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The Evolution of Deluxe Albums 💿

Written by: Jadon King

As we all know, our esteemed queen Nicki Minaj dropped her highly-anticipated Pink Friday 2 in early December of last year and it's safe to say that Nicki cooked. The album went platinum in just over a month without the support of any music videos. And, like many artists nowadays, Nicki also released a deluxe version of the album. Pink Friday 2 (Gag City Deluxe) featured two new bonus tracks, one featuring New York legend 50 Cent and the other featuring Monica and Keyshia Cole. But Nicki didn’t stop there; she also released a third version of the album with a final bonus track featuring Future “Pluto” Hendrix called the Gag City PLUTO Edition. Nicki’s extended rollout of the album follows the relatively recent trend of artists releasing “deluxe” versions of the album featuring everything from remixes to acoustic versions. 🎸

So why did Nicki release not one, but two deluxe versions of Pink Friday 2? In the era of streaming, sometimes it feels like artists just drop new music for the sake of raising their streaming numbers and sales. This may be partially true, but in reality, deluxe editions and bonus tracks are nothing new! If you’ve been wondering what led to the deluxe version revolution, read on to uncover the rich history behind reissues, remasters, and deluxe versions! 💜

It’s hard to determine what the first-ever deluxe album was, but they have their roots in album reissues as far back as the seventies. Led Zeppelin released a remastered, deluxe version of their self-titled album in 1969 which included entirely remastered versions of the original songs, as well as live versions of some of their biggest hits. A year later, The Beatles released their compilation album Hey Jude (The Beatles Again) which consisted of unused non-album singles and B-sides. 🍏

Later, with the introduction of the easily and cheaply made CD, bands were able to release box sets of their collected works featuring remastered songs and bonus tracks. Deluxe albums took on a new form in the 2000s when artists began releasing deluxe versions of their albums alongside the standard album. For example: Ed Sheeran released a deluxe version of his 2017 album Divide that featured four bonus tracks and cost $12.99 on the iTunes Store while the standard version cost $10.99. It was up to the consumer which album experience they wanted.

It wasn’t until streaming grew to its current popularity that more artists began releasing alternate versions of their work. Philadelphia-born-and-raised rapper Lil Uzi Vert is commonly attributed as the one who sparked the newest breed of deluxe version. In 2020, they released their album Eternal Atake. A week later, they released Eternal Atake (Deluxe) - LUV vs. The World 2, which was essentially a whole new album featuring an alternate album cover to accompany the fourteen brand-new songs. This was something new to the music industry. Never before had an artist released an entirely different version of an album packaged and marketed as the “deluxe”. Now, alternate versions of albums are a new norm. 🎶

One of our all-time favorites, Niall Horan himself released The Show: The Encore as the deluxe follow-up to his 2023 album. Unlike previous deluxe albums — essentially remastered reissues with a few bonus tracks thrown in — Niall blessed us with remixes featuring Lizzy McAlpine and John Legend. Other additions to the album included extended and live versions. Even the queen of pop, Taylor Swift, has bought into the deluxe edition trend; there are three versions of Midnights, not to mention the slew of remixes and acoustic versions. Taylor also has her series of “Taylor’s Version” albums — redone versions of her older albums. 🪩

From a fan’s perspective, deluxe versions are a goldmine of new music. For artists, they present a great opportunity to keep fans engaged with a project long after its initial release. However, these deluxe versions do carry an inherent risk for artists. While the bonus tracks and alternate versions mean more streams (and ultimately more sales) nobody likes an album that goes on longer than it needs to. The question of quality versus quantity is an obvious one to ask when an artist releases as many as three versions of an album. But what do you think? Is there a deluxe or alternate version of an album you liked better than the original? Or do you think they tend to go on longer than needed? Find us on X, Instagram, or TikTok to let us know! 🤔

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