December 19, 2007

The Blank Album

A couple of BQTs ago, I asked this…

Q: The new albums from alt-hip-hop singer-songwriter Imani Coppola and Swedish garage rock band the Hives have the exact same title, inspired by the Beatles. What is it?

And your answer is…The Black and White Album (actually, that's only the Hives' title; Imani Coppola uses an ampersand). I noticed because I reviewed the Hives album in Time Out New York in the same issue there was an interview with Coppola, and my trivial mind did it's usual, "A-ha! A meaningless yet mildly interesting coincidence! I must forge this into a question!"

Probably no album titles in the history of music has inspired so many other album titles as the White Album has (note how I don't italicize the title; the album is officially untitled, or called simply The Beatles; "the White Album" is a widely accepted nickname, like Led Zeppelin IV or Axis of Evil). And what an amusing list of album titles, a rainbow of referential snark through the annals of rock & roll. Let's list them, shall we?

The Black Album: This title is now best known from Jay-Z's 2003 album, the last ever album he ever recorded (the first one). Like the Beatles, Jigga worked the monochromatic theme to the hilt—black booklet, black jewel case, the artist himself is black. I'm not sure what the significance is, despite the fact that I'm the accepted global expert on all things hip-hop. But I do know that Jay didn't release the first Black Album, more or less; Prince's aborted 1987 follow-up to Sign O' the Times is also called the Black Album, though it was officially untitled (it came in an unmarked black sleeve, à la Spinal Tap). But even Prince can't lay claim to the first noir Beatles' parody; that honor goes to the Damned, who released The Black Album in 1980, appropriate for a band who straddled the line between punk (at which they were great) and goth (zzzzz…). And I think some people refer to Metallica's 1991 release as "the Black Album," which seems awfully unimaginative to me.

Later, I'll tackle some other colors/hues/design schemes, etc.

- Quizmaster Noah

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