Thursday, December 15, 2016

Unavoidable Landmark Albums

Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

It was the summer of 1995 and the voice of Alanis Morrissette was everywhere. A little-known Canadian female singer had emerged from total obscurity to become the reigning queen of the FM airwaves, MTV and VH1. Everywhere you went, another angst-filled anthem blared from radios and CD players. My office receptionists, Rachel and Toby, knew every word. Ironic. Hand In Pocket. Head Over Feet. You Learn. If you lived through that time… well, you oughta know. 

          Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrissette was undeniably one of the most successful mainstream debut albums in pop music history. The CD sported a quartet of top-ten singles, and a handful of other radio hits. Technically, Ms. Morrissette had recorded a trio of teenage pop albums released only in her native Canada. But Jagged was her first adult effort, and her debut international release. It became one of the bestselling recordings of the 1990s.

          Other artists have scored more hit songs from a single album through the decades. Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen, Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson and Thriller by Michael Jackson have all spawned seven top-10 hits. George Michael’s Faith album generated six hit songs, as did Katy Perry’s recent smash, Teenage Dream. And six disparate artists have enjoyed five hit songs from a single album including Madonna (True Blue), Paula Abdul (Forever Your Girl) Lionel Ritchie (Can’t Slow Down), Whitney Houston (Whitney) and Usher (Confessions). However, from this impressive list, only Paula Abdul’s album was a debut effort.

Fictional Album Cover for Poet Of The Wrong Generation
          In my novel, Poet Of The Wrong Generation, my protagonist, Johnny Elias emerges on the pop music scene with a debut album that generates a remarkable four (4) hit singles, plus another that is released simultaneously on a film soundtrack. His album - which also happens to be the book’s title – is released in 1992, during a serious dearth in quality of popular music. An era when rap, grunge, boy-bands and computerized instrumentation ruled the airwaves.

          Unlike the majority of the popular artists from the early ‘90s, Johnny Elias recorded an album of lyrically driven songs. Songs of heartbreak, alienation and social consciousness. A folky throwback artist – so unlikely successful- in perhaps the most shallow era for quality songwriting in pop music history. The wide range of musical styles and topical themes help our fictional pop-star to garner radio airplay on a variety of stations, turning him into an overnight success.

          Throughout the pop music era, I can recall a few other examples of extraordinary albums that have dominated the airwaves for an extended period. U2’s The Joshua Tree (1987) won the Grammy for best album, and lifted the Irish rockers from stars to superstardom. It featured a trio of top-ten singles including With Or Without You. Their songs and videos were everywhere.

In 1985, British Rockers, Dire Straits were the darlings of MTV and the FM airwaves with their monster album, Brother’s In Arms. Three hit singles cracked the top-20, including saturation video play for the #1 chart-topper, Money For Nothing. They even managed to make red headbands stylish for a summer.

The summer of 1977 was dominated by a pair of landmark albums. Rumors, the chart-topping album by Fleetwood Mac was a radio juggernaut. Four hit singles ruled the airwaves that season, including the # 1 smash, Dreams. The popular film, Saturday Night Fever, was powered by an unforgettable disco soundtrack, written primarily by The Bee Gees. The album held the # 1 position on the Billboard charts for 24 consecutive weeks, and produced an unprecedented FIVE #1 singles including Stayin Alive, Night Fever and How Deep Is Your Love. It also included hits by other artists including Tavares and KC and the Sunshine Band.

AM radio was still dominant in the early 1970s. And no album epitomized the early 70s AM sound than Carole King’s Tapestry. Although Ms. King’s songwriting skills had yielded hits for other artists throughout the ‘60s, it was her landmark solo album that made her a household name. The album generated five top-40 hits including the chart-topping I Feel The Earth Move and It’s Too Late, which won the Grammy for Record of the Year. You’ve Got A Friend won Song of the Year. And Tapestry, which topped the album charts for 15 consecutive weeks won Album of the Year. It remains one of the bestselling albums of all time. 

Oh, and as for the most successful debut album in pop-music history. Well, that distinction belongs to the rock band, Guns N Roses and their 1987 release, Appetite For Destruction. That record yielded seven singles (three of them top-40 hits) including the #1 song, Sweet Child 'O Mine. It remains the bestselling album for Geffen Records, and one of the bestselling titles of the 1980s.

Poet Of The Wrong Generation by Lonnie Ostrow is now available in paperback and eBook format. CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY.

1 comment:

  1. This took me back to the days of Backstreet Boys, Boyz 2 Men and Brandy, even to my fellow Jamaican, Bob Marley. Music when it meant more than the sound and more about the lyrics.