Have you ever noticed that some album titles are just the band or artist’s name? Self-titled albums are a popular trend in modern music. Whether you like them or not, it’s common to wonder why so many albums are self-titled.
Why are albums self-titled? Bands decide to self-title an album because they feel it represents the band, their music or message. On debuts, or later in the band’s career, a self-titled album is a statement that says, “This is who we are.”
It’s hard to say when this trend began, but it’s clear that bands will continue to make self-titled albums.
Although there are exceptions to every rule, here are the most common reasons why bands decide to make self-titled albums.
Learning The Band’s Name
First impressions are always important. Especially in the music industry.
Probably stemming from kids digging through records, cassettes, and CDs at music stores, many bands understand they only have one shot to explain who they are to someone who has never heard of them before.
Establishing who you are quickly and effectively is an important part of convincing someone to buy your album, instead of someone else’s.
In an effort to quickly explain, “This is our band name. This is who we are,” it’s easier to just have one name on the album cover, instead of two.
Artists continue this tradition because the same reasoning applies to streaming services.
If you’re scrolling through Spotify and you find an album you’ve never heard of before called, “The 1975 — The 1975”, it’s easy to understand, “Oh, this band is probably called The 1975.”
Having a self-titled album as a debut ensures that there is no confusion between the album title and the artist’s name because they’re one and the same.
Introducing A New Sound Or Image
Ironically, it isn’t very common that an artist’s second album is self-titled. There arent any hard and fast rules against it, it just doesn’t happen very often.
Usually, a band’s first or third album will be self-titled, but almost never the second.
Personally, I think this is because artists want to say something other than, “We’re a band. Listen to us,” on their second album.
However, that sort of creative risk-taking statistically leads to a “sophomore slump,” where an artist’s second album drastically underperforms the first.
Or, struggling to deal with the fame and success that came from the first album, the second album doesn’t come across quite as sincere.
By the time the third album comes around, artists often have a pretty good idea of who they are and what their fans expect them to do.
When an artist makes their third, fourth, or fifth album self-titled, they’re saying, “We’re back. These songs represent who we are now.”
I remember listening to an interview that Max Bemis of Say Anything did, elaborating on the reasoning behind their self-titled album. He said the decision to self-title was about staying true to who they were as a band.
“We see this record as our definitive record,” he said. “As a songwriter, I got to fully express myself on this record and that’s why it’s self-titled. The sound, the sonics, and the subject matter are more akin to the things that I really have to say about the world as opposed to just a really dark period that I was going through.”
Another reason why bands choose to make self-titled albums is so they can do something different, without creating confusion.
One of my favorite bands, The Neighbourhood released a self-titled album that took them out of the space they were comfortable in.
Instead of releasing one full-length album, the band released several smaller EPs that together created a sentence, “Hard — To Imagine — The Neighbourhood — Ever Changing.” (Later, they compiled the four releases into one self-titled album).
Notorious for being an exclusively black and white band (music videos, promo photos, album art, even interviews were done entirely in black and white), their compiled self-titled album introduced some color.
Sonically it was similar, but visually it was a departure.
Fans of the band expected The Neighbourhood to uphold a certain image.
Because it was so hard to imagine The Neighbourhood ever changing, actually changing led some fans to wonder if it was a different band altogether.
Making the compiled album self-titled eliminated any confusion, clearly sending the message, “We’re still The Neighbourhood. We just use color now.”
It’s Actually Untitled
I love reading music memoirs and autobiographies.
One of the first music-related memoirs I read was Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums by Travis Barker.
In it, I learned something I had never heard before — blink-182’s iconic self-titled album was actually untitled.
After a quick Google search, my surprise was confirmed. Myself, and thousands of blink-182 fans had assumed “Untitled” meant, “Self-titled.”
Although I haven’t seen another album (of that caliber) be confused in the same way, it’s worth noting.
Many albums that are self-titled, are self-titled by default.
Weezer is a unique example. Of their 13 album discography, six are self-titled (distinguished largely by the color of the cover), clearly marking when the band is making a deliberate choice not to name their albums.
Their debut self-titled (Blue) started the trend almost accidentally.
After a commercially disappointing sophomore album, their second self-titled (Green) was a triumphant return to form.
Their third self-titled (Red) is widely believed to be because the band members couldn’t select an album name (Rivers Cuomo, the band’s frontman confirmed that they wanted to name it “The Pure Sounds of Weezer” but not everyone agreed, so they went with “Weezer” again).
11 years and three additional self-titled albums later (White, Teal, and Black), Weezer-have repeatedly added themselves to the list of bands who occasionally choose not to label their music with a distracting title.
Because The Beatles Did It
For many artists, “Because The Beatles did it” is as good a reason as any.
The Beatles, also known as The White Album, set a precedent for self-titled albums that many bands have since tried to follow.
Intended to contrast their previous LP (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) both sonically and visually, The Beatles is a 30-track double album of raw, genre-sprawling material encased in pure white sleeves, displaying nothing but the band’s name embossed on the cover.
Although they weren’t the first band to self-title an album, the polarizing statement The Beatles (The White Album) made continues to inspire countless musicians to imitate its success.
Although it can sometimes be easy to write-off as laziness, when a band decides to self-title an album, they’re actively drawing your attention to something more important: the music.
Instead of saying, “This is another cleverly titled album by us” they’re doing everything they can to say, “More than ever, these songs are us. This is really who we are.”
Why are albums called LPs? LP stands for Long Play and refers to the length of the album. LP is a term that comes from the 60s and 70s when albums needed to be pressed on 12″ microgroove vinyl.
Why do albums have intros? Albums have intros to introduce the album. Intros often give spoken-word or musical context that enriches the listener’s experience. Intros and outros serve as bookends to begin and end the record.
Why do bands make split albums? Bands make split albums to cross-promote music directly to the fans of another artist. Split albums can be cheaper to make, market, and sell. When production costs are divided and fans are congealed, split albums are a smart move for everyone involved.