Popular music is known for its glorification of drug and alcohol usage. Throughout the decades, the two have been synonymous and there are countless albums that have been recorded to that effect. However, there are also other albums that show whether consciously or not, the horrors of drug addiction and just how dark addiction can truly be.
These music albums about addiction span musical genres and generations of musicians. Some of these music albums about addiction spell out perfectly what it means to wake up with an overwhelming compulsion to use substances, while others are simply testaments to what drugs can do to a person’s mind.
So with that said, let’s take a look at 15 music albums about addiction. Some of these music albums about addiction will be explicitly about the subject matter at hand, while others will be about sobriety, but the theme through them all is what drugs and alcohol can do to a person.
15 Music Albums About Addiction
Macklemore – ‘The VS Redux’
Starting off our list of music albums about addiction is one of the leading musicians who is using his celebrity status in order to increase the visibility of opiate addiction in this country. On his The VS. EP, Macklemore openly talks about addiction and his song “The Otherside” is a harrowing recount of what it is like to be addicted to pills. Using the rhythm and music from the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song of the same title, Macklemore tells us what addiction means to him with clarity and sobriety.
Grandmaster Flash – ‘White Lines’ (Don’t Don’t Do it)
This song, by one of the progenitors of hip-hop, was initially about glorifying cocaine usage, but the message and title were toned down before release in order to appease the general public. When coupled with the song ‘The Message’ the two paint a picture of urban crack addiction, unlike any other.
This album was recorded after Eminem finally got sober and throughout it, he takes an unflinching look at what his addiction did to his life and what recovery means to him. It is at times inspiring and other times sad, but in the end, it is quintessentially Eminem.
David Bowie – ‘Heroes’
While not technically an album about addiction, this album was recorded in Berlin during a time when David Bowie was attempting to kick his cocaine addiction. The pain and confusion is palpable on the album and the songs are a testament to what drugs can do to a person’s psyche.
The Velvet Underground – ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’
Just about any Velvet Underground album could have made this list, but this particular album features their famous song, ‘Heroin.’ While the song actually attempts to glorify the drug, doing so is almost impossible, and anyone who has ever listened to it finds it difficult to not have their skin crawl through Lou Reed’s verses.
Elliott Smith – ‘Either/Or’
Elliott Smith is one of the most underrated artists of the past 25 years and this album serves as the beginning of the end for him. The album is a window into Smith’s mind and the addiction that would eventually aid in claiming his life.
Syd Barrett – ‘Madcap Laughs’
Possibly the strangest album on this list, Syd Barrett’s first solo album after leaving Pink Floyd, is a public service announcement on why drugs are inherently bad. It is essentially an album dripping with madness and while in some ways it is brilliant, in others it is horrifying.
The Verve- ‘Urban Hymns’
This album is The Verve’s most famous album to date and it features their single ‘The Drugs Don’t Work.’ It is an autobiographical account of lead singer Richard Ashcroft’s own battle with drugs.
Iggy Pop- ‘Kill City’
This album is almost unlistenable due to Iggy Pop’s drug usage during its recording. It, like other albums on this list, are evidence of what drugs can do to brilliant and talented people, and it shows that rock n’ roll and drugs do not always go together.
Third Eye Blind- ‘Third Eye Blind’
Most people would probably not think about drug addiction when they hear the name Third Eye Blind, but the song ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ is actually about descent into Crystal Meth addiction.
Lil Wayne- ‘The Drought Is Over Part 2 (Tha Carter 3 Sessions)’
Lil Wayne is famous for his drug addled rhymes, but this mix-tape featured a very personal song by Wayne titled, ‘I Feel Like Dying.’ With lyrics like, “Only once the drugs are done, that I feel like dying” expose just what being addicted to drugs is like.
While not really an album about addiction, it does feature the song ‘Sober,’ which P!nk stated is not explicitly about alcohol or drugs, but rather the vices we choice in order to escape ourselves. It is about anything that a person does in order to get out of the themselves, which is the basis of addiction.
Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’
For most of Buckley’s career, he avoided the pitfalls of drug and alcohol abuse, but towards the end of his short and productive life, he fell to temptation. This album is Buckley’s most famous, featuring songs like ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Grace’ and it is evident in the music that Buckley was struggling.
Neil Young- ‘Harvest’
Many of Neil Young’s albums could have made this list, but ‘Harvest’ made the cut because it contains the song ‘The Needle and the Damage Done,’ which is about heroin usage and what it does to a person. Young’s voice is haunting during this track and anyone who gives it a listen will be made completely aware of just why heroin is a terrible drug.
James Taylor – ‘Sweet Baby James’
Even though James Taylor’s songs are unassuming and mostly upbeat, he himself had a terrible run with addiction. This particular album has the song ‘Fire and Rain’ which addresses drug addiction, hospitalization, and suicide. It is one of Taylor’s most famous songs and it is also one of his most personal.