There is nothing worse than buying an album only to discover that there are only a handful of tracks on it that are decent enough to listen to more than once (or all the way through, for that matter). It seems to be the norm, though, to find albums that are nothing more than one or two good songs with 8 tracks of filler between them.
The days of enjoying an album by playing it from the first track to the last are long gone; people are wired to find the specific songs that they like, download/record those, and leave the rest for someone else to get a headache trying to wade through.
Pierre Hamilton of PopMatters expounds on the music single, and how the success of singles sales is leading to the death of the album:
A magnet for the masses, the single attracts audiences and money. To sell albums, you need one. Failure to comply provokes the old record label standby, "We can't sell this album; we don't hear a single." At one time or another, Wilco, Fiona Apple, and the Hives, among countless others, have been targets of this tired tirade… One song now maligns or defines you and one hit song is the exact distance from obscurity to overnight success. Sadly, the album is an afterthought…
Everybody has a hustle; singles lie. Not always, but often enough, it is art altered for mass appeal — calculated commoditization. It is the free sample in the supermarket that leads to a purchase neglected and regretted once at home. The single says, "Believe me, I am the best this artist has to offer." It may not be true but we — the public, the media, the consumers — buy it because it tasted good from a platter.
The rest of the article can be found here: "The Tipping Point: The State of the Single, Part One" [PopMatters]