The concept album is a tricky animal, which is why bands so rarely attempt making them. They can sell poorly, get skewered by critics and alienate fans. They can even end your career (if you don’t know who Garth Brooks is, it’s because he already transformed into Chris Gaines and subsequently disappeared, which is actually a shame because Chris Gaines is basically Daughtry and he’d be slingin’ some platinum jams today).
To pull off a concept album, you either need a great sense of humor or you need to be crazy and it’s perfect if you can do both. All great hip hop records are essentially concept albums for this reason. Tori Amos tried and failed because she was too serious (but yes, crazy). Pop punk bands are all funny but they’re not risky enough for their ideas to resonate.
“If it was easy, I’d still be a real thing” – Chris Gaines
Knowing that, let’s look at some concept albums that are sure to blow up.
Halloween! by Ween
What’s the problem with all Halloween parties? Everyone always puts Thriller on the mix and you do the obligatory zombie dance move for a couple seconds and then the dance floor clears because THERE’S NO GOOD HALLOWEEN SONGS. Thriller’s ok but it’s 29 minutes long and Vincent Price’s voice is a boner killer and I hate my costume and now I’m going home. See? The party’s dead. Ween is just the ticket for a fresh perspective on a holiday that has sorely needed good tunes since forever (Monster Mash? Shut up) and they’re the perfect blend of tacky and sincere and really disturbing.
Plus, Ween, Halloween, HalloWEEN, you get it.
Mine Again by Tom Waits
Tom Waits covers Scarlett Johansson’s Tom Waits covers. Listen, this is necessary. Waits has a gravelly voice. ScarJo has a Kathleen Turner voice. Waits on top of that again is a Kathleen Turner sandwich with gravel bread! The vocals will be so low on this damn album, dead people will hear it. Also, it’s fun to think that the ball’s in Scarlett’s court again. What’s she gonna do, triple covers? Hey, this is the business of making and breaking records, is it not?
Just Matt by Matthew McConaughey
Just because it happened 10 years ago doesn’t mean he’s stopped. Matthew McConaughey IS bongo drums. Just Matt is a rare double album of his very best late night sessions in his home in Austin, Texas. Bongos, congas, djembes, nothing is off limits so long as it’s a drum that he can play naked. Buy this. BUY THIS.
Songs About My House by Method Man and Redman
FACT: Every rapper has to make fun of Suburbia. It’s a part of the game.
FACT: Redman’s episode of Cribs is Tha Best.
FACT: Method Man was Cheese on The Wire.
FACT: Method Man was also in that Hype Williams movie Belly.
FACT: I really want Method Man and Redman to be roommates in real life.
FACT: Because 12 songs about how great their house is would be so amazing.
Featuring singles: “My Kitchen is Ill,” “Scarface DVD,” and “My Magic Bed.”
Auto-tune The Blues by Kanye West
If there’s one thing hip hop aint, it’s emo. Poor Kanye; All he wants to do is skateboard and go to museums and update his blog. Now that Jay-Z has declared war on Auto-tune, the Four Elements are turning their back on their prodigal son with the metal chin. But that’s ok because Kanye has something else on his plate. The original emo: The Blues. Every track is Auto-tuned, every track is real sad.
There is an endless supply of heartbreak and sadness in that dusty old genre and it’s been one that has, up until now, not been strip-mined for samples. Cuz there’s no bass. But Mr. West has always been a pioneer of second comings: red leather, venetian blind sunglasses, and now, The Blues. Sing it.
North Korean Democracy by Guns N’ Roses
It’s not like I was ever really waiting for Chinese Democracy to drop. I knew it would one day and I knew I probably wouldn’t listen to it. Not because I don’t like GNR – because I do very much – but because I thought it was a bad name. It was a false promise like Blonde on Blonde or How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Faux sensationalists! But North Korean Democracy… pertinent! Because all the songs would ACTUALLY BE ABOUT NORTH KOREAN DEMOCRACY. The record would be a big arrow pointing to Laura Ling and Euna Lee’s imprisonment. Or just an insane tyrant. Either way, Guns N’ Roses has 12 years to complete it if they want it to stay relevant.
Don’t Leave Britney Alone by Britney Spears
Fact time again: Scarcity determines value and cassettes (not to mention cassette players) are about as hard to find as white mud, so basically Britney’s a genius. This is equivalent to doing a secret show in a 24-hour deli or selling your own line of hard hats: it’s novelty with a wink and that’s all you need for a word-of-mouth revival. What’s on the tape? Oh. It’s all spoken word. Some of it is mental notes to pick up dry cleaning, lists of groceries, stuff like that. A couple poems. Why is that important? It’s not, until Danger Mouse starts to sample it.
Mo’ Stretchin’ by Moby
This is a straight yoga album. Moby takes a lot of heat for being strange and articulate but I think it’s because he is always juxtaposed against clubs and robots and Ecstasy and things that seem very obvious and different than he is. I don’t know; I don’t know Moby but I do know he does yoga and I also know yoga studios play too much of the Garden State soundtrack, so Moby, kick some jams and make this thing fun. Jay-Z should call another press conference: Braff Rock is dead too. Beep Boop.