Juice WRLD's "Legends Never Die"
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Juice WRLD's "Legends Never Die"

Posthumous albums and why transparency is key.

Juice WRLD's "Legends Never Die"

When done right, a posthumously released album can help a fanbase understand and heal from a musician's untimely demise without compromising the creative vision of the deceased artist. Mac Miller's "Circles" has been lauded by critics for its similarities in concept and sound to 2018's "Swimming." Jon Brion, who produced both albums, and the estate of Mac Miller were transparent about the process of making "Circles," putting to bed fears that the album was a cash grab or done without the artist's approval. This statement places the project within Mac Miller's overall discography and also underlines questions inherent to posthumous releases: Was the artist's creative vision respected? What precipitated the posthumous release?

Lil Peep's posthumously released "Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 2" was met with backlash when it was revealed the album would be released by Columbia Records. This was infuriating to some fans because of Lil Peep's commitment to releasing his albums independently. Still, Lil Peep's close friends and mother supported the release of the album. The release of "Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 2" exemplifies the complications of releasing a posthumous album. A fanbase can quickly feel that the creative genius of their favorite artist is being abused for its monetary value.

Sony Music's release of Michael Jackson's "Michael" just 18 months after the pop sensation's death, is one of the most controversial posthumous releases in music history. Michael Jackson was a self-proclaimed perfectionist and that caused some to question whether the popstar would approve of the album's release. Worse still, members of Jackson's family questioned the authenticity of the vocals on "Monster," "Keep Your Head Up," and "Breaking News." Sony defended the album's production and the album was met with mixed reviews by fans and critics alike. Some feel the album was a sentimental tribute to MJ while others asserted that the album was an unethical atrocity.

Beyond ethical hang-ups, the conditions under which a posthumous album is produced, packaged, and released dictate the consumer's listening experience. As listeners we should expect transparency about the production process. Things like when and where songs were recorded and the deceased artist's vision, if any, change how we evaluate these posthumous albums. While "Circles" was a planned release by Mac Miller, "Michael" was a compilation of unreleased and unfinished Michael Jackson songs. Because of the sensitivity shown by Mac Miller's team, fans can listen to "Circles" assured that the rapper would condone the release even if they are left wondering what the final product would be had Mac Miller seen the project through. Sony Music did not show the same sensitivity and care to "Michael." While Michael Jackson was not planning to release an album, Sony Music still had a meaningful opportunity to positively impact the musical legacy of Michael Jackson while bringing new music to fans. Any attempts to do this were muddled by complaints by collaborators of Michael Jackson and completely compromised when family members questioned the authenticity of the album. At best, Sony Music rushed the release poorly despite having the best intentions. At worst, Sony was exposed for sought to make money off the recently deceased popstar's fame without concern for the artist's creative vision or quality standards.

Transparency is key.

It is important to mention that there is no indication that "Legends Never Die" was a planned released by Juice WRLD. In fact, a TMZ report from January, talked about a planned posthumous album pulling from the rapper's thousands of unreleased tracks. Unfortunately, given the sudden nature of Juice WRLD's death, this really is not surprising. However, that does not mean the album will be released in a way that compromises the creative vision of Juice WRLD or damages his legacy. The questions we have surrounding the release will be answered in the coming weeks. In the meantime, all we can do is listen and reflect on the music: what there is, what will come, and what is lost.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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