Surprise Singles and Music in the Digital Age

Muse released this surprise single on May 18. With no references to an upcoming EP or LP, “Dig Down” appears to standalone in Muse’s canon.

As a single, it’s reminiscent of 2012’s “Madness”: slow-burning song with heavy digital effects that ends up turning on the listener into an uplifting, hopeful prayer.

I am immediately intrigued by this song for the same reason that I am always intrigued by Muse: I have no clue what it means for their future music.

Their most recent LP , 2015’s Drones, seemed to be a strange amalgam of the younger, energetic Muse of ear-throbbing riffs and the older, more digitized Muse of more recent musical forays. But it was impossible to tell whether Muse was shifting their musical compass, or merely applying recent trends in music-at-large to their own sound, as they are wont to do.

“Dig Down” once again tells us nothing, except that Muse is the Singularity of music: the point at which any before music appears obsolete, and any after music must necessarily be impacted.

Foo Fighters then dropped a surprise single of their own on June 1, also complete with a ridiculous and awesome music video. For some reason I have yet to comprehend, Foo Fighters cannot seem to stop churning out insta-hit bangers every few years.

Granted, they have only released two full LPs in the last six years — 2011’s Wasting Light, possibly my favorite album ever, and 2014’s Sonic Highways — but their more recent forays into recording have not disappointed.

Their 2015 five-song EP, Saint Cecilia, was a fantastic return-to-form after the over-hyped Sonic Highways. Now, with “Run”, we have another song that is quintessential Foo’s, yet somehow refreshes their sound. It features:

  • a slow-building intro
  • a solid guitar hook
  • heavy distortion mixed with semi-acoustic melodies
  • big drums
  • Dave Grohl singing
  • Dave Grohl singing very loudly
  • Dave Grohl yell-growling into the mic
  • several instrumental breaks that build back into the hook

What more do you want from Foo Fighters?

Music in the Digital Age

To me, these two songs beg the question: how significant is it that two world-famous bands can each drop singles on YouTube like musical candy, without any indication of more to come?

Muse and Foo Fighters happen to dwell in the realm of musical titans, in which everything they do will be heard and paid attention to by millions of viewers (or listeners), if only out of curiosity.

YouTube is just one medium through which they could release music. They could have made fans wait months or years for another LP, but instead, the digitization of music and music videos have given them the flexibility to just post a song here and there, just because they can.

But a platform like YouTube can also be an outlet for the independent musician or band, just trying to find some listeners. They can go from relative internet obscurity, to sudden viewership explosion, to multiple world tours in just a few years (see: Walk Off the Earth).

The Digital Age appears to be the great equalizer for the music industry where anybody can find anything, whether it’s fans searching for that one sound or a band searching for that one listener.

Steve D

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