Top Ten Thursday: The Sophomore Slump
The sophomore album. There is almost always exponentially more anticipation and expectations for a band or artist’s second album. We at LxL thought that those expectations would lead to a lot of massively disappointing second efforts. Interestingly enough, after a lot of research, we were pleased to discover that the sophomore album failure rate is really not all that high. Despite this welcome discovery, there were still enough clunkers to make a list of the most disappointing follow-up albums. Note that this list does not contain the worst all-time sophomore albums, but instead the albums that did not live up to the expectations brought on by a great or promising debut. As always, fill in the blanks with any albums we may have left off the list, or call us out for albums you think should not have been included. Enjoy!
10. Raekwon – Immobilarity
So your two best friends are RZA and Ghostface Killah, and you’ve just released your debut smash, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. What should you do next? I’ll tell you what you don’t do. You don’t bypass one of the greatest hip-hop producers since the genre’s genesis (RZA). You also don’t fail to utilize a rapper that fits snugly between Biggy and Jay-Z in the holy triumvirate of New York rappers (Ghostface). Fail.
9. Hot Hot Heat – Elevator
When Hot Hot Heat released their debut, Make Up the Breakdown, there was something intensely refreshing about a collection of bite-sized nuggets of post-punk, synthy pop. While the songs on Elevator still come in at barely over three minutes per, the catchy song-writing whown on Make Up was almost completely lost. It’s not surprising Hot Hot Heat fell off of everyone’s radar after this paltry sophomore effort.
8. Alanis Morisette – Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
I pushed the hardest for this album to be on the list, so I wanted to fully revisit to remind myself why I disliked it so much. I’m starting to think there are more deserving albums, and that maybe parts of Infatuation Junkie are quite good, and I was young enough when I got this album that I just wanted a repeat of Jagged Little Pill. I will say this in my defense. As good a pop song as “Thank U” may be, some of the lyrics are just so douchey (most notably “Thank you India”…don’t understand why she is thanking India, but on their behalf, I say “your welcome”). Also, “I Was Hoping” may have been a precursor to the sound of bands like Evanescence, which does not bode well for an album’s legacy.
7. The Stone Roses – Second Coming
After being partially responsible for pioneering the grungy noise-rock scene with their stunning debut in 1989, Stone roses returned 5 ½ years later with a jumbled mess of a band lineup, and had lost their bread and butter; innovative producer genius John Leckie. Instead of sticking with sounds derived from artists such as Hendrix, Television, and The Clash, they aimed toward the masses and mimicked contemporaries U2, Oasis, and Blur, resulting in a real pile of poo.
6. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder
I remember when Wes and I were going to the Langerado Music festival (R.I.P.) for spring break in 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were taking the indie scene by storm. The off-kilter pop songs on their self-titled debut were just what was needed to differentiate them from the crowd and gain success quickly. Unfortunately their sophomore effort barely registered a blip on the radar of musical relevance, and these indie darlings faded significantly.
5. Weezer – Pinkerton
This is certain to be the most controversial entry on the list, for reasons beyond the actual qualifications of this album for this list. But let’s just stick to the basics. For some reason or another, it has become extremely common for Weezer fans to make the absurd claim that Pinkerton is Weezer’s best album. The truth is that everything after The Blue Album sucks, and Pinkerton just sucks the least. Also, “I’m Tired of Sex” is just very unrealistic. No one is tired of sex, except prostitutes and really old people. Oh wait, if there is anyone that can be termed a whore to the music industry these day, its Rivers Cuomo….makes sense.
4. U2 – October
I am notorious for hating on U2, but also love early U2. October is not exactly a sophomore effort that makes us cringe, but makes the list more on the merits of being utterly forgettable. Besides “Gloria”, this is just an album full of songs that are not particularly bad, but just don’t necessitate revisiting for the most part. October really is just a “slump”, compared to some other albums on this list that are absolute nosedives.
3. Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg
After their self-titled 1970’s-metal-replicant debut, Wolfmother lays exactly what the title of their sophomore effort states: a cosmic egg. The sound is on Cosmic Egg is still roughly the same, just absolutely no fun and completely uninteresting. Much like the number one entry on our list, Wolfmother’s visitation of the past had a one-album shelf-life.
2. Puff Daddy – Forever
On Puff Daddy’s debut, No Way Out, he may have proved he was the biggest gangster in the game by stealing music from every decade to make a sample-heavy, hook-focused album. One has to wonder whether if Biggy would have never gotten murdered, if Puff Daddy might have maintained his more ebullient, care-free attitude and been the Scottie Pippen to Biggy’s Jordan. Instead, Puff takes himself to seriously on his follow-up Forever, and tries to handle a load that he is not equipped to handle in front of the microphone.
1. The Darkness – One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back
Much like Wolfmother, The Darkness successfully brought back to pop culture’s consciousness a classic sound on their debut, Permission to Land. The excess of Permission just didn’t translate to The Darkness second album though, making One Way Ticket to Hell exactly that, and to this day The Darkness has never made it…back?
Wes: Lauryn Hill – ????
The issue is not that Lauryn Hill’s sophomore album sucked. The issue is that Miss Lauryn became an abominable recluse following the release of her smash solo debut, and never released another album. How many years of undeniable talent are going to be wasted while Lauryn holes up and hates the white man.
Todd: Ma$e – Double Up
Todd was so attached to Ma$e’s debut, Harlem World, because he though Ma$e was propagating the small, partly-Amish community of Harlan, Indiana, which is very close to Todd’s childhood home. Todd has mad respect for Amish and always imagined himself marrying a nice young Amish girl so he could acquire a nice buggy and be rolling on 36’s. By the time Double Up came around, Todd had figured out Harlan and Harlem were not synonymous, and Ma$e had become much less gangster by being found out as a RUH-tard. The illusion was gone, along with all the fabulous hooks.
Austin: Hootie & the Blowfish – Fairweather Johnson
Hootie and his respective blowfish decided to follow up their mid-90’s smash, Cracked Rear View, with an album called….Fairweather Johnson. Little did ol’ Hoot know that his sophomore album title would bring to the forefront an issue that would lead to the rise of wonder-drug Cialis. It is also littleknown that the original album title was Fairweather in regards to the Johnson in order to adequately describe Anne Heche’s relationship with the male member. Unfortunately, this transcendent title did not let the infamous sophomore slump escape H&TBF.