Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
In late 1980, after nearly a year on the road with Fleetwood Mac as they played more than 100 shows worldwide in support of Tusk, the enigmatic Stevie Nicks found herself navigating a career crossroads, craving more autonomy and eager to nurture her own identity, independent of the band. “I wanted to make sure that I could still exist alone without Fleetwood Mac and without the entourage and without everything that went along with being in a very big rock and roll band,” Nicks admitted during a 1981 interview with New York radio station WLIR. “And after six or seven years of that, you don't really know anymore until you actually try to so something alone. So I saw some time coming up that I was going to be free enough to actually pick out the songs and do it, and I did it to prove to myself that I could still exist alone.”
Among the handful of thematic threads present across her auspicious 1981 solo debut Bella Donna, two emerge as the most pervasive and ultimately define the album’s emotional weight and empowered tone. First, Nicks examines the vicissitudes of fame under the rock and roll spotlight, and more specifically, the daunting task of embracing professional ambition while trying to preserve personal relationships. Second, she asserts her independence beyond the restrictive confines of her male-dominated band, her past relationships, and more broadly, our patriarchal society as a whole.
Beyond the imperative singles “Edge of Seventeen,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with Tom Petty) and “Leather and Lace” (with Don Henley), Nicks excels on the more introspective fare including “After the Glitter Fades,” “The Highwayman,” and the title track.
While it wouldn’t be long until she was back in the studio with her Mac bandmates to record Mirage (1982), Bella Donna proved that Nicks’ ability to inspire wasn’t confined to the collective and she possessed a unique voice all her own.