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 411mania » Music » Columns

411 Music Ten Deep 3.06.14: The Top 10 Sophomore Albums
Posted by Sean Walker on 03.06.2014

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Ten Deep. I'm Sean Walker, one of the many Seans of 411mania. In the music industry, you usually have one chance to make it or break it in the music industry. Your debut album introduces you to the world, and starts you off with commercial success. While it will sell well, it's your sophomore album, or your second album, that solidifies you as a talent that is staying in the music world. This week, I'm counting down those who were able to successfully defeat "the sophomore slump." Please note that this is an opinion column, and my list may be drastically different from yours.

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Just Missing the 10:
15. Linkin Park - "Meteora"
14. Dr. Dre –"2001"
13. Eminem - "The Slim Shady LP"
12. Gorillaz - "Demon Days"
11. Nirvana -"Never mind"

The Top Ten Sophomore Albums

10. P!nk – Missundaztood

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I'm a huge fan of P!nk. She has this rebellious attitude that has allowed her to stay relevant for over 10 years. It's that same attitude that has allowed her to compete with modern day pop stars like Katy Perry and Rihanna. Missundaztood was the beginning of her reign as a pop mainstay. The album was/is so good and has aged really well. "Get the Party Started" is often considered one of her signature songs, and for good reason. It's a dance track that was different from what was on the radio, being that it wasn't "bubblegum." There were well written songs like "Don't Let Me Get Me" and "Eventually" that had a hidden message of insecurity and empowerment. "Family Portrait" is a powerful anthem that definitely helped many kids who were going through the struggle of having their parents' divorce, and their families broken up. With Linda Perry as a main producer, P!nk was able to become a superstar.

9. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds

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It took Justin a while to break the bubblegum mold that haunted him since the N'Sync days. While Justified was an ok album, it was a bit clunky in some spots. Try as he might, that clean-faced image was still stuck on him. Getting the legendary Timbaland as his main producer was one of the best things to happen to JT's career. He was able to progress his music and create sounds that weren't heard on pop radio before. "Sexyback" is still that dirty piece of funk-pop that lit up the radio for months. His falsetto drastically improved on FutureSex/LoveSounds as well. Instead of sounding like some awkward teen who had a great production team write Michael-lite songs for him, JT sounded like a man who controlled his sound the way he wanted. That's why he's already seen as a music icon.

8. Toni Braxton - Secrets

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When I think of the 90s, I think of a plethora of R&B artists who flourished at a time many considered the genre was at its' peak. Coming off of the hard beats of the New-Jack era from the early 90s, R&B was at a transitional period, where people were clamoring for great voices, instead of great production. Enter artist such as Toni Braxton, whose sultry voice still give me the shivers whenever I hear her sing. It's so silky and smooth that you have to sit down and admire it for a while. Secrets is bar-none one of the top R&B albums ever. Who hasn't heard the classic melancholy ballad "Unbreak My Heart"?

7. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

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Amy Winehouse is an artist whose life ended far too soon. Only releasing two studio albums, she died before we got to truly experience her full potential. She had such an old soulful voice that told you stories just from singing. "Rehab" is already a bonafide classic that you can listen to without it tiring on you. A truly fantastic album.

6. Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway

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Back in the early 2000s, Kelly Clarkson was known as the first American Idol winner, and nothing more than that. People thought she was this generic talent show winner, who wouldn't amount to much after she won. Boy did she prove them wrong. I've said this once, and I'll say it again; Kelly Clarkson has one of the best sets of vocals you have ever seen from a pop singer. Breakaway has got to be the best pop album of the 2000s. Without the exposure of American Idol, Kelly had to prove that she could have a successful career without any help. Name me one person who doesn't like "Since U Been Gone." There are the hardcore metal heads who have admitted to having Kelly in their playlists.

5. The Fugees - The Score

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It's been a while since we've music from any of these guys, huh? Lauryn Hill has so much soul in her…Maybe too much soul. If there was ever a discussion about the greatest cover songs, The Fugees may be in the conversation with the reworked "Killing Me Softly." The production for this "Hip-Hop" album was unparalleled at the time. It definitely changed the landscape of what the genre was at the time. You had great beats, great sampling, some shades of Reggae, and Lauryn's melodious voice. This formula proved to work, as "The Score" dominated the charts for months, and even led to a successful solo career for Lauryn. That is until she went AWOL after one album. But hey, we just may get that long awaited sophomore album this year.

4. Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

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Almost every 411 reader has to have listened to The Downward Spiral at one point in their lives, so I won't go on too long with this one. From the raunchy "Closer," to the haunting "Hurt," TDS was the epitome of not only the Nine Inch Nails, but the Industrial genre as a whole. For those who don't know, TDS is a concept album that tells the story of a man whose life has turned to shit. He goes through many emotions on his way to a mental breakdown, which ultimately leads to killing himself.

3. Adele - 21

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Out of everyone on this list, I have to say Adele was probably the most unexpected person on this list to sell 26 million records with one album in less than two years. She certainly had the talent for it, but she was practically unknown after the release of her debut album, 19. If you were to ask me the moment when I knew she was going to be a future legend, I would point to this video:

21 would be released a month later, and would outsell every other album for two consecutive years. It would go on to be the fastest selling album in 10 years. The only reason I believe Adele is a notable figure now, is because of her voice.

2. Fiona Apple - When the Pawn...

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By 1999, Fiona Apple made somewhat of an impact with her debut album Tidal, and more notably, the borderline pedophilic "Criminal." She was also known for the infamous award acceptance speech she made at the VMAs for best new artists.

Some say this speech damaged her career from that point on. It was definitely interesting. She would be considered a joke by many critics, who felt she hadn't proven herself yet, and to some extent I agreed with them. It took me a while to warm up to Tidal, but when I did, I was hooked. I was eagerly anticipating what her next album would sound like, and if she would answer those critics who rendered her career dead on arrival. With a noticeable defiance, she fired back with ease. When I first heard the album, I was definitely impressed with the growth she showed between her first two albums. Quickly were those critics hushed with lyrics like "You feed the beast I have within me / You wave the red flag, baby you make it run / Standing on the sidelines, waving and grinning/ You fondle my trigger, then you blame my gun." Holy crap, she's good.

1. Kanye West - Late Registration

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Kanye West is a talented individual. He's always been a bit of a narcissist. He gets away with it by being so damn good. Late Registration made Kanye West an international artist. He told his own story, which contrasted the other mainstream hip-hop artists like 50 Cent and Eminem. He produced/produces most of his own music, and didn't/doesn't care what others may think about it. Every album Kanye has made tells a story. Whether the story it tells is a good one is a different story.

For all of you TNA fans who remember the times when wrestling truly mattered, I'd like to share this video I found. Don't cry too much, it may hit you in the feels. The song is by Gorillaz:

Stay classy Internet!


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