I have been playing a lot of albums from start to end recently, trying to enjoy the thought and effort artists put in constructing a coherent and meaningful tracklist. I started noticing opening tracks more and more and they gradually became a mild obsession – something I subconsciously started looking for when playing an album.
I think intro tracks can elevate the listening experience greatly by introducing the idea of the record and building up hype for the rest of the tracklist. Despite that, I believe they can be greatly underrated and so I want to take the opportunity and discuss this topic today.
I don’t know about you but I am personally always ecstatic when listening to an album for the first time.
I am a firm believer albums should be experienced from start to end without any distractions at least once in order to take in the full, appropriate experience the artist was going for. Many times while doing exactly that I have noticed that in their careful and well-thought construction of the tracklist musicians incorporate an introduction track to their work.
I gradually became fascinated by this phenomenon which on the first glance is nothing special. Now, I actually think there is much more to it than we initially imagine. An introduction/opening track gives artists the incredible opportunity of setting the scene for the rest of the album the way they see fit. Furthermore, those tracks can create a great feeling of hype and anticipation if done with this purpose and build-up to the second track in a satisfying way.
A good example
I recently read a comment regarding a very good but short opening track (49 seconds intro which I fail to identify). The comment said something of the sort that the track is really good but what is the point when it is so short and we can’t properly enjoy it.
Well, I think the charm of opening tracks is often (but not always, great intro tracks are sometimes longer and equally effective) exactly the short length which the artists use to build-up tension, hype, and expectations for the rest of the album. The fact that short snippets are so good is tightly connected to the playtime – the structure and elements are chosen in a way that will impact listeners in a maximum way and make them want to hear more of what is to come.
Plenty of stunning short opener examples are incoming so here is a longer one we can all agree is a very well done intro.
Intro tracks have the capacity to enhance the concept of full-length albums and make messages and ideas reach next level. However, I am under the impression opening tracks together with outros and skits are actually unfairly underrated and I wanted to give them the rightful attention with a dedicated blog post.
Most of the times each small fragment of an album has its purpose of being positioned in a certain place and I think that we often do not see this because we rarely focus on a full album experience the way we are supposed to.
Well, everyone has their preferences of listening to music the way they want (nothing against #ShuffleCulture) but I want to take a moment and tell you about some opening tracks I am fascinated by.
Unite/Pale Blue Dot – Bliss N Eso (Circus In The Sky)
Starting with one of my favourite albums of all time – Circus In The Sky by Bliss N Eso.
The opening track of this record is one fascinating experience and I am always overjoyed to discover that each time I play it I feel the rush of the same sensations and feelings I had the very first time I heard it.
The Aussie hip-hop legends achieved something not many people could pull off with their fifth studio album – it is a manifestation of belief systems unavoidably charging listeners with positive vibes and untamable energy. The opening of the album has many things going on but it is surprisingly coherent and impressively well-working to build-up the mood and energy that will follow the rest of the 15 tracks.
Actually, I consider the opening being two tracks – Unite and Pale Blue Dot. Two tracks you would never tell are separate while listening.
Circus In The Sky begins with a sample of Charlie Chaplin’s speech from his most successful film – The Great Dictator. I cannot emphasize how fitting this choice is for the album and the whole identity of the band, I can only say my biggest “wow” for the effort and impactful mixing DJ Izm has done to the already emotion-invoking speech.
The words of wisdom and thought food are overflowing during this 2.40 minutes fragment and many important things about humanity are made crystal clear. However, it does not end there as the track unnoticeably flows into Bliss N Eso’s follow up of this exact speech and proceeds to unveil their view on life, the universe, and everything (no pun intended. Maybe).
Pale Blue Dot not only prepares listeners for what they are about to experience but also showcases the raw essence of the band. Packed with addictive hooks, a great interlude, and smart references to the past work of the band, the song is a true delight to hear and all the small details are just satisfying to discover.
The boys also do not forget to pay the necessary respect to their fans and friends by honouring their support in a heartwarming verse which only makes the opening closer to perfection.
Now I owe it to you to give back what you gave us
Cause the fact is, you practically saved us
17359 – Vukovi (Fall Better)
Welcome user 1-7-3-5-9
The content you have selected contains:
Strong language, dark themes and some dirty fucking riffs
To continue with your experience
Please deposit credit, or hold for short advertisement
This is what I mean when I say some intro tracks simply build-up a blood-pumping hype for what is to come.
The first time I heard Fall Better I was going out of my mind during the opening 17359 and the follow-up explosion in Violent Minds. The intro track does the job of slowly leading to the culmination of shredding instrumentals and powerful lyrics which define Vukovi’s sophomore album.
The intro presents the vibe of the album well but that is not all there is to it. It uses storytelling methods that will persist until the very end of Fall Better to bring the band’s messages and concept to life and illustrate the points they are making with their music.
It is incredibly well-working and the whole album is a next-level modern hard-rock experience. Do try it out (start to end please) if you missed it.
Birth – Thirty Seconds to Mars (Love Lust Faith + Dreams)
I will save you from yourself
Time will change everything about this hell
Are you lost, can’t find yourself?
You’re north of heaven
Maybe somewhere west of hell
Thirty Seconds to Mars are the proven masters of hype and they also display it with album openers.
The 2013 record Love Lust Faith + Dreams features one of my personal favourite intros which is also a maddening way to open a live show, by the way. The build-up and the frequent pauses serving as suspense amplifiers achieve a striking effect of anticipation and desire to see where this majestic atmosphere will lead to.
The rest of the album does not disappoint and lives up to the expectations that Birth sets. I consider Love Lust Faith + Dream a conceptual piece even if it is not the most coherent example of one. The message and idea of the band are clear and I believe they managed to execute it in a very impactful way.
Opening – Linkin Park (Reanimation)
I might be biased but I am always satisfied with the intro tracks Linkin Park choose for their albums. I give this to the out-of-this-world abilities of Mr. Hanh and Mike Shinoda’s creative touches and producing skills.
Opening accurately sets the scene for the unearthly transformations of one of rock history’s greatest albums and it does it by combining elements that only make sense if harmonized well.
The electronic parts are mixed in with acoustic and classical instrumentals to create an atmosphere that personifies the image of 2000’s rock and neometal movements – distorted, breaking boundaries, and marking the first steps towards discarding the meaning of genres in music.
Ashes – Ghost (Prequelle)
This band keeps fascinating me with their theatrics and immersive storytelling. But the reason I am putting them in this particular blog post is their latest album which I also consider a partially conceptual piece with one very strong and appropriate opener.
The reason I am so in love with the song is partially the great execution and partially the very well-thought-out idea which concerns the eternity of the album. Ghost is a very dedicated band when it comes to their storytelling and Prequelle was the album draining inspiration from the Dark Ages put in the context of modern society.
The intro song is perfectly well-applied to the rest of the album in terms of messages – it summarizes the main idea of the album and prepares listeners for the masterful storytelling display that the Swedish hard-rock formation is about to crush us with once again.
We Ain’t Feeling Time – FKJ (French Kiwi Juice)
French Kiwi Juice is an album I recently started excessively overplaying. I give it to the rainy days and the perfect opportunity to submerge into FKJ’s one-of-a-kind vibe.
We Ain’t Feeling Time is not like the intro tracks I talked about above. Instead of a short snippet, it is a fully developed 4-minute masterpiece. Regardless, I think it is a very fitting and well-chosen introduction to the rest of the album.
The song starts slow and mellow featuring the rhythm and blues + jazz influence that will prevail in the entire record. It gives off a powerful vibe of tranquillity, passion, love, and emotion which I think can also define the entire record (and FKJ as an artist).
The mood FKJ creates is really something incredible. He uses his various talents as well as great guest artists to create an environment that will bring peace and contempt in the souls of listeners. We Ain’t Feeling Time displays this very well and slowly leads to the next track using the coherent progression that will be visible later on as well.
The album is perfect for a chill weekend day or a rainy afternoon – it will take you out of your world, mind, and troubles and remind you to appreciate each second in this world very effectively.
Those are just a small part of the introduction tracks I am fascinated by but they definitely hit me the hardest. I haven’t even mentioned the skits and outro tracks that have a similar effect and are fundamental for a full album listening experience.
What are your favourite album openers? Do you think they are an important part of a record’s tracklist? Let me know.
You can buy me a coffee if you like my content