So I decided after seeing everyone on Facebook do one of those top 5 something or others, that I would do some top 5s of my own, which will be better than the ones on Facebook because I can't describe or explain anything with the way its set up on FB. This first list will be the 5 most influential albums on my life.
Now, as you read this, please keep in mind that these albums for the most part or in their entirety, I feel impacted ME in some significant way and influenced who *I* am in a significant way and really were game changers in that respect, but for ONLY ME. Please don't tell me in all seriousness that I must have left something out, because this list applies to me and my life experiences alone.
Without further ado:
Michael Jackson: Thriller
This album was released late in the year when I was about 5, turning 6. While I heard the songs that were released on the radio while riding around in the car with my family, it wasn't until over a year after it's release that I paid closer attention to this album, and that's because of the release of the Thriller video. When it first premiered on MTV, my older sister had already seen it so when it came on again, she turned off all the lights in the living room and told me to sit right in front of the TV. I sat there and watched with my mouth open in surprise. It seemed like a MOVIE and not a music video. It was also fairly creepy/scary so when my sister ran in a few minutes after it started screaming and suddenly grabbing me, I almost died of fright on the spot.
Now that I think about it, the singles off this album were the first sanctioned "pop music" allowed in our household that was very jazz, big band, and old R&B oriented. In later years I would come to listen to this album over and over again all throughout my life, and would always compare male R&B artists to him, usually unfavorably. Oddly enough, it was this album that made me want to go back and listen to the Jackson 5 albums, which led to me to favor the sound of particular male R&B group acts like: New Edition, Boyz II Men, and Jodeci.
Janet Jackson: Rhythm Nation 1814
This album was released late in the year as well, just after I had turned 12. At the time my own personal music tastes were just developing, since I was unable to listen to very much in my parents' strict household. It was the first album that I listened to in its entirety of my own volition, simply because I liked the music. It was also the first time my 12 year old brain could wrap itself around the socially conscious messages in the music I was listening to. As I'm sure anyone can imagine, little kids are cruel in their ignorance and xenophobia. Going from being one of the only Asian families in a predominantly black community to a predominantly white community was rough so I understood racism quite well. Additionally, the whole album sort of seemed to be this great combination of a lot of different genres - hip hop, pop, R&B, rock.
This album was also the first album I memorized the lyrics to and rebelled against my parents by daring to sing in the house. I also realized at the same time that I really LIKED to sing. I think what impacted me most about this album was Janet seemed so strong and sure of herself, and when the video for "Love Will Never Do" came out, I had just entered puberty and was coming to terms with womanhood. I watched the video realizing that sexuality and sensuality can be a great thing, and understanding your own is an especially great.
Mary J. Blige: What's the 411?
"What's the 411" was released the year I was 15. While this wasn't as influential on my life as the first two albums I mentioned, the reason I found it so impacting is because this is the year that I noticed something. That while I was really into all kinds of music, I was gravitating towards one genre in particular, and that is hip hop. Everything I sang to, danced to, bumped on the speakers at home when my parents were out, it was all hip hop. This album was also the album I tried to get a lot of my friends at school to listen to. Not easy when they were all in love with Nirvana.
Rage Against the Machine: Battle of Los Angeles
Rage's 3rd album was released when I was 22. Now at the time, I knew of them, and had heard their previous releases, but it wasn't until I was the age I was that I began to be more self aware and develop a consciousness of social issues and the world around me. It was kind of literally at this age that I began to rage against the machine on my own for a variety of reasons. The tour for this album was also the first concert I ever went to, with Gangstarr opening for them. It was fucking amazing. Both of their performances made me instant lifelong diehard fans of both (well as much of a fan as I can be of anything, but that's another story) and made me a lot more interested in finding out about the world around me. (Keep in mind I was sheltered till the age of 16, then had several other events happen where I was just consumed with staying alive, instead of being concerned for the world around me.) I also went back after the concert to their 1st and 2nd albums and found a lot more meaning in them at that age, with a better, clearer understanding of social issues and conflict. This was the beginning of my revolutionary years, which led to my later beliefs that I still hold and most likely always will, and to some activism of my own.
Flobots: Fight With Tools
I've written so much more about the Flobots on this blog than I have about any other artist or group, despite my intense love for multiple other artists and groups. There are so many reasons why, but I'll keep it simple here. This album went right along with my activist leanings, and is one of the very very few concept albums that I've loved in its entirety. I love every single song on this album and I have to listen to this album at least once a month, ever since its been released. I love the fact that Handlebars is really socially conscious and politically charged, and yet the millions of people that have heard the song don't know the fact or don't even care. The rest of the album just displays the amazing talent of every one of the members of the Flobots. In my own limited experience with music it's rare that these days there are artists that can be both political (or have SOME positive message), entertaining, AND talented. When I saw them in concert I was so blown away by how GOOD they are as performers, and just how much they really enjoy doing what they do, as well as how invested they all are in social change. Its a beautiful thing.