Imagine: Your favorite artist comes out with an album. You start listening to it in its intended order. The first song is entitled “Interlude”. It’s less than a minute’s worth of music. The artist is just vocalizing with the melody. You think to yourself, what’s the point of this song? What even is an interlude?
According to Google, an interlude is a musical composition inserted between parts of a longer composition. It can be instrumental, short songs, or spoken word skits. Interludes are used as introductions to an album, they can mark the end of one, or change the mood anywhere in between.
Interludes allow artists to try something new and lead the transition of an album. If you want to change the vibes from upbeat songs to sad songs, an interlude may do well in between. They enhance the listeners’ experience of the album.
I first noticed the use of interludes when I was listening to Bryson Tiller. He has multiple interludes on all of his albums. Some are just 40 seconds of a beat, and some are just a minute-long song. My favorite Bryson Tiller interlude is “Nevermind This Interlude” on his second album, True to Self. He uses this interlude in his album to pause and address how different his life is with his newfound fame. It’s no secret that Tiller misses being able to go out without being recognized, but he brings up one particular situation with this track. This particular interlude is different from his other ones because it’s more lyrical. He focuses on his storytelling rather than the musical aspect.
Juice WRLD uses interludes in his debut album “Goodbye and Good Riddance” in a different way. Juice’s “Intro” and “Karma – Skit” interludes are connected. They share the same melody in the background while a voicemail is playing. In the first interlude, it’s a girl yelling at Juice saying she “hates him” and how she’s breaking up with him. In the last interlude, it’s the same woman calling him back begging him to answer the phone. She’s apologizing for what she said, and she’s mad that he finally moved on. Understanding what’s going on in these interludes really sets up the album. It addresses the themes in each song and then gives it a realistic factor. It’s about him being sad about his old girl, and he slowly realizes it’s time to move on. And as soon as he moves on, the girl realizes her mistakes but it’s too late.
A week before his newest album, The Off-Season, J Cole released his first single off the album was entitled “i n t e r l u d e”. What I found interesting is although this song is placed later in the album, it was the first single. The lyrics give an introduction to the album. He talks about his come-up in the rap game and his own personal struggles in life. He mentions at the beginning and the end that anything could happen, but he doesn’t really care about the end result.
Some other artists that use interludes are J Cole, SZA, The Weeknd, Kanye West, and more. Interludes are used a lot more frequently in hip hop or rap than in any other music genre. Artists take advantage of this pause in their works to connect themes of albums. It also allows the listeners to truly pause and ponder on the album as a whole. Next time your favorite artist comes out with an album, make sure to look out for interludes. It doesn’t always say “interlude” in the title and could be subtle, but it sure does add to the album’s story.