Why does the single differ from the album version?

All right, this may have been answered here before, but hell if I can find it.

Why is it that when an artist releases a single, it’s so often a different version than the same song on the full album? I’m thinking of Juno Reactor’s “Pistolero” and Missy Elliott’s “Work It” for examples, but there are lots more. Sadly, I tend to like the single versions better-- they tend to be more catchy, or more smooth, or just generally have what the French would call a certain I-don’t-know-what.

If you’re going to make the song cooler, why not put it on the album? What gives, Dopers?

WAG: The single is the radio edit, or “club edit” or what have you. It’s trimmed or padded out to the appropriate time length, as needed, and may be edited to be made more appealing for radio listeners or dancers. The album version is the original song, and is what the band wanted the song to sound like (or perhaps what their producers wanted, in many cases).

Pessimistic Guess: And on top of all that, it might make you go buy singles even if you have the album, bringing in more money.

I’d go with Ferret Herder’s second guess. In the UK at least the singles charts have been in decline for years. Putting an “exclusive” mix of a track on the single encourages collecters and fans to buy it; if you knew it’d be on the album, why bother buying the single at all?

Quite often artists will record several different versions of the same song. Then they pick one version to go onto the album. I remember one Heart song was done 5 different times, and the one they chose for the single was only slightly different than the one they picked for the album. The Rolling Stones recorded Sympathy for the Devil dozens of times, going faster and faster with each version until they completely changed the nature of the song.

The radio versions tend to be shorter. There’s a radio version of Tori Amos’ “Sort of a fairy tale” with a big chunk cut out of it that I just heard yesterday. Sometimes the only difference is that the radio version is bleeped. I guess that for whatever reason, the radio version is the one that the powers that be for that record label think will get more air play.

Personally I tend to like the album versions more. So I guess the reason they do both versions is to please people like you and people like me both.

Single versions, intended for a radio audience, have to appeal to a broader audience, and hence have a more normalized, homogenized feel to the mix. And album version can afford to be eccentric – it can be extra long, have a false ending, spoken prologue or epilogue (studio chatter, for instance).

OK, that makes sense. And I also bet Ferret Herder’s second guess is on the money. If you will, ah ha ha ha. Thanks for the responses.

One that always bothered me was Wyclef Jean’s Gone Till November. The album version and the version in the video/radio single have completely different lyrics, sharing just the chorus. I like both versions, so I guess I should track down the single if I want them both. I think in this case, the change was made for reasons cited by Walloon, but taken to an extreme. The lyrics in the single version seemed a lot happier or lighter to appeal to pop audiences, not just hip-hop audiences.