Whether an artist passes away young at the peak of their career or has many years of work under their belt, they likely contain a catalog of B-sides, unreleased or incomplete songs. After death, the musician’s discography is passed down to their kids, wife or whoever is considered an heir to their estate, and the fate of that music lies within their hands.
According to Tess Vigeland, a veteran journalist, there are three types of posthumous albums: warm to the touch (music released soon after death), the infinite vault (when the artist has a lot of music) and potpourri (blending scraps of songs from the artist). Commonly, posthumous albums are considered warm to the touch, either released soon after the artist’s death or as an anniversary for their death.
One example is Lil Peep’s first posthumous album Come Over When You’re Sober Part 2. Peep’s vision was clear with progressing his style of blending alternative rock with goth/emo rap, as most of the album came from previous sessions for his preceding album Come Over When You’re Sober Part 1. Following COWYSP2 was Everybody’s Everything, which was accompanied by a documentary with the same name. Everybody’s Everything is a perfect example of the infinite vault, as it contained music from all stages of his career, through unheard collaborations with the musicians that helped him grow, and early tracks that were never released on official streaming services.
Similarly, XXXTentacion’s estate released his first posthumous album skins on December 7th, 2018. Skins received criticism for how raw, short, and unfinished it sounded. Following skins came bad vibes forever, his second posthumous album. Ethan Knowlden, a sophomore at WKHS, believes that the release of X’s music posthumously is for the label and his estate to gain money out of his image. Bad vibes forever contains mostly features of essentially demoed/incomplete versions of songs and some of his earlier work but touched up.
A recurring problem with posthumous records is the album was in the midst of being created, therefore not totally complete and the creative decisions are left to someone other than the original artist. Although, Mac Miller’s recently released first posthumous album Circles, the successor to Swimming, seemed to stray close to what seems like Mac’s original vision for the album. All songs sound complete and well produced, with a seemingly more positive outlook prior to his death.