4 Concept Albums That Completely Botch Their Own Concept

A concept album is a whole CD made of a bunch of songs that all tell parts of the same story or are united via a common theme. Sometimes this works, while other times the "concept" only exists as the flimsiest of notions and falls flat on its face after 15 seconds.

Plenty of bands are drawn to writing concept albums; they get tired of writing four-minute tributes to sex and decide they want to get involved in something big and important with meaning and purpose. They forget that they're musicians, which means they're uninteresting and dumb and should stick to songs about fucking.

#4. Tori Amos: Strange Little Girls

Atlantic Records

What's tougher than a concept album? How about a concept album featuring nothing but covers? Because now you're taking a dozen tunes, written by a dozen people, and attempting to make them work together, even if they don't want to. And guess what? They don't.

So when Tori Amos decided that she wanted to try such an album, called Strange Little Girls, people looked at her like she was crazy.

Epic Records
What, her? Nah.

Luckily, she had herself a vision. These wouldn't just be covers, they would be retellings! She would take songs originally sung by men and perform them from "a woman's perspective." Maybe some misogynistic come-hither song could be rewritten so that now a lady is telling some hot dude to be her bedroom toy. And if anyone could do it, it'd be an uber-creative mind like Amos.

She proceeded to not do it at all. And by "not at all," I mean NOT AT ALL. Not one song was rewritten, edited, or feminized in any way. Musically, they were certainly different, which is to be expected when a breathy girl sings Slayer and Eminem on her piano.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Slayer sadly never returned the favor, depriving us of a screaming 9,000-decibel take on "Mr. Zebra."

But lyrically and thematically? Amos didn't change one word of anything, killing the concept on arrival. Of course, it didn't help that many of the songs weren't about men OR women, meaning that just about anyone could have sung them. But even the songs that were very much about a man were left unchanged lyrically, making "a woman's perspective" nothing more than "a woman singing the song." And I can get that any night from the drunks at the local karaoke bar, except I don't yet hate myself enough to do so.

Please, stop believing.

It's clear that Amos very much wanted this concept to work, even creating (and dressing up as) fictionalized personae who were supposedly the girls singing these songs. Sadly, this elaborate game of dress-up failed to give these songs any real female point of view. Even Neil Gaiman's valiant attempts to salvage the idea, via short stories that conveniently explain why these women are singing, just fall flat.

How It Could Have Worked:

It's fairly obvious: She should've sat her butt down and rewrote the damn songs! She already did this musically, and a 20-plus-year career has proven that she knows how words work, so why didn't she use them this time?

Atlantic Records
"You're still talking about the concept album? Oh, I've moved on to this new terrible idea now."

If her goal was to really make us believe that these songs are now feminine, then the lyrics 100 percent need to convey that. True, this could get awkward at times, like in Eminem's song where the female was bound, gagged, and dead in the back of his trunk. But then you either rewrite the song from a dead girl's perspective or turn the whole thing into a cover of John Cage's 4'33". See? Two solutions in five seconds. You're welcome.

#3. A Flock of Seagulls: Self-Titled

RCA Records

Despite being mainly known for the worst hairstyle in history, A Flock of Seagulls actually is a real band, with albums and instruments and tours and drug problems and everything.

Redferns/Redferns/Getty Images
They also had a bald guy with a comb-over, so make that TWO of the worst hairstyles in history.

For their debut album (also named A Flock of Seagulls, because they didn't want us to forget such a ridiculous name by only hearing it once), the band decided to sing about an alien abduction. That sounds doable, right? Especially since we don't know if aliens exist and what an abduction would be like. That would give the A Flock total creative freedom to draw up any scenario they wished.

So naturally, they chose the worst possible path: not telling the story at all. Because words are hard, the story lasts exactly one song before taking a permanent seat to simply repeating short phrases time and again until the band's producer pressed the fade-out button. Take a gander at the entirety of Chapter 2, "Space Age Love Song":

I saw your eyes
and you made me smile
for a little while
I was falling in love.
I saw your eyes
and you touched my mind
although it took a while
I was falling in love.
I saw your eyes
and you made me cry
and for a little while
I was falling in love.
I was falling in love
falling in love
falling in love
falling in love
falling in love.

Ian Waldie/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Falling in love, falling in love, SQUAWK *whistle* falling in love."

You know, for a second there, I wasn't sure if he had fallen in love, and if it was for a little while or longer. Thank God he cleared that up. The lack of detail continues throughout the album, with aliens mentioned rarely, random and meaningless sci-fi references thrown around with reckless abandon, refrains repeated ad nauseam, and the actual story wrapped up never. For all we know, they're still stuck on that ship, although hopefully the aliens have given the guy a brush and a copy of Sensible Haircuts Weekly by now.

How It Could Have Worked:

Perhaps Mr. Seagull should have attended a writing workshop or two and read the story out loud in front of a group of shy housewives and college students. Maybe one of them could have helped flesh out the tale, thereby painting a clearer picture of why the couple was abducted, who these aliens were, where they went, how long they were there, whether filthy alien orgies are a thing, how they escaped, if the aliens chased after them and blew up Earth out of revenge, and so on and so forth.

WireImage/WireImage/Getty Images
Like a toned-down version of David Bowie's origin story.

Or they could just repeat the same three words over and over and over again. That works too, apparently.

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Jason Iannone

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