Created By: Crane on October 14, 2012 Last Edited By: Crane on January 7, 2013
Nuked

The First Track is the Single

The first track on an album is usually also released as a single.

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Trope
The first track on an album is usually also the single (not necessarily the first single, but it often is). This is often done for commercial reasons (turning on an album and hearing a song the listener already likes and is familiar is a good way to keep them listening), but it's just as often done simply because the song fit there or because it sets the tone of the album.


Examples:

  • Aloe Blacc - Good Things: "I Need a Dollar".
  • Arcade Fire has included a single as the first track on all of their albums so far, though it's more that they were released as singles because they set the tone of the album so well rather than that they were included as the first track because they were singles.
  • The Beatles:
    • A Hard Day's Night: eponymous track
    • Help!: eponymous track
    • The Beatles (aka the White Album): "Back in the USSR"
    • Yellow Submarine: eponymous track (though it should be noted that it was originally featured on Revolver as track 6)
    • Abbey Road: "Come Together"
  • Black Sabbath:
    • Black Sabbath: eponymous track
    • Paranoid: "War Pigs"
    • Master of Reality: "Sweet Leaf"
    • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: eponymous track
    • Sabotage: "Hole in the Sky"
    • Heaven and Hell: "Neon Knights"
    • Mob Rules: "Turn Up the Night"
  • Dire Straits:
    • Making Movies: "Tunnel of Love"
    • Brothers In Arms: "So Far Away"
    • On Every Street: "Calling Elvis"
  • The Doors:
    • The Doors: "Break On Thru"
    • Waiting For the Sun: "Hello I Love You"
    • Morrison Hotel: "Roadhouse Blues"
  • The Eagles:
    • Eagles: "Take it Easy"
    • On the Border: "Already Gone"
    • One of These Nights: eponymous track
    • Hotel California: eponymous track
    • The Long Run: eponymous track
  • Florence + the Machine: "Dog Days are Over" from Lungs.
  • Jessie J: "Price Tag" from Who You Are.
  • Jimi Hendrix:
    • Are You Experienced: US version: "Purple Haze", UK version: "Foxy Lady" (both singles)
  • Kerli: The title track of Love is Dead.
  • Lady Gaga, like a lot of pop artists, has done this on all of her albums ("Bad Romance" being the first track on The Fame Monster, "Just Dance" being the first track on The Fame, and "Marry the Night" being the first track on Born This Way). She inverts this on Born This Way as well: "Edge of Glory" is the last song.
  • Lana Del Rey: The title track of Born to Die.
  • Led Zeppelin:
    • Led Zeppelin I: "Good Times Bad Times"
    • Led Zeppelin II: "Whole Lotta Love"
    • Led Zeppelin III: "Immigrant Song"
    • Led Zeppelin IV: "Black Dog"
    • Averted on all their subsequent albums.
  • Mark Knopfler (solo):
    • Sailing to Philadelphia: "What It Is"
    • The Ragpicker's Dream: "Why Aye Man"
  • Radiohead did this on Hail to the Thief with "2+2=5" as the first track. Though they later said they were unhappy with the official tracklisting, the revised one featured a single as the first track as well ("There There").
    • The Bends both plays this straight and inverts it. The first and last tracks ("Planet Telex" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," respectively) were released as singles.
    • Thom Yorke expressed regret about not issuing "Everything in its Right Place" (the opening song on Kid A) as a single. Unusually, this song is actually one of the less-accessible songs on the album, a haunting keyboard ballad consisting of only a single stanza of lyrics that are distorted and reversed throughout the rest of the song. It sets the tone of the album excellently, but probably wouldn't fit on greatest-hits rock radio.
  • The Rolling Stones:
    • Beggar's Banquet: "Sympathy for the Devil"
    • Let It Bleed: "Gimme Shelter"
    • Sticky Fingers: "Brown Sugar"
    • Some Girls: "Miss You"
    • Tattoo You: "Start Me Up"
    • Undercover: "Undercover of the Night"
    • Dirty Work: "One Hit to the Body"
    • Voodoo Lounge: "Love is Strong"
  • Smashing Pumpkins did this on their first few albums. Gish had "I Am One" as the first track, Siamese Dream had "Cherub Rock," Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness had "Tonight Tonight" as the first full song after a short piano intro, and Adore had "To Shiela" (which was a promo single, though never released as a full one due to Adore performing poorly and not having been Vindicated by History at the time).
  • Steely Dan:
    • Can't Buy A Thrill: "Do It Again"
    • Pretzel Logic: "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
    • Katy Lied: "Black Friday"
    • The Royal Scam: "Kid Charlemagne"
  • "Mine," "Sparks Fly," and "Back to December," the first three tracks of Taylor Swift's Speak Now, were all released as singles from Taylor Swift's album. "Mine" was also the lead single.
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • October 14, 2012
    MorganWick
    I seem to recall encountering at least one album (I think it was from either U2 or the Beastie Boys, though it might have been someone else) where the first two or three tracks were all singles.
  • October 18, 2012
    Charmant
    Though not always consecutive, I have noticed that it's fairly common for most, if not all, of an album's singles to derive from the first five or so tracks.

    Example: Mine, Sparks Fly, and Back to December (first three tracks) were all released as singles from Taylor Swift's album Speak Now. Mine was also the lead single, so it qualifies as this trope.

    Other examples: Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted (My Life Would Suck Without You, I Do Not Hook Up) Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (Mr. Know It All, Stronger(What Doesn't Kill You), Dark Side... in that order!) Carrie Underwood - Blown Away (Good Girl, Blown Away) Carrie Underwood - Play On (Cowboy Casanova) Daughtry - Daughtry (It's Not Over) Daughtry - Break the Spell (Renegade, Crawling Back to You, Outta My Head, Start of Something Good... in that order!) Luke Bryan - Tailgates & Tanlines (Country Girl(Shake It For Me), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, Drunk On You)
  • October 20, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    • Led Zeppelin:
      • Led Zeppelin I: "Good Times Bad Times"
      • Led Zeppelin II: "Whole Lotta Love"
      • Led Zeppelin III: "Immigrant Song"
      • Led Zeppelin IV: "Black Dog"
      • Averted on all their subsequent albums.

    • The Beatles:
      • A Hard Day's Night: eponymous track
      • Help!: eponymous track
      • The Beatles (aka the White Album): "Back in the USSR"
      • Yellow Submarine: eponymous track
      • Abbey Road: "Come Together"

  • October 20, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    More classic examples:

    • The Doors:
      • The Doors: "Break On Thru"
      • Waiting For the Sun: "Hello I Love You"
      • Morrison Hotel: "Roadhouse Blues"

    • Steely Dan:
      • Can't Buy A Thrill: "Do It Again"
      • Pretzel Logic: "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
      • Katy Lied: "Black Friday"
      • The Royal Scam: "Kid Charlemagne"

    • The Eagles:
      • Eagles: "Take it Easy"
      • On the Border: "Already Gone"
      • One of These Nights: eponymous track
      • Hotel California: eponymous track
      • The Long Run: eponymous track

    This seems to be fairly common, actually.

  • October 20, 2012
    Crane
    • The Rolling Stones:
      • Beggar's Banquet: "Sympathy for the Devil"
      • Let It Bleed: "Gimme Shelter"
      • Sticky Fingers: "Brown Sugar"
      • Some Girls: "Miss You"
      • Tattoo You: "Start Me Up"
      • Undercover: "Undercover of the Night"
      • Dirty Work: "One Hit to the Body"
      • Voodoo Lounge: "Love is Strong"

  • October 20, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Something I did notice, back when I owned L Ps (before C Ds came out) of a lot of bands, was that the "hit" songs on that album (usually singles, or heavily-airplayed songs at any rate) usually came at the beginning or end of an album side. "Stairway to Heaven" ended side one of Led Zeppelin IV for example, "Peg" opened side two of Steely Dan's Aja (and "Deacon Blues" closed side one), etc.
  • October 27, 2012
    chihuahua0
  • October 27, 2012
    LeeM
    "Yellow Submarine" doesn't count. It was originally on Revolver - as track 6!
  • October 31, 2012
    AgProv
    If the best track starts off Side One, of course the corollary, in the good old days of 12" vinyl LP's, is that the weakest tracks are invariably buried in the Middle of Side Two (is there a trope for this?) This tends to be where creativity begins to fail, especially with That Difficult Third Album.
  • November 3, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    • Jimi Hendrix:
      • Are You Experienced: US version: "Purple Haze", UK version: "Foxy Lady" (both singles)

    • Dire Straits:
      • Making Movies: "Tunnel of Love"
      • Brothers In Arms: "So Far Away"
      • On Every Street: "Calling Elvis"
    • Mark Knopfler (solo):
      • Sailing to Philadelphia: "What It Is"
      • The Ragpicker's Dream: "Why Aye Man"

    • Black Sabbath:
      • Black Sabbath: eponymous track
      • Paranoid: "War Pigs"
      • Master of Reality: "Sweet Leaf"
      • Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: eponymous track
      • Sabotage: "Hole in the Sky"
      • Heaven and Hell: "Neon Knights"
      • Mob Rules: "Turn Up the Night"

    Some of these aren't the most popular or well-known singles on the album, but they are all (per The Other Wiki) singles.
  • November 3, 2012
    tardigrade
    Approaching this as a scientist, it occurs to me that -- owing to the finite number of tracks on an album -- there is a non-zero probability of a single being the first track on the album even if release of singles / ordering of tracks was done by chance. So a simple list of examples tells us nothing. Falsification, rather than verification, is key. I can think of plenty of albums where the first track is not a single. For example, perhaps my favourite album of all time, The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers, opens with "Yes", which was not a single (neither were the opening tracks of the band's previous and subsequent albums, for that matter). Often, the opener sets the tone for the album, the catchy singles following as later tracks. If anything, I would consider that -- at least for album- rather than single-focused musicians, there is a tendency for the first track to be a non-single. Either way, what's needed is a proper statistical analysis.
  • November 3, 2012
    Folamh3
    • Alkaline Trio released "Private Eye" as a single, the first track from From Here to Infirmary.
    • Bjork - Post: "Army of Me".
    • The Cure - The Head on the Door: "Inbetween Days".
    • Dido - No Angel: "Here With Me".
    • HIM - Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666: "Your Sweet Six Six Six" (in the international edition of the album, but not the original Finnish one).
    • Jimmy Eat World - Futures: self-titled track.
    • Korn:
      • Korn: "Blind"
      • Untouchables: "Here to Stay"
      • Take a Look in the Mirror: "Right Now"
      • See You on the Other Side: "Twisted Transistor"
      • The Path of Totality: "Chaos Lives in Everything"
    • My Bloody Valentine - Loveless: "Only Shallow".
    • A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms: "The Hollow".
    • Tears For Fears - Songs from the Big Chair: "Shout".
  • November 4, 2012
    StarSword
    • U2: "Sunday Bloody Sunday" from War is a subversion since it was the first track on the album, but the third to be released as a single.
  • November 4, 2012
    Folamh3
    • Aloe Blacc - Good Things: "I Need a Dollar".
  • November 4, 2012
    Crane
    @tardigrade: What? Yes, there are a lot of albums that don't have a single as the first track. There are usually ten or eleven songs per album, but there are only two or three singles (usually). The odds of a single being the first track should be pretty low, and yet the single often *is* the first track, especially in pop albums. Your post didn't make much sense.
  • November 4, 2012
    Folamh3
    I agree with Crane. Tartigrade's objection is irrelevant - even if most albums don't have the first track as the single, that doesn't mean it's not a trope. Tropes are not predicated on being the norm, they are predicated on existing in the first place.
  • November 4, 2012
    Folamh3
    Also, if you're listing examples alphabetically by artist, the usual convention is to list by the artist's surname.
  • November 4, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    "Usually"? That's a bold claim. "Often" unless you have some stats. Not sure this is a trope though. Next up: magazines often print references to their most high-profile articles on the cover!

    I would guess that this is an example of correlation but explicitly not causation: similar motivations factor into both choosing which songs to "market" as singles, and the arrangement of tracks on an album. That is, A causes B and C, rather than B causes C or vice versa. Coincidences are not tropes.

    Meaning? Especially a meaning that doesn't involve divination of intention?
  • November 5, 2012
    tardigrade
    @Crane: OK, so your claim is that the first track is a single more often than one would expect by chance. I'm not arguing that this is not true, I'm merely saying that it's not obviously true, to me. The proper way of demonstrating that it is true is not to list hundreds of examples (because we would expect *thousands* of examples to arise by chance alone), but rather to generate a random sample (perhaps only a few tens of albums, depending upon how strong you believe this effect to be) and see if there is a significant first-track effect.

    @Folamh3: Yes, I understand the difference between tropes and norms. The majority of first tracks might not be singles, and yet there could still be a statistical effect whereby first tracks are more likely to be singles. My point is that some first tracks are expected to be singles by chance alone, it is not clear to me that there is a real first-track effect, and that the present method of simply listing positive examples is not at all convincing. To draw an analogy, "People Sit On Chairs" is not a trope. "Women Sit On Chairs" is not a trope, irrespective of how many examples we can come up with of women sitting on chairs across a variety of media, unless we can show that there's a tendency for women rather than men to be sitting on chairs.
  • November 6, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    tardigrade wants to see a chi-squared test showing a statistically significant tendency for first tracks to be singles :) ... but even if that's true, it's not a trope. It's just something that happens.
  • November 7, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^ It does seem to be the case that this happens more with certain bands (probably moreso in the "pop" or "mainstream" realm) than with others. Almost all albums by the Eagles, and many by the Rolling Stones, have first-track singles, and most of these are probably also the most well-known single on the album.

    The trope title does seem to suggest, by using the wording "the single", that the troper may have been thinking "the most popular/well-known single"--can't speak for the troper of course, but that distinction may be more tropeworthy (as it was more likely a deliberate act) than the first track happening to be one (of a couple or few) singles that come from that album, but not the most well-known one. In which case I'd have to cut a few examples I've contributed, but not most of them.

  • November 7, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    ^^^^ The "...unless we can show..." clause of that last sentence is false. That is still not a trope. Tropes (according to the definition we're using, which is a little different than the dictionary) are not just patterns; they are fiction-writing conventions / devices. Common or rare, tendency or not, there would have to be a storytelling reason for that to happen.

    How often it's true that the first track is the single is not relevant. The relevant question is: What does it mean?

    Going out on a limb: nothing.
  • November 9, 2012
    dvorak
    baby I know... Um, I mean bump
  • November 9, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Motion to discard.
  • November 24, 2012
    Crane
    This *is* a device, though; it's used to introduce people to the album. It's not just a coincidence.

    And @We Are All Kosh, the 'the' can be removed or changed, I just thought it flowed better written that way.

    I'm kind of surprised at how heated this debate is getting.
  • November 24, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    The debate is not heated, nobody has commented for two weeks :P

    That is, in fact, coincidence. There is no deductive connection between the two observations: the "single" introduces listeners to an album, and the first song on the album introduces listeners to an album. Are you saying that for every single example listed above, there is a causal relationship between these two facts? The description lists two other possible reasons, and that's a false dilemma, I can think of a dozen others off the top of my head. When something is done for this reason, except when it's that reason, and sometimes it's this other thing, and sometimes that, or this, or that... it's not a trope.

    This is chairs.
  • November 24, 2012
    timo5978
    • Daft Punk, with One more Time from their album Discovery.
    • Lana Del Ray's Born To Die was released as a single from her album Born To Die. Coincidence? I think NOT!
  • January 1, 2013
    chihuahua0
    Personally, I think it's a conscious choice to have the first song of the album be the single. It's logical to me.

    This is not chairs; it's a trend that the arrangers of an album have in mind.

    But perhaps we should limit this to lead singles or at least singles released before the actual album, since that suggests a conscious choice.

    Also, I think a sister trope would be when the lead single is the second track on the album, since I notice this with a few albums (Pink's The Truth About Love, Kesha's Warrior, Karmin's Hello EP, GOOD Music's Cruel Summer, Calvin Harris' 18 Months, Rihanna's Unapologetic, Florence And The Machine's Ceremonials, and so on). The reasoning for this would be that the listeners would be treated to some new musics and a deliberate opening track before being treated to something familiar.
  • January 1, 2013
    Specialist290
    ^ Along the same lines as what he's saying, I'm guessing that the train of thought of a lot of musicians and producers is: "Put the best stuff at the beginning to sell the album, then push all that Album Filler crap to the back where it won't get in the way, because no one ever listens to a whole album anyway." Which would make this a trope, as it's being done for a specific reason.
  • January 1, 2013
    chihuahua0
    So should we divide this into types.

    Another factor is whatever we should only count examples where the opening single is released before the album or not. For example, Lady Gaga's The Fame opens with "Just Dance", a lead single released beforehand'. In contrast, the album Born This Way opens with "Marry the Night" which is actually the last single, so in that case, the intention was different.

    So perhaps we should only count singles released before the album, with a subtype concerning a single being second, and then the Title Track being the opener as a Sister Trope.
  • January 1, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Being "a trend that the arrangers of an album have in mind" does not make it a trope, and "this is chairs" does not mean "this is not a pattern".
  • January 1, 2013
    chihuahua0
    It's not just a pattern; it's an intentional pattern with a purpose. It's a meaningful device used by the arrangers of an album with the purpose of the work's first impression being a familiar song, or at least track designed to not be Filler and instead be the opposite.

    People Sit On Chairs, as defined by the page, is a thing that doesn't convey any meaning, and happens normally or incidentally. The release of a single doesn't happen incidentally, and the choice to pick a single as the opening track is meaningful. The intention is to induce a reaction of familiarly to the listener.

    The choice of having a single being the opening track is meaningful, therefore it can't be chairs.

    I would say that this YKKTW is related to another trope that hasn't been categorized yet: when a relatively soft song is the closing track. That is also meaningful, with the intended effect of ending an album on a more subdued note, the larger-scale inverse of the Last Note Nightmare.

    It's a Production Trope and a Beginning Trope.

    A compromise we can do is to only count cases where a single is released before an album, because if such a single is release after the album is dropped, it instead suggests that the song became a single because it was the opening track, and that's something else entirely.
  • January 1, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    "The release of a single" and "the choice to pick a single as the opening track" are only coincidentally connected. They are two ways of making a particular song on an album prominent. This is somewhat like suggesting that The Movie adaptation having the same name as the book is a trope.
  • January 1, 2013
    chihuahua0
    It isn't a coincidental connection. In most cases, you can't choose a single as the opening track without some intention and purpose to have an effect on the listener.

    Think of it from the perspective of the people putting together an album. Why would they have the single already out on radio be the opening track?

    Also, your analogy is an irrelevant situation, since singles and albums have a completely different relationship than adaptations.
  • January 1, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    How is intention supposed to be determined? Without Word Of God, that is difficult or impossible.

    If you think the analogy is irrelevant, you don't get it.
  • January 3, 2013
    MetaFour
    Back in the days of releasing albums on vinyl records, there was a very good reason for putting the hit song as the first track. Basically, the songs start at the outer edge of the record and go inward--so as the record progresses, the rotation speed holds constant, while the circumference shrinks. So the music on the outermost edge of the record is encoded in a higher bit rate (or at least, the analogue equivalent of bit rate) than music towards the center of the disc. Thus, for musicians and producers, the default track listing was to put the best songs at the beginning of a side (where they'll benefit from the increased sound quality) and the weakest songs at the end. And--unless the musician is radio-unfriendly and knows it--their "best songs" are also the ones most likely to get promoted as singles.
  • January 6, 2013
    chihuahua0
    BUMP.

    Any objections to Meta Four's explanation (which can be compressed for the description or used on the Analysis page)?
  • January 6, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    "And [...] their 'best songs' are also the ones most likely to get promoted as singles."

    Vinyl records having increased sound quality at larger circumference is not a trope. That is interesting but incidental.
  • January 6, 2013
    chihuahua0
    Yet that's only one part of the larger whole. Producers and musicians took this technical aspect into consideration, and despite it no longer being relevant, the practice still carries over to CDs and digital, proving that it's deliberate and a meaningful choice.
  • January 6, 2013
    rodneyAnonymous
    Perhaps that is forgotten and there are other reasons for the choice that persist and it proves nothing.

    Many deliberate and meaningful choices are not tropeworhty. That is necessary but not sufficient.

    The two-sentence description gives two completely different reasons that the first track on the studio album might be the first track promoted to radio stations. "It's because of this, or that, except this, and sometimes that other reason, or maybe nobody knows it's just like that" is not a trope. This is a list of trivia.
  • January 6, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    I think I have to agree with Rodney, in that there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to take note of this.
  • January 6, 2013
    Fighteer
    First, this is not true. I own a lot of albums and the first track is almost never the single. Second, due to the fact that it's not true all or even most of the time, it's not a pattern and therefore not a trope. Third, even if it were a pattern, it doesn't mean anything, and is therefore People Sit On Chairs.
  • January 7, 2013
    chihuahua0
    Okay. While it might be chairs, I'll still maintain it's a pattern, even if just in private, on the basis of Meta Four's explanation and my own music collection.

    So in closing, I would say that in a world where this is a trope, or something worthy of a page, Lady Gaga's The Fame would be a prime example, as all five singles are the first five track (with the lead single being first), followed by the promotional single and the title track. Few albums are this extreme, but I think this is a reflection of what other pop artists, like Music/{{Rihanna} and Britney Spears, have done with their lead singles multiple times.

    If anyone else wants undiscard this, feel free to.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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