the alternative, the better option would be to put it on a streaming service where the money made from the record(s) would go to the family of the deceased and fans wouldn’t have to pay exorbitant prices to middlemen who didn’t create the art, and most likely don’t care about it in the first place.

"As long as they go through a very strict process with the family of course and if it's done properly, I think it can be wonderful" says Judith Korey, the Music Program Director at the University of the District of Columbia, who is a big advocate for "Resonance Records" who in her words when they plan on releasing old Jazz recordings from deceased artists go through a very strenuous process of getting the music cleared and the label itself is ran by someone who has a love for the music and isn't looking to put out anything besides what the artist recorded before their death.

While understanding both, my stance on this topic sort of falls under what Professor Judith Corey said, as I believe if the art isn't altered from what the late artist did, and labels go through the process no matter how tough it may be of okaying it with the family, it can be wonderful and a joy for that artists fans to listen to.
Posted By: Jordan Davis
Saturday, February 10th 2024 at 8:26PM
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