From Marvin Gaye to Radiohead: Favorite Albums Across Milken


Kylee Harel

A collage of “What’s Goin On,” and “Ok Computer.”

“I think the music reflects the state that society’s in. It doesn’t suggest the state. I think poets, musicians, artists, or whatever they are of the age, not only do they lead that age on but they reflect the age. And I think that’s what the pop music is doing – it’s mainly reflecting.” – John Lennon. 

Someone’s favorite album says a lot about them. Not only does it share what a person thinks is a perfect album with no skips, but it also defines them as a person, and comes with waves of nostalgia. With the Milken 2022-23 school year starting, I am on a mission to better understand and relate to my community through their perfect albums. I want to find out what their favorite albums are, how they interpret them, and if these albums match my expectations.

Eli Mankoff ‘24 posing with his favorite album, “What’s Going On.” (Kylee Harel)

Junior Eli Mankoff’s favorite album is What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, released in 1971. To him, it is extremely important that a 10/10 album fits and is adaptable to all moods. For Mankoff, not only does What’s Going On fit his every mood, it’s also something he never gets sick of listening to. Whether he is doing a puzzle or driving in his car, Mankoff always knows he can put on some Marvin Gaye. He expanded on his love for this album by sharing how he appreciates “the complexity of each song, like the depth of each song, along with the diversity.” Every song on this album has compound lyrics that shed light on compelling issues society faces. This is why Mankoff knows that What’s Going On is a reliable album; he can always turn to it for hypnotic music. 

Eli Mankoff ‘24 chose to listen to “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, even when presented with other albums. (Photo taken and altered by Kylee Harel.)

The song that sticks out to him the most on the album is “Save The Children.” This song talks a lot about the prominent cultural issues of the ‘70s and is accompanied by a fun beat and silky voice. Mankoff shared how this song “instills hope in a generation for change.” The song opens up with profound lyrics that ask humanity a daunting question: “I just want to ask a question:/ Who really cares, to save a world in despair?” The fact that the song addresses the audience is a unique call to action that has a lasting effect on the listener. “Save The Children” shares the importance of focusing on the urge to change our ways for the children who will suffer if we don’t. When the song was written, this message applied to the Vietnam War and other issues of the ‘70s, yet the song’s message is just as apparent today as it was back then. In modern times, many can relate this album to issues of climate change and global warming. Overall, it is very clear that this song’s catchy melody has thought-provoking lyrics that linger. 

What’s Going On not only reflects the state of the world but also provides Mankoff with emotions of nostalgia. Though he can’t remember the first time he heard the song, he does have a distinct memory of the album. Recently, Mankoff had covid, and this album was on repeat. While he was sick, he shared how he “listened to this album many times throughout my journey of finishing this puzzle,” that he did to pass the time. Making it apparent how good music lifts us up in times when we may not feel like the best versions of ourselves. Mankoff could have chosen any song or album to listen to while sick but he stuck with What’s Going On because it helped ease the negative feelings that arise when one feels sick, and not like their best self.

The puzzle Mankoff worked on while listening to the album. (Eli Mankoff ‘24)

After giving this album a listen, I couldn’t agree more with Mankoff’s opinions. This is the beauty of complex music, and perhaps music in general, because in a sense, it shapes our worldviews, shares emotions with us, and takes us through a journey of feeling understood by the end of the project. With that being said, I rate this album a solid 8/10. It took a couple of listens for me to truly appreciate the album because I am not a huge fan of R&B and soul music. However, after my second listen, I started to have a new regard for this album and I started to understand why Mankoff is so fond of it. The songs “What’s Happening Brother” and “Mercy Mercy (The Ecology)” stood out to me the most, due to their fun beat and fascinating lyrics that stuck with me for a while after my listening. What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye has a groovy vibe and profound messages about the world that make listening to it enjoyable. Although I may not listen to this album as much as Mankoff does, I urge everyone to listen to it at least once in their lives because it is one of those albums that truly have an impact.

Mr. Gallways poses with his favorite album, “Ok Computer.” (Shirah Azrad ’24)

Mr. Harrison Gallway’s favorite album is Ok Computer by Radiohead, released in 1997. According to Mr. Gallway, a 10/10 album is not only about “high-quality production and music,” but it should also have variety and an overarching narrative that “pulls the whole album together.” Mr. Gallway interprets this intricate album as “a futuristic society” filled with superficial wellness on the surface, yet deep down, Mr. Gallway says there is “a lack of meaning and fulfillment.” Everyone searches for meaning in life and this album reinforces the importance of deep fulfillment. He goes on to say how it’s important “to be wary of things that might be nice on the surface level,” whether it be professional success or popularity because they “don’t necessarily give you a deep sense of fulfillment.”

Although Mr. Gallway’s favorite song on the album fluctuates, right now his favorite song is “Lucky”. The song’s vivid imagery reminds Mr. Gallway of someone who is addicted to gambling and wishes to overcome their addiction. The lyrics “I’m on a roll, this time/ I feel my luck could change,” really enforce this interpretation. Not only that, Mr. Gallway shared how he appreciates this song because it “ties together things with cool analogies and imagery that’s interesting.” “Pull me out of the air crash/ Pull me out of the lake/ ‘Cause I’m your superhero,” are some examples of how lyrically genius Radiohead is. The well-written lyrics help add to the narrative of the album’s story; proving how the album is not just song-based, the whole album is in itself a story. However, despite how hard the lyrics can be to decipher, it is relatable. “Lucky’s” narrative of a man who wishes to escape his gambling addiction and even compares it to an “air crash”, on a smaller scale, can be applied to our lives today. In life, there are obstacles that are not always easy to overcome, and this song recognizes it with some killer instrument work and soothing vocals. 

Yet, that’s not all. For Mr. Gallway, the album’s overall lyrical story also comes with stories from his past. He shared how this album grew on him because “it’s sort of those albums where particular songs bring you back to a situation vividly.” Initially, he heard of the album at the recommendation of a friend who really loved Radiohead. Back then, sharing music was a fun bonding experience for Mr. Gallway. This album was also very easy for him to instantly fall in love with, he shared how it’s “the most accessible Radiohead album.” Mr. Gallway says that Kid A, another Radiohead album, is “a lot more difficult to get used to” as some of the songs “sound a little discordant.” For Gallway, Ok Computer is one of the least daunting Radiohead albums and more of a crowd-pleaser. 

In particular, this album strongly reminds him of the end of high school and the beginning of college, when he first started listening to it. As Mr. Gallway drove to his first summer job, he listened to OK Computer. He even tried to learn “Lucky” on the guitar. These songs hold a special place in his heart because of these memories; so much so that he continues to listen to this album every couple of months. This album matured with him, which is evident when he shared how “almost every one of the songs has been my favorite song of the album during one time.”

Mr. Gallway taught his class how “Ok Computer” relates to physics. (Photo taken and altered by Kylee Harel)

In my opinion, Ok Computer is a great example of the perfect album. It takes you on an emotional journey, and is not just background music, because good music makes you think without realizing it. This album goes above and beyond with poetic lyrics and recognizable guitar and drum work, which is why it deserves a 10/10 rating. The paces of the songs vary and they amazingly all complement each other. There is a reason why Mr. Gallway’s favorite song on the album changes every song on this album sticks out. I recommend “Paranoid Android,” “Electioneering,” and “The Tourist.” I encourage everyone to listen to this influential album, as it is astounding.

After interviewing these people and listening to their songs, I have come to the conclusion that everyone’s favorite album is designed for them and their expectations. Yet, all of these differences make the bonding over music even more special. Everyone’s favorite album comes with personal stories, and may even influence their worldview; if we dig deeper to understand why someone likes a certain album then we get to learn more about our community on a deeper level.