I’m leading a discussion on the top 40 highest grossing albums in the U.S. This is a thread to write notes and discuss the albums. (Note: This list comes from wikipedia. However, some albums that the discussion group already listened to. In such cases, we choose the next highest album on the list.)
35 thoughts on “Notes on the Highest Grossing Albums in the U.S.”
#40 Hybrid Theory (2000) Linkin Park
I haven’t really listened closely to the lyrics yet, but I like what I’ve heard after listening to the album a couple of times. The music is rockin’–the vocals and music–and while the rapping may not be great, the inclusion of it (and some other hip-hop elements–e.g., scratching, etc.) seem fairly organic.
I’ve come too far to turn back now, but in the end it doesn’t really matter…
One of the few nu metal bands I thought was pretty good. And shout-out for having a Japanese American as a principal member.
I’m assuming the first sentence is a quote from one of their songs?
By the way, what exactly is nu metal?
It’s part of the chorus for “In the End,” one of the big hits from the album.
Nu metal is a subgenre. Metal with rap and other genres mixed in. Almost no guitar solos. I like specific songs but no specific bands. Linkin Park. Staind. Incubus. System of a Down. Limp Bizkit. Korn. P.O.D., Papa Roach.
“No guitar solos” is a negative, but I should investigate these groups. So much music to check out, so little time!
#38 Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 (1985) Bill Joel
In my discussion group, the question came up: Billy Joel or Elton John? Three of the five said John, while one said Joel. I’m kinda on the fence, although off the top of my head, I’d probably choose Joel–specifically, I think I enjoy his music more. Perhaps, Elton John’s music may be better, but maybe not.
Anyway, these songs still sound very good, although some of the 80’s stuff (e.g., “Uptown Girl”) don’t appeal to me. But most of the other stuff do–especially in terms of being singable. This might be one of the best collections of songs to sing–as in sing-a-long to.
I’d like to know which other 80s releases don’t really appeal to you. “Uptown Girl” is a great song and brings back great memories for me. I know you’re down on retro sounds, and I get it because I often feel the same way, but Joel did it better than most people, especially since he performs the songs so well.
This compilation album gives me all kinds of problems. When it was first released in 1985, I already owned several of his albums on cassette, and I thought I was on my way to getting them all, so I wasn’t about to get this. Additionally, the deeper cuts on the albums I owned were often my favorite, so I knew I wanted to hear the other albums in their entirety.
When I noticed “Honesty” wasn’t included, that would have been a dealbreaker if I hadn’t already decided not to get it.
“Honesty” was included on some early pressings, cutting out “Don’t Ask Me Why” instead, which isn’t an improvement. It was included on some later CD releases.
Also: on the original release, something like five songs were shortened to make room — in some cases entire verses were cut. The “Don’t go trying some new fashion” verse in “Just the Way You Are” is omitted. I find this a huge insult to consumers.
In 1998, the shortened songs were restored to their originals but the live version of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” from Songs in the Attic was replaced with the studio version from Turnstiles. I won’t use the word travesty here, but the live version was the hit, and it’s in my top five Billy Joel songs.
Conclusion: I recommend it if you don’t own any Billy Joel albums and don’t really care about either completion or keeping the tunes intact. Otherwise, especially in these days of streaming, this is an entirely skippable album. Get his live 12 Gardens Live which includes a lot of my favorites you don’t see on this greatest hits compilation.
“Tell Her About It” is another one….I just looked at the song list on Innocent Man. Add “Innocent Man” to the list, and a lot of other songs on there (e.g., “Keeping the Faith”). I remember liking “Longest Time” when it came out, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t like that one now. I also don’t care for “This is the Time.”
Oh wait–did you just mean the songs on the Greatest Hits album?
I never understood why there was a shorter version of “Just the Way You Are.” What’s also annoying is that the shorter version would be played on the radio quite a bit. (Every time song would come on, I’d think, “I hope this is the longer version.”)
Yeah, although you could probably say this about a lot of greatest hits albums.
I can’t remember if I asked you this, but what do you think about greatest hits albums making it on an all-time greatest hits list? To me, it shouldn’t happen–although for I can understand accommodating an artist who focused on singles. Otherwise, I think these albums should be excluded.
#37 The Wall (1981) Pink Floyd
I think I’m a fan of Pink Floyd. I didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics, which feels like a huge oversight on my part, but I liked the music. I find this somewhat strange and surprising because I don’t necessarily the music is especially outstanding–but it is enjoyable. I can say this specifically about David Gilmour’s guitar. I like it, but it doesn’t seem really original or exceptional.
I need to go back and listen to this while paying close attention to the lyrics.
I’m not nearly as familiar with this album as people assume, and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it all the way through. I’ve sort of been saving it.
#36 Human Clay (1999) Creed
I had disparaging views of Creed, but on my first listen of this, I was pleasantly surprised. The music rocked, for the most part. They kind of remind of Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder, but that’s not necessarily bad. I’m not sure how the music will hold up with repeated listening and also closer examination of their lyrics, but on the initially listening, I thought this was solid.
I accept your apology.
Hahaha! Let’s wait until I focus on the lyrics and live with the music a little more, before we get to an apology.
OK, I spent more time listening to this, including reading the lyrics, for most of the songs. Verdict? I have mixed feelings about this one. The first half of the album–especially the first two or three songs–appealed to me, particularly the way they rocked. But the second half of the album seem less rocking, and maybe a sentimental and pop-ish(?). I think that’s where my line about Creed being the Michael Bolton of grunge came about.
Still, I was too dismissive of the group (and you can take that as an apology).
(On a slightly related note, Pearl Jam has not aged as well for me–I’m thinking specifically of Ten. Also, Vedder’s voice, for some reason, appeals to me a less. It could be that I’m just not in the mood for their music, but I tend to think that’s not the case. I recently enjoyed listening to Soundgarden and Nirvana. I actually like Nirvana more than I did when they first came on the scene.)
You weren’t merely dismissive of the group. You mocked some people I know for liking them, and for singing their songs at karaoke.
Yeah, the first half does rock better than the second half. “What If” is a pretty hard song.
But “Higher” and “With Arms Wide Open,” while not as rocking, are good songs. At a time when alt-rock music was so nihilistic — and the nihilism’s one of the things I like about it — Creed’s songs acknowledged the darkness but tended toward light. I can’t speak to whether or not these are Christian songs (I gave up long ago trying to figure out what makes Christian music Christian music), but a tendency toward spiritual longing on mainstream radio, absent treacle or happy solutions, was rather welcome.
There were a few other bands who leaned the same way: Collective Soul, Evanescence, P.O.D.; I was grateful for them all.
I guess I sorta get why Creed (and their equally disdained contemporaries Nickelback) is so looked down upon, but I don’t hear what the haters hear. Scott Stapp turned out to be something of an a-hole. Doesn’t change the sincerity or competence of the songwriting.
I don’t remember mocking people, but I don’t doubt that I did; and I apologize if I offended you or them.
I sympathize with this, but effectively expressing spiritual longing can be difficult. The music/lyrics can be too earnest, maudlin, or chessy–and if a listener feels that way, that’s where you get the scorn.
You probably weren’t mocking directly. I just felt mocked, which isn’t the same thing.
#35 Falling Into You (1996) Celine Dion
#34 Backstreet Boys (1997) Backstreet Boys
#33 Breathless (1992) Kenny G
I don’t really have much to say about these, except that I didn’t really care for them. With the possible exception of the Celine Dion album, I didn’t have a bad attitude going into these albums; that is, I didn’t expect to dislike them. I think my experience of Taylor Swift’s Red album made me more open and interested in investigating groups like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. With Kenny G, the last time I listened to Duotones, I found it to be enjoyable.
Alas, I didn’t really like the albums above. I think Dion’s album got a little better after the first two songs. (By the way, the first two songs, which were popular ballads, have the over-dramatic sound a la Meatloaf and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It made me wonder if it’s the same songwriter.)
#32 Hysteria (1987) Def Leppard
#31 Slippery When Wet (1986) Bon Jovi
When I first heard “Pour Some Sugar on Me” back in 1987, I didn’t like the song–even though I liked the Pyromania album (and had a cassette tape of it). I think I felt like it was too much like the latter, only worse for some reason.
So my negative reaction to Hysteria shouldn’t have surprised me–but it did. I not only thought I had a chance to like this (maybe the intervening years would have changed my attitude), but there are features of the music that should be appealing to me (e.g., the rocking guitars), but they’re so not. On the surface the songs don’t seem bad, and maybe they could be good, but they leave me cold. Actually, I’d say they turn me off. Additionally, I don’t like Joe Elliot’s voice anymore–and I used to in the past (or at least didn’t dislike it). The drama and power in the vocals, and the music overall–seem vapid now to me. To say it another way: there’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
I’m putting the Bon Jovi album in here because I had a similar reaction. The difference is, I liked the hit songs back when it first came out. I wouldn’t think I would have a negative reaction–not as strong as I did, anyway. In a way, both are decent versions of 80’s rock n’ roll–but different from the 80’s styles that seemed closer to the 50’s (e.g., Huey Lewis and the News).
But the music from both albums really didn’t hold up well for me. There’s a possibility that this is all a matter of mood and expectation. That is, I’m just not in the mood for this type of music, and maybe my expectations were too high. (I actually don’t think they were all that high, but maybe more than it should have been.)
OK, I listened to both again, more than once. Here are some thoughts.
You know what they say. A band’s best album is very often the one right before the band exploded in popularity.
In Def Leppard’s case, Pyromania was absolutely a hit, but it was Hysteria that exploded for them. I just listened to Pyromania again (I’m working on a list of albums that are completely good, from first track to last; albums that also make me just really happy to listen) and it’s still a killer album.
Hysteria mostly bored me when it was on the charts, because it was poppier and just not as creative. I liked “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” but that was it. The stupid wordplay in “Animal” and “Armageddon It” made them almost a cartoon, and I just really hate “Love Bites.”
When Def Leppard played here in 2018 in a celebration of Hysteria during which they planned to play the entire album, my dislike of the album didn’t matter. It was my chance to see a band I really dig and a lead guitarist I love (although I loved him better in the 80s with Dio). So I spun the album a whole bunch in the lead-up to the show.
And some of it stuck. “Hysteria” is actually a good song, and the band killed it live. It’s probably in my top 20 Def Leppard songs now, but I’ve removed words like “hysteria” and “hysterical” from my personal use, it was an issue for me for a little while when listening to this song.
I think it was Chuck Klosterman who said that after Hysteria came out, you started seeing girls at the Def Leppard shows and that’s how you knew the band wasn’t the band you fell in love with. So true. It applies to other bands too, which is the point he was making.
The adage definitely applies in the Bon Jovi case. 7800° Fahrenheit preceded Slippery When Wet by a year, and it’s their best album (although I admit I like New Jersey nearly as much).
The Klosterman rule applies here too. The only girl I knew (and one of only two girls I know now) into 7800° Fahrenheit was my sister, who was into it before I was.
Slippery When Wet is poppier. A lot more girls at the shows — actually a majority, I’d say. Until “Bad Medicine” on the New Jersey album I was worried they’d forgotten how to rock.
I still like it though. Just not nearly as much. I’ll spin the whole thing without skipping a track, if it hasn’t been too long since the last time I heard it.
My initial reaction to your question about these being two of the better glam metal albums is heck no. I doubt they’d make the top ten, especially since they aren’t even the best albums by these bands, but I’m open to reconsidering.
For what it’s worth, I have a feeling I won’t like Pyromania all that much now, but I should go check it out. (I’m a bit bemused as to why I’m having such trouble with their music.)
I reacted the same way–although I think I recall feeling they were just repeating themselves, like a Hollywood executive trying to make money by mining the same terrain.
But “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was one of the songs that made me feel that way.
The stupid word play is valid criticism, but I like the rhythm in the melody when that occurs (at least in “Animal”).
Yeah, after the initial listening, I started appreciating it.
What does this mean? The band became to pop-y, watered-down?
OK, I’m going to check out 7800.
I’m interested in hearing what makes your list.
#26 …Baby One More Time (1999) Brittany Spears
#25 No Strings Attached (2000) NSYNC
Brutal–as in, this was really hard to listen to. I’d not adverse to this type of danceable pop music with catchy hooks, but those elements felt flat to me on these albums. (As a test, I remember liking a couple of Spice Girls songs, so I re-listened to them. I still liked them. Indeed, I liked them so much that I’m going to listen to the entire album.)
Bat Out of Hell (1977) Meatloaf
Some random comments:
#19 Greatest Hits (1977) The Steve Miller Band
“Little Ms. Can’t Do Wrong” kinda sounds like a more energetic version of “Take the Money and Run”
#17 Greatest Hits (1972) Simon and Garfunkel
#13 Born in the U.S.A. (1984) Bruce Springsteen
#15 Cracked Rear View (1994) Hootie and the Blowfish
#11 Jagged Little Pill (1995) Alanis Morrisette
When we think of albums that don’t age well, for the most part, we think the music isn’t very good. But in the case of these two albums, I would say the music is not bad, but not exceptional–ultimately leaving me with a feeling close to indifference.
Morrisette’s “You Outta Know” still seems solid, but the rest, while not bad, doesn’t really grab me. The situation with the Hootie album is worse, in that I don’t think I can point to one song I liked.
#12 Dark Side of the Moon (1974) Pink Floyd
This albums sounds really good to me, and I think I would have chosen this in the top #15 instead of some of the albums picked by RS (e.g., Miseducation of Lauryn Hill or Pet Sounds).
I’ll just say two things about this:
1. While I really like this album, I can’t point to any outstanding components of it–e.g., great songs, melodies, guitar playing, melodies, etc. Well, I do think PF do a great job of making all the songs work together to form a unified whole. But most of these components don’t seem outstanding to me.
2. Having said that, I like David Gilmour’s guitar. But again, I don’t think it’s necessarily outstanding–not in an terms of the solos, licks, or in terms of originality. Yet, I like his playing in this–the way it fits with the music. If I had to name one component part as a favorite, it would be Gilmour’s playing.
I don’t know if PF fall into the prog category, but they don’t seem like that to me–except for doing at least two concept albums. And this is a good thing in my view. I need to check out more of their stuff.
#8 Boston (1977) Boston
This is a good album, maybe even a great one. There’s a lot to like about this album–the guitars, both acoustic and electric; the vocals and songs; the distinctive sound of the group. And yet I feel like I’m not into this as much as I should be for some reason. I guess, for whatever reason, I merely like the music, and not much more. In general, the music is essentially rock n’ roll, and I’m finding I’m not really into rock n’ roll.
Quick comments on the following:
#7 Greatest Hits (1975) Elton John
Elton John versus Billy Joel? I think these songs get the edge–not just the songs as compositions, but the performances and instrumentation. For example, I like the playing in “Honky Cat.”)
#6 Come on Over (1997) Shania Twain
#5 No Fences (1990) Garth Brooks
I dreaded listening to both of these albums, but I liked them more than the Backstreet Bosy, NSYNC, and Brittany Spears albums. I also really like Brooks’s version of “Two of a King, Workin’ on a Full House.” This type of honky tonk, as well as Western swing, are the type of country music I like.
#4 Appetite for Destruction (1987) Guns n’ Roses
#3 Led Zeppelin IV (1972) Led Zeppelin
#2 Back in Black (1980) AC/DC
Because of the stylistic similarities, I’m going to evaluate these albums in the same post. When I listened to each of these album individually, I couldn’t help but compare them. Therefore, I’m going to evaluate all three in the same post.
In a way, the three albums feel competitors in a final four style tournament. Let me start with the hands down winner in my book, which would be Back in Black (BiB) The other two albums paled in comparison, which was part of my reasoning for crowning the AC/DC album. Specifically, Back in Black is harder, more aggressive, and better execution of punch-you-in-the-face rock n’ roll. In my opinion the other two albums are inferior in that way.
Having said that, i think Led Zeppelin IV (LZ4) is still very good album, and I think they’re probably a better band overall–better in terms of musicianship and even variety. AC/DC basically does one thing (which is one valid criticism against them–but they do it really, really well in my view.
Appetite for Destruction (AfD) and Guns n’ Roses, in contrast, are not the same ballpark as the other two groups/albums. That’s not necessarily something to be ashamed of–not being great doesn’t mean you’re bad. However, while I don’t think AfD or Guns n’ Roses is bad per se, they’re not really my cup of tea. I’m not a fan of Axel Rose’s voice, and I don’t really get the reason some think highly of Slash. Finally, I didn’t think the songs very strong, and I also didn’t like the playing by the rhythm section. In comparison to AC/DC, the music seemed too cluttered and not really coherent.
That leads me to BiB. On this recent listening, the sparseness of the rhythm section stood out to me. Generally when I think of AC/DC’s aggressive sound, I associate that with more dense music, particularly from the guitars. But part of their formula involves quieting things down at certain moments, drawing more attention and heighten the drama of the vocals. For example, I like the way they do this on “Dirty Deeds” (which is not on BiB, but it’s a good example of this.) Additionally, the guitar riffs are really clear and catchy. I think this stems from the simplicity of the riffs–both harmonically and rhythmically. Some may say this as an indication of inferior art, but generally I see this as the music’s strength. To me, the nature of the guitar riffs seem strongly tied to older school rock n’ roll (e.g., The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” or the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”). In contrast, the guitar riffs and maybe the rhythm section, in general, on the GnR’s album seemed more muddled and inarticulate.
Earlier I mentioned AC/DC’s “formula.” My sense is that they really do have a formula or a pattern that they repeat over and over again. They’re really successful at this, but there is a sameness of sound with their music, and I can understand if some listeners hold this against them. I feel this way to some degree. For example, I’m not that interested in most of the albums after BiB.
1. I have a lot to say about these comments, but I’m at work now, and I’m about to walk over to Kaiser for a visit with my ophthalmologist, so I’ll just say that the bass playing on “Sweet Child O’ Mine” destroys any of the bass playing on either of the other two albums.
AC/DC might as well not even have a bass player, the way they mix their albums. Cliff Williams isn’t bad, but he does ably what Malcolm and Angus tell him to do, which isn’t much.
John Paul Jones is a very good bass player, so this is no slam on him, but when you say the rhythm section on the GnR album pales, I have to take exception.
2. Several weeks ago I was working on a list of albums that are just super enjoyable from first track to last, albums that make me happy I’m listening to music. Back in Black qualifies, but since I think For Those About to Rock We Salute You is the better album, it makes my list and BiB doesn’t. The album that inspired the list was Extreme’s Extreme II: Pornograffiti and my immediate selection for the second album on the list was Appetite for Destruction. It’s just a sonically amazing where-has-this-been-all-my-life piece of amazing work that somehow got super super super super popular too.
3. I think all three albums here are masterpieces, but Appetite for Destruction tops them all.
4. I’m sure I said this before, but a critic once wrote that AC/DC has recorded the same album nine times. Malcolm Young said something like, “That offends me. We’ve made the same album thirteen times.”
I really didn’t focus on the bass lines in “Sweet,” but whether this is true or not isn’t significant–to me.. I can not only think of examples of better bass playing, but better guitar playing and drumming. AC/DC aren’t technical wizards nor do they play really interesting, rich music. Sometimes this is a weakness, but with AC/DC, I think this is a strength–specifically, technique doesn’t get in the way of catchy melodies and guitar riffs and great vocals. Whether by choice or not, I think the lack of chops allows these things to shine, and I think it also allows the music to evoke a more primitive aggression–which is a virtue to me.
These are the attributes that make BiB far outshine AfD. Also, overall, the songs on BiB are more memorable.
I alluded to this in my post, and I think it’s a valid criticism. But I think you could say this about Monk tunes as well. The thing is, Monk’s compositions are terrific in my view, and I love listening to them, in spite of this. I feel similar about AC/DC (although I admit at some point I lost interest in what they were doing).