The Reality of Modern Posthumous Music

Image courtesy of RIV Music

By Maisy Sullivan

In the past few years, popular culture has been struck again and again with the deaths of young artists. Their deaths, however, often bring success. Of the most recent passings is rapper Pop Smoke, who was shot during a home invasion in February of 2020. Although his discography included collaborations with popular artists such as Travis Scott, his fame skyrocketed after his death. This week, Pop Smoke’s posthumous album, Shoot For The Stars, is still in the Top 10. It has remained in the running for Number 1 Album since its release in early July. 

In this day and age, many artists have great success following their deaths. Though it could seem morbid, upon hearing about an artist’s death, people are more inclined to listen to the music that they have released. Lil Peep, XXXTentacion, Mac Miller, Juice WRLD, and Pop Smoke are some of the bigger names who fit into this category, as their music styles were different from mainstream music.

In Lil Peep’s posthumous album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2, a bonus track called “Falling Down” featuring XXXTentacion was added. The two never met, but their music styles, which morphed emotional and raw lyrics with rap, were very similar. 

“…we were so alike. It’s unfortunate because it’s like, yo, when people die, that’s when we like ’em, you know? ‘Cause your remorse kinda makes you check ’em out,” said XXXTentacion in the song. He speaks for the masses when he says this, as this is the case for most listeners. The album ended up debuting at Number 4 in the Billboard 200, making it his first Top 10.

“There’s still people that I think won’t love me ’til I’m gone,” sings Juice WRLD in his song “Graduation.” This is yet another example of the reality that comes with death. Death increases appreciation as well as remorse. Juice WRLD’s posthumous album, Legends Never Die, debuted at Number 1, with 17 of its songs in the Top 100. Until then, this record was only held byDrake and The Beatles. It was the most successful posthumous album in over 20 years.

Posthumous albums are often controversial as fans worry that it might not reflect the wishes of the artist. Fans of these artists are very dedicated. Love for the artist can make it difficult to see past any decisions labels or family members make to tweak the style, songs, or circumstances of the posthumous music. A posthumous album is meant to be released out of homage rather than for business. 

Regardless of the grief and sorrow that come from death, artists’ legacies are never forgotten. Through posthumous music, there is an outlet to connect listeners to the artist and they succeed greatly. In this way, the music that is available for fans to remember can be a source of closure or healing. As exemplified by Pop Smoke’s Shoot For The Stars and Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die still sitting in the Top 10 on the charts, artists who die will still live on through their music.

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