Music has always been, for me, a time machine that enabled me to return to the most important moments in my life. In September 2020, Rolling Stone compiled a list of the 500 best albums of all time. And while they are the definitive guide to music, I thought that I would put my two cents in on the matter. Okay, so my list is not as comprehensive or properly cultivated as Rolling Stone’s. After all, they had the advantage of reaching out to music experts. Luckily, I am a kind of expert… in the things I like. So, because I have such strong opinions and emotions, I thought that I would put my own spin on this list.
If you have never heard of this album you are either a millennial or non-Latinx. Perhaps a millennial, non-Latinx! This is the definitive album of Selena. No. Not Gomez. The OG Reina. Tejano queen, Selena Quintanilla.
This album was released in 1994. The songs in this album quickly became hits. The thing I like about this album is that it is a melange of Latino music sounds. The songs in this album include cumbia, ranchera, and even pop en Español beats. There are so many good songs on this album. “Amor Prohibido” which tells of a forbidden love, “Bidi Bidi Mom Mom” a fun song that perfectly explains the feelings of early love, and “El Chico del Apartment 512” a tale of a secret crush, are just a few of my favorites.
The best thing about this album is that, for me, it creates a nostalgic feeling of happiness. When this album first came out and became popular, the world felt one way. These songs would play at quinceañeras and family fiestas. I associated them with the most fun times of my teenage years. Unfortunately, things would quickly change. Only one year and thirteen days after the release of this album, the world would learn of the murder of Selena Quintanilla.
I first learned of The Beach Boys in the 90s thanks to the biopic “Summer Dreams” which I saw on network TV. This movie of the week introduced me some of the best of music I have ever heard. The movie highlighted the pressure imposed upon the band by parents and record executives. It reinforced the idea of the tortured artist for me.
I bought this album on CD. And, I began to enjoy magnificent pop music. I really liked this compilation album. In fact, it is the album that taught me that musicians make “Best of” albums and compile all their most popular music in one package. This album will not disappoint. It includes may of The Beach Boys’ best songs like “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Good Vibrations.”
If you like “oldies,” listen to this album. After all, The Beach Boys are considered the architects of that California sound that is often associated with some of the best of 60s music.
THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION
I grew up in the Madonna heyday so it may not come as a shock to you that this album is on my favorite albums of all time list. Like Endless Summer above, is a greatest hits compilation album. On it, you will find Madonna’s most popular songs of the 80s. Many are modified in one way or another. But, they are excellently crafted. Thirteen of the fifteen songs on this album are the artist’s former hits. The two new tracks on this album- Justify My Love and Rescue Me- also received acclaim.
The first time I recall learning about this album was when I watched the video for “Justify My Love.” There’s some interesting S&M thing going on in that video that I did not quite understand as a fourteen year old living in small town USA! One cool thing I learned about this song while preparing this post was that Lenny Kravitz co-wrote it.
Although I have continued to be a fan of Madonna’s new music, I contend that this album contains all of her best music. Her 80s songs have energy and a good beat that, in my opinion showcase what Madonna was best at- over the top energy.
TLC’s Fanmail is the soundtrack of my twenties. In fact, FANMAIL is my favorite album of all time. I find myself listening to this album at least twice every year. That may not seem like much. But, I do think that is something. After all, thanks to the internet we have a world of entertainment available with the click of a finger. Yet, I still go back to this album often. More importantly, every time I hear this album I am blown away by how fresh and current it still sounds. I contend that it sounds as fresh as the music that people like Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat are releasing today. As such, I feel confident declaring this album a timeless classic.
This fourteen song album is, in my opinion, the definitive compilation of songs for young women. The tracks speak to the struggles of women entering adulthood often find themselves facing. From learning about standing up for oneself with the track “My Life,” dealing with the shitty dudes that call a woman a “Silly Ho,” realizing the type of man worthy of your affections with “No Scrubs,” identifying those feelings of insecurity with “Unpretty,” or claiming one’s sexuality with “I’m Good at Being Bad” or “Don’t Pull Out on Me Yet,” this album speaks to all of the struggles of modern-day mujeres.
The reason I like this album more than any other is that I honestly cannot pick a favorite song from this album. They are all that solid. Plus, it would be the last album from TLC that I really focused on as one of the group’s singers, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, would be dead less than two years after the release of this album.
Any of your favorite albums on my list? If not, which albums am I missing?