Titling an album is tricky, but some artists have worked out just how to provoke the requisite level of either intrigue or outrage to make sure their record will be talked about in all the right places. When former pop sweetheart Miley Cyrus tweeted: “If you don’t know why my record is called BANGERZ you’ll know as soon as you hear it. Nothin but #BANGERZ” she was daring critics to question her.
When Johnny Borrell decided to call his debut solo album ‘Borrell 1’, he seemed to be referencing legendary Scott Walker albums like ‘Scott 2’ and ‘Scott 3’. What he’d apparently forgotten, in his infinite hubris, is that even Walker hadn’t tempted fate by calling his debut ‘Scott 1’. It was simply ‘Scott’.
You see, Kelly, the problem with calling your album ‘Shut Up’ is that it does rather beg the obvious response…
Unlike Blink 182, Elton John’s ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy’ is actually less smutty than it originally appears. It’s an autobiographical tale of Elton and songwriter Bernie Taupin’s early struggles.
Kanye West isn’t the first pop star to have a Messiah complex, but he might be the first to make a pun as terrible as ‘Yeezus’.
Sometimes the best way to deal with hype and early critics is to take the fight to them in a knowing way. Textbook case: The Vaccines’ 2010 debut ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’
Everyone was pretty dumbfounded about what Pete Townshend was trying to get at with ‘All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes’, and he responded to the questions by saying it was: “a grand statement on the inherent goodness and evil of humanity.” Um, okay?
You see Miley, you’re really not the first to talk about “molly” in song. Missy Elliott’s ‘Miss E… So Addictive’ is about as subtle as ‘Ebeneezer Goode’.
John Bult’s ‘Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday’, when teamed with the horrendous album cover, kinda makes you think Julie is going to have a very happy birthday at all.
Another band convinced that everything they touched turned to gold, Sum 41’s debut ‘All Killer No Filler’ actually almost lived up to the title. Shame about the rest of their career.
Will Smith’s ‘Willenium’ is a classic of grandstanding egotism, but his previous solo album ‘Big Willie Style’ was even cheekier.
Announcing his album, ‘Hip-Hop Is Dead’, Nas made Kendrick Lamar’s recent outburst look tame, saying: “When I say ‘hip-hop is dead’, basically America is dead. There is no political voice. Music is dead … Our way of thinking is dead, our commerce is dead. Everything in this society has been done.”
Kiss have never been the shy and retiring types, as they demonstrated when titling their 1996 live album: ‘You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best’.
Alanis Morissette’s cryptic album cover for ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’ also featured bold type relating to the eight precepts of Buddhism.
‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’. Fine. Wait. ‘Take. Off. Your. Pants. And. Jacket’. ‘Take… Off… Your… Pants… And… ’ OMG this Blink 182 is a lot more risque than it initially appears.
The Hives weren’t lacking in cojones when they announced themselves to the UK and USA as ‘Your New Favourite Band’.
Madonna’s 2008 album ‘Hard Candy’ was almost called ‘Black Madonna’. In the end, Madge had second thoughts: “I painted my face black, except for red lips and white eyes. I thought it would be a fun title, but then I thought ‘25% of the world might get this, probably less. It’s not worth it.’”
It refers to a letter! He’s sending you a letter with ‘Kisses On The Bottom’! It’s fine, cuddly Beatle Macca isn’t talking about rimming after all. Phew, that was a close one.
A ballsy call to question everything, or just classic Oasis nonsense? Either way, ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ had enough of a ring of a grand statement that it grabbed everyone’s attention.
Like Kanye, The Stone Roses weren’t afraid to wear their Messiah complex on their sleeves. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who still worships this record, though.
Some fans think that Kings of Leon have become a corporate machine, others believe they’re now just pushing out shit on autopilot. So is calling their next album ‘Mechanical Bull’ a knowing response, or an admission?
Sadly for Green Day, this title turned out to be a prescient and portentous one as Billie Joe Armstrong did indeed suffer a ’21st Century Breakdown’ and promptly checked himself into rehab.
Motown founder Berry Gordy would reportedly discourage musicians from disappearing into self-indulgence by hollering ‘Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus’ at them, and Swedish duo Roxette self-effacingly lifted it for the title of their greatest hits compilation.
More in retrospect than anything, but Gary Glitter’s ‘Touch Me’ has certainly become controversial…
This bold album title indicated, and later reflected a change of direction for U2’s music, and both were met with criticism. ‘The Dirt’ author Neil Strauss, writing in The New York Times, said: “U2 and techno don’t mix any better than U2 and irony do.”
Beta Band calling their third album ‘Heroes To Zeros’ was perhaps indication enough that it would also be their last.
Come on, now. Don’t expect anything less than outrage for an album title as calculated-to-be-shocking as The Coup’s ‘Genocide & Juice’.
Robbie Williams was at least aware of his reputation when he touched down in America with ‘The Ego Has Landed’. Sadly for him, barely anyone there noticed.
Public Enemy knew exactly the reaction they wanted to draw with their “counterattack on world supremacy” ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’.
Fergie’s ‘The Dutchess’. That’s ‘duchess’, Fergie. Most controversial amongst pedants, but this album title received a pretty universal shake of the head. (Fergie, meanwhile, also filmed her ‘London Bridge’ video at the more photogenic Tower Bridge.)
Nas’ ‘Untitled’ was originally going to be titled ‘Nigger’, but after heavy criticism, he removed the title altogether. The rapper said: “Everyone’s trying to stop the title. It’s just people being scared of what’s real.”
At 2011’s Coachella Festival, Lil B announced that his next album title would be ‘I’m Gay’ “to prove that words mean nothing”. The record ended up being called ‘I’m Gay (I’m Happy)’ after he received death threats.
With various internal conflicts and emerging side projects, compilation album ‘The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane’ was to prove the ‘classic’ lineup’s final release. The knowing title was no hindrance: the record has gone platinum.
Ice Cube wanted to provoke a reaction by naming himself ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’, and sure enough the state of Oregon banned retailers from showing any images of the rapper.
The slightly terrifying counterpart to ‘Best Driving Songs’ is ‘Music To Driveby’, from the understandably named Compton’s Most Wanted.