When Amy Winehouse passed, one of the first things that came to mind was how intensely I listened to her album, Back to Black.
When I heard it, I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t listen to anything else for weeks. Albums like that come along every now and then for me, classic ones in my mind, that give me complete musical tunnel vision.
Either because I was too young or just not hip enough at the time, there have been plenty of albums that I have discovered after the fact and then fallen in love with. That’s all well and good, but nothing makes me happier with regards to music than hearing that great album right as it’s released and going on a 2-3 month musical bender with it.
That’s has happened to me 74 times. No, seriously… look:
1991 – Dangerous – Michael Jackson
1992 – Totally Krossed Out – Kriss Kross
1993 – Sister Act 2 Soundtrack
1994 – CrazySexyCool – TLC
1997 – Live – Erykah Badu
1997 – Big Willie Style – Will Smith
1997 – No Way Out – Puff Daddy and The Family
1998 – Still Standing – Goodie Mob
1998 – Aquemini – Outkast
1998 – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
1999 – Supernatural – Santana
1999 – Mary – Mary J. Blige
1999 – Black on Both Sides – Mos Def
1999 – 2001 – Dr. Dre
1999 – The Roots Come Alive – The Roots
2000 – The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem
2000 – Stankonia – Outkast
2000 – Country Grammar – Nelly
2000 – Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 – Jill Scott
2000 – Back For the First Time – Ludacris
2000 – Aijuswanaseing – Musiq Soulchild
2001 – Songs in A Minor – Alicia Keys
2001 – The Blueprint – Jay-Z
2001 – Word of Mouf – Ludacris
2001 – Even in Darkness – Dungeon Family
2001 – MTV Unplugged – Jay-Z
2001 – Stillmatic – Nas
2002 – Songs About Jane – Maroon 5
2002 – A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay
2002 – Kings of Crunk – Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz
2003 – Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent
2003 – Speakerboxxx/Love Below – Outkast
2003 – Chicken-N-Beer – Ludacris
2003 – Live 2003 – Coldplay
2003 – The Black Album – Jay-Z
2003 – Diplomatic Immunity – Diplomats
2004 – The College Dropout – Kanye West
2004 – Confessions – Usher
2004 – Get Lifted – John Legend
2004 – Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson
2004 – Urban Legend – T.I.
2005 – The Documentary – The Game
2005 – Arular – MIA
2005 – Be – Common
2005 – Late Registration – Kanye West
2005 – Tha Carter II – Lil Wayne
2005 – Live at Stubbs – Matisyahu
2005 – Thug Motivation 101 – Young Jeezy
2006 – St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley
2006 – B’Day – Beyonce
2006 – Night Ripper – Girl Talk
2006 – Futuresex/Lovesounds – Justin Timberlake
2006 – Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
2006 – KING – T.I.
2006 – Hip Hop Is Dead – Nas
2007 – Cross – Justice
2007 – Kala – MIA
2007 – In Rainbows – Radiohead
2007 – Graduation – Kanye West
2007 – Alive 2007 – Daft Punk
2007 – The Cool – Lupe Fiasco
2008 – Made in the Dark – Hot Chip
2008 – The Carter III – Lil Wayne
2008 – Seeing Sounds – N.E.R.D
2008 – Paper Trail – T.I.
2009 – Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
2009 – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
2009 – Blueprint 3 – Jay-Z
2009 – Lungs – Florence + The Machine
2010 – The Adventures of Bobby Ray – B.O.B.
2010 – Teflon Don – Rick Ross
2010 – Thank Me Later – Drake
2010 – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
2011 – 21 – Adele
You got to love that nice, clean 20 year span of music. Great music.
Out of those 74, there are 20 that truly rocked my face off. The phrase “This might be the _______________ album I’ve ever heard” definitely entered my head multiple times with these albums. I’m not necessarily saying they are the best 20 albums of my lifetime, but at the time of first hearing them, these were the ones that had the greatest impact on me.
Lets rank these bad boys:
20. 1991 – Dangerous – Michael Jackson
First real introduction into music. Sure it’s Michael’s 4th best solo-effort, but that didn’t matter to a certain 4 year old that discovered he loved to dance and scream “cha-mon-ah” at the top of his lungs.
19. 2009 – Meriweather Post Pavillion – Animal Collective
This album opened the floodgates to types of music I never dreamed of liking. I had never heard sounds like I did in this album (you know, monkeys standing on symbols playing harmonica, dolphins chewing grapes on a hammock, etc.) Got so weird listening to this. I love weird.
18. 2007 – Cross – Justice
If I was given the opportunity to see Justice perform this album in its entirety, my hands will remain above my head the entire show and I will be weeping Toy Story 3 tears as long as the music is playing. I don’t like to call things that aren’t religion “religious experiences”, but this album is shockingly close.
17. 2003 – Live 2003 – Coldplay
So you take 3 albums worth of classic songs, put them in a double album, and then give it to a 16-year old that’s starting to really like non-rap music. That’s a beautiful thing.
16. 1997 – Live – Erykah Badu
It’s hard for me to even listen to Baduizm, because every track on this album embarrases the extremely good studio versions. I didn’t really know how to handle the epicness of this album as a 10-year old. I still can’t, 14 years later.
15. 2004 – Crunk Juice – Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz
I don’t know what high school would have been like without this album. Calling “Kings of Crunk” a masterpiece sounds absurd, but it 100% is. The first 15 minutes of this album are easily the most exiting 15 consecutive minutes of music, maybe ever. It’s overwhemingly good. I want to rob a bank.
14. 2006 – Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
This album lacks flaws. I’ve been trying to find one for years now, but have yet to be successful. Perfect.
13. 2006 – Futuresex/Lovesounds – Justin Timberlake
I feel like it took people different lengths of time to admit this album was better than pretty much everything else. It only took me about 3.5 hours. No one thought he had this in him. Part of me hopes he never makes another album, because I don’t think this can be matched.
12. 2003 – Speakerboxxx/Love Below – Outkast
I can’t. Not now.
11. 2005 – Tha Carter II – Lil Wayne
I wouldn’t DARE start this album in the middle. About 30 seconds into “The Mobb”, the listener immediately realizes this is about to be something special. Is it ever. He was so hungry, back then. Side note: maybe one of the two or three best albums to drive to.
10. 2005 – Be – Common
“Never looking back, or too far in front of me. The present is a gift, and I just wanna be.”
These Summer 2005 albums (my summer before college) were really important to me. Were it not for another album released around the same time, this might be #1.
9. 2007 – Alive 2007 – Daft Punk
I have listened to this album more than the other 19 combined. I looped it for duration of my 9-month undergraduate thesis writing experience. You could play a millisecond and I could easily tell you what part of the album it’s from. When it comes to electronic music, this has no peers in my mind.
8. 1998 – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill
All I want to do is finish this post so I can listen to this for the rest of the day.
14. 1997 – Big Willie Style – Will Smith
I have no issue with saying my love for rap has its origins with this album (and Totally Krossed Out). It wasn’t Parental Advisory, so my mom bought it. I listened to it for 12 straight months. We’re it not for Willard and his crisp, clean ways, who knows where my musical tastes would have gone. My unwavering allegiance to the final 6 albums all stem from my obsession with Big Willie Style.
6. 2006 – KING – T.I.
It came out on my 19th birthday. That was the best birthday ever. My feelings towards the song “Bankhead”, the album’s closing track, are very strong. So strong, in fact, I can only talk about them in person, with this song playing in the background. Trap Muzik and Urban Legend are classics as well, but something about KING trumps them all.
5. 2010 – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
I’ll go ahead and say this critically-acclaimed, extremely well-loved album continues to be one of the more underrated albums, ever. People are talking about this work of art like he just threw together some really good tracks haphazardly or that it’s littered with singles. FALSE. From start to finish, I don’t know many albums that fail to lose steam once. Notta once.
4. 2000 – The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem
To be 13 and angry. Oh how important this album was. I really wish I would have written a review of this album as a thirteen year old. Would be a classic read in 2011. They’d probably post it on Gawker.
3. 1998 – Aquemini – Outkast
If I had been 2-3 years older, this would definitely be #1. 11 was still a little young to fully appreciate Aquemini, but I still thought it was the best music I had ever heard. I thought that, because it was and still is.
2. 2003 – The Black Album – Jay-Z
The number of times I rewound “If you can’t respect that, your whole perspective is wack, maybe you’ll love me when I fade to Black.” is comical. It wasn’t that I could catch the lyrics, it was that I wanted him to keep saying it… to me. I also can’t separate this album from Fade to Black, and that combination is about as emotional as I get over music. Classic.
Thug Motivation 101: Let’s Get It
I’ve given up on trying to pinpoint what it was about this album that changed my life. That’s not important. After I heard this album, and then heard it again, and the heard it again, it became very clear to me that Jeezy was a hero of mine. Why? I also don’t know. But he was, and still is.
This album came out a month and some change before I was leaving Atlanta for New Hampshire. This was last thing I listened to in Atlanta and the first thing I listened to on Dartmouth’s campus. Were it not for this album, I would not have stormed my campus, wearing my city on my sleeve like I did. I was determined to be an academic version of Jeezy for the next four years. “Books Motivation 101”, if you will.
I don’t think there will ever be an album that I feel so strongly about as this one. Why? Again, I just don’t know. I hope there is, but there hasn’t been in the past 6 years.
Let’s get it.