Music geeks should get their party hats ready to celebrate because something big is happening in the industry. With the ever increasing release of visual albums by chart-topping performers, it’s time to admit that concept albums are back in style.
Concept albums began with Frank Sinatra but didn’t gain popularity until the mid-1960s when rock bands started performing epics. At that time, most concept albums focused on a character undergoing a life-changing event with the protantagist re-occurring in all of the songs on the album.
One of the most famous concept albums is Pink Floyd’s The Wall which was later adapted into a feature film. Overly simplified, the story of the record is one man’s journey through depression, including snippets of his childhood, home life and political turmoil of the time. The album was so popular and so easily accepted it sold more than 20 million copies in less than 20 years and is credited as the third most bought album in America.
Then in the early 1980s, concept albums began to dwindle and more and more singles were produced. Soon, musicians stopped writing epic records and instead had albums filled with songs unrelated to each other.
But that’s about to change. With Beyonce’s Lemonade causing headlines, it’s clear to see that concept albums are returning.
As much as I love Queen B, she doesn’t deserve the sole credit for the return of epic records. There’s been a surge in concept albums from wildly successful musicians from all genres, including Daft Punk, Muse, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy, Florence + The Machine, and Green Day.
Music critic Dorian Lynskey argued that streaming technology has allowed for listeners to be more engaged with songs and lyrics, craving more tangible stories from their favorite band. I’d add that since video can now be streamed easily, listeners want visual stories with their musical journeys – thus creating visual albums.
If you haven’t seen a visual album, consider Florence + The Machine’s The Odyssey, a “movie” created around the record How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,
or Fall Out Boy’s The Young Blood Chronicles inspired by their album Save Rock and Roll.
What do you think? Can music lovers expect to see more visual albums or are they just a fad destined to be forgotten in five years?