What Makes A Perfect Album? (Or Song?)


I’ve made my stance clear when it comes down to “grading” music – I don’t like it. Grades for me are ultimately meaningless, in essence being the true “box” we assign to music. I keep them around mostly for organizational purposes, but I rarely stick to a certain grade (whether it be numerical or alphabetical) for an extensive amount of time.

However, there is one grade I care about, mostly because I personally feel as if it is a special grade to keep in consideration. I’m of course referring to the classic “10/10” grade, or if you want to use other comparisons – 5 stars, A+, Two Guns Way Up, The best damn thing I ever done heard…..okay no one actually uses that last one, but you get the picture.

To be fair, I’m actually referring to two grades – 10/10 and 0/10 (or whatever else you want to use). Since this is a personal blog post however, I will say that I am refuting the notion of a “0/10”, mostly because I have thankfully enough never actually heard an album that was so awful that I had nothing good to say about it. Actually, to me there seems to be a point where some music gets so bad that it often borderlines on parody or falls into the “it’s so bad it’s good category” anyway. Again, just my thoughts on that.

Anyway, back to the main topic – 10/10, the cream of the crop, the ceiling for music. What constitutes this grade varies amongst people, and to be honest I’m not 100% sure on what I personally think defines that grade either. Some people look at these songs or albums from a historical context (or rather, judging its impact). For example, while I have heard many people say that Red Headed Stranger wasn’t quite their absolute favorite Willie Nelson album, it’s still a “10” in their minds because, let’s face it, the impact it had for his career was huge.

There’s also people who save that special ranking for an artist’s best piece of work, whether it be a song or an album. For example, I saw some people say that Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free wasn’t quite as good as Southeastern. Therefore, Something More Than Free couldn’t be held in that same top regard that Southeastern was (instead of say, deeming both albums within the top echelon).

If you’re like me, you just go with the piece of work that resonates with YOU the most, regardless of how others view it. Throughout the entire history of this blog, there’s one album that I feel holds up to that top spot, and that’s Dave Cobb’s Southern Family project from last year. I know that others didn’t feel the same way, and I know that no other blogger named it as their #1. I don’t care though. It’s an album that resonated with ME.

Now there’s tons of albums that resonate with me. Many did last year and so far, I’ve had some do the same this year. So why am I so stingy about that top spot? Well, like I said, it all comes to personal perspective, and while I think personal enjoyment affects my ranking, I also think “impact” does as well. No, I’m not talking about commercial impact, but rather how that work impacted me the first time I heard it or what (or how) it made me feel when I first heard it.

Prior to this blog’s launch, I heard an album by Gretchen Peters known as Blackbirds. Now, for as much as I’ve praised Southern Family on this blog, Blackbirds holds up even better, going so far as to be one of my favorite albums of all time. It was released in February of 2015, and I first heard it in June of that same year. Now, for those who have heard this album (and for those who haven’t, you can still pay attention), you know how dark and dreary it is, so to hear it in the summertime was probably not the best decision ever. That being said, I’ll never forget the night I heard it and how blown away I was by the album. I must have listened to it at least a dozen or more times that next day. It didn’t boil down to any concrete, specific answer, I just knew that this was a special album, much like I knew Southern Family was when I first heard it.

I don’t necessarily have a list of perfect albums lying around, and I don’t have any set qualities works of music have to match in order to attain that status. For me, it all boils down to the feeling of the work. Much like music in general, there is no right or wrong way to interpret it, but that’s my point of view. What do you all think though? What truly defines that perfect album (or song) for you?

10 thoughts on “What Makes A Perfect Album? (Or Song?)

  1. It’s definitely a difficult thing giving out grades. In regards to what you said about 0/10’s would you not give that grade to “Vacation” or “Body Like a Backroad”? To me those are examples of clear 0/10. I know you seem to be talking about albums but for me there’s plenty of songs that deserve that distinction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Songs are a bit tougher, and in regards to songs I follow the rule that states that an artist’s worst work has to be that “special” grade. For Sam Hunt, Body Like A Backroad sucks, but I can’t honestly put it in the same class as say, “Drinkin’ Too Much”, a song that severely sucks on every level. Therefore, Body is a 1/10. Vacation…..eh….for Country, yeah, it’s a 0, but on it’s own merit it’s got an agreeable pop melody to it brought down by the lyrical content and Thomas’ vocals. 1 or 2/10.

      Although you are right, my post does refer more to albums.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, we don’t always agree, but this is one where I absolutely feel the same way. I said on I think Dori Freeman’s album, the best music makes you feel something. To me, nines and tens are often very close, but a ten has to connect with me, and they often do on the first listen. Eights and nines can be growers, but a ten hits you, in a way that defies words. I don’t think tens or perfect albums should be judged based on impact because like with Red Headed Stranger, that impact is obvious, but it wasn’t obvious the day that album came out. Music is supposed to be relatable above all else, it’s supposed to connect with you. That is why I think perfect scores are rarely the same across all blogs. Yeah, you get universal acclaim, but that thing that sends it over the top to a personal level is the subjective part, the part that makes your ten different from my ten, and it’s what makes all these worth reading and keeps it from being an echo chamber. As far as a 0, that’s pretty much the same for me. It’s also a feeling, a feeling of complete disgust you can’t think of one thing redeeming it. It happens on songs more than albums.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “That impact is obvious, but it wasn’t obvious the day that album came out.”

    Exactly….many people said at the time Metamodern came out that it was a 10 for being groundbreaking, but who could truly know what it would do for Sturgill at the time?


    It’s not even just perfect scores that are different across blogs. We all like music for various reasons and/or look for certain elements to connect to in music, and that’s what makes these blogs so versatile (and cool). We might not always agree but who cares, right?


    It’s hard to judge songs honestly, which is a reason I don’t do it all that much. I would just rather wait for the album, lol.

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  4. Excellent and thought-provoking piece, Leon! Also, I agree with everything Megan said.

    A 10/10 song has to be able to truly blow me away. It’s a little hard to describe, but it basically has to reach out and completely touch my soul. Unfortunately, such songs are extremely rare, and even a good deal of my favorite artists don’t really have a “true” 10/10 song by this standard. And a 10/10 song won’t knock my socks off every time because of mood and all that, but it has to have the potential to do so.

    Ideally, a 10/10 album would consist mostly or entirely of 10/10 songs, but that’s a standard that’s virtually impossible to achieve since 10/10 songs are so incredibly rare. Even my very favorite albums are usually just one or two 10/10 songs surrounded by “normal” great 8/10 or 9/10 songs, and maybe even a 7/10er or two. In general, for me to regard an album as a 10/10, it has to have at least one truly outstanding track, a very high average quality throughout, and very few or no weak spots.

    Another factor in determining whether an album is a 10/10 or not is whether it stands the test of time. By that, I don’t mean what society or music fans/critics in general think of it (which obviously shouldn’t affect my opinion of it), but rather if it holds up for me personally as the years go by. There have been many albums that I used to be over the moon for, but then as years passed my assessment of them became more tempered for whatever reason. So longevity is also an important factor. Conversely, there are many albums I’ve only begun to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older (although I agree that it’s very rare for an album to grow into a 10/10, usually you know right away).

    None of this is an exact science of course, and of course there’s a ton of other factors that go into it (like nostalgia), but that’s basically the gist of what 10/10 songs and albums are like to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for post man! Really I don’t have a lot to add on, you nailed it! You’re right – nostalgia is another factor that comes into play. There’s definitely certain albums I heard once before that I remember thinking were the greatest of all time (really that extends to artists more). As I’ve gained new perspectives, I’ve moved away from those pieces of music, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

      Who knows the right answer? Fun thing about music – everything is the right answer!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with CountryOpinionBlog, I too just like what I like and like to share it in hopes someone else will too. To me what’s a ten is someone else’s 1 and vice versa. I dont grade on my blog, but K Phillips is my only 10 of the year so far – it hit me, not only the way he writes, but also his melodies and delivery. The entire record struck a chord. Meanwhile, I don’t connect with Cody, Jason, or Dori (what’s wrong with me??). I just interviewed an artist who told me “I write my stories and if they connect with you in any manner then they become your stories and I have done my job” That resonated with me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nothing wrong with not connecting to Cody, Jason or Dori! As most of us have said, we like what we like…on the flip side we don’t like what we don’t like. That’s why 10’s are important to me – it goes beyond being critical and just exposes our natural human tendencies to….be human (be random, really).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Never has been, never will be a 10/10 album. That doesn’t mean everyone should stop trying, just an impossible task, in my opinion.

    I actually think there can be 10/10 songs. One individual song that resonates with everything you love about music encapsulated in three to five minutes (maybe longer) of musical bliss. It’s rare, very rare, but it can happen.

    As you know, I only write about albums (and now, it appears, EPs). For me to even write about it has to be, if I had to put a number grade on it, 8.5/10 and above. My personal standard is one skipworthy song and maybe one iffy song. Highly doubtful I’ll ever write about any album over 12 songs. It would have to be amazingly spectacular.

    My definition of high quality music should not be the same as anyone else’s. Think how boring it would be if everyone liked the same music.

    Liked by 2 people

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