The sophomore jinx that didn't happen

The cliche is that a band or performer that had a huge hit with their first album will crash and burn with their second. This thread is for exceptions to that. I’ll mention two.

The Beastie Boys. Their first album was a huge hit. They followed it up with Paul’s Boutique which was not as radio friendly but was in my opinion their best album.

Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their first album had Free Bird and many of their radio favorites. Their second album had their biggest hit (Sweet Home Alabama) and a bunch of their best songs. I like it better than their first.

Your choices can be for a second album that is either bigger in popularity or just better in your opinion.

Their first album has to have been a monster hit.

They had to have been pretty much unknown before their first album.

Albums only not hit singles.

Santana’s first album hit #4 on the album charts and went 2x platinum.

Their followup, Abraxas, hit number one and went 5X platinum.

Boston’s second album, “Don’t Look Back” was bigger than their first.

The Cars second album, “Candy-O” was too.

Most bands who have a hit with their first album will have a dud with their second, true. But then, it’s also true that most bands who have a dud with their first album will also have a dud with their second (if they even have a second). This is called “reversion to the mean”: Whenever you have something extraordinary (in any way), the next one is likely to be less extraordinary. Which sounds a lot less mysterious when you phrase it the other way around: Something extraordinary is probably more extraordinary than whatever comes after.

How about Oasis? Their first album, Definitely Maybe, sold over two million copies in the UK and over one million in the US. But the second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, sold over four million copies in the UK and sold more worldwide than the first album.

Van Halen peaked at #19 on Billboard. Van Halen II peaked at #6, though as near as I can tell Van Halen has sold many more copies over the intervening years.

By what measure? Dollars, charts? Because the first LPs were played all over the radio, almost all the tracks, and still are, and the second is a comparative dud in both cases.

Artistically they never equaled the debut. I think the chart activity for the second LPs were a measure of how much the pump was primed and people were waiting for the second, because of the first.

You want to talk Boston bands? Aerosmith got progressively better for the first 4 LPs.

So most second LPs are duds? OK.

But it’s also a natural occurrence for a band to grow into their job and improve, cause it’s a craft and an art form. Depends on who we are talking about.

Madonna, the first album by Madonna, was a hit, but Like a Virgin just blew up.
Duran Duran is another example from the '80’s. Duran Duran hit, but Rio was what really made them a household name.

Late Registration, Kanye West
Take Care, Drake (if you only count his LPs)

With the Beatles :slight_smile:

According to Wikipedia, Adele’s first album, 19, sold 7 million copies worldwide, including 2.3 million in her native UK and 2.7 million in the US. It went to #1 in the UK and #4 in the US.

Three years later her second album, 21, sold 31 million copies worldwide (4.9 million in the UK, 11.7 million in the US), and went to #1 in the UK, US, and at least eight other countries. It’s one of the best-selling albums of all time, ahead of Abbey Road and Born in the USA, and looks to be by FAR the biggest selling album released after the year 2000.

Last year Adele’s third album 25 also went to #1 in 10 countries including the UK and US, and although it hasn’t sold as well as 21 it’s still been a huge hit (20 million copies worldwide) and outsold her first album by a large margin.

As are most first LPs, and thirds, and fourths. A band has to be awfully lucky to get even one hit.

Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut is a great album but Paranoid is perfect.

Blue Öyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation is arguably better than their debut.

I thought The Bronx’s 1st album was a solid piece of punk rock but their 2nd album knocked that shit right outta the park: nothing but home runs on that album.

That covers my “B’s”.

Nirvana works if you take Nevermind as their major debut. I know it was their second album, but it was kinda their premiere. I think In Utero was an amazing follow up.

Facelift was big for Alice in Chains, but Dirt is their masterpiece.

Culture Club was the first band since the Beatles to have 3 top 10 singles on their debut album. Second album, Colour by numbers was even more popular.

If we’re putting aside quality and talking just about selling albums then Katy Perry.

I remember when “I Kissed a Girl” came out and I was sure Perry would end up being a one hit wonder. I figured there was no way the lightning would hit twice.

Then she released her second album two years later and it was a bigger hit than her first one. (Note: Like Perry herself, I’m pretended her 2001 Christian rock album doesn’t exist.)

X had four good albums to start their run and didn’t start to fail until 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand. Looks like some of us are considering from the first major label release, and X still makes the cut. That would be More Fun in the New World, their second album for Electra.

Soundgarden had a minor label release, then cut Louder Than Love on A&M, which isn’t as good as the first. They didn’t get wide airplay until their third album, Badmotorfinger (Rusty Cage, Outshined). So depending on how you’re counting, they either had the sophomore slump or found success with their second (major label) album.

Matt Pike’s post-Sleep band, High on Fire, followed up their debut, The Art of Self Defence, with Surrounded by Thieves, a critic’s and fan favorite. Personally, I like Death is This Communion most.

Electric Wizard’s first three albums were more than solid, although their peak was their third, Dopethrone.

Radiohead had a hit with Creep off Pablo Honey, but most fans would pick their second album, The Bends, as better than their first.

Speaking of fan favorites, Weezer’s Pinkerton gave them something to fixate on. Personally, I still prefer the debut. Record company executives probably did too.


But also, what can happen is that a band “uses up” all its best material on its debut album (especially if they’ve been around awhile before recording and releasing that debut), and then the followup is relatively hastily thrown together.