If an album drops in December, does anybody hear it? – The Globe and Mail

Vancouver rap duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids released their latest album I’m Good, HBU? on Nov. 25 to positive reviews, but the release date was too late for the album to land on many top album of the year lists.Kaylee Smoke
The Vancouver rap duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids released its latest superb album I’m Good, HBU? on Nov. 25. Although it received an extremely favourable review in Canada’s Exclaim! magazine – an eight out of 10 rating – the record did not make it onto the national publication’s list of the year’s top 50 albums.
The truth is that the record could have received a perfect 10 score from the reviewer and it still would not have made it on to the year-end list. It simply came too late in the year – like most best-of lists, Exclaim!’s was determined weeks before I’m Good, HBU? was released. It’s the same thing with Spotify year-end wraps, which don’t include listening data from the last month or more of the year.
These early cut-off dates raise the question: If an album drops in December – or even November – does anybody hear it?
When it comes to an album such as SZA’s long-awaited sophomore album SOS, the answer is yes. Since its release on Dec. 9, the album from the Grammy-winning R&B artist has been streamed more than 400 million times in the United States. It made its debut at the top of the Billboard 200 and was certified gold upon release.
Brad Wheeler's list of the 10 best songs of 2022 (yes, published at the beginning of December)
But as is the case with I’m Good, HBU? or any other album released late in 2022, SOS won’t appear on most year-end lists from the recognized tastemakers, including Exclaim!
“We don’t have a firm cut-off date for our list, but we published on Nov. 30 this year, so obviously it was already set in stone by the time SZA’s album dropped,” says Exclaim! general manager Alex Hudson. Although advance listening copies of albums are typically available to reviewers, music from major artists such as SZA (or Adele, the Weeknd or Taylor Swift) is the exception – the records are kept under lock and key until the drop date.
So, if an artist releases a great album in December? “Our apologies,” says Hudson, “but it’s not going to be on our year-end list.”
Music critic and author Michael Barclay usually publishes his list by Dec. 1, which not only ruled out SZA’s December release but most November albums as well. “I keep a running tally all year long and I’m usually ready to make a list in early November, barring any last-minute shockers,” says Barclay, who revealed his choices on his Substack site Airplane on the Highway.
Albums that missed the 2022 cutoff won’t likely find their way into roundups and Spotify wraps for 2023, either. There’s no carry-over. “We don’t include December releases in the next year’s list,” says Hudson. “We used to, but it ended up looking a little odd saying that the year’s best album actually came out in the prior year.”
Although someone with the stature of SZA gets by fine without making it onto the important lists, lesser artists benefit from the recognition that invariably finds its way into their own future promotional packages and press releases. While the arbitrary deadlines and squeezed eligibility periods might seem unfair, no one was forced to put out music in the dead-zone weeks. “They knew what they were doing,” Barclay says.
Quinton (Yung Trybez) Nyce, one half of Snotty Nose Rez Kids, says the duo is “always aware” of the blackout period when releasing music. This year, however, they dropped I’m Good, HBU? late in the calendar intentionally. “It’s a great way to end the great year we’ve had,” Nyce says. “We’re popping this bottle on the world and we’re letting everyone know that we’re good.”
For independent Canadian singer-songwriter Selina Martin, who put out Time Spent Swimming on Nov. 11, the late drop was not as intentional. The alt-pop album was tentatively scheduled for an October release but was pushed back. “So much was happening in the summer and fall, that when my publicist suggested November, it was a wave of relief for me.”
Martin’s electro-pop LP also received an eight rating from Exclaim!, but failed to make their 2022 list. “It’s too bad,” says Martin, who lives in France. “Those year-end mentions are very helpful. It looks good in your press kit.”
Whatever the benefits are to the artists or the consumers, the lists should not be seen as definitive, according to Exclaim!’s Hudson. “It’s more a conversation-starter that reflects our tastes, values and interests. Our year-end list should represent what we’re all about as a publication.”
The Snotty Nose Rez Kids are currently working on an album they think will be the best of their career. It might even come out on a major label. With all that on the line, you can bet the record won’t be released in December, or anywhere near it.
“It absolutely won’t be,” Nyce says. “It’s our baby. We’re going to take care of it.”
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