Tracy Chapman (album)

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Tracy Chapman
A black-and-white photograph of Chapman looking down
Studio album by Tracy Chapman
Released April 15, 1988 (1988-04-15)
Recorded Powertrax, Hollywood, CA
Genre Folk Rock, Adult Contemporary
Length 36:11
Label Elektra
Producer David Kershenbaum
Tracy Chapman chronology
Tracy Chapman
(1988)
Crossroads
(1989)

Tracy Chapman is the self-titled debut album by singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman, released on April 5, 1988, by Elektra Records. The album was recorded at the Powertrax studio in Hollywood, California. In 1987, Chapman was discovered by fellow Tufts University student Brian Koppelman. He offered to show her work to his father, who owned a successful publishing company, however she did not consider the offer to be serious. However, after multiple performances, Koppelman found a demo tape of her singing her single "Talkin' Bout a Revolution", which he promoted to radio stations, and she was eventually signed to Elektra Records.

In early attempts to produce the first album, many producers turned down Chapman as they did not favor her musical direction. However, David Kershenbaum decided to produce the studio album as he wanted to record an acoustic music album. The album was recorded in Hollywood, California in only eight weeks. Most of the writing is based on political and social causes.

Tracy Chapman gained critically acclaim from a wide majority of music critics, praising the simplicity, Chapman's vocal ability and the lyrical content. They also noticed the political and social lyrical content. Tracy Chapman received commercial success in most of the countries it was released in. The album made it to the top of the charts in many countries, including Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The album peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200, and was certified 6x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with sales exceeding over six million copies in the United States alone.

Three singles were released from the album, with the most commercially successful single being "Fast Car". The song was performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute. It rose to the top ten on the US Billboard Hot 100 and also did well in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom and other European countries.

Background[edit]

In 1987, Chapman was discovered by fellow Tufts University student Brian Koppelman. In an interview he stated "I was helping organize a boycott protest against apartheid at school, and [someone] told me there was this great protest singer I should get to play at the rally."[1] He went to see Chapman perform at a coffeehouse called Cappuccino. He said "Tracy walked onstage, and it was like an epiphany, Her presence, her voice, her songs, her sincerity—it all came across."[1] After this, Koppelman told her that his father was at the time a co-owner of SBK Publishing and could help her make a record, however she did not consider the offer seriously.[1]

However, Koppelman was very interested in Chapman, so he attended most of her shows. She finally agreed to talk to him, but did not record any demos for him. Later, Koppelman discovered that she had recorded demos at the Tufts radio station, WMFO, for copyright purposes.[1] Her demo of the song "Talkin' Bout a Revolution" was taken to radio stations and after the success, he copied the demo and took it to his father.[1] According to the interview, "He immediately got the picture and flew up to see her." Her demo led her to a signing with Elektra Records. She said "I have to say that I never thought I would get a contract with a major record label [...] All the time since I was a kid listening to records and the radio, I didn't think there was any indication that record people would find the kind of music that I did marketable. Especially when I was singing songs like 'Talkin' Bout a Revolution' during the Seventies [...] I didn't see a place for me there."[1]

According to the producer, David Kershenbaum, he said the album was "made for the right reasons."[1] He continued saying ""There was a set of ideas that we wanted to communicate, and we felt if we were truthful and loyal to those ideas, then people would pick up on the emotion and the lyrical content that was there."[1]

Recording[edit]

Chapman started writing songs when she was immediately signed to Elektra Records. Koppelman started finding producers for the album with the demo tape of her single "Talkin' Bout a Revolution". However, many producers turned her music down, due to the more mainstream impact of dance-pop and synthpop during the eighties.[1] They then found David Kershenbaum, and stated "I'd been looking for something acoustic to do for some time [...] There was a sense in the industry of a slight boredom with everything out there and that people might be willing to listen again to lyrics and to someone who made statements."[1]

However, Chapman's greatest concern during her meetings with Kershenbaum was that the integrity of her songs remain intact, because she wanted to record "real simple"." Kershenbaum said "I wanted to make sure that she was in front, vocally and thematically, and that everything was built around her."[1] Every single song that was featured on the result of the studio album was featured on her demo tape, except for "Fast Car", which resulted as one of the last songs recorded on the album. The first time she sung and performed "Fast Car" in front of Kershenbaum, he stated that he "loved it the minute I [he] heard it."

Tracy Chapman was, in total, only recorded in eight weeks at Powertrax, Kershenbaum's Hollywood studio.[1][2] When David was interviewed in 2002 by The Guardian, he stated that a lot of the public wanted "what she had" and said "And they weren't getting it. She got there at the right moment with stuff that was good."[3] Chapman was also interview and talked about the background of the album. She said "The first record [Tracy Chapman] is seen as being more social commentary... more political. But I think that's just all about perspective."[3]

In an interview with The Guardian in 1996, she revealed "My first record was almost not my first record."[4] The proposed producer for the studio album was killed in a car accident and the record company called in someone far less experienced to take over.[4] Basically, the album talks about political and social aspects, along with personal aspects which is very evident in her single "Fast Car".

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau B+[6]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[7]

Tracy Chapman was critically acclaimed by many music critics that reviewed it. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic awarded it five out of five stars, saying "Arriving with little fanfare in the spring of 1988, Tracy Chapman's eponymous debut album became one of the key records of the Bush era, providing a touchstone for the entire PC movement while reviving the singer/songwriter tradition."[5] He then went on to described her lyrical content as "underscored by a realized vision of trickle-down modern life", and used her single "Fast Car" as an example. He then praised her " impassioned liberal activism and emotional resonance enlivens her music, breathing life into her songs [...]"[5] He concluded by saying "Still, the juxtaposition of contemporary themes and classic production precisely is what makes the album distinctive -- it brings the traditions into the present."[5] He highlighted the album as her best album of her whole discography.[8]

Sputnikmusic also gave it five out of five, citing it as a "classic". Saying that the album was definitely "unexpected" and "brilliant."[9] They stated that "It starts on a high and never lets that standard slip [...] This album also started a trend of many other singers and songwriters following in her footsteps. A CD that changed the face of music."[9]

Rolling Stone said "Somehow, this young folk singer caught everyone's ear in the hair-metal late Eighties."[10]

Robert Christgau gave it a mixed review. Although he graded it B+, he said "Maybe I should be heartened and so forth that Intelligent Young People are once again pushing naive left-folkie truisms, but she's too good for such condescension--even sings like a natural. Get real, girl."[6]

Commercial response[edit]

Just two weeks after its release, the album sold 1 million copies worldwide.[3] In total, the album sold over 20 million copies worldwide and is one of the first female albums to hit more than 10 million copies sold worldwide becoming a huge commercial success.

Though the album has still received such success beyond its release, the album has never been re-issued or remastered.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Tracy Chapman.

No. Title Length
1. "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution"   2:40
2. "Fast Car"   4:57
3. "Across the Lines"   3:25
4. "Behind the Wall"   1:50
5. "Baby Can I Hold You"   3:14
6. "Mountains o' Things"   4:39
7. "She's Got Her Ticket"   3:57
8. "Why?"   2:06
9. "For My Lover"   3:12
10. "If Not Now..."   3:01
11. "For You"   3:10
Total length:
36:11

Personnel[edit]

Production

Charts and certifications[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Winner Category
1988 "Fast Car" Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Tracy Chapman Best Contemporary Folk Album
Tracy Chapman Best New Artist

Legacy[edit]

Tracy Chapman received seven nominations at the 31st Grammy Awards, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, ("Fast Car"), Song of the Year ("Fast Car"), Producer of the Year for David Kershenbaum, Best New Artist, Best Contemporary Folk Album, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("Fast Car"). The latter three were won.

In 1989, the album was rated number 10 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Albums of the 80s". In 2003, the album was ranked number 261 on Rolling Stone '​s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Slant Magazine listed the album at #49 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[35]

The album was critically acclaimed and helped to revive the singer-songwriter tradition.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "100 Best Albums of the Eighties: Tracy Chapman, 'Tracy Chapman'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  2. ^ Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs. Discogs.
  3. ^ a b c Saturday 28 September 2002 Gary Younge interviews Tracy Chapman | Music | The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b Amy Fleming (2008-10-31). "Amy Fleming on Tracy Chapman, the quiet revolutionary | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman". allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Robert Christgau review". Robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  7. ^ Steve Pond (2 June 1988). "Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2007-10-02. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Tracy Chapman - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : Allmusic.
  9. ^ a b Sputnikmusic. Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman (album review). | Sputnikmusic.
  10. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Tracy Chapman, 'Tracy Chapman'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 
  11. ^ Australian charts
  12. ^ Austrian Charts
  13. ^ Belgium Charts
  14. ^ Danish Charts
  15. ^ French Charts
  16. ^ Dutch Charts
  17. ^ New Zealand Charts
  18. ^ Norwegian Charts
  19. ^ Swedish Charts
  20. ^ Swiss Charts
  21. ^ UK Charts(Link redirected to OCC website)
  22. ^ US Billboard Charts
  23. ^ "Discos de oro y platino" (in Spanish). Cámara Argentina de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  24. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2001 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman" (in German). IFPI Austria. Retrieved October 15, 2012.  Enter Tracy Chapman in the field Interpret. Enter Tracy Chapman in the field Titel. Select album in the field Format. Click Suchen
  26. ^ "Brazilian album certifications – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman" (in Portuguese). Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman". Music Canada. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  28. ^ "French album certifications – Tracy Chapman – 1er Album" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  29. ^ "Les Albums Diamant :" (in French). Infodisc.fr. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Tracy Chapman; 'Tracy Chapman')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  32. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Tracy Chapman; 'Tracy Chapman')". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  33. ^ "British album certifications – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 15, 2012.  Enter Tracy Chapman in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  34. ^ "American album certifications – Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 15, 2012.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  35. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s | Feature". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2013-09-21. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Roll with It by Steve Winwood
Billboard 200 number-one album
August 27 – September 2, 1988
Succeeded by
Hysteria by Def Leppard
Preceded by
Nite Flite by Various Artists
UK number one album
July 2–22, 1988
Succeeded by
Now That's What I Call Music 12
by Various Artists