The artist-specific compilation almost seems like a useless gesture in the digital age. Now that anyone can buy a song for around a dollar, there's seemingly no need to buy a CD full of singles for more than pocket change. That's simply not true, though; such discs represent more than just songs everyone loves. It's ideally the chronicle of hard-earned success within a lengthy body of work. It's sometimes a chance to visit a catalogue unified by certain musical or lyrical themes. And for hardcore fans, it's sometimes a chance to get that unique mix or edit of a track you may have been looking for over a long period of time.
The other day there was some discussion over on Twitter about such compilations. Are they better in a firm order (namely, a chronological one) or do they pack more of a punch as a mix. Of the responses, only one was in favor of the mix theory, but three supported the chronological perspective. It's not hard to see why. Often times, such compilations represent phenomenal growth from Point A to Point B. Take The Beatles' 1, for instance. All 26 of those chart-toppers are presented in the order in which they charted - nothing more, nothing less. Starting with, say, "Hello Goodbye" and ending with "She Loves You" would be silly. Where does the cohesion lie there?
That said, there are some pretty well-known or well-liked hits sets - the first disc of Michael Jackson's HIStory, Garth Brooks' The Hits, Tears for Fears Tears Roll Down - that have their songs shuffled about. This is an art that requires a lot of patience and dedication (just as any essential mixtape - see also High Fidelity). But, one wonders, are these sets more artistic than the simple "greatest hits in a row" format? As we approach another work week's end, feel free to sound off on the topic below. Would you rather hear a group's hits in a row? If not, how would you arrange them? What are most of the compilations in your collection like?