Devo has recorded several songs for its new album — the band’s first in 20 years — and wants you to help determine which songs make the cut.
The DEVO Inc. Devo Song Study has been launched, and in it, fans are advised to pick 12 out of 16 songs (song snippets, really) they think should make the album. “This interactive test will gauge your exact opinion on matters of musical taste and is the latest technological wrinkle in facilitating DEVO’s ongoing mission to appeal to everybody,” read a release. Check out our coverage of their first audience-informed stunt, and the first single “Fresh.”
It’s audience testing. Cheekily, but not, in that, no doubt, Devo will put the chosen top 12 songs onto their album, no telling what happens to the rejected four.
It’s all in corporate speak, with a hoaky-looking stock photo corporate yuppie guy and his signature, urging us on “in an effort to comply with the growing need for appealing sonic products in the mass market.” The wink comes with our narrator during the song selection process, an oddball with an indescribable accent, who awkwardly encourages you into the rock, “listening” with you on giant headphones as he drinks a glass of milk, dabs lip balm on his lips and bops out of time in a stilted sway.
[More on Devo after the break…]
On the one breath, it’s parodying the whitewashed major label system that still jogs in place today, under which Devo is making their music (they’re signed to Warner Bros.). Labels audience test singles before they send adds to radio, they run products and images past focus groups to ensure a maximum return on their investments into a band. If it’s Devo behind the curtain of this machination, then they feign buying into this maximum profiteering, as opposed to just putting whatever songs onto the set that they damn well please.
From another perspective, it fits within the Devo’s meme of a devolving human race, that art is merely data, entertainment is a half-informed capitalist democracy, and they’re just here to achieve the modest goal of “appealing to everybody.” Such a goal sounds noble — making as many customers happy as possible. But that leaves us as just that: customers. And that makes Devo a product. They’re the X axis, we’re the Y (just take the Study, you’ll see).
And then there’s just the fun dynamic of direct fan involvement in “working” for a band you love.
These issues can’t be as easily discussed with other bands: can you imagine if Arcade Fire requested their fans to pick their albums’ track lists? They’re far too private, their music so personal. Or Radiohead? Would their songs be whittled down to only those cuts with which fans were most comfortable?
But what if it was Madonna? Nickelback? Jason Mraz? Oddly, I can actually see this happening, in the future, only without the mustachioed dude drinking milk beside you.
In this era, fans already do choose tracklists — in these study groups, sure, but also in internet polls for Greatest Hits inclusions, competitions to bring artists to their town instead of the city one state over, the ilk. Devo just wants to have a little fun before we really get there.
No official word yet on what the album title to the next set will be (no doubt, we’ll have some say in it), but the band is eyeing a spring/summer release. The new album boasts contributions from Santigold, the Dust Brothers’ John King and Greg Kurstin.
Devo is scheduled to play at Coachella on April 17.