"Elephant" is the fourth album by the American alternative rock band The White Stripes. Released on April 1, 2003 on V2 Records, the album marks the band's major label debut. Despite this change, Heather Phares of Allmusic believed the album "sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid, and stunning than its predecessor…Darker and more difficult than White Blood Cells." The record garnered much critical acclaim upon its release, and went on to win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 2004.
Elephant" is a strong, deep album showcasing Jack White at the top of his game. He rocks every guitar style that he tries including blues and slide guitar and even does a great job on a Burt Bacharach cover. It's just one more example of Detroit's enduring musical legacy.
Elephant was recorded in two weeks during 2002 in London's Toe Rag Studios. Jack White produced the album with antiquated equipment, including an eight-track tape machine and pre-1960s recording gear.
The album has been released with at least six different versions of the front cover—different covers for the CD and LP editions in the US, the UK and elsewhere. To give an example, on the US CD edition Meg White is sitting on the left of a circus travel trunk and Jack is sitting on the right holding a cricket bat over the ground, while on the UK CD edition the cricket bat touches the ground and the image is mirrored so that their positions on the amplifier are reversed. The cryptic symbolism of the album art includes a skull sitting on the floor in the background, as well as peanuts and peanut shells in the foreground, and on the circus travel trunk appears the mark "III," Jack White's signature. Jack White is also displaying a mano cornuta, while Meg White appears to be barefoot and crying, with a rope tied around her ankle and leading out of frame. Both have small white ribbons tied to their fingers.
In an interview with Q Magazine in 2007, Jack White said, "If you study the picture carefully, Meg and I are elephant ears in a head-on elephant. But it's a side view of an elephant, too, with the tusks leading off either side." He went on to say, "I wanted people to be staring at this album cover and then maybe two years later, having stared at it for the 500th time, to say, 'Hey, it's an elephant!'"
The White Stripes were gaining momentum with their previous three albums and were generally lauded in critical circles. Upon its release, critical response to this album was overwhelmingly positive, and many critics hailed it as the one of the defining events of the 2000s garage rock revival. Uncut magazine remarked that "Elephant is where the tabloid phenomenon of summer 2001 prove they are no flash in the pan by making a truly phenomenal record." David Fricke (with Rolling Stone) called it "a work of pulverizing perfection," adding, "It will be one of the best things you hear all year." and Allmusic said the album "overflows with quality". Critics also commented on the development of the band. NME noted that "The eloquence, barbarism, tenderness and sweat-drenched vitality of Elephant make it the most fully-realised White Stripes album yet." PopMatters said the album cemented "their evolution from Blind Willie McTell cover band with a pop sensibility to full-fledged, honest-to-goodness rock 'n' roll gods." The album enjoys a metacritic rating of 92. Negative critique, though rare, was centered around the "gimmicks" that surround the music, most notably, the White Stripes' insistence on being called siblings. "So maybe it's time to drop the enigmatic charade," Lorraine Ali (with Newsweek) pleaded, although she concluded, "Elephant still sounds great."
The album debuted at number one in the United Kingdom and reached number six on the Billboard 200 in the US. The album won Grammys for Best Alternative Album and Best Rock Song ("Seven Nation Army"). In 2003, the album was ranked number 390 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was also placed thirty-ninth in Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Albums of all time. In December 2003, NME made it their Album of the Year. .