Apple's iPod is both a nail in the coffin and spiritual saviour of the popular song, writes former music journalist Paul Morley in Friday's Guardian Review.
In future, music fans will collect lists in cyberspace, not albums or CDs, he says. The CD format has never inspired the love that vinyl did. It was a "stopgap between the perfection of vinyl and the moment when music is transported into our lives without the need for any object," he muses.
The download era is coming to put an "end to those shapeless 20-track CD monsters that seem to equate quality with amount, as if you weigh music by the kilo," says Morley.
He calls the iPod: "An object that seems beautiful enough to honour the history of the popular song as a vast and varied art form, and to be the futuristic replacement to the vinyl single. It represents a brave new world in a way that the CD never did. The iPod, the place where storage becomes magic, now helps us say for sure: It's all over. The physical presence of the popular song is gone," he writes. It is a time he thinks is as scary and as exciting as the prelude to any of the new musical movements of the last fifty years.
On a journey with Kylie Minogue recounted in Morley's new book, Words and Music, he predicts: "Some day music will only be air: there will be no objects to hold or fetishise, and people will simply collect lists." There will be no objects to collect or clean, just "a chip inside us, and inside that a route to all the music there ever was."