On this date in 2014, Eric Church’s fourth studio album, The Outsiders, was at #1 on the country charts. And he had a lot to say about how the album should sound and the specific sequence in which it should be listened to.
Of course, most artists who truly care about their craft and the music they’re putting out take a lot of time to get the tracklist exactly right in terms of the order of the songs and how it’s all presented on a record.
I mean, the greatest country artists that have ever lived told an entire story with an album as a whole, so if you’re skipping around or listening to it out of order, it just won’t have the same effect. That’s not to say it won’t be good, but the songs are each a part of a larger story.
And with the age of streaming here and in full force, singles reign supreme, and less and less care goes into presenting an entire record these days for a lot of artists.
Not all of them, though, and the superstar that is Adele comes to mind as a recent example of this. She had Spotify remove the shuffle button for her massive 2021 record, 30, because she needed people to hear the whole story in order.
But Eric was preaching this back in 2014, jokingly saying that he’d kill anyone who didn’t listen to The Outsiders in order, because he put that much care and attention into this incredible piece of art:
“Anybody puts it on shuffle, I’ll come kill them myself. It’s made to be listened to start to finish. You start with ‘The Outsiders,’ you end with ‘The Joint.’
There’s two songs on the album, ‘That’s Damn Rock & Roll’ and ‘Talladega.’ I love ‘em both, but I don’t love ‘em near as much by themselves as I do in the sequence.”
He elaborated, noting that the songs all play off of each other and you won’t get that same experience if you shuffle them:
“The space they get from the songs around them, and the space they give the songs around them, makes me love those songs more. If you take them out, mix them all up — totally different album, it’s a totally different journey.
It’s one of the only albums I can think of that I really believe that, if you put it on shuffle, you’re going to have an entirely different experience than if you listen to it the way it’s presented.
I don’t know that people do that any more, but it’s meant to be listened to that way.”
And who the hell am I to argue with Chief?
It seems like fans loved the whole album regardless of the order they listened to it in, though, because it was the best-selling country album of 2014 and impressively peaked at #1 on both the Billboard U.S. Top Country Albums chart, as well as the Billboard U.S. Top 200 Albums all-genre chart.
I’ll be pouring a strong jack and coke and spinning this one (in order) on the record player tonight just for you, Eric.