This post’s hook is not easily attained. The hook is, in fact, the artist(s) performing the song. Once a voice (or voices) becomes familiar and a certain “sound” is established, it becomes very easy to be drawn in by new material by that same artist. This, of course, assumes that the artist did initially “hook” you as a listener and possesses enough musical heft to maintain your interest. If all this seems a bit nebulous, let’s look at several examples which may clarify.
Exhibit A James Taylor Before This World
This is James Taylor‘s first album of new material in about 13 years. What is fascinating is that (quoting Rolling Stone) “forty-seven years after his debut album, James Taylor has finally scored his first Number One record on the Billboard 200. The singer’s latest, Before This World, sold 97,000 copies in its debut week, giving the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee his first ever chart-topping album.” (from June 24 online article by Daniel Kreps) While some of the credit for this achievement is doubtless the result of promotion/exposure to the music, I suspect many buyers (like me) simply saw it as an opportunity hear new material from a voice that has been part of our lives for over 40 years. I’ve heard/seen the album reviewed a number of times already and it has been repeatedly observed that, while the album is not simple repetition of the existing canon, it is consistent with his previous efforts ie. If you liked JT in his 70’s incarnation, you will also like this album. Here are two video clips to illustrate- the first is a sampler of the record with a bit of dialogue interspersed.
The second is a live performance of You and I Again (March, 2015 in Seville)…
Put simply, if you always liked James Taylor, you will like this album. He is the hook.
Exhibit B Brian Wilson Pier Pressure
Another artist with a lengthy catalogue and a new album. While some songs on Pier Pressure feature other singers (in addition to Brian) they all have that trademark Beach Boys (ie. Brian Wilson) sound. The Right Time has fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine joining in with Brian…
It’s perhaps no coincidence that this album’s release has dovetailed with a new movie about Brian titled Love and Mercy.
And no coincidence that Brian closes this album by reprising the song Love and Mercy (first recorded in 1988).
And I haven’t even mentioned Leonard Cohen‘s recent Can’t Forget: A Souvenir Of The Grand Tour or Van Morrison‘s latest- Duets: Re-working the Catalogue. It is, I think, sufficient to submit that, once an artist has developed a “sound” track record over a number of albums (and, in these four examples, a number of decades) s/he becomes (at least in part) the hook when new songs are released.