Nowadays it seems that more and more people are listening to albums as a whole project, and aren’t just stopping at the big singles anymore. Chance The Rapper, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West have all dropped albums over the past few years which don’t rely on the power of singles; letting the entire project promote itself as the piece of music it was intended. With the masses now consuming hour-long projects instead of three minute singles, favourites within an album are often born out of itself. The best example of this being Drake and Future’s Jumpman, which instantly resonated with the masses as one of the standout cuts from the mixtape. So with that in mind, there may be some tracks on big albums like the aforementioned that you may have missed, here’s a list of the best of them- Underrated Songs On Big Albums.
Kanye West, R Kelly & Teyana Taylor – To The World
Album: Cruel Summer
Producer: Kanye West
Posse albums from hip-hop groups or labels have never really been consistent, with many flopping, and few achieving Wu-Tang heights. Years after its release, general opinion is that G.O.O.D. Music’s collaborative release wasn’t the album we had hoped. That being said, it did have its moments, such as with album opener To The World. Collosal drums, powerful vocal performances from R Kelly and Teyana Taylor, and an opening onslaught from labelhead Kanye West, it colided R&B and [the God of] rap, showing both sides to the GOOD Music coin.
Chase & Status – What Is Right (ft Abigail Wyles & Nile Rogers)
Album: Brand New Machine
Genre: Trip Hop
Producer: Chase & Status
Chase & Status are first and foremost a drum and bass duo, a duo that have often dipped into surrounding genres such as dubstep, breakbeat, jungle and dance. However, with their third album I feel their progression as a duo was unfairly overlooked, as Brand New Machine was brimming with songs that challenged their reputation as dancefloor-fillers. One of the stand-out songs on the project was What Is Right, a beat-powered chill ride with a hypnotic vocal performance from Abigail Wyles. The song holds a direct influence from Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, and the transition from drum and bass to trip hop is something that Chase & Status deserve real credit for.
JAY Z – Never Change
Album: The Blueprint
Producer: Kanye West
I don’t care what anybody says, The Blueprint is easily JAY Z’s best album. And therefore, with many including the man himself, choosing Reasonable Doubt or The Dynasty ahead of it, I could pick any number of tracks from JAY Z’s legendary LP to appear on this list- I went for Never Change. Never Change was the beginning of the revolution, the commencement of the gangster rap oust, enlisting the up-and-coming- ‘chop up the soul’ Kanye to produce the track, JAY Z started something Kanye would later continue. The pair began to pump heart, soul, flavour and vibes into hip-hop, trading the boom-bap sound for strings, brass, and more emotive lyricism. For me, Never Change was the start of it all.
Tame Impala – Past Life
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Producer: Kevin Parker
Tame Impala’s third studio album was acclaimed the industry over, with fans and critics alike hailing Parker’s use of synthesisers and drum machines, as well as his developed songwriting. While opener Let It Happen, and huge singles Cause I’m A Man and The Less I Know The Better would steal the limelight, one of the album’s best moments was at midway through the project- Past Life. Heavy on the reverb and echoed sound effects, Past Life is relatable songwriting and poignant storytelling disguised with acid stylings and sombre meandering.
A$AP Rocky – 1 Train (featuring Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big KRIT)
Album: Long Live Asap
Sandwiched between the hard-hitting lead single Wild For The Night, and following hit Fashion Killa, 1 Train reminded us that Long Live Asap was still an all-out grit of a rap album, it just possessed a few moments of egotistical flare. At the time, these were seven of the most important young rappers in the game. And under the haunting, string-driven beat from one of the biggest producers in the world at the time- Hit-Boy, the song was a six minute show of what the future of rap would sound like.
The Black Keys – Weight Of Love
Album: Turn Blue
Genre: Garage Rock, Synth Rock
Producer: The Black Keys, Danger Mouse
Turn Blue is The Black Keys’ most underrated project to date, and dare I say their best. Shadowed by the heights of Fever, Weight Of Love didn’t achieve the same heights as the album’s lead single, but it did act as the opening song of the group’s eighth studio album. Featuring a reverb-heavy, irresistible guitar solo only a minute into the album, the song then unravels, revealing and welcoming Auerbach’s vocals for an eventual breather. At around five minutes the song expands, unleashing a further guitar solo, trumping the one that marked the commencement of the track. This was only the opening track, and it would encapsulate what else to expect from Turn Blue.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Wings
Album: The Heist
Producer: Ryan Lewis
In my opinion Macklemore’s finest moment as an artist. A song about consumer capitalism and the materialistic view of the 21st Century youth, Wings tells the story of Macklemore’s experiences with consumerism, one that’s all too familiar for people of this generation, least of all myself. ‘We want what we can’t have, commodity makes us want it / So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it / Got to show ’em, so exclusive, this that new shit / A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in.’
Green Day – Last Night On Earth
Album: 21st Century Breakdown
Producer: Green Day
American Idiot will forever be the go-to Green Day album. And as much as I love it, I will always top it with 21st Century Breakdown, their follow-up to the aforementioned. Found nestled between two of most hard-hitting and instantly-anti songs on the album, Last Night On Earth was a welcomed chance to grasp for breath. This gave Armstrong a platform to be at not only his most poetic, but also at his most vulnerable. With some of the strongest lyrics of his Green Day career, Last Night On Earth stripped back the rebellion, ousted the fight, and opened up the man and the band, maybe wider than it’s ever been.
Kendrick Lamar – Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst
Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Producer: Pac Div
Seeing the word underrated alongside good kid, m.A.A.d city is very rarely seen, and rightly so. However, I still don’t feel as if Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst gets the attention it deserved. A heartbreaking, lyrically-charged rap ballad, showcasing the harsh reality of Kendrick’s upbringing. The shear genius of the track also comes with the productional qualities of the track. Take when Kendrick raps ‘I’ll never fade away, I’ll never fade away, I know my fate’, right before Lamar’s vocals fade away into the instrumental, echoing the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ nature of his violent gang-ridden enviroment.
Jessie Ware – Sweet Talk
Genre: R&B, Soul
Producer: Dave Okumu, Julio Bashmore
Jessie Ware’s Sweet Talk was acclaimed by critics and fans alike for its silky smooth composition, and sultry dreamy vocals. The album was promoted through the huge lead single Wildest Moments, which ended up being used in countless adverts, romcom trailers, and later received a stellar remix from A$AP Rocky. One of the album’s other highlights was with the utterly seductive Sweet Talk. Oozing sex and dripping with lust, Sweet Talk was an irresistible encapsulation of Jessie Ware’s excellent debut album.
Tyler, The Creator – Rusty (featuring Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt)
Producer: Tyler, The Creator
I still think Tyler, The Creator is generally underrated as a whole. And while he obviously doesn’t take himself too seriously, more often that not, the occasions where things get all too real are some of Tyler’s most impressive. Rusty was one of those moments, and that’s when I realised Tyler, The Creator is one of the most underrated lyricists in the game, although his limited displays of this are probably the reason why. I could quote any of the powerful lyrics from Rusty, but rather than doing that, I urge you to watch the of Rusty performance on David Letterman above.
Disclosure – Grab Her!
Genre: Electronic, Garage/House
Settle is of course the acclaimed debut album from the celebrated garage/house duo Disclosure. An album brimmed with huge pop singles crossed with contemporary house nostalgia. Settle was a huge success both critically and commercially, instantly striking a chord with those bored of the same tired EDM. On Settle, just before one of the album’s biggest tracks- the Eliza Doolittle-featuring You & Me, is the hilariously underrated deep house/bass track Grab Her! Needing nothing more than an underlying techno flavour, crossed with now-trademark Disclosure synth drives, Grab Her! showed the real genius, and above all, the diversity of one of the most exciting electronic duos since The Chemical Brothers.
Massive Attack – Paradise Circus (featuring Hope Sandoval)
Genre: Trip Hop
Producer: Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja
Any number of Massive Attack’s songs could have landed a place on this list, but the one I ended up going for was, Paradise Circus, found on 2009’s Heligoland. Widely known as the theme tune to the as-underrated cop thriller Luther, Paradise Circus brought the two oppositional sides of Massive Attack together, and crafted in my opinion one of their best songs to date. Beginning with dainty chords and a heartbreaking vocal performance from Hope Sandoval, the song evolves into a moving, string-powered emotional rollercoaster, one that then crumbles under its own weight, leaving you with the emptiness in which it began.
Jamie xx – Stranger In A Room (ft Oliver Sim)
Album: In Colour
Producer: Jamie xx
Jamie xx missing out on the Mercury Prize was the biggest injustice since Massive Attack’s Mezzanine lost out to Gomez’s Bring It On. On an album awash with electronic sounds, from an array of genres and cultures, the more sombre and tender moments were the most impacting on the project. Enlisting fellow xx bandmate Oliver Sim to provide vocals, it felt xx-y, but with more drive and conviction. Featuring isolated, lonely chords, atmospheric vocals, and contrasting sun-kissed strings, Stranger In A Room is a complicated and misunderstood stand-out track, even within an album of gems.
Kanye West – Devil In A New Dress
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
In my opinion Kanye West’s greatest moment in music, and his best song to date, on his best album to date. Everything is perfect, from the beautiful Smokey Robinson sample, to Rick Ross’ incredible guest verse in which he brags about ‘getting Tupac money twice over’, that’s not to mention Kanye’s verses, of which are home to lines like ‘I ordered you jerk she said you are what you eat’ and ‘text message break ups, the casualty of tour’. It’s one of my favourite songs, period. ‘The way you look should be a sin, you my sensation’.