Music transcends boundaries irrespective of colour, religion, ideology, gender, or sexual identity. It resonates with humans for the value it possesses, whilst defining and sometimes influencing the culture. The music we listen to today is an amalgamation of the various periods of transition. It got infused with lyrics, whilst evoking emotions and technical innovations to give rise to scintillating soundtracks. This compilation of soundtracks is what we call an “album.”
The definition of an album states that it is “a collection of songs about a specific theme or story.” With the evolution, the compilation of soundtracks became a structured purpose. Frank Zappa with his album ‘Freak Out!’ pioneered the concept of albums. Since we have looked at the genesis of ‘album’, let us now dive into the top 25 greatest albums of all time.
25) Extraordinary Machine By the way Fiona Apple (2005)
The songstress hit the strings of various genres from Alternative Pop to Rock to Jazz fusion. Fiona Apple released ‘Extraordinary Machine.’ It is an extension and revised version of ‘When The Pawn.’ Apple collaborated again with Jon Brion for the album. She remastered the album with Mike Elizondo and Beatles’ Brian Kehew. After six years of ‘When the Pawn’, Fionna released this melody-rich, Piano Rock, and lyrically powered album.
24) Master Of Puppets By Metallica (1986)
The third album of this heavy metal band dealt with the theme of manipulation. The album begins with country guitar riffs which transform into electric guitar riffs followed by Lars Ulrich’s drums. The album debuted at No.44 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’. The ‘sonic theme’ overrode the hair metal, the fad of the period. Talking about the theme, James Hetfield said, “It deals pretty much with drugs. Instead of you controlling what you’re taking and doing, it’s drugs controlling you.”
23) Stankonia By Outkast (2000)
The fifth album of the hip-hop duo André 3000 and Big Boi, Stankonia starts with a sensual intro mixed with techno and Indian classical instruments. Then, they hit into the criticism of the American Dream with ‘Gasoline Dreams.’ The album features songs ranging from themes like alcoholism, sex, and teen pregnancy. The music on the album is sensual, bold, and high on techno beats, metal guitar, and gospel.
22) American Idiot By Green Day (2004)
The eighth album of Billie Joe Armstrong’s band is ‘Green Day’. The invincible rock band of the ’90s came out with the purpose of the album. In their album, they attacked the state of affairs. The music is old school, but the theme triumphs.
21) Hunky Dory By David Bowie (1971)
David Bowie walked, so Lorde could run! One of the most influential pop artists came with the 1971 album ‘Hunky Dory.’ The album cover was inspired by Marlene Dietrich’s photobook. After three flop commercial albums, Bowie toured America to gain insights and ideas. This was the time when British songwriters and music were fading. The music was infused with classical music, cabaret, piano balladry, and Rock & Roll with themes like religion, fame, science fiction, etc.
20) Talking Book By Stevie Wonder (1972)
One of the most versatile artists Stevie Wonder dabbled into genres ranging from Rhythm & Blues, Pop, Jazz, and Gospel. Motown represented Stevie Wonder. In 1972, with his two albums ‘Music of My Mind,’ and ‘Talking Book,’ he gained popularity. He owned his artistry and interpreted music on his terms. On the LP, he produced, wrote, and played instruments on his own. The singles ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,’ and ‘Superstition’ became No.1.
19) College Dropout By Kanye West (2004)
West was known in the industry for producing tracks for the hip-hop dawg Jay Z, Alicia Keys, and Ludacris. The record labels were skeptical to have Kanye on the mic, but the artist dropped his 2004 album ‘College Dropout’, which was filled with jazz, gospel, piano, and lyrical flawlessness. He gave some BOP tracks on the album like ‘The New Workout Plan’, ‘We Don’t Care’, and ‘Jesus Walks.’ His musical versatility is reflected in this new album where he talked about Jesus and girls simultaneously.
18) The Blueprint By Jay-Z(2001)
It was a clap-back, laid-back album by King Hova. It was a response to the hip-hop emperors who were taking his thrones. He bloodied the track ‘Takeover,’ one of the finest diss tracks. On the track, he dissed the master storyteller Nas and Prodigy. The album had themes of police brutality, internet shaming, absence of his patriarch, and vulnerability. Kanye West-produced the tracks, giving the album certain ease, confidence, and laid-backness.
17) Lemonade By Beyoncé (2016)
The heartache album of Queen B in 2016 dropped so casually on a Saturday night! It addressed the marital infidelity that she experienced in his relationship with Jay-Z. The balladesque take on woman’s pragmatism is celebrated in this 13-tracks-album. Tracks like ‘Hold Up’, ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself,’ and ‘Freedom,’ were a cry for liberation. The anger and disappointment were perfectly balanced in the album with genres like Blues, Gospel, Rock, and Dancehall. The queen said, “I forgive you, but first, let me cause destruction.”
16) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts in Band By The Beatles (1967)
There was a time in the legendary artists’ life when having achieved fame, love, and adulation, they boarded a train to a new destination. This new destination gave rise to the psychedelic, mellowed album of The Beatles. The band broke the persona of the rock band and experimented with Indian ragas and classical music in ‘Within You Without You.’‘ Paul McCartney said, “We were fed up with being Beatles. We were not boys, we were men…artists rather than performers.”
15) good kid m.A.A.d city By Kendrick Lamar (2012)
In 2012, the world took notice of Kendrick Lamar, after he won the Pulitzer Prize. This introduction happened in 2012 when Lamar came up with this album. The lyrical prowess he possesses can be witnessed in this album. On the track ‘Poetic Justice,’ he says, “If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, Would you trust it?” The album’s narrative is based on the rapper’s experience in Compton including peer pressure.
14) OK Computer By Radiohead (1997)
When technology started blooming, the longingness in humans increased. Radiohead brought that angst and animation to the postmodern era of economy and technology. It became a critique of the rising globalization and consumerism in the world. The album became a revolutionary introspection of the rock band itself. It was a “taffy” and careless experiment of the band.
13) Back To Black By Amy Winehouse (2006)
Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi produced the album ‘Back To Black’ with a retro soul to it. Amy Winehouse never shied away from accepting her wounds. This pop queen reigned in the ’90s with the vibes of a ’60s girl. The album resonated with the transformed Amy Winehouse with a ragged voice, theatrics, and idiosyncrasies of a modern diva with arching Indie Rock.
12) Red By Taylor Swift (2012)
The fourth studio album of the country singer shook the audience with her departure from the country genre. Taylor Swift opted for the thumping rock which reflected ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Prince’ from the bygone days. ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ had a stomping, electronic sway. She amalgamated the sensibilities of Rock and Pop. With a track like ‘All Too Well’ she introduced the world with one of the well-composed, lyrically arranged post-heartbreak songs.
11) Supa Dupa Fly By Missy Elliot (1997)
The world saw the emergence of one of the lyrical and awoke artists in the world. With her debut album, Missy Elliot got away from the prominent gangsta rap. She chose to speak about pleasure and amusement in ‘Supa Dupa Fly’. She was writing R&B hits for big artists like Aaliyah and was recognized as a songstress. However, when she broke out as a rapper, the world took notice. ‘Supa Dupa Fly’ changed the texture of hip-hop with Missy and Timbaland belting summer hits as a tradition.
10) Legend By Bob Marley And The Wailers (1984)
The reggae legend Bob Marley once claimed that American musicians would not understand the intricacies of reggae music. No one could understand the Jamaican cultural climate better than Bob Marley. This is what happened with ‘Legend.’ The artist infused the elements that reflected his nuances of song-crafting, cultural ethnography, and his political messages. This can be seen in his songs ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ ‘No Woman, No Cry,’ and ‘Redemption.’
9) Nevermind By Nirvana
The effect that Nirvana had on the music industry is immeasurable. The album led to the mainstreaming of the punk scene. The genre attracted the youth. The main lead Kurt Cobain had choppy riffs, transversely written lyrics, and corrosive singing. The bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl complemented the rough edges that Cobain brought to the songs. The lyrics had rage, self-loathing, and restraince, which can be seen in the songs, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ ‘Breed,’ and ‘Lithium.’
8) Illmatic By Nas (1994)
None of the ’90s rappers had the lyrical and storytelling prowess that Nas had. The Queensbridge project artist had the pen skills to narrate the perils of life. Nas was the poetic MC. In the album, the artist introduced us to the suburbs and took us on a journey of the ghettos of Queens and Brooklyn introducing us to drug misery, criminal life, and survival.
7) Blonde On Blonde By Bob Dylan (1966)
Bob recorded the album with session pros. There is a hint of incisive singing, surrealism, and linguistics in Dylan. It is evident in the song ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again.’
6) Thriller By Michael Jackson (1982)
The world domination the musician still holds is unfathomable. The rise of the star happened in the eighties. The release of this album proved the craze around the artist Jackson. Quincy Jones made the album a ‘one-stop-shop’ for everyone. With the album, he captured the commitment phobia, fame, and paranoia. Jazz, R&B, and dance fusion with pop was a recipe for blockbuster success. The soft prelude to ‘Thriller’ and ‘The Girl Is Mine’ pumps up the theatre and funk. The album sold 33 million copies, and it was number one for 33 weeks.
5) Abbey Road By The Beatles (1969)
The producer of the album said that it was a happy album. The Beatles conceived the album on the verge of a breakup, but they reconciled and brought the glory of Rock back. It became one of the finest albums of the band. There were refined details with the song cuts. Be it John Lennon metal track ‘I Want You,’ or the scrumptiously bitter ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, there was pure artistry poured into the album despite the personal clashes.
4) Sign O’ The Times By Prince (1973)
The time was tumultuous for Prince. His film flopped, he fired his band, and after three years, Prince was back in music and how! The album became the greatest hit. The moods that exuded throughout the album were exquisite. ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’ was beautiful; ‘Housequake’ was a funk track. Prince never liked the word experiment. He thought that it feels unfinished, but he gave us a complete package in this album.
3) Inversions By Stevie Wonder (1973)
Wonder went philosopher on this. The revamping of the same tropes tired him. Stevie Wonder explored spiritualism and surrealism with Inversions. He brought the ideologies forth with color and funk. He brought political philosophy into play with ‘Higher Ground’, and ‘Too High’. This became an anti-drug narrative. ‘Living for the City’ is the most impressive spectacle that he provided us with. He claimed that it was the most personal album for him.
2) To Pimp A Butterfly By Kendrick Lamar (2015)
The Pulitzer Prize winner brought protest poetry into his music. Politics brought a funkadelic element to it. He engaged in various genres of music that the Black community invented. While he was making the album, the issue of police brutality and racism peeped its head out making the anguish of Black America evident. This can be seen in tracks like ‘Institutionalized,’ and ‘How Much A Dollar Cost?’. These tracks showcased the importance of financial planning that lacked in a Black household.
1) Things Fall Apart By The Roots (1999)
The album proved to be a turning point for The Roots. The conditions and climate were tough for Black people. The Roots took inspiration from the Spike Lee film ‘Mo’ Better Blues.’ In the film, Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes have a conversation about the state of jazz music. The record is the most cohesive and free-flowing Hip Hop Records of all time. The album emphasized the influence of the artists on the music of the 21st Century.