7 Great Songs From Great 7th Albums

7 Great Songs From Great 7th Albums

The music video for “Yes, And?,” Ariana Grande’s first new solo single in more than three years, opens with a tight shot of a ruby-red business card bearing the phrase “ag7.” In modern pop parlance, this is a way of hinting that her seventh album is coming soon.

I’ve long felt that the seventh album — if an artist is lucky enough to get that far — is a pivotal moment. Sometimes it’s the perfect time for a sonic and aesthetic reinvention, à la U2’s glammy 1991 album (and my favorite in its discography) “Achtung Baby.” It can also be an opportunity for a pop star to show off newfound maturity, as Madonna did on her great seventh studio album, “Ray of Light.” The seventh album is often when the most brilliant artists shift gears into a level of mastery that seems newly effortless: Consider Bob Dylan’s seventh album, none other than “Blonde on Blonde.”

Will Grande’s seventh LP deserve mention among those classics? Who can say? All I know for now is that the thought of one of our major pop stars preparing to join the Septet Club got me thinking about some of my all time favorite seventh albums. Naturally, this called for a seven-track playlist.

The aforementioned legends each make an appearance, along with a few of my indie darlings, Guided by Voices and Sleater-Kinney. Plus, one of pop’s reigning superstars, who released a particularly imperial seventh album in 2022 — everybody’s on mute until you guess who.

Listen along on Spotify while you read.

After its polarizing sixth album, “Rattle & Hum,” U2 retreated from ’80s overexposure and re-emerged with a fresh ’90s rebrand on “Achtung Baby,” a Brian Eno-produced triumph that added some needed irony to the band’s outlook and made the Edge’s guitar glisten like a newly invented form of synthetic crystal. It is my professional opinion that this song rules. (Listen on YouTube)

Madonna was a new mother about to turn 40 when she released “Ray of Light,” a midcareer commercial smash that got her back on the radio (alongside devotees half her age), and also netted her (somehow) her first Grammy in a music category. “Ray of Light” is a deeper, stranger album than its titular hit suggests; this underappreciated sixth single is more representative of its searching electro-pop sound. (Listen on YouTube)

Dylan’s 72-minute double album from 1966, “Blonde on Blonde,” is one long, continuous outpouring of greatness — a songwriter who had come comfortably into his own voice, making the English language bend to his will while backed by a band of Nashville session musicians who evinced an easy expertise. A line from this one that never fails to make me chuckle: “He just smoked my eyelids, and punched my cigarette.” (Listen on YouTube)

The superhumanly prolific indie-rock band Guided by Voices is now racing toward releasing its 40th album — the 39th, “Nowhere to Go but Up,” came out in November 2023 — but it took seven tries to break through with the gloriously scrappy “Bee Thousand,” arguably the first of several ’90s masterpieces. (Listen on YouTube)

Lately I’ve found myself listening to a lot of older Sleater-Kinney records, in anticipation of the group’s 11th album, “Little Rope,” which comes out next Friday. My favorite is still the group’s seventh, “The Woods,” from 2005, on which Corin Tucker’s towering voice, Carrie Brownstein’s caustic wit and Janet Weiss’s quaking drumming all sound monumental. (Listen on YouTube)

Three albums after “4,” Beyoncé outdid herself once again on “Renaissance,” her sprawling 2022 odyssey through the history of Black dance music. Since seeing her Renaissance World Tour, I can only imagine her singing this particular song while dressed as a haute couture bee. (Listen on YouTube)

Is the wildly inventive, boundlessly ambitious “Revolver” the greatest seventh album of all time? Discuss. All I know is that Don Draper wasn’t ready for this one. (Listen on YouTube)

Oh, Mama, could this really be the end?


Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.

“7 Great Songs From Great 7th Albums” track list
Track 1: U2, “Until the End of the World”
Track 2: Madonna, “Nothing Really Matters”
Track 3: Bob Dylan, “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”
Track 4: Guided by Voices, “Gold Star for Robot Boy”
Track 5: Sleater-Kinney, “Entertain”
Track 6: Beyoncé, “America Has a Problem”
Track 7: The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows”

The Clash only made it to album six, but let’s spin “The Magnificent Seven” anyway.

Also, it’s a big week for new music in our Friday Playlist. Hear fresh songs from the aforementioned Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X, Waxahatchee and more.

Source link