In an era where singles are more sought after than albums, we thought it would be good to do a little throwback to a few of music’s legendary albums that have influenced today’s music in more ways than most seem to realize.
After the extraordinary success of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall in 1979, Jackson’s sixth studio album, Thriller, was as groundbreaking for Jackson’s career as it was for the music industry itself. Featuring elements of R&B, pop, adult contemporary and funk music, this album experienced huge commercial and critical success because of its wide appeal. Produced by the legendary Quincy Jones and featuring four songs written by Jackson himself, Thriller was the result of a strong desire by Michael Jackson and his manager to overcome what Jackson felt was a racial barrier keeping him from certain industry milestones like appearing on MTV and being profiled by Rolling Stone. It was due to the success of Thriller that Jackson himself and other black artists started to receive deserved respect from the industry.
While the untimely death of Michael Jackson in 2009 did result in a spike in Thriller’s sales (1.27 million for the year)*, the album has had its place at the top of the list since the 1980s.
When Bon Scott, frontman for the Australian rock group AC/DC died in 1980, the band solemnly decided to continue with the project that Scott had set in motion, a studio album that would be known as Back in Black. AC/DC’s sixth internationally-released album, Back in Black was, at the time, the highest selling album of all time, and still remains the top selling album, internationally, by a band. While members of the group considered disbanding, they instead brought current lead singer Brian Johnson into the fold, who recorded the lead vocals for Back in Black, the album that introduced classic hits like “Hells Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and the title track “Back in Black” to the world.
Though Back in Black has, to date, been certified 22x Platinum in the United States, AC/DC never made the charts in the U.S. until the release of their next album.
With its deep themes and cryptic lyrics, The Dark Side of the Moon is as much analyzed as it is commercially successful. Using the top recording equipment and techniques at the time, the album’s true uniqueness comes from the philosophical quips and quotes played during and between tracks, taken from recorded interviews with members of the road crew and friends of the band. Topping theBillboard charts immediately after its release, the album stayed in the charts for 15 years subsequently. Pink Floyd wanted to make an album that directly addressed central themes of life, such as greed, depression, and death. The underlying darkness on the album resonated with listeners.
It is, perhaps, more fitting to class this album as an experiment rather than a traditional record. The Dark Side of the Moon tour by Pink Floyd preceded and succeeded the release of this album, with many elements of the songs–lyrical and musical–being revised and improved based on audience and press reaction. This marked the first time that Pink Floyd made a tour based around an album, but given the 137-date international tour (starting and ending in London, England,) the fans appreciated it.
After making her foray onto the big screen in The Bodyguard alongside Kevin Costner, legendary singer-songwriter Whitney Houston also became executive producer and lead singer for the film’s soundtrack. Featuring the stylings of singers like Kenny G and Joe Cocker, the soundtrack also debuted Whitney Houston’s cover of the Dolly Parton hit, “I Will Always Love You,” a cover that has since outsold and outplayed the original, becoming the bestselling single by a female artist of all time, even garnering an Oscar nomination. (Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” ended up taking him the golden statuette, however.)
After Houston’s death in 2012, “I Will Always Love You” was played at her funeral, as well as during the tribute to lost artists at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony.
Five years after Michael Jackson released Thriller, he partnered up again with Epic Records to create Bad. With more artistic license than on his previous albums. With nine of the record’s eleven tracks being released as singles, Bad became the first album with five number one singles to its name (only Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream in 2010 has matched this.) While this album didn’t achieve the commercial success of his earlier Thriller, songs like “Man in the Mirror” and “Smooth Criminal” did emerge from this track that have each achieved millions of sales as singles.
In September of 2012, Epic Records will be releasing an anniversary edition of this record, Bad 25.