In keeping with my current theme of sequels in media, I thought for my last opinion article of the semester I would cover the lesser-known sequel: the music sequel. I’ll have sophomore releases from bands count, as direct sequels to albums hardly exist, and if they do, it’s usually an artist trying to grab onto the success of his most popular album. A good example of this would be everybody’s least favorite rapper next to Bubba Sparxxx: Ja Rule. Back in 2001, Ja Rule released Pain is Love, his most popular and highest selling album to date. Eleven years later we’re treated to Pain is Love 2, shortly after Ja Rule’s release from jail. I listened to it, and it seems to be just what I mentioned earlier: an artist trying to reclaim his former glory. Unfortunately for him, it isn’t working.
The sophomore release from a band that has a stellar initial release is always hyped by both the media and fans. An example of this would be one of my favorite bands, The Vines, sophomore release, Winning Days. Highly Evolved, their debut album, was met with critical and commercial success. They were even heralded as the “next Nirvana,” which I find to be high praise given how influential Nirvana was in the 90’s. So when Winning Days was released, heavy anticipation was met with severe disappointment from a lot of people, including fans and critics. While it exists as my favorite Vines album, it tanked their career, and shortly after the release of Vision Valley, their third album, the label they were on dropped them from their line-up.
The Killers, another band I enjoy, had the same issue with their sophomore release, Sam’s Town. Hot Fuss was a sensation, having numerous singles top the charts and skyrocketing the band into public acclaim. Whenever Sam’s Town was released, a lot of reviewers complained that the albums lyrics were bad, the music was ripping off other, influential artists and that overall it didn’t have the flair and excitement of the first one. Once again, I really enjoyed Sam’s Town for the The Killers risk-taking abilities: instead of making a carbon-copy of Hot Fuss, they branched out and integrated different styles into the music they were making. The Killers are still putting out albums, and recently their fourth complete studio album has been gathering stellar reviews.
A band that never received the critical praise or massive popularity that consistently puts out interesting and captivating records is Queens of the Stone Age. Their first three albums were all met with praise, with each one outdoing the previous: Queens of the Stone Age, their first, Rated R, their second and Songs for the Deaf, their third and most critically acclaimed. It’s surprising welcome when bands get better with time, something that artists don’t seem to be doing as of late. DMX, love or hate the guy, released his first two albums, It is Dark and Hell is Hot and Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood, to a large amount of appeal and sales. He stands as the only artist in the history of music to have five consecutive number one albums. I see all of his albums as sequels, as they all fall in the same vein.
Now for something completely different: The Zac Brown Band. While I’m not much into country, I do appreciate its pop sensibilities and its clean-cut nature. Zac Brown Band stands as my favorite country artists for one simple fact: they know how to release stellar albums consistently. Their first album, The Foundation, helped to solidify them as a country music group to be reckoned with. All eleven songs have something going for them: be it catchy, interesting, or just plain funny. Then, their second album, You Get What You Give is released, and shatters expectations. 14 songs, and not one is worthy of skip your first, second, or even third time through. I can’t stress how difficult this is to do: craft an album so solid and lacking in filler that every song is worthy of multiple listens.
To finish it all up, creating a sequel/follow-up/sophomore release is hard. It’s unrealistic to expect stellar releases time after time, but some artists make it work. So, as you enjoy the 6-week break we have for the winter, pop in your favorite album, video game, or movie. Then, throw in the next thing accomplished. Try to notice subtle similarities, enjoy and thank artists who dedicate their time and effort to giving us art that we can critique, enjoy and ultimately make a part of our lives.