The other day work told me I actually have seven whole days off for Easter break and as usual I was the last person to know about this. So with this newfound free time I thought I’d finally get around to writing about a bunch of *famous albums I listened to for the first time last month.
I think I listened to around 40 albums and I managed to somehow narrow it down to just eight that I would write about and share with you what I thought of them because that’s what you all care about, isn’t it?
*I say famous, I just mean albums Twitter Gays gush over in unison, which must mean they’re good.
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
I was four years old when this album first came out and even now at the ripe old age of 27 I still hear a lot about this album, as if it were some sort of Holy Grail of modern pop music. Growing up whenever I’d read pop star interviews in magazines and stars would always credit Jagged Little Pill as being the album that changed their life or inspired them to get into music. But for some reason I just never got round to actually pressing play on it.
I was already familiar with the big songs like Ironic and You Oughta Know thanks to my mum and sisters playing them around the house when I was growing up. Also Beyoncé’s 2011 Glastonbury performance of You Oughta Know confirmed that the song is, objectively, a fucking beast.
Admittedly, I thought I was going to be really bored listening to this album. I don’t know, I guess I was worried it was going to be a case of an album being so massively successfully commercially and critically that if you were in the minority who said you didn’t like it, it was because you just “didn’t get it”.
But by the time I reached Hand In My Pocket I realised that JLP is actually quite a fun listen and doesn’t take itself as seriously as I initially thought it would. It now makes sense why the album is lauded over so much and is certified 16x platinum in America and won five out of the nine Grammys it was nominated for. It’s very ‘I’m a serious singer-songwriter’, but it actually has some stellar early 90s bops like Head Over and You Learn, the latter being my absolutely my favourite song from the album.
Nas – Illmatic
One day many years ago at university I was asked what my favourite hip-hop album was. Now you see I’ve always listened to hip-hop and loved it, but I’ve never quite had a favourite album from the genre. But a common answer I heard was Nas’ Illmatic. Upon doing some research (aka Wikipedia) I learned that it’s held in such high regard as one of the quintessential hip-hop albums of the 90s and continues to receive rave reviews even today.
Which is why I was surprised to find that when I did listen to the album I found it a bit boring.
Before you all start jumping down my throat and calling for my blood because I committed the cardinal sin of deeming Illmatic boring, please just hear me out.
I can appreciate why people love the album and I can respect what its legacy has done for hip-hop, but it just didn’t click with me. It’s the same issue I have with anything by Frank Ocean, though I at least know Nas isn’t dull as fuck. It’s either that or I’m so deep into my pop music that anything without a catchy hook and lasts around 3:33 is just too much for me.
That said, I did listen to his Life is Good album from 2012 the week it was released and loved that almost instantly. So you know, apples and oranges.
Kelis – Flesh Tone
Speaking of Nas, Kelis released Flesh Tone in 2010 and it was her big departure from her usual RnB sound for a more dance/electro affair.
For the most part this entire era passed me by because I was just too lazy to pay attention at the time. In 2010 I was in my first year of university and spent most of it sleeping, hungover or watching Jersey Shore, so sadly Kelis didn’t factor into this healthy routine I had going on.
I do however remember a guy I met for a Grindr rendezvous telling me that the album was a lot harder and in your face compared to her previous ones. An interesting choice of words considering what occurred between us, but I won’t get into that.
I’ve always found it hard to warm to EDM-Kelis just because I loved her most when she was featuring on N*E*R*D’s Lapdance and singing the hook to ODB’s Got Your Money. In short: give me RnB Kelis or give me nothing at all.
That said, Kelis is a chameleon and turn her hand at any genre and it would sound good. 4th of July and Acapella are undeniable bangers that I regret passing on at the time. I read that the album was recorded during her pregnancy and explains the closer track Song For The Baby, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I met Kelis a few years back in London when she signed my copy of her cookbook. I asked her if she had any plans for new music since her 2014 album Food. She was pregnant at the time and said there were no immediate plans. But if and when she does make another album, if it sounds anything like Flesh Tone I wouldn’t be mad at all…and I’ll pay attention this time.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
This album was released all the way back in 1977 and it still finds a way to chart within the top 10 of the UK Albums chart almost annually. I’ve always found that so fascinating considering albums today are consumed differently to how they were in the 70s, yet Rumors still resonates with a whole new generation.
Again, it was my mother who introduced me to Fleetwood Mac by way of blasting Dreams and Go Your Own Way in the kitchen as she cooked. Most of their music just became synonymous with my mum pottering around the house, well that and anything by The Dixie Chicks.
It wasn’t until the Glee episode about the album where I learned that during the recording process, all the members of the group hated each other and weren’t on talking terms.
Despite their interpersonal strife, I’m amazed there is so much in this album, which explains why it remains such a blockbuster release. You wouldn’t have thought they all hated each other’s guts at the time, would you? I think new age music journalists call them earworms? But yes, this album is full of wall-to-wall earworms.
I urge you all to listen to this album because it is never to late to listen to Rumors. Hell, I listened to it 40 years after it was released. You owe it yourself to experience to this master class in great pop.
Christina Aguilera – Bionic
Okay, it was my initial curiosity in this album that spurred me on to listen to a bunch of other famous albums in the process. So if you’ve hated everything you’ve read up until this point then blame this album, not me.
Christina’s career as a pop star is so bloody interesting I want someone to write a deep dive about it one day. All the hard work she did building up her name during her second album Stripped suddenly came undone by the time her fourth album Bionic came around. This album is considered one of the contributing factors that killed her career as a pop star and forced her into the spinning red chairs on The Voice pretty much indefinitely.
For reasons I still don’t know, I never listened to Bionic when it was released. I think the bad reviews of it put me off and decided to not even bother in the end. That said, I was more than familiar with WooHoo, which featured a then unknown Nicki Minaj and how that song wasn’t a huge smash hit remains one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
Let me cut to the chase here and say as an album, Bionic is fucking incredible. I can’t believe this album was so poorly received, especially when it includes Elastic Love, Desnudate and Glam. That 1,2,3 punch is spectacular.
My only gripe with it is that while it is mostly brass, ballsy and just absolutely bonkers, things started to drag by the time I got to Life Me Up. After that came a series of maudlin ballads that, to me, really made no sense being there. Fortunately the natural order of things was restored from I Hate Boys onwards and all was forgiven.
If an album of this calibre is what seemingly ended Christina Aguilera’s pop career then it’s out fault for being so stupid. We seriously failed her.
Avril Lavigne – Let Go
The other week on Twitter I saw that Let Go was named one of the greatest albums of all time on some arbitrary chart by MTV. It was at that point that I remembered that I’d never actually listened to it.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Avril because she provided me the angsty pop/rock songs I needed to deal with puberty, as well as being really fat, really gay and really confused about a lot of things.
I bought the CD single of Complicated (still, a masterpiece) and played it incessantly, but it was my sister who bought Let Go and decided to never lend it to me.
While her pop career seems to have veered off track since The Best Damn Thing in 2007 (A DECADE AGO!), I’m always rooting for her, even when she releases questionable stuff like this.
A lot of the songs on Let Go are, I think, her best work. Perhaps it’s what I associate with the songs, which makes them stand out to me, but can someone find me a greater, more evoking ballad than I’m With You? I’ll wait.
Also, can someone tell me why Losing Grip wasn’t a bigger hit in the UK? It charted at #22 in the Singles Chart and I’m now suddenly ashamed to be British. (Only kidding! I’ve been ashamed since Brexit happened).
Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope
I have and always will be a fan of Janet Jackson. She is not nearly given enough credit for what she and her career did for women in music, compared to say the likes of Madonna.
A lot is still said about her 1997 opus The Velvet Rope. Everyone from Beyoncé to Tinashe to Rihanna and even Britney has said the album influenced them in some way.
Up until 2001 I was only familiar with Janet’s singles and never really looked into her albums, so I was glad to see that this album is home to arguably one of my all time favourite songs, I Get Lonely. Guys, I can’t quite explain to you why I love this so as much as I do or why it makes me feel some type of way – it just does. It probably has a lot to do with the scene in the music video during the dance break where she rips off her white shirt to reveal her bra being the first moment a music video left me in awe.
The album is very of its time, its got that undeniable 90s production about it which to some may make it sound old or dated. The fingerprints of The Velvet Rope can be found over every female pop/rnb singer around today and I can’t think of a better, more sublime album to learn from.
Charli XCX – True Romance
I’m one of those heathens who only really got introduced to Charli via her feature on Iggy Azalea’s Fancy. I know, I’m a terrible person.
After the summer Fancy was released I started dating this guy who you could say was a super-fan of Charli and he urged me constantly to listen to her solo music. Two months into dating, he dumped me one morning because I didn’t watch the film Notting Hill with him the night before. So just as that short lived romance came to an abrupt end, as did my interest in exploring Charli’s music. Well, until now that is.
I decided to start with her debut because while she may have enjoyed mainstream hits with second album Sucker, it’s True Romance that everyone says is “authentic” Charli. She has said herself how much she hates Sucker and it makes sense as her excellent mixtape Number 1 Angel sits so much better next to True Romance.
I enjoyed listening to this one mainly I got a better idea of Charli’s identity as a pop star on here, which has always been a bit of a mystery to me. If she releases more stuff like Cloud Aura and So Far Away for her third album then I might just cross over into a full blown stan.