What Makes an Album Good?

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Music comes in many forms; from popular singles to underground mixtapes, there are many ways that artists can release their work to eager listeners. For many musicians, though, releasing an album is a testament to their dedication.

Many artists release only a few albums over the course of their career, so creating impactful albums is instrumental to their success.

“Music, [for me] is about telling a story,” said junior Aeden Riggs. “If an album tells a good story, it’s a success. If it fails to do that than it is just a collection of noises.”

Despite albums being the Magnum Opus of the creator’s career, many albums vary in quality. “Good” is obviously subjective when it comes to music, but the quality of the music isn’t the sole factor. Flow, features, message and overall emotional impact are important to the overall “rating” that an album receives.

“A bad album is one that is made without any sort of emotion or passion,” said junior Spencer Spaeth. “While I think music is definitely subjective I think that [emotion] is definitely a requirement, not just an aspect of a good album.”

Flow is also very important in an album. If the flow is poor, the album will feel choppy and the songs won’t really be cohesive. There is an opposite extreme to this, however. Some albums, such as Culture II by The Migos, sound like one long song. Culture II is unique in that it lacks variation in beats and lyrical content to really distinguish songs.

Features can make or break an album. However, some artists have proven that they don’t need features to succeed, such as J. Cole. Features spice up the album; they break the mold when it comes to an artist’s usual sound. Features can be overdone like most things. However, if an artist has too many features, it can take away from their performance on the project.

An album’s message, or what the musician wants the listener to think about is, in my opinion, the most important part of any given project. Music has the power to change people for the better and spread awareness about important social issues. System of a Down’s Toxicity is a shining example of a powerful, socially aware album. The track “Deer Dance” speaks on police brutality and “Prison System” talks about the corrupt, broken US prison system. Although the album was released in 2001, it has a surprising amount of relevancy in today’s world.

The emotional impact is what most people look for in albums. Emotional appeal is extremely important as to whether or not the consumer relates to the music. Flat, dry music has its place, but when it comes to a project with the magnitude of an album it is hard to pull off correctly.

Music is subjective; and there are tons of aspects that some people may like that don’t appeal to others. When it comes to large projects like albums, however, there are a couple of ways that can set them apart and make them great in the eyes of music fans. If dissecting albums and describing their appeal sounds cool, Anthony Fantano runs a great YouTube channel full of album reviews.

Here are some of my favorite albums:

  • Toxicity, by System of a Down
  • Carnival, by Briston Maroney
  • ?, by xxxtentacion
  • 1400 Forest Hills Drive, by J. Cole
  • Demon Days, by Gorillaz
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles
  • Anything ever made by Led Zeppilen
  • Enter the Wu-Tang, by Wu-Tang Clan
  • Channel Orange, by Frank Ocean
  • The Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd
  • Nevermind, by Nirvana
  • Ten, by Pearl Jam
  • Some Rap Songs, by Earl Sweatshirt