When writing myreview of Maroon 5’s latest album V, I thought of how their debut album Songs About Jane was so good compared to their latest efforts. Jane had Maroon 5’s signature pop-rock sound with a hint of R&B added in. It was great start to finish and crushes all of Maroon 5’s later releases in terms of quality. This led me to wonder… What other artists peaked with their debut album?
As previously mentioned, Maroon 5 is definitely in that conversation. Songs About Jane was just too good for Maroon 5 to create another album of that quality. Another band that has seemingly been around forever is Linkin Park. They are the most notable band from the nu metal/rap-rock peak in the late 90s. Even after the genre has pretty much died off, Linkin Park has still been topping the sales charts and playing sold out shows. However, no matter how good their music has been from 2007, fans will always wish for LP to go back to their roots and recapture the glory of their debut album Hybrid Theory. It has been almost 15 years after the album released and yet Linkin Park has still not been able to achieve the success they had with Hybrid Theory, only coming close with their sophomore effort Meteora.
The Fray is another band that has been attempting to reclaim the success they achieved with their debut. They released How to Save a Life in 2005 and it was huge success, springboarded by its best song, “How to Save a Life,” being featured on Grey’s Anatomy. Since The Fray released How to Save a Life, they have been struggling to put out a record that can go toe to toe with their debut record. The Fray was released in 2009 and was too similar to their debut album, but not as good. They have since released two more albums, with neither of them coming close to their first release.
It seems like Lady Gaga hasn’t been relevant in the past few years. Sure, her 2011 album Born This Way had a few songs that have had a lot of air time on the radio but her latest release, Artpop in 2013, hasn’t had the same type of success. She definitely peaked in 2008/2009 with the release of her debut album The Fame and its reissue, The Fame Monster, with eight more tracks. Back then every radio station was playing one of Gaga’s hits. Now, her songs have barely has any staying power on the radio and she has only made news by cursing at her audience.
Kendrick Lamar was initially going to headline this list. I previously thought his 2012 release good kid, m.A.A.d city was his debut album but he actually released his first studio album Section.80 in 2011. Section.80 was released exclusively through the iTunes Store and that is why it is rather unknown. I wasn’t the only one who thought Lamar debuted with good kid, m.A.A.d as Rolling Stone put good kid, m.A.A.d on their list of The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time. Nonetheless, good kid, m.A.A.d city was considered an “instant classic” by many and will be very difficult for K.Dot to follow up.
Talking about Kendrick Lamar is a great segue into talking about Imagine Dragons. The two artists collaborated earlier this year when they performed a mashup of “m.A.Ad. city” and “Radioactive.” The performance showcased two artists that rose to fame in 2013. Imagine Dragons was playing on every radio station ever and their debut album Night Visions was one of the best albums released in 2012. While they have not released a new album since, I wanted to talk about Imagine Dragons because I feel like they may end up like the other artists on this list. Night Visions was just so damn good, with all of its tracks being great, that I don’t know how they will be able to top it. However, like Lamar, I have faith that they will be able to create an album even better than their previous effort.
The final artist I want to talk about is Macklemore. Technically he debuted in 2005 with The Language of My World, but the debut from duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is what took the world by storm. The Heist was another one of the best releases from 2012. The album had several singles that you couldn’t get away from, like “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us.” I feel like what I said about Imagine Dragons can be said for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; that because The Heist was so good I don’t know if they will be able to replicate that success but I have faith they will.
After doing some digging for this column, I noticed that a lot of bands gain popularity/success through the release of their second album, with some peaking with their second release. Most of the time, their first album is released independently, isn’t advertized much, doesn’t contain a “hit” single, or all three. Artists like Katy Perry, fun., Eminem, and many others all released an album before gaining worldwide popularity and success. Not everyone can become a Grammy producing machine with their first release.
*I know there’s plenty of other artists out there that I could have written about but I wanted to keep this list slightly modern and include artists form genres not usually covered on this website.*
Austin is in his final year at the University of Florida studying English. He enjoys binge watching on Shark Tank, winning the Mortal Kombat, and occasionally stepping in for Batman when necessary.