It’s no secret that my 30th birthday is coming up. I’m having celebrations in Brisbane and Melbourne, because as the event page photos suggest, I’m kind of a big deal! For one of the celebrations in Brisbane I have a private bar, which means I get to do whatever I want with music. Last night, I compiled my playlist with only my music taste in mind – it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, or more accurately it’s my party and I’ll dance to what I want (don’t worry, I have thrown in a few crowd favourites). Deciding which songs to add to my “Dirty 30” playlist inspired me to create this post about my favourite albums. I’ve previously written about my favourite songs, but this post is about a collection of songs, the albums that inspire me, and ones that make me dance to the tune of nostalgia.
Girl on Fire (2012), Alicia Keys
In the lead up to Alicia releasing her current album HERE, she described it as her best and most raw work yet. Naturally, given that she is my favourite artist of all time, my anticipation was high. Needless to say, after several listens, I’m disappointed. It’s good, but for me it doesn’t compare to her 2012 release Girl on Fire. Vocally, I think it’s her strongest collection, and it’s clear she’s inspired from a place of a lot of love (she gave birth and got married during its production). While I don’t connect to Alicia’s journey that inspired this album, I do connect to the songs in my own way. Tracks including Brand New Me, New Day and the title track are stand outs. It shocked me to discover that this was her worst performing album; I genuinely believe it’s her most beautiful.
Backstreet’s Back (1997), Backstreet Boys
I won’t dwell too much on this selection, as I’m dedicating my next zine to boys bands in which the Backstreet Boys feature heavily. This album was a game-changer. It was the start of my life-long love of all things Backstreet Boys and boy bands. This album put BSB on the map, as their first self-titled album didn’t get them off the mark (and reflective of time, it’s very NKOTB). The classic tracks on this album are of course Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) (which is one of the greatest video clips of all time), As Long As You Love Me and All I Have To Give. And of course my 1997-self had no idea what the super cheesy If You Want It To Be Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy) meant!
Anthem (2013), Hanson
This album reconnected me with Hanson in a big way. I went to their 2014 Melbourne concert and once I stopped crying about seeing them in the flesh again (I went to their 2012 Brisbane concert); I paid attention to the tracks they performed from this album. They are all amazing. I remember playing the album to family and friends; each of their responses were along the lines of “wow, they’re actually really talented – and don’t look like girls anymore!” Anthem proves that they didn’t sell-out (which, side note, I’ve never understood how it’s a bad thing) and they continued to write and produce their own music under their own label. Stand out tracks on the album include Get the Girl Back, which was their first US Billboard top 40 track in over nine years, Juliet, with Zac as the lead vocalist, and Tragic Symphony. Naturally, Hanson feature in my boy band zine, so you’ll be able to read more about my love for them, and their earlier albums namely the 90s classic Middle of Nowhere.
Kick (1987), INXS
INXS are hands-down my favourite band ever (Bon Jovi are a close second). I discovered INXS in my early teens through a best of album and my obsession with them grew from there. Their best album though, which few would argue, is their 1987 release Kick. It features legendary tracks, New Sensation, Devil Inside, Need You Tonight, Never Tear Us Apart, and Mystify. This album launched INXS’s international career, becoming the best band in the world – which led to their famous Wembley 1991 concert. I love you, Michael!
Cross Road (1994), Bon Jovi
And speaking of my second favourite band, Bon Jovi’s first greatest hits collection Cross Road makes my list. While not a collection of original tracks, it still counts. It was the first album I ever had (followed up with an Elvis double-disc greatest hits) and I played it to death. Literally every song on this album is a classic and most people would know the words to each of them. It was a dream come true to see them live at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in 2010. It was lucky I got there, I was so sick. I was drugged up on antihistamine so I could dance and sing my way through the whole night. Later that night I had a minor freak out as I took too many, but it was worth it. Especially when they ended the night with Livin’ on a Prayer – on the first note the crowd went wild and it was magic to be part of it!
Americana (1998), The Offspring
In an effort to move on from my ~embarrassing~ boy band phase, I got right into The Offspring. My dad was also a fan (or so he said!) and took me to my first concert in 1999. I distinctly remember wearing fluro yellow cargo pants. I thought I, and the concert, was the coolest thing ever. (Christ! Fluro. Yello. Cargo. Pants. The 90s, what a time to be alive). Anyway, I loved Americana because it was fun and different to any band I loved before them. And I loved it even more because the boys hated it; The Offspring had committed the world’s worst crime, they sold out as the singles released from Americana featured in the top 40. Looking back, most of their songs were pretty shit; gimmicky and ridiculous – Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – but I will always love this album as a soundtrack to my memory lane.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Kanye West
It’s universally acknowledged that this album is a masterpiece; and it features one of my favourite songs of all time, Runaway. While I’d had a few Kanye tracks in my possession (circa Graduation-era), this album really opened my eyes to his talent and creativity, and generally broadened my appreciation and love of hip hop/rap music. It prompted me to go through his back catalogue and discover his artistic evolution from his first release in 2004 – stopping at 808s & Heartbreak several times, which is stunning but very different to Fantasy. Another big track on this record is Monster which features Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and Bon Iver. I’ve attempted several times to “perform” this song at karaoke to varying degrees of success! Thanks to this album, I’ve been obsessed with Kanye ever since, and I don’t see my obsession waning anytime soon.
Wildheart (2015), Miguel
I have to thank my good friend Scotty for introducing me to this album, and Miguel. After discussing, at length, our love of Kanye the discussion turned to a broader review of other hip hop, R&B and rap albums. Scotty suggested I would love Miguel and got me onto his music. Miguel has two albums, but I chose this one to start with for no other reason than that I loved the name of the album. I’ve had it on my iPod for a few months now and I repeatedly play the album in its entirety – and I’m not close to being sick of it. Every single song on the album is so beautiful. Miguel has such a unique voice, and he’s not bad to look at either. Stand out tracks are Coffee, Simple Things and Face the Sun.
Hybrid Theory (2000), Linkin Park
In 2000 I was Grade 10, which meant my sister was in Grade 7. I only did netball and debating as my extra-curricular activities, but my sister did everything – musicals, swimming, band, choirs and she even formed her own UN feminist women’s group at some point! As a result, it meant early starts so my sister could get to various rehearsals and training. So I could get driven to school, I too went early even though I had nowhere to be. I sat outside the locker room and chatted to Amanda until her boyfriend showed up, and then I whipped out my discman and listened to Hybrid Theory to kill the time before the rest of my friends showed up. In the same way that The Offspring was a surprising addition to my music taste, so was Linkin Park as most of my collection at the time centred on Jennifer Lopez and So Fresh mix CDs. But for whatever reason I was obsessed with this album (because In The End, it doesn’t even matter), and I recently rediscovered it – and I still love it.
What are your favourite albums?