My Love/Hate Relationship With Bonus Tracks

Bonus TracksYesterday I had the opportunity to listen to all four Starsailor albums in my car. Two of them feature “bonus tracks,” songs not included on the original release for some reason or another. They’re good tunes, but you can tell when they come on; the album wraps up nicely and then there’s a random song or two stuck on the end. (I’m just now noticing that they all happen to be in 6/8 meter as well. Weird.)

It might be that extra songs are included when an album is released in another country; it’s particularly common in Japan. Sometimes certain retailers make deals with distributors so that bonus tracks are only available on CDs in their stores.

I’m a big proponent of the album as a cohesive whole, more than the sum of its component songs. On one hand, bonus tracks mess up album integrity and make it difficult to own an authoritative collection of music. When a sequence of songs is planned out, it’s not random, or at least it shouldn’t be. The tone and content of the last song bring the story or theme to a close, and bonus tracks slapped on the end disrupt that feeling of resolution.

My frustration increases when Amazon lists and sells a bonus track as part of Muse’s Absolution MP3 album, even though it’s not on the American CD release. Then again, the band’s own discography lists “Fury” as the last track, which screws up my old Simulacrum album project, which is supposed to be all about songs not on the primary versions of studio albums.

But do I buy albums with bonus tracks? Of course. I don’t want to get ripped off. So obviously I’m part of the problem.

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