Why ‘Blue’ Is Joni Mitchell’s Greatest Album of All Time

Folk icon Joni Mitchell has penned so many incredible albums through the years. Hejira, Court And Spark, and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns are just a few of her very best. However, nothing will ever come close to her 1971 record Blue.

Videos by American Songwriter

So what is it about Blue that makes it Joni Mitchell’s best album of all time? To start, it isn’t just Mitchell’s best work; it’s one of the greatest folk albums of all time, period. And its quality comes down to a few different noteworthy elements.

The Beauty of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’

One reason why Blue is so legendary is that it is the prototypical singer/songwriter album of the 20th century. Nothing comes close; in many ways, it was the blueprint for future singer/songwriters and folk artists. And like many groundbreaking albums, it took a while to get any attention that would eventually catapult the album into cult classic status.

“Like all of my albums, ‘Blue’ came out of the chute with a whimper,” Mitchell said of the album in a 2021 interview. “It didn’t really take off until later. Now there’s a lot of fuss being made over it, but there wasn’t initially. The most feedback that I got was that I had gone too far and was exposing too much of myself.”

The irony of that criticism is that Blue’s incredible vulnerability is what makes it so good. But according to Mitchell, it was too new and too scary for her contemporaries; mainly male contemporaries, to be specific. Blue immortalized Mitchell’s toughest relationships, which were marred by drug addiction, alcohol dependence, betrayal, and heartbreak.

“The initial response I got was critical, mostly from the male singer-songwriters,” she continued. “It was kind of like Dylan going electric. They were afraid. Is this contagious? Do we all have to get this honest now? That’s what the boys were telling me.”

[See Joni Mitchel Live At Hollywood Bowl In 2024]

Outside of the album’s vulnerability, honesty, and definitive status in the whole of the genre, Blue also featured Mitchell’s vocals at their absolute best. This album could be entirely acapella and still be groundbreaking. 

They don’t make them like Mitchell did anymore.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Leave a Reply

Behind the Meaning of “Red Dirt Girl” by Emmylou Harris


Country Artists Put New Spin on Beyoncé’s Classic Tracks, Including “Irreplaceable” and “Drunk in Love”