This feature originally ran in 2016. We’re revisiting today as we continue to pore over Lorde’s sophomore album, Melodrama.
The “Sophomore Slump” is real.
What once was industry jargon and urban legend has more or less been proven by cold, hard statistics. In early 2015, one brazen team compared the scores of 80 prized debut albums to those of their follow-ups, discovering that 66.25% of the time the grades dropped and that was for acts across all genres, cultures, and historical periods.
Here’s the problem with that study, though: None of the numbers account for context. Which is why albums like Weezer’s Pinkerton or Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory were considered slumps in the interactive chart, even though they’ve since been heralded as incredibly influential records that changed their respective genres.
Still, there are plenty of examples where the ratings actually speak to the slump. For example, is anyone going to agree that Nas’ It Was Written was a triumph over Illmatic? Or how about Television’s Adventure over Marquee Moon? Sometimes, the hurdle is just too high to jump, and that’s when the respective numbers (at times) make sense.
But there have been exceptions to the rule. Artists have been able to top themselves triumphantly, and it’s those rare moments that we’re invested in today. As such, we’ve collected what we believe to be the 10 greatest sophomore albums of all time. The ones that changed everyone’s lives. The ones that might very well be their best.
It wasn’t easy, and we left off many, so feel free to share your own thoughts below.