Arts, Column

What’s in a Name? The Pressure of Perfecting Album Titles

When The 1975 first announced the release of its highly anticipated sophomore album via Twitter in early June 2015, the only thing I really wanted to know was what those crazy kids were going to call it.

Knowing The 1975 as well as I do—not personally, of course, but more like on a pseudo-spiritual level after paying entirely too much to attend concerts and consistently playing its debut album on loop while running on the treadmill—I just knew the name would be imbued with some serious quirkiness. I mean, for a band that seems to view being even remotely mainstream as one of the seven deadly sins, it’s safe to assume The 1975’s second studio album would boast a wonderfully wacky, perhaps perfectly puzzling little title.

I expected some absurd onomatopoeia, the emittance of an apathetic grunt just like the name of The 1975’s already-a-hit single “UGH!.” I wouldn’t have been surprised if the band had called it something stupid and rambly like Four Guys (A Ragtag Group of Angsty Synth-Pop Wizards and Electro-Rock Deities Straight Outta Manchester, England) Record a Pretty Sick Sophomore Album. It’s an entirely true statement and a bit of a mouthful, but probably something egomaniacal frontman Matty Healy would eat right up.

Anyway, I immediately concluded that the highly anticipated title reveal would either be something insufferably anti-climactic, or incredibly profound and annoyingly long-winded. And I hate to say I told you so, but well, here we are.

As of Feb. 26, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful, yet so unaware of it isn’t just the inward thoughts of a relentless stalker watching from outside some window. No, folks, today it’s also the entirely-too-long title for a pretty rad The 1975 LP.

Despite boasting a strange likeness to the musings of a clingy ex-boyfriend, as well as a length that merits the inclusion of a comma, the album title is awesome. To me, it’s honest and vulnerable, so undoubtedly sweet, yet still kind of sexy. The peaceful aura that emerges when someone simply says the whole thing out loud is a nod to the album’s atmospheric dreaminess. Even its abbreviation, Sleep, is delightfully profound. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, than this 16-word title evokes a million emotions.

So then I got to thinking. How important is the title, really? Surely an album by any other name would sound as sweet. If you really consider it though, there’s an absurd amount of pressure imposed on artists to come up with a title that accurately encapsulates everything their album has to say. Clearly a rather daunting task (shoutout to Kanye’s #SWISH—wait I mean Waves—no I’m sorry, The Life of Pablo), choosing the perfect name for an LP sure is a difficult feat.

With every artists’ newest release, devoted fans anxiously anticipate a shrewdly named album, and negative feedback is almost unavoidable (The 1975 is feeling the wrath of some snarky critics right now for Sleep). Believe it or not, this seemingly insignificant part of music production is just as important as picking the perfect baby name. Much like one should never consider naming a child after fruit, inanimate objects, or two of the four cardinal directions (here’s looking at you again, Kanye), a bad album title is sure to set the fruits of one’s labor up for certain failure.

What illusory ego trip was R&B/pop princess Mariah Carey on when she decided that Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse was a good idea? Just because REO Speedwagon could name its rock album The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog And A Chicken doesn’t mean it should have. But then again, that was back in the ’90s, so I’ll cut the band some slack.

Maybe the perfect name is one that makes a statement and packs some kind of profound punch. See The Doors’ Alive, She Cried, The Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard, or Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon as references. Or perhaps artists should revert to the good old days when life was simple, when releasing an album was as easy as Leonard Cohen slapping the title Ten New Songs on a blue-tinted photo of himself and calling it a day. Whatever an album ends up being named, however, there’s really one thing—a Kindergarten-era life lesson, really— we all must remember: Don’t judge an album by its [title and] cover.

Unless it’s the late ’80s LP A Salt With a Deadly Pepa. Toss that thing straight into the trash.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

March 2, 2016