The sophomore slump is one of music’s biggest curses. After a successful debut, the follow-up can be difficult and the troublesome number two has claimed many careers in the past. Thankfully, there’s also a strong trend that suggests the second album can actually boost your career. The debut can establish the roots and the next one can shoot you into the stratosphere.
Dua Lipa is currently eyeing the difficult second record with Future Nostalgia due for release 3rd April 2020. Singles Don’t Start Now and Physical are a very good indication that she’s going to break the curse. It’s got us thinking about some of the other LPs that continued the momentum rather than stopping it in its tracks. Here’s our list of the second albums that changed the game this millennium.
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
Lady Gaga was huge off the back of her debut album The Fame. Featuring Just Dance, Paparazzi and Poker Face, she was heralded as the next best popstar. On The Fame Monster she taught us what she could really do though. It was an ambitious art piece full of experimental pop work and lengthy videos, each loaded with a twisted narrative. It also house Bad Romance. Widely considered to be one the most influential pop songs of our time, it has sold close to 10 million copies world wide. While Born This Way may have technically been her second full-length, The Fame Monster stood on its own as a separate project to its predecessor.
Lorde - Melodrama
Lorde’s Pure Heroine was a triumph. Recorded and released when she was just a teenager, she took over the world with Royals, scoring a US number one and Grammys. In between albums, she went silent, heading back to New Zealand to live like a normal teenager for a while. When she re-emerged with Melodrama’s lead-single Green Light, she was 20. Melodrama was a mature and cohesive album created almost entirely with Jack Antonoff. It tracked her first major breakup and also dealt with being by yourself in a big city. While it wasn’t the commercial success the album before it was, it established her as a critical darling and earned her a Grammy nomination for Album Of The Year.
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
Katy Perry was massive off the back of her debut album One Of The Boys. Hot N Cold and I Kissed A Boy had made her a household name and all eyes were on album number two. Unwavered by the hype, Perry returned with Teenage Dream, a candy-coloured pop album full of delectable hooks and sweet verses. Lead-single California Girls was the sweetest of the bunch with Teenage Dream and Firework aiming for power-pop. Commercially, she equalled a record set by Michael Jackson, scoring five number one singles off the album in the US.
Taylor Swift - Fearless
We know Taylor Swift now as one of the most recognisable popstars in history but it wasn’t always that way. Her debut album established her in the country scene before Fearless took her to the world. It was still rooted in country but its pop tinges on songs like You Belong With Me helped introduce her to a wider audience. Eventually, she was nominated for VMAs. Her eventual win was interrupted by Kanye West in a moment that has gone down in history. From this album onwards, Swift was a superstar and while she’s moved closer and closer to pop, she’s maintained her stranglehold on radio.
Kanye West - Late Registration
It’s hard to imagine a time when Kanye wasn’t known everywhere but believe it or not, people have lived in that time. Kanye’s 2004 debut College Dropout took him from talented JAY-Z producer to rapper in his own right but it was Late Registration that made him a superstar. A tightly pieced together record that pulled together rousing soul samples, it earned him his greatest accolades both on the charts and with critics. Needless to say Gold Digger was a worldwide number one and it was followed by hits Heard ‘Em Say and Touch The Sky.
P!NK - Missundaztood
P!NK stepped onto the scene at the beginning of the millennium while R&B was reigning on the charts. Her first album Can’t Take Me Home followed that blueprint until she decided to take things in her own direction on album two. The pop/rock-influenced Missundaztood was the result. Teaming up with 4 Non Blondes’ Linda Perry, they launched the record with Get This Party Started and clocked two more top 10 records in the US with Just Like A Pill and Don’t Let Me Get Me. In Australia, where P!NK is royalty, she topped the charts twice with this album.
Frank Ocean - Blonde
How do you follow up a debut album that many considered as perfect? You show them what perfection really is. Frank’s official second album Blonde felt like it took a lifetime to arrive. It came four years after Channel ORANGE and was immediately preceded by a livestream of Frank woodworking. It was painful but worthwhile. Blonde is an inventive and intimate record that placed him in his own realm. It wasn’t exactly what people were expecting but it was a slow-burner that has revealed itself over the year. It placed atop many Best Of The Decade lists last year, notably scoring number one on Pitchfork’s list.
Drake - Take Care
Drake was already making moves on the charts with his debut Thank Me Later but the Drizzy cult really started to form on Take Care. It was a far more intimate and cohesive effort that largely forged its own hip-hop-trends from the xx-produced emotion of Take Care to the hushed honesty of Marvin’s Room. Despite it being a much more personable affair than its predecessor, it still brought the bangers delivering Headlines and H.Y.F.R.
Adele - 21
Adele’s debut album 19 was universally adored but few could’ve predicted the power that its follow-up would have. The ballad-heavy record transformed Adele into one of the highest selling popstars on the planet driven by mammoth singles Rumour Has It and Someone Like You. Every accolade there is, 21 collected. It won the Grammy for Album Of The Year, was the highest selling album of the year in the US, UK and Australia and has since sold over 30 million copies. In 2015, Billboard called it the Greatest Billboard 200 Album Of All Time.
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Tame Impala generated buzz with their debut album Innerspeaker but few could’ve predicted how big Perth boy Kevin Parker was going to get. Londerism is where it all started kicked off by the stomping rock ‘n’ roll of Elephant. The album positioned them as future festival headliners and also turned them into international critical darlings. The year of its release, they came in at number 9 in the triple j Hottest 100 with Feels Like We Only Go Backwards. It’s a position that was later eclipsed by the follow-up album Currents.
Paramore - RIOT!
Paramore established a strong cult audience with their debut record All We Know Is Falling but their follow-up RIOT! made them one of the seminal emo bands. Led by furious, anarchic lead-single Misery Business, the album was a masterclass in emo-pop writing. It delivered them credible commercial success and set them up for their third album Brand New Eyes which broke the mainstream.
Lily Allen - It’s Not Me, It’s You
Lily Allen’s debut album Alright, Still made her one of the most exciting new names in British music. On the follow-up, It’s Not Me, It’s You, however, she took over the world. The quick-tongued pop record was cheeky and vicious, injecting a new personality into the commercial pop world. The Fear and Not Fair scaled the charts worldwide and Fuck You became a middle-finger for anyone who needed it.