The Sophomore Slump: The 10 Most Disappointing Second Albums


When a musician or band unleashes a fantastic debut album, it’s almost a rite of passage that they will fall back down to Earth with an underwhelming follow-up record.

Here are 10 instances where exactly that came to be.


Jet, Shine On

Admittedly, Get Born wasn’t too good of an album, but it was a fun romp the whole way through. When Jet followed that up with Shine On, they somehow managed to drop the fun parts of Get Born whilst keeping all the bad stuff. Having the album leak online two weeks before being released didn’t help matters, but based on the terrible reviews (Pitchfork Media’s review contained only a video of a monkey urinating into its own mouth) the album was always going to flop, leak or otherwise.
Despite this, their album promo video shows the band feeling pretty confident about the release.




U2, October

It’s hard to feel sorry for U2 when they’ve been on the success train for over three decades, but the band did endure the sophomore slump before fame and Bono’s ego fully blossomed.
After releasing their solid debut album, the band decided to take a drastic change in focus for their follow-up, October. Gone were the rocking tunes and in came a ridiculous batch of songs that were all about spirituality and religion. Needless to say, the band and fans have largely distanced themselves from this attempt at breaking into the Christian rock scene.
This video sums up the early 80’s version of U2.




The Killers, Sam’s Town

There wasn’t a nightclub that didn’t pump out ‘Mr Brightside’ or ‘Somebody Told Me’ when The Killers released Hot Fuzz back in 2004. With their popularity quickly rising, frontman Brandon Flowers was quick to hype up their follow-up as “one of the best in the past 20 years”.
And when Sam’s Town was released, Flowers’ proclamation proved to be woefully off the mark. The album quickly disappeared off the charts, and critics savagely mauled it, dismissing it is a self-indulgent effort from a band that got too big for its own head.




The Darkness, One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back

Hard rock was given a jolt in the arm when The Darkness arrived kicking and screaming onto the scene. The band’s performances were a welcome throwback to the fun 80’s rock era, and their debut album was just pure unadulterated fun.
But by the time One Way Ticket came along, that initial jolt was already gone. The jokes quickly got tired, people got over the whole glam rock persona, and the album just wasn’t anywhere near as good.



Manic Street Preachers, Gold Against the Soul

There was some serious fighting words when the Manic Street Preachers proclaimed their debut album to be the “greatest rock album ever”. Their follow-up though? Not so much.
Having embodied a punk-like attitude during the band’s early days, fans weren’t too happy when the band ‘sold out’ for their second album. The awkward transition from their hard rock sound to a more commercial grunge sound didn’t help matters either. When even the band themselves thought Gold Against the Soul was rubbish, it’s not hard to see why the album crashed and burned the way it did.
Here’s the band speaking about the release a week after it dropped.




Hootie & the Blowfish, Fairweather Johnson

At a time when grunge and angst was dominating airwaves, Hootie & the Blowfish’s soft rock debut was a welcome breath of fresh air. But just two years later, fans were already tired of the band’s sound, and Fairweather Johnson was seen as a poor attempt at catching the lightning in a bottle again.
Having said that, the sub-par Fairweather Johnson still sold four million copies, which is a resounding success by any measure, but compared to the band’s astonishing 16-million selling critically acclaimed debut, this still counts as a sophomore slump.
Here’s the second single off the album, ‘Tucker’s Town’




Terence Trent D’Arby, Neither Fish nor Flesh

When Terence Trent D’Arby exploded onto the scene with his debut album, people were quick to herald him as Prince and Brian Wilson all rolled into one. With that much ego-stroking going on, it wasn’t difficult for D’Arby to buy into his own hype, and that translated into a mess of a second album. How could he do anything wrong when he’s better than Prince and Brian Wilson combined?
Needless to say, when the self-indulgent Neither Fish nor Flesh was released, critics and fans had a field day ripping it and D’Arby’s ego apart.




The Stone Roses, Second Coming

The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut album came out of the gates like a bat out of hell, and it quickly became one of the greatest Britpop albums ever made.
With such a high bar set for the band, there is no other way but down for The Stone Roses, and sadly, that’s exactly what happened with Second Coming. It also didn’t help that the five-year hiatus between albums saw Blur and Oasis take over the mantle as Britpop’s poster boys. Let singer Ian Brown’s vocal performance of the lead single at this particular gig speak for how much he likes the album…




The Strokes, Room on Fire

When Is This It was released in 2001, The Strokes were immediately heralded as the saviours of rock and much was expected from them. Instead, we got Room on Fire, which admittedly isn’t a bad album, but it wasn’t seen as anything more than the neglected B-sides of Is This It.
The album’s okay-ness when compared to Is This It was probably best described by Pitchfork Media: “the band have all but given birth to an identical twin.” On the bright side however, it did give us this absolute beast of a track.




Weezer, Pinkerton

It may be considered as a defining piece of alternative rock these days, but Pinkerton was absolutely ravaged by fans and critics at the time of its release.
Having grown fond on The Blue Album’s whimsical pop rock sound, fans weren’t too accepting of the darker and more personal touches that Rivers Cuomo put into Pinkerton. The backlash was so bad that it sent Weezer into hiatus and Cuomo into a four-year spiral. This second single was released quickly and promoted heavily by the band’s label with the hope that its catchy lyrics and riff would boost Pinkerton’s poor sales. Unfortunately this was not the case.



About Alexander Pan

I may never win a Grammy, solving the piracy issue is way out of my skillset, and I'll probably die of joy if left alone in a room with The Strokes. All I can do properly is write words about music stuff, and hope that people will read it. If you want to debate why 'Is This It' is the best album ever, or you're just bored one day, hit me up on Twitter @alexandervpan

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