Play (Moby album)

Play (Moby album)
Studio album by Moby
Released May 17, 1999
Recorded 1998–1999
Genre Electronica, downtempo, alternative rock[1]
Length 63:12
Label Little Idiot, V2, BMG, Mute
Producer Moby
Moby chronology
I Like to Score
Songs 1993–1998
Singles from Play
  1. "Honey"
    Released: August 31, 1998
  2. "Run On"
    Released: May 18, 1999
  3. "Bodyrock"
    Released: July 26, 1999
  4. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"
    Released: November 17, 1999
  5. "Natural Blues"
    Released: March 28, 2000
  6. "Porcelain"
    Released: June 12, 2000
  7. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? / Honey (remix)"
    Released: October 16, 2000
  8. "South Side"
    Released: November 7, 2000
  9. "Find My Baby"
    Released: February, 2001

Play is the fifth studio album by American electronica musician Moby, released on May 17, 1999 on V2 Records. While some of Moby's earlier work garnered critical and commercial success within the electronic dance music scene, Play was both a critical success and a commercial phenomenon. The album introduced Moby to a worldwide mainstream audience, not only through a large number of hit singles (that helped the album to dominate worldwide charts for two years), but also through unprecedented licensing of his music in films, television, and commercial advertisements. It eventually became the biggest-selling album of its genre, with over 10 million copies sold worldwide. According to Rolling Stone, "Play wasn't the first album to make a rock star out of an insular techno nerdnik, but it was the first to make one a pop sensation. [...] Play made post-modernism cuddly, slowly but surely striking a chord with critics and record-buyers alike."[2][dead link]

One of the notable aspects of Play, as opposed to other electronic albums of the time, was the way in which it combined old gospel and folk music rhythms with modern house sensibilities. Moby sampled heavily from the collected field recordings of Alan Lomax in songs such as "Honey", "Find My Baby", and "Natural Blues", while the track "Run On" was inspired by the traditional "God's Gonna Cut You Down". The album also has more purely electronic tracks, as well as the rock-influenced single "South Side" and the more ambient "Porcelain". In 2003, the album was ranked number 341 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[citation needed]



The second half of the nineties saw Moby in career turmoil after years of being a successful techno wunderkind. The release in 1996 of Animal Rights, a dark, eclectic, guitar-fueled record built around the punk and metal records that he loved as a teenager, proved a critical and commercial disaster that left him considering quitting music altogether and going back to school to study architecture. He explained: "I was opening for Soundgarden and getting shit thrown at me every night onstage. I did my own tour and was playing to roughly fifty people a night." However, he claimed, "I got one piece of fan mail from Terence Trent D'Arby and I got a phone call from Axl Rose saying he was listening to Animal Rights on repeat. Bono told me he loved Animal Rights. So if you're gonna have three pieces of fan mail, that's the fan mail to get."[citation needed]

When he finally recorded its follow-up, Play, there was no sign that the album would perform any differently than Animal Rights. According to Moby, he shipped the record to every major label (from Warner Bros. to Sony to RCA) and was rejected every time. After V2 finally picked it up, his publicist sent the record to journalists, and many of them made a huge production of saying they weren't even going to listen to it. According to manager Eric Härle in an interview with HitQuarters, their original goal was sell 250,000 copies, which was what Everything Is Wrong, Moby's biggest selling album at the time, had sold.[3]

Released on May 17, 1999, Play received some good reviews, but initially underperformed commercially. Moby stated, "First show that I did on the tour for Play was in the basement of the Virgin Megastore in Union Square. Literally playing music while people were waiting in line buying CDs. Maybe forty people came."

Unexpected blockbuster success

First sales of the Play album were very poor. In the UK, it debuted at number 33 on the UK Albums Chart on May 29, 1999, but during the rest of the year only spent five further weeks inside the charts. It was on January 15, 2000 that the album re-entered the UK charts, slowly climbing positions and finally reaching number 1 three months later. According to Moby, "almost a year after it came out in 2000 I was opening up for Bush on an MTV Campus Invasion Tour. It was degrading for the most part. Their audience had less than no interest in me. February in 2000, I was in Minnesota, I was depressed and my manager called me to tell me that Play was #1 in the UK, and had beat out Santana's Supernatural. I was like, 'But the record came out 10 months ago.' That's when I knew, all of a sudden, that things were different. Then it was #1 in France, in Australia, in Germany—it just kept piling on. [...] The week Play was released, it sold, worldwide around 6,000 copies. Eleven months after Play was released, it was selling 150,000 copies a week. I was on tour constantly, drunk pretty much the entire time and it was just a blur. And then all of a sudden movie stars started coming to my concerts and I started getting invited to fancy parties and suddenly the journalists who wouldn't return my publicist's calls were talking about doing cover stories. It was a really odd phenomenon."[citation needed]

Play sold over 10 million copies sold worldwide. Despite only reaching number 38 in the United States Billboard 200, over two million were sold there, with the album enjoying steady sales for months and constant popularity. In the UK, Play reached number 1 on April 15, 2000 (spending five weeks at the top) in the wake of the success of the "Natural Blues" single. It remained very high in the charts during the rest of the year, particularly supported by the huge success of its successors, "Porcelain" and "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?". Spending almost the entire year 2000 in the charts, and achieving a total of 81 weeks overall the lists, it became the fifth best-selling album of 2000 in the UK.[citation needed]

Play found its major strengths on the support of its impressive string of nine hit singles, an unprecedented feat for an electronica album. Seven of those singles were UK Top 40 hits - "Honey", the first single, was already in the market in August 1998, nearly ten months before the release of the actual album. The final single choice was "Find My Baby", which appeared on some national charts three and a half years after. One of the most notable aspects of the singles releases is that some of the strongest titles were released very late ("Porcelain", for example, was the sixth single from the album, released over a year after Play), on the way of securing a steady presence of the album in the charts.

The apparent result of the marketing strategy was that the album, after an unremarkable debut, stayed on the charts for several years and broke sales projections for Moby and for the dance music scene, which was not seen to be a dominant commercial genre in the US in the 1990s (as compared with in Europe, where Moby had initially found fame). Overall, then, in many ways this album helped to establish Moby as a mainstream musician. His later albums have been more downtempo-oriented, frequently featuring his own distinctive singing, often with female vocalists and samples similar to those on Play, as opposed to his earlier more club- or alternative-oriented records where he rarely sang.


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (84/100)[4]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Alternative Press 4/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau (A+)[6]
Entertainment Weekly (A-)[7]
Almost Cool (7.5/10)[8]
Pitchfork Media (5.0/10)[9]
Sputnikmusic 3.5/5 stars[10]
Q 4/5 stars[11]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[12]
Spin 9/10 stars[13]

The album was received negatively[citation needed] at first, but gained praise later on. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 84, based on 20 reviews, which indicates "Universal acclaim". Robert Christgau praised the album by giving it an A+, celebrating "his grooves, his pacing, his textures, his harmonies, sometimes his tunes, and mostly his grooves, which honor not just dance music but the entire rock tradition it's part of."[6] Barry Walters from Rolling Stone gave the album 4 stars out of 5, declaring that "the ebb and flow of eighteen concise, contrasting cuts writes a story about Moby's beautifully conflicted interior world while giving the outside planet beats and tunes on which to groove".[citation needed] For John Bush from Allmusic, Play represented "another leap back toward the electronica base that had passed him by during the mid-'90s" but also represented the album that "return(ed) him to the evocative, melancholy techno that's been a specialty since his early days", and in some way found him "balancing his sublime early sound with the breakbeat techno evolution of the '90s".[1] Bush selected Play as one of his pick albums. However, the fusion of gospel and house for which the album was =most widely praised, also drew some criticism for Moby's style of appropriation, with some critics claiming not enough credit was going to the original (often anonymous) musicians and performers. Others found the commercial use of songs featuring old blues samples to be in poor taste, although once the songs were licensed, Moby did not have personal control over how they were used.[citation needed] Moby also declares his Christian faith in the liner notes of the album, which some took as evidence that his interest in gospel samples was "in good faith" and not purely aesthetic.

Play was voted as the best album of the year in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.[citation needed] In 2003, the album was ranked number 341 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[citation needed]

Licensing of songs

Play was the first album ever to have all of its tracks licensed for use in films, television shows, or commercials and this proved a major contributor to the album's success.[14] This is a feat that has been accomplished by only three other artists; Celldweller, Meiko, and The Crystal Method.[citation needed] At the time the album came out, Moby explained that he licensed the songs because it was the only way he could get the music heard.[citation needed] Moby's previous album Animal Rights, a foray into the alternative rock scene, had not drawn many listeners, while Moby's earlier music was known primarily to fans of dance and ambient music and had not achieved mainstream recognition in his home country of the United States.

According to his manager Eric Härle, although many people believed the songs were pitched for advertisements as part of the marketing campaign for an album that didn't fit with mainstream radio, the licensing actually came as a result of agencies asking for permission to use the music as soundbeds.[3] Härle told HitQuarters that the music was so popular because it is very evocative and emotional. Despite the heavy licensing, the adverts selected were nevertheless very carefully chosen and more requests were turned down than accepted.[3]

One of the more notable commercials featured golfer Tiger Woods playing a round of golf around New York City to the tune of "Find My Baby", but countless other uses of the album's songs are documented. According to Wired magazine, the songs on Play "have been sold hundreds of times ... a licensing venture so staggeringly lucrative that the album was a financial success months before it reached its multi-platinum sales total."

Among the films which have used music tracks from the album are "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "Swing Vote", both of which featured the B-side "Flower", which sampled "Green Sally Up", a children's playground song sung by vocalists Mattie Garder, Mary Gardner and Jesse Lee Pratcher, from the 1961 album Sounds of the South (re-released in 1993). The television show The X-Files featured the track "My Weakness" in the opening and closing scenes of the seventh season episode "Closure", and the track "The Sky is Broken" in the seventh season episode "all things".

Music videos

The album Play was also notable for producing a large number of music videos. In an impressively extensive period of three and a half years (between August 1998 and February 2002), twelve music videos were commissioned for a total of eight different singles ("Bodyrock" received three music videos). They were produced by a large number of directors, which included Jonas Åkerlund ("Porcelain"), Roman Coppola ("Honey"), Joseph Kahn ("South Side"), and David LaChapelle ("Natural Blues").

Use of samples and additional vocals

The album was particularly notable for its extensive use of samples from the field recordings as they were collected by Alan Lomax on the 1993 Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey from the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta. Most of the samples were very short and constantly repeated throughout the songs. For example, "Honey" used a sample from Bessie Jones that consisted of a conjunction of four verses that was repeated over twenty times. In the liner notes for the album, Moby gave "special thanks to the Lomaxes and all of the archivists and music historians whose field recordings made this record possible."[15]


  • "Honey" features samples from the Bessie Jones recording "Sometimes" (1960), produced under license from Atlantic Recording Corp. by arrangement with Warner Special Products.
  • "Find My Baby" features samples from the Boy Blue recording "Joe Lee's Rock", produced under license from Atlantic Recording Corp by arrangement with Warner Special Poducts.
  • "Bodyrock" contains a sample of "Love Rap" (1980) as performed by Spoonie Gee & The Treacherous Three. Used under license from Enjoy Records, Inc. Additional Vocals by Nikki D.
  • "Natural Blues" features samples from the Vera Hall recording "Troubled So Hard" (1937), produced under license from Atlantic Recording Corp. by arrangement with Warner Specials Products.
  • "Run On" features samples from "Run on for a Long Time" (1947) by Bill Landford & The Landfordaires, used courtesy of Sony Music.
  • "If Things Were Perfect" contains a sample of "Hospital Prelude of Love Theme" by Willie Hutch.[16] This is uncredited in the album liner notes.
  • "Machete" contains a sample of "Apache" by the Incredible Bongo Band.[17] This is uncredited in the album liner notes.
  • "Porcelain" contains a reversed sample from "Fight for Survival" by Ernest Gold.[18] This is uncredited in the album liner notes.


  • Moby – vocals on "Porcelain", "South Side", "Machete", "If Things Were Perfect", and "The Sky Is Broken"
  • Pilar Basso – additional vocals on "Porcelain".
  • Shining Light Gospel Choir – vocals on "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad" (also sampled)
  • Reggie Matthews – additional vocals on "If Things Were Perfect"

Track listings

The album packaging continues Moby's penchant for including a number of short, self-penned essays exploring ongoing concerns – his support for veganism and humanitarianism, and opposition to fundamentalism.

  1. "Honey" – 3:27
  2. "Find My Baby" – 3:58
  3. "Porcelain" – 4:01
  4. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" – 4:23
  5. "South Side" – 3:48
  6. "Rushing" – 2:58
  7. "Bodyrock" – 3:34
  8. "Natural Blues" – 4:12
  9. "Machete" – 3:36
  10. "7" – 1:00
  11. "Run On" – 3:44
  12. "Down Slow" – 1:32
  13. "If Things Were Perfect" – 4:16
  14. "Everloving" – 3:24
  15. "Inside" – 4:46
  16. "Guitar Flute & String" – 2:07
  17. "The Sky Is Broken" – 4:16
  18. "My Weakness" – 3:37

B-Sides 1998-2001

  1. "Ain't Never Learned" – 3:46
  2. "Arp" – 6:31
  3. "Down Slow (Full Length Version)" – 5:58
  4. "Flower" – 3:25
  5. "Flying Foxes" – 6:16
  6. "Flying Over the Dateline" – 4:48
  7. "Memory Gospel" – 6:41
  8. "Micronesia" – 4:17
  9. "Princess" – 8:16
  10. "Running" – 7:07
  11. "Sick in the System" – 4:17
  12. "Spirit" – 4:12
  13. "Sunday" – 5:00
  14. "Sunspot" – 6:50
  15. "Summer" – 5:56
  16. "The Sun Never Stops Setting" – 4:19
  17. "Whispering Wind" – 6:08
  1. — from the single "South Side"
  2. — from the single "Bodyrock"
  3. — from the single "Run On (Extended)"
  4. — from the single "Find My Baby" and "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?/Honey"
  5. — from the single "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" and "Porcelain" (Spain CD-Maxi, Everlasting Records, EVERY 6CD)
  6. — from the single "Porcelain"
  7. — from the single "Honey" and "Honey/Run On"
  8. — from the single "Honey"
  9. — from the single "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"
  10. — from the single "Run On" - NOTE: (different version from the album "Play: The B Sides") demo version called "Running Black Woman" - 6:47
  11. — from the single "Natural Blues"
  12. — from the single "Run On"
  13. — from the single "Run On (Extended)", "Run On" (Australia CD-Maxi, Mushroom Records, MUSH1867.2) and "Bodyrock"
  14. — from the single "Bodyrock"
  15. — from the single "Porcelain"
  16. — from the single "Find My Baby" and "Natural Blues" - NOTE: (the single version called "The Whispering Wind") - 6:08

Subsequent releases

In late 2000, Play was re-released as a special edition (entitled Play: The B Sides), including an extra disc of B-side tracks (that disc would be also released separately in 2004). In addition, a mix of the song "South Side" which featured a duet with No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani was released as a single (becoming his only song to ever appear on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 14).[citation needed] Thanks to its music video and heavy airplay, the song helped to push the success of the album even further. Later on, Play was re-released with the single version of "South Side" featuring Gwen Stefani replacing the original. (Other copies had an additional CD with the newer version of the song shrink-wrapped in the same package.) The original version was re-released on the U.S. edition of Moby's Go: The Very Best of Moby compilation.

B-sides not featured on the album Play: The B Sides:

  • "Ain't Never Learned"
  • "Arp"
  • "Down Slow (Full Length Version)"
  • "Micronesia"
  • "Princess"
  • "Sick in the System"

Play: The DVD

A DVD titled Play: The DVD was released as a companion to the album, featuring most of the music videos of Play (except for "South Side"), a Megamix, a performance on Later... With Jools Holland, a Moby's tour diary entitled Give an Idiot a Camcorder, and a DVD-Rom component where users are able to remix two of Moby's songs. (The DVD also included a separate CD featuring the Megamix on a single track.)

Section I: Play the Videos

  1. "Bodyrock (UK Auditions)"
  2. "Honey"
  3. "Find My Baby"
  4. "Porcelain (UK Version)"
  5. "Natural Blues"
  6. "Bodyrock (UK Version)"
  7. "Run On"
  8. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"
  9. "Natural Blues (Animated Version)"
  10. "Porcelain"

Section II: Live on Later... With Jools Holland

  1. "Natural Blues"
  2. "Porcelain"
  3. "Go"
  4. "New Dawn Fades (If We Can)"
  5. "Machete"
  6. "Hymn"
  7. "Everloving"
  8. "Porcelain (Acoustic Version)"

Section III: Moby's Megamix

  1. "Porcelain (Futureshock Remix)"
  2. "Natural Blues (Katcha Mix)"
  3. "Honey (Sharam Jey's Sweet Honey Mix)"
  4. "Bodyrock (Olav Basoski's Da Hot Funk Da Freak Funk Remix)"
  5. "Natural Blues (Peace Division Dub)"
  6. "Run On (Dani König Remix)"
  7. "South Side (Pete Heller Park Lane Vocal)"
  8. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? (Katcha Remix)"
  9. "Natural Blues (Perfecto Remix)"
  10. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? (Ferry Corsten Remix)"
  11. "Porcelain (Torsten Stenzel's Vocal Dub Mix)"
  12. "South Side (Hybrid Dishing Pump Instrumental)"
  13. "Natural Blues (Mike D Remix)"
  14. "Run On (Moby's Young & Funky Mix)"
  15. "Honey (Moby's 118 Remix)"
  16. "Bodyrock (Rae & Christian Remix)"
  17. "Run On (Dave Clarke Remix)"
  18. "Porcelain (Clubbed to Death Version by Rob Dougan)"

Section IV: Give an Idiot a Camcorder (a 20-minute movie "by Moby starring Moby")

Section V: Play the Computer (this section allows to use the Beatnik Player to remix two of Moby's songs.)

Album chart positions

Year Chart Position
2000 UK Albums Chart 1
Australian ARIA Albums Chart 1
New Zealand Albums Chart 1
French Albums Chart 1
Billboard Top Heatseekers 1
Norwegian Albums Chart 2
Italian Albums Chart 4
Belgian Albums Chart 4
Dutch Albums Chart 5
Mexican Albums Chart 5
Austrian Albums Chart 7
Swiss Albums Chart 12
Canadian Albums Chart 13
Sweden Albums Chart 14
Finnish Albums Chart 18
German Albums Chart 21
U.S. Billboard 200 38


Nine singles were released from Play:

Single information
  • Released: August 3, 1998 (US)
    August 31, 1998 (UK)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 33 (UK)
"Run On"
  • Released: March 29, 1999 (US)
    April 26, 1999 (UK)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 33 (UK)
  • Released: July 12, 1999 (US)
    July 26, 1999 (UK)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 38 (UK)
"Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"
"Natural Blues"
  • Released: March 6, 2000 (Both UK and US)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 11 (UK)
  • Released: June 12, 2000 (Both UK and US)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 5 (UK)
"Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" / "Honey"
(remix featuring Kelis)
  • Released: October 16, 2000 (UK)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 17 (UK)
"South Side"
  • Released: November 7, 2000 (US)
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 14 (US)
"Find My Baby"
  • Released: 2002
  • Chart positions:
    • No. 53 (France)


  1. ^ a b c John Bush. "Play - Moby". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "Interview with Eric Härle". HitQuarters. 25 Mar 2003. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Play - Moby". Metacritic. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Alternative Press (August 1999). 
  6. ^ a b Robert Christgau. "Moby". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  7. ^ {{cite journal |journal=Entertainment Weekly |issue=11 June 1999
  8. ^ "Moby - Play". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Brent DiCrescenzo (1 June 1999). "Moby: Play". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  10. ^ "Moby - Play (album review)". Sputnikmusic. 2 December 2005. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Q (June 1999). 
  12. ^ Rolling Stone (24 June 1999). 
  13. ^ Spin (7 January 1999). 
  14. ^ Ethan Smith (May 2002). "Organization Moby". Wired. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Moby: Play CD Track Listing". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  16. ^ "Sample Details". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Sample Details". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Sample Details". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 

External links

Preceded by
Supernatural by Santana
UK number one album
April 15, 2000 – May 19, 2000
Succeeded by
Reload by Tom Jones
Preceded by
On How Life Is by Macy Gray
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
February 28 – March 5, 2000
July 31 – August 13, 2000
Succeeded by
Supernatural by Santana

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