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Have any significant musical epics been created from the year 2000 forward? By "epic" I mean the literary term, as in a long narrative.

I'm interested in a song, multiple songs, album or band/artist with an actual plot-based narrative as well as the music that accompanies it, such as the concept albums by the band The Dear Hunter.

Thanks!

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  • What do you consider "relatively modern"?
    – Joachim
    May 5, 2021 at 6:16
  • By "relatively modern" I mean from the 21st century. 2000-2021 May 5, 2021 at 9:52
  • Are you looking only for self-contained songs or albums, or would you include long stories spread across multiple releases (possibly containing unrelated material too) such as R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet?
    – gidds
    Jul 17, 2023 at 19:22

3 Answers 3

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There's a lot of music out there, but in terms of sticking to well-known musicians, a few come to mind: All the albums for both the Dutch progresive rock band Ayreon and the American neo-soul/hip-hop auteur Janelle Monae are fitted loosely into epic science-fiction narrative continuities. The plot for Ayreon's projects is more well-defined, and deals with a future apocalypse, and the attempt to salvage scraps of humanity through time-travel. Monae's continuity also deals with time-travel, and revolves around the efforts of rebel android/cyborg Cyndi Mayweather to find love, while fighting to free her people from being enslaved by human beings. The most recent of her albums, Dirty Computer, was accompanied by an actual SF film linking the song's music videos into a unified plotline. Ayreon began in the 90s, but continues through today, whereas Monae's solo debut was 2007. A similarly SF-themed narrative can be found in the work of the concept-based "virtual band" Gorillaz, whose entire decades-spanning ouevre can be viewed as the extension of the original conceit.

At a more realist level, the work of indie rock bands Fountains of Wayne and Arcade Fire can be seen as depicting extended storylines about large casts of characters in well-defined suburban milieus.

In terms of single albums, concept albums continue to be made with unified overarching narrative storylines. A notable recent one was American hip-hop collective the Roots' Undun (2011), which depicts the last day in a young man's life in reverse order (it was inspired by the 1999 Prince Paul album A Prince Among Thieves, which has a similar concept).

Pop-music powerhouse Beyonce has also dropped multiple "visual albums," which, like Monae's Dirty Computer, weave together an album's worth of music videos into a single plotline. These include Lemonade, her powerful exploration of the emotional fallout of her husband's affair (Jay-Z's 4:44 was the "he said" side of the conversation), and Black is King, a loose retelling of the narrative of the movie The Lion King with human protagonists.

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Dream Theater - The Astonishing is one of many concept albums the band has released. Many "Prog Metal" acts have done a few concept albums, from Fates Warning - A Pleasant Shade Of Gray to Vanden Plas - Christ 0 to Haken - Aquarius all contain complex music and lyrics woven into stories, usually with some sort of Sci-Fi twist.

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  • The others are all good candidates, but Pleasant Shade of Gray (1997) is outside the OP's timeframe. Time flies, doesn't it? :D May 14, 2021 at 14:41
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Some concept albums from the metal genre which might fit the description:

Judas Priest - Nostradamus (2008) Double album based on the life and prophecies of the 16th century seer Michel de Nostredame, "Nostradamus".

Within Temptation - The Unforgiving (2011) There were movies, comic books and the music all released around the same time, all telling some manner of female protagonist urban good vs evil story.

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