No songs over 3 minutes allowed

Pinkpantheress’ debut album “Heaven knows” came out last week. It clocks in at 34 minutes with 14 songs making for an average song length of just over two and a half minutes. Even these songs are long by her standards- her 2021 release “to hell with it” averages less than two minutes per song. Stylistically, the short length of her songs fit the light, airy atmosphere of her music. Pinkpantheress songs feel like they might disappear at any moment, and then before you know it they do. 

The single off Heaven knows, 2:40

Pinkpantheress might be the poster child for sub-three minute songs, but this is definitely a wider phenomenon in pop music affecting even veteran artists with an established longer style. Janelle Monae’s most recent album, for example, is only 32 minutes with 14 songs compared to her 2010 album which is double that with only 4 more songs. Half-hour albums, it seems, have become an industry norm.

Why are songs shorter?

It has been posited that the shortening of songs is because of the way music is now consumed and promoted digitally. Most social media sites have a time limit on the videos they host- it follows that if your song is short it’s more social media friendly. TikTok especially is a platform that in recent years has proved its impact on popular music. Pinkpantheress herself broke through on TikTok with short 20-second song snippets in 2020 and later the mega-hit Boy’s a Liar pt. 2 featuring Ice Spice (another viral artist that has broken into the mainstream) owed a lot of its popularity to promotion on social media. 

Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are another guilty party. Now, song popularity is largely estimated by looking at streaming numbers where album sales used to be more relevant, and streams are counted in the algorithm as more valuable if a song is listened to the entire way through. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint that one would want to make songs as short as possible to minimize the likelihood of a listener clicking out halfway through. These short songs also make for easy streams through replays. I’ve had the Pinkpantheress album on the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post and through this, I’ve given her more individual streams than I would have if the songs were each four minutes long and it took an hour to listen through the album fully. 

What effect does this have?

Some (notably Mark Ronson) don’t like the fact that songs are getting shorter, but I don’t particularly think it’s bad. I know the title of this blog post frames the phenomenon kind of negatively but really I love two-minute songs when they’re done well. I think Pinkpantheress is one of the most interesting new pop artists but I can also imagine the frustration for songwriters like Ronson when music executives stifle creativity by specifically requesting shorter songs. A two-minute song after all means that you have to sacrifice the prechorus, bridge, or a later chorus. What do you guys think? Have any of your favorite artists been releasing shorter songs in the past few years? If so how did you feel about it?