Concept Albums versus Traditional Albums

It’s an age old question that one must ask whenever they set out to make an album – to have a concept or to not?


It’s logical that all the songs on an album will have commonalities. Maybe it’s just the sound. Maybe it’s the vibe. Or maybe it goes further than that.

And that’s when an album becomes a concept album.

Our buddy, Wikipedia, says that a concept album is a record that has a theme or story that runs through it.

Kind of vague, right?

I mean, acting with that definition, we could say that all albums are concept albums because they are written from the perspective of whoever wrote them – therefore making themselves the sort of main-character, whether they acknowledged they were doing it or not.

So let’s leave the discussion of what a concept album is like that and move on to why concept albums exist.

It seems that some albums have gotten the concept album label since the 1930s and 40s. But why?

Why would an artist or band arrange their material this way?

Well, it depends on the artist or the band.

In the beginning of concept albums, it seems that there was more of an interest in focusing on a single theme. Like blue collar workers, or musicians who would play in clubs at all hours of the night, for example.

My Chemical Romance said that when they set out to make Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys that they didn’t want to make a concept album. They added something to the effect that they just wanted to make a straight forward album.

But they said that that wasn’t any fun.

So then they created the concept album: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.

And that makes sense. Once someone opens the Pandora’s Box of creating an album with a central theme and characters, etc. it’s clear to see why getting together and jamming to create random new material might not be as creatively exciting and fulfilling.

So maybe that explains why someone would make a concept album.

But if concept albums can be so much fun, why aren’t all albums concept albums?

I think a lot of artists like to wrestle with a concept in a single song.

There’s plenty that you can do with a character or a theme in a single song.

And when you perform that song, you can put yourself into that theme, concept, or character’s place quite successfully.

And the cool thing is that after putting yourself in that place musically, after a few minutes, you get to move on to something else.

That keeps things fresh.

Dedicating an entire album, or an entire live performance to a single concept could be exhausting.

So whether you’re a fan of concept albums, traditional albums, or all of the above, the important thing is to find music that you connect with.

What do you think? Have you ever made a concept album?

Do you prefer traditional albums?

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