Music can be as divisive a topic as politics. It’s a game of strategy. Favor the right musician and you’re lauded by society; favor the wrong one and you’re immediately exiled. Don’t think it’s that easy because the game doesn’t end there. You’ve made a shrewd choice of artist, but now comes the task of picking which album to hail as superior. This can result in one of two situations: your preferred album is unanimously considered a masterpiece, or it’s a diamond in the rough among the artist’s oeuvre. There is, however, one final alternative — condemning the album that is lionized among the music community. Choose wisely or forever be ostracized. This is Unpopular Opinions: Albums edition.
“Their Satanic Majesties Request” by the Rolling Stones
Daniella Nichinson, Arts Editor
“Exile on Main Street.” “Beggars Banquet.” “Let It Bleed.” “Sticky Fingers.” These are some of the best albums of all time and all of them originated from the minds of the Rolling Stones. I’d put at least one of these records in my top 10 list, but there is one in particular that is unfairly overlooked and fails to ever be considered among the Stones’ best work: “Their Satanic Majesties Request.” I stumbled upon this album with the help of Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket.” The film introduced me to the song “2000 Man” and I was immediately hooked when I heard those opening guitar licks. “Their Satanic Majesties Request” primarily garnered criticism because it was regarded as a copy of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Though I will admit there are some similarities — especially the cover — the album’s uncharacteristically psychedelic sounds make it a standout among the Stones’ canon. The Stones abandon their notable blues melodies for those that sound as if they were recorded during a mind-bending acid trip. Rooted in futuristic and instrumental exploration, songs like “Citadel” and “She’s a Rainbow” portray the range of the group’s talent and mark a bold decision to create a strange, unexpected record. It won’t go down in history as the Stones’ greatest accomplishment, but “Their Satanic Majesties Request” deserves to be heard as a remarkable and idiosyncratic album.
“Apologies to the Queen Mary” by Wolf Parade
Nicole Rosenthal, Music Editor
While perusing the back catalog of Sub Pop releases at a record store a few years ago, I happened to notice a lesser-known band among giants like Neutral Milk Hotel and Superchunk. Their name was Wolf Parade, a Canadian indie-rock band that emerged right at the time when it was cool to be a Canadian indie-rock band. Like many rockers of the 2000s era, they have long since disbanded. The store I was at only had their first – and most successful – record, 2005’s “Apologies to the Queen Mary.” I quickly put in my earbuds, opened up Spotify on my phone and shuffled the songs on the record.
The jarring opening chords of the whimsical synths on “I’ll Believe in Anything” absolutely astounded me. Chaotic, bizarre and outrightly fantastic, the song felt like a roaring fire of raw emotion. Then came frontman Spencer Krug’s voice, equally strange, unsophisticated and unyielding. The vibrant echoes of tribal drums kicked in and, finally, an empowering guitar riff. “Give me your eyes, I need sunshine,” Krug wailed, pleading without restraint over a chorus as heart wrenching as it was comforting. It was one of the most profound and unflinchingly real displays of emotion I had ever witnessed.
Every few months, I find myself coming back to this album for unknown reasons. Perhaps it is the humanity of the songwriting as songs seem to fluidly coast between periods of deep sorrow and immense joy (take “This Heart’s On Fire” or “Shine A Light”). Perhaps it is Krug’s unchained wails, a sound only heard in times of extreme desperation or intense bliss. It could also be his surrealist imagery in Krug’s lyrics or the lush orchestral quality of their instrumentation.
Do yourself a huge favor and listen to “Apologies for the Queen Mary” because, at least musically, Wolf Parade has nothing to be sorry about.
“Good Girl Gone Bad” by Rihanna
Guru Ramanathan, Film & TV Editor
I know Ariana Grande is the craze right now — especially because “Sweetener” just released — but make no mistake, the pop queen of the 21st century is the effervescent Rihanna. The singer/actress/lyricist/icon has released countless instant classics from her first ever single “Pon de Replay” to the intoxicating “Work” from her latest album “Anti.” But I want to focus on my personal favorite album of hers, “Good Girl Gone Bad,” released in 2007. The album begins with a bop: “Umbrella,” featuring Jay-Z, established a more modern pop style than the singer’s previous albums, setting a tone that we would continue to love for years to come. But “Good Girl Gone Bad” has stood the test of time as more than just about any other pop album, combining ’80s influence and Rihanna’s own unique talent and experimentation to create a piece of work that is timeless, lively and beautiful. To start, “Umbrella” is a fun, emotionally-charged song and leaves the chorus echoing in my head for hours after listening. Alongside this song, “Push Up On Me,” “Shut Up and Drive” and “Don’t Stop the Music” are fast paced, energetic works that make the album memorable. But as the project progresses we get beautiful ballads like “Question Existing” and “Rehab,” songs that are so starkly personal and mature that they provide an added complexity that elevate the album from average to awesome. These two moods culminate in an euphoric fusion with the titular “Good Girl Gone Bad,” a near-perfect capper to an overall amazing album.
“untitled unmastered.” by Kendrick Lamar
Ali Zimmerman, Deputy Arts Editor
I like every album Kendrick Lamar has put out, but of every hip-hop masterpiece he has created, “untitled unmastered.” is, in my opinion, the most underappreciated. Throughout the eight untitled tracks, Lamar experiments and shows his eccentricity. His beats are mellow, sparkly and eccentric, allowing his distinctive flow to shine. The entire album is a journey across genres, with jazz piano and a walking bass line on untitled 05, funk and dance hall sounds on untitled 03 and wavy trap beats on untitled 07. By leaving his songs and the album without a title, Lamar leaves the project open for his listeners to interpret. While his other albums like “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” offer more deliberate social commentary, “untitled unmastered.” gives no labels to guide listeners, and instead Lamar weaves a web of religious imagery, humor and raw emotion. Few other artists could pull of a feat like “untitled unmastered.” with minimal branding to stand on. In this album, Kendrick lets his music stand alone and it is his most evocative and innovative music yet.
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