Good news for fans of Taylor Swift: She will have a new album called Speak Now out on October 25. Swift’s third album (and the follow-up to the mega-platinum juggernaut Fearless) is a concept album of sorts, as each song will find Swift addressing a different particular person. Each song will end up being a specific confession to a particular individual. “Through the past two years, I’ve been through a lot of things that I have been dying to write about and talk about,” she told the world via a Ustream chat. “There were a lot of things that I wanted to say in the moment but couldn’t, and this album is my opportunity to do that.”
Though the structure is pretty loose compared to the complicated narratives embedded within the albums of, say, Coheed and Cambria, but it’s an overarching concept nonetheless. Swift will be joining an interesting club of unlikely artists who nevertheless ventured into a universe normally owned by prog rock and orchestral wankery. Here are her peers in that group.
Perhaps the most unlikely (and most notorious) concept album project in history, Garth Brooks’ alternate universe album stands as an amazing event in music history. In 1999, Brooks assumed the persona of his alter-ego Chris Gaines, an Australian rock star with a massive back story involving car accidents, drug addiction and an entire career’s worth of albums. He released one album, called Greatest Hits, which was supposed to be a compilation of Gaines’ best work from the breadth of his career. It was awfully strange to see one of the best-selling artists of all time go so deep into his own alternate universe, and the fact that he left Gaines behind after the promotion for the album was done was telling.
Proving once and for all that perhaps there is such a thing as smoking too much marijuana, Method Man’s second solo album Tical 2000: Judgment Day featured an album-length story line about the coming apocalypse and the post-destruction world that was left behind. (There was even a B story about people wondering when Meth was going to finish the album, which was pretty meta.) While an experiment of this magnitude seems typical for the cinema-minded Method Man today, keep in mind that he was not yet known for experiments like this in 1998.
It would be a particularly difficult uphill battle for big beat DJ Fatboy Slim to create any sort of concept for his usually vocal-free compositions. But with an assist from former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne on Here Lies Love, a double-disc concept album about the life of Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines.
It now seems like Andre 3000 and Big Boi — the two Atlanta-based geniuses who make up Outkast — only traffic in high-concept art, but it felt like a bit of a left-hand turn when the group dropped Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2003. Full of freaky interludes, unusual characters and strange recurring themes, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was even stranger than their previous work on albums like Stankonia and Aquemini (which were already pushing the boundaries of the genre anyway). In fact, it could even be argued that the duo began experimenting with album length concepts on ATLiens, which came out way back in 1996. For a group who first made a name for themselves on pimptastic bangers like “Player’s Ball” (from their 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik), nobody could have dreamed they’d venture so far off the grid (and with such thrilling results).
What’s your favorite concept album? Let us know in the comments!