20 Artists Who Peaked Too Soon

20 Artists Who Peaked With Their First Album.

With the advent of music downloads, is there room for an artist to have an entire album to peak on? It seems that now you get one single and that's it.

Then again it was mostly due to the second (and third) albums from most of these artists that lead to the rise of the $0.99 download instead of the $20 CD full of crap.

1. Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine (1992)

Released a year after Nirvana's Nevermind, Rage Against The Machine's debut did just as much to bring headbangers and alt-rock fans into the same fold. But it was far from typical of its time: Using singer Zack De La Rocha's hardcore militancy to take the macho swagger and frat-boy idiocy out of funk-metal, the album—and its breakthrough anthem, "Killing In The Name"—introduced legions of kids to leftist ideals and the whole idea of funneling unease into activism. Rage Against The Machine is also one of the most blistering, sonically revolutionary rock albums of the decade; the band followed it with two solid but increasingly frustrating full-lengths before breaking up in 2000. Although Rage is now reunited and could possibly record in the future, it's safe to say they'll never top their introductory detonation.

2. 50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin' (2003)

When 50 Cent burst onto the scene with Get Rich Or Die Tryin', he was already destined for success: With unassailable street cred—although it initially cost him his record deal, getting shot nine times may have been the best thing to happen to his career—and a reputation built on scorching underground mix-tapes, Fiddy caught the attention of Eminem and Dr. Dre, whose combined influence made Die Tryin' one of the most famous rap records ever, before anyone had even heard a note. Once the public got a hit of "In Da Club," 50 Cent became an overnight sensation, and his debut became the bestselling album of that year. Unfortunately, he's been fighting to recapture that swagger since. The corny come-ons of "Candy Shop" and "Disco Inferno" from The Massacre confirmed naysayers' assertions that Fiddy's lyrics were his weakest link—not a good look for a rapper—and he had to resort to publicity stunts like 2007's "feud" with Kanye West to move copies of Curtis. Obviously, fans liked 50 Cent more before he got rich; it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to earn back their love or die trying.

3. Richard Hell And The Voidoids, Blank Generation (1977)

They're often left out of tributes to the late-'70s New York punk scene in favor of bigger names, like Blondie, Ramones, and Talking Heads, but none of those bands would have ever set CBGBs afire without Richard Hell And The Voidoids. Much as Hell's taste for ripped-up clothes and spiky hair spawned endless copycats, Blank Generation was a blueprint for thousands of punk, post-punk, and indie-rock bands, pairing Hell's pinched yowl against Robert Quine's jagged shards of guitar while romanticizing nihilism as a point for poetic departure; its title track, meanwhile, became an international anthem for disaffected youth. Of course, anthems tend to loom large over a career, so it isn't surprising that it took almost five years for Hell to return with 1982's Destiny Street (though some credit must also be given to heroin); a distracted, slapdash compilation of B-sides and covers, the album couldn't help but pale in the shadow of its predecessor, and it spelled the end for one of rock's most innovative bands.

4. The Strokes, Is This It (2001)

Very few albums are asked to shoulder the burden carried by The Strokes' 2001 debut Is This It, which was born in a crossfire hurricane of critical fawning hailing it as an epochal, game-changing moment for rock music not seen since Nevermind. Within months, every group of guitar-slinging dudes on Earth was being compared—favorably and unfavorably—to the upstart New York band, while reviews started referring to music in pre- and post-Strokes terms. (Never mind that beyond all the adulation, Is This It is basically a solid, hooky little album that's heavier on attitude than attempts to define a generation.) To their credit, The Strokes never really bought the hype, but once the torch of "biggest band in the world" has been passed, it's almost impossible not to get burned. While the band's follow-ups, Room On Fire and First Impressions Of Earth, occasionally touch on the offhand brilliance of Is This It, the diminishing returns both commercially and critically indicate that The Strokes have become victims of their own unintentional influence, while the once-revolutionary "Strokes sound" has already curdled into cliché.

5. The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers (1976)

Though Jonathan Richman may prefer to think of the lighter, softer batch of songs recorded for 1977's Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers as his true "first" album, most fans point to the far spikier sounds of 1976's The Modern Lovers—a compilation of demos recorded in 1972 with The Velvet Underground's John Cale—as the band's definitive work, and that album unquestionably earned Richman his "punk godfather" status. Aided by the pawn-shop organ of a pre-Talking Heads Jerry Harrison, The Modern Lovers' Velvets-inspired drone is the darkest work Richman has ever done: While his lyrics preached innocence and sincerity, Richman only hints at the pie-eyed romantic he would become on tracks like "Girlfriend," maintaining a surprisingly aloof, ironic distance on "Pablo Picasso" and "She Cracked." The record's opening salvo, "Roadrunner"—with its galvanizing count-off and simple chord structure—so perfectly captured the spirit of rock 'n' roll abandon, groups like Sex Pistols practically based their whole careers around it.

6. Nas, Illmatic (1994)

Nas created perhaps the greatest hip-hop record ever—it's at least in the conversation—on his first time out, which has been both a blessing and a curse for him. With Illmatic, Nas showed he could make a record that was top-to-bottom brilliant, an impossibly high standard he couldn't hope to match. So while Illmatic bought Nas a lifetime supply of street cred, it also ensured that every record he made afterward would never be good enough, no matter how good it might be on its own terms.

No comments: