Increasingly, artists are choosing to name their album/EP after a word or phrase that represents the project as a whole, rather than choosing to name the album after a song from the tracklist (as has been the case of many albums in the past). While it's not a choice that everyone's making, it does help to instantly give an explanation on what the album/EP is going to be about. If you Google what to name your album, a common suggestion is to name it after a track on the album. But is this really the best way to go?
If you're telling a story throughout your album, then it makes sense to choose a phrase or word that represents the overall feel of the album. Take Charli XCX, who's named her last three releases Pop 2, Charli and how i'm feeling now. Each title instantly explains what the release is going to be; Pop 2 is a taste of the pop sounds of the future, Charli was her most personal release yet, and how i'm feeling now is a look at Charli's emotions throughout the current coronavirus pandemic. Change those album titles to a track on the album, and they lose their meaning - and ultimately, the release might feel a little bit less cohesive.
One of the most iconic album titles of the last decade, To Pimp A Butterfly, perfectly represents what the album is about - and was something that Kendrick considered deeply. Speaking to MTV, he explained the title, saying it was initially going to be To Pimp A Caterpillar before he decided to change it. "Me changing it to Butterfly, I just really wanted to show the brightness of life and the word pimp has so much aggression and that represents several things. For me, it represents using my celebrity for good. Another reason is, not being pimped by the industry through my celebrity."
The same can be said for Kanye West's 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. Even before listening to a single song, he signals that the record will be a departure from his previous sounds - he'll be incorporating an electronic soundscape across the record, referenced by the 808s - the record features a lot of use of the Roland Tr-808 drum machine. The heartbreak comes from the record being written in the wake of significant personal tragedy, including the passing of Kanye's mother, Donda West, as well as the end of his engagement to Alexis Phifer.
Speaking about the album, collaborator Jeff Bhasker says the title was Kanye's way of defining what the album would sound like. “Define your palate and work with limitations. There it is in the title: 808s and Heartbreaks, you know? So it’s 808s and the heartbreak, I don’t know if you know, is a term for the effect that’s on the vocal, which is distortion, octave and Auto-Tune. So that’s called ‘the heartbreak.’ That’s the sound of heartbreak.” By setting himself limitations through the album title, Kanye gave himself the space to be innovative, and influence a whole new generation of musicians.
In a similar vein, Cardi B used the album title of her debut album, Invasion Of Privacy, to remind people that they need to stay out of her face. After becoming a superstar thanks to hits like Bodak Yellow, everyone wanted a piece of Cardi - and they didn't care how they got it. Speaking to Sway In The Morning, Cardi said that people were expecting her to write hit after hit - and that came with a lot of pressure.
"When I was doing my album these past couple of months, my privacy has been invaded the most. I feel like I give people a lot and people still want more. When it comes to my pregnancy, I had people harassing me, stalking me. If it’s not something about me, it’s something about my man." Invasion Of Privacy was a direct response to that, as well as conveying what the album represented.
However, not every album will be named after a phrase that represents the album - because it doesn't always make sense to do so. If you look at the example of Kendrick's second album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, he named the album after two of the tracks on the album, which contain the heart of the story he's telling.
Not all narrative album titles have to eschew the names of the songs on the album, because sometimes, there's no better representation of what the album is going to be about than the song titles contained on said album. Kendrick told LA Leakers the album title's meaning, saying m.A.A.d city refers to "my angels on angel dust", a reference to smoking a blunt that was laced with cocaine - referenced on m.A.A.d city when Kendrick says, "And they wonder why I rarely smoke now/ Imagine if your first blunt had you foaming at the mouth."
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When you think of iconic album titles, titles like To Pimp A Butterly, Lemonade, 808s & Heartbreak and countless other examples come to mind, and they aren't just the names of tracks on the album - instead, they're about capturing the narrative the album is exploring. However, if you're an artist that feels a particular song on an album encapsulates what it's about, then choose that. It's important to not overthink your album title - after all it's the music that matters.