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What is a Concept Album?

Gloria Ukaoma

Posted on January 3, 2021 01:25

2 users

An overview of the features that make a good concept album.

A concept album is just that: an album based primarily on a single idea or motif that is repeated throughout the record. The idea can be anything from a specific person to a heated topic like police brutality. Many concept albums use a narrative to present a type of transformation, while others focus on a topic just as it currently exists.

One main point must be made though: the motif of an album must go beyond the style and technique of the album's production. Just because an artist makes a record with only rock songs does not mean that it is a concept album. Features such as lyrics, tone, samples, track titles, and track ordering must come together to solidify the main message of the album. It's not necessary to have all the aforementioned features, but some of the best concept albums are very generous with their allusions. 

As an example, one very well known concept album is Pink Floyd's The Wall. Throughout the 26 songs, the listener is introduced to the main character Pink, and each track marks a new page of his story. The first quarter details Pink's childhood and is ripe with juvenile discontent. The famous, Another Brick in the Wall: Part 2 takes place in this arc. The second quarter of the album elaborates on Pink's abandonment issues as he grows into his rockstar persona. Much of the melancholy and despair of the record emerges from tracks like Goodbye Blue Sky and Don't Leave Me Now. As the album progresses, we witness Pink's downfall and eventual exile from the safety of his wall. Not for a moment do we lose sight of the main character. That is what makes this such a powerful album; the focus is clear and consistent.

Some of my other favorite concept albums include the following:

The Night Took Us In Like Family by Jeremiah Jae and L’Orange

Brute by Fatima Al Qadiri

The Slow Rush by Tame Impala

Madvillainy by Madvillain

The Cool by Lupe Fiasco

Take my music taste with a grain of salt, but do realize that concept albums can stem from any genre of music. Nowadays, they are often found in electronica and hip-hop/rap, which is a testament to the abundance of creativity within these genres. In addition, concept albums usually carry strong emotions, whether or not they represent a clear narrative. Brute and The Slow Rush are examples of records that revolve around an idea rather than providing a distinct path to follow.

Overall, many artists use this approach to create powerful music. I encourage you to take a closer look at your favorite albums and try to guess their motifs, if they have any. Maybe you've been listening to a concept album and you didn't even know it!

Gloria Ukaoma

Posted on January 3, 2021 01:25

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Source: TechRadar
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