Best White Stripes Albums Ranked From Good to Great

Our list of all six White Stripes Albums ranked, including lists of standout tracks so you know where to start with each one.
Featured image for White Stripes Albums Ranked, featuring the band performing onstage

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In this article, we’ll present all six White Stripes albums ranked in order of excellence. But first, let’s establish a bit of context.

Before Jack White launched a solo career and his own record studio, Third Man Records, there was the White Stripes. The enigmatic Detroit duo released six iconic studio albums that brought garage rock into the mainstream. 

Jack worked on many side projects during his tenure with the White Stripes. There was that single with Loretta Lynn, and he has two other rock bands, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Yet, his finest work will likely always be the music he made with ex-wife Meg White. 

In this article, we’ll walk through each of these great records and offer some suggestions of the essential White Stripes songs on each one.

Best White Stripes Albums Ranked

Cover of Get Behind Me Satan by the White Stripes

6. Get Behind Me Satan (2005)

Though a clear departure from their usual fare, Get Behind Me Satan is a stellar example of piano-driven rock.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Get Behind Me Satan will likely give the wrong impression about what they’re all about. That is not to say the album is not great, because it is. Yet, with its emphasis on keyboards, it is certainly a bit of a departure from the aggressive guitar attack characteristic of the band.

Still, two of the album’s best tunes, My Doorbell and The Denial Twist, are classics of piano-driven rock.

A lot of people get confused,
And they bruise real easy
When it comes to love

The Denial Twist

But it’s not all keyboards for Jack. In fact, the album opener, Blue Orchid, features a chunky guitar riff with octave-blending effects and has become a classic White Stripes song.

Ultimately, Get Behind Me Satan lacks some of the hallmarks of the stronger White Stripes albums ranked here. But with this record the White Stripes prove that, no matter the instruments, they can create compelling rock music. In fact, Get Behind Me Satan was compelling enough to earn them the Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album.

Standout Tracks

  • Blue Orchid
  • My Doorbell
  • The Denial Twist
  • As Ugly as I Seem
Cover of the self-titled debut White Stripes album

5. The White Stripes (1999)

Unappreciated upon release, the White Stripes’ eponymous debut record portrays a creative and restless band on the cusp.

In 1999, the White Stripes released their self-titled debut album, a statement to an anemic recording industry. Unfortunately, nobody really heard it–not yet. Still, the first White Stripes album is the perfect opening salvo for a band that consistently defied all conventions.

The album is far from a masterpiece, but that wasn’t the point to begin with. It’s gritty, loud, and irreverent: all the characteristics that would eventually define the White Stripes.

Their take on the blues standard, Stop Breaking Down, shows the first signs of Jack White’s lifelong love for the blues.

Do is a slow burn, whose laid-back groove presages the vibe found on some later White Stripes albums.

So, does that mean that there’s no more doing
And there’s no more thinking
And there’s no more feeling
‘Cause there’s no right opinion
So, can you tell me what I’m supposed to do?

Do

The White Stripes isn’t an easy listen, by any means. But that fits perfectly with Jack’s philosophy of making things harder intentionally to get to the heart of creativity.

Standout Tracks

  • Stop Breaking Down
  • Wasting My Time
  • Do
  • Screwdriver
  • One More Cup of Coffee
Cover of White Blood Cells

4. White Blood Cells (2001)

A fan favorite, White Blood Cells was the album that catapulted the White Stripes into the mainstream.

We’re only two albums in, and the idea of ranking the best White Stripes albums is already becoming a challenge. In fact, many die-hard “Candy Cane Children” will scoff at my placement of White Blood Cells, the album that brought the White Stripes commercial success on a massive scale.

In fact, the first four tracks on White Blood Cells are masterpieces, each with its own very distinct sound.

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground remains one of the band’s greatest achievements. From the opening peal of feedback to the Nashville-tinged verse riff, the song has everything any White Stripes fan loves.

Hotel Yorba, on the other hand, is a kind of acoustic folk shuffle, while I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman combines Jack’s fuzzy guitar riff with his keyboard skills (both piano and organ).But it was Fell in Love with a Girl that skyrocketed the White Stripes to stardom. The song is a straightforward punk rocker, complete with driving barre chords and yelped vocals. And Meg’s caveman-like drumming provides the frenetic energy that propels the single forward.

Can’t think of anything to do
My left brain knows that our love is fleeting
She’s just looking for something new
Well, I said it once before, but it bears repeating now

Fell in Love With a Girl

There are plenty of other great jams on the album, too. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known and the fan favorite We’re Going to Be Friends are among the standouts.

Yet, the only thing keeping the album from a higher ranking in my list of best White Stripes albums is that the second half just doesn’t quite keep up with the blistering first half. The three best White Stripes albums that follow, though, are more complete efforts.

Standout Tracks

  • Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
  • Hotel Yorba
  • I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman
  • Fell in Love with a Girl
  • Little Room
  • The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
  • We’re Going to Be Friends
Cover of De Stijl

3. De Stijl (2000)

De Stijl is a clever and innovative love letter to the blues.

I’ll just say it: De Stijl is my favorite White Stripes album. More than any of their other records, De Stijl brings together punk and the blues in clever and accessible ways. 

You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl) was a minor hit for the duo and remains a fan favorite, but the really great stuff starts after this album opener.

Things really pick up when the focus turns to the blues. While there are great softer tracks like Apple Blossom and I’m Bound to Pack It Up, De Stijl‘s greatness comes from the fiery garage-punk blues of Hello Operator, Little Bird, and the Son House classic Death Letter.

I got a letter this morning,
What do ya reckon it read?

Death Letter

Most importantly, De Stijl was the album that saw Jack White marrying the band’s brash sound to great songwriting and hooky riffs. Essentially, on their sophomore album, the White Stripes found the formula that would produce several of the greatest albums of the decade.

Standout Tracks

  • You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)
  • Hello Operator
  • Little Bird
  • Apple Blossom
  • I’m Bound to Pack It Up
  • Death Letter
  • Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise
  • Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?
Album cover: Icky Thump by the White Stripes

2. Icky Thump (2007)

Icky Thump, the final studio release from the White Stripes, sees the band going out with a bang…or, perhaps a thump.

It’s hard not to throw the word “masterpiece” around when it comes to these last two, the absolute best White Stripes albums. And the band’s final album, Icky Thump easily fits the bill. Somehow, Jack and Meg managed to create a record that showcases their trademark sound while still pushing forward creatively. 

The opening title cut sets the tone with one of Jack’s most memorable riffs and a white-hot solo featuring his familiar pitch-shifting Whammy pedal. Icky Thump is also one of the band’s most intriguing lyrical creations.

Well, Americans, what? Nothing better to do?
Why don’t you kick yourself out?
You’re an immigrant, too.
Who’s using who?
What should we do?
Well, you can’t be a pimp
And a prostitute too

Icky Thump

The next track, You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told), offers an excellent example of Jack’s knack for organ accompaniment. This keyboard-heavy sound will dominate the remainder of the record, especially on tunes like I’m Slowly Turning Into You and A Martyr for My Love for You.

But the crowning achievement of Icky Thump comes early in the album with 300 M.P.H Torrential Outpour Blues. In fact, it might just be the best White Stripes song overall. Meg alternates between a bass-snare combo for the verses and her characteristic crashing symbols throughout the chorus. Meanwhile, Jack lays down a delicate blues riff backed by a subtle keyboard line before launching into a searing, Whammy-heavy solo. And that’s just the first half of this instant classic.

I could have easily dubbed Icky Thump the best White Stripes album, but there’s one other release that ultimately won out.

Standout Tracks

  • Icky Thump
  • You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)
  • 300 M.P.H Torrential Outpour Blues
  • Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn
  • Rag and Bone
  • I’m Slowly Turning Into You
  • A Martyr for My Love for You
  • Catch Hell Blues
  • Effect and Cause
Cover of Elephant, White Stripes album

1. Elephant (2003)

Elephant, the band’s magnum opus, is just as big as the album’s title suggests.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find 2003’s Elephant at the top of this list of the best White Stripes albums ranked. The record is beloved by fans and critics alike, and it cemented the White Stripes as one of the most vital rock bands of the 2000s.

This masterpiece of alternative rock kicks off with the White Stripes’s most ubiquitous song, Seven Nation Army. Jack White composed the now-iconic riff in an attempt to create a James Bond theme, in the event that he was ever asked to write one. Instead, he turned the riff into a song that is synonymous with the band and can be heard at sports events worldwide. The dizzying music video for the track was innovative, as well, and has been viewed nearly 300 million times on YouTube.

And that’s just the beginning. On Elephant, Meg and Jack crash and shred their way through 14 thrilling tracks, each unique while contributing to the overall aesthetic and tone of the album.

Aggressive rockers like Black Math, The Hardest Button to Button, Little Acorns, Hypnotize, and Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine drive the album forward and became staples of White Stripes shows.

But the duo found room for some more tender tracks like I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart, You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket, and the rare lead vocal performance from Meg on In the Cold, Cold Night.

Of course, no White Stripes album would be complete without a blues jam, and they deliver with one of the best in the band’s catalog: Ball and Biscuit.

Let’s have a ball and a biscuit, Sugar
And take our sweet little time about it

Ball and Biscuit

Since there’s not the space to go through this exemplary album track-by-track, and in the interest of sparing you the boredom of repeating how great this iconic record is, I’ll leave it here. Besides, there’s no sense in trying to speak for the White Stripes; they have their own unique (and loud) voice to tell you all about it.

Standout Tracks

  • Seven Nation Army
  • Black Math
  • I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself
  • In the Cold, Cold Night
  • I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart
  • Ball and Biscuit
  • The Hardest Button to Button
  • Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine

Best White Stripes Albums Ranked – Standout Tracks Playlist

Well, now that you’ve made it through our entire list of the best White Stripes albums ranked according to their greatness, it’s time to start listening! Check out the playlist below that contains all the standout tracks we’ve called out in the article. Enjoy!

Featured Image Credit:The White Stripes at the 2007 O2 Wireless Festival Fabio VenniCC BY-SA 2.0