Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s new weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column focuses on the art of the sequel.
Every so often an artist will drop an album that becomes so legendary that they feel deserves, what every artist hopes they can pull off successfully… a solid album sequel.
It is a rather difficult feat, which only a handful of artists have pulled off successfully, and most of the time, when the albums have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
For instance, Led Zeppelin III & IV have nothing in common artistically or otherwise, and Van Halen I & II were both blockbuster albums that did exceedingly well on the music charts.
Unfortunately, most artists who attempt at crafting a sequel—for example, Meatloaf, who produced not one, but two follow-ups to the classic, Bat Out of Hell—could never surpass the greatness of the original.
To better understand the process of pinning down the perfect album sequel, we have hand-picked several of our most favorite and least enjoyed follow-up albums throughout modern music.
David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)
Aladdin Sane, the often overlooked sequel to David Bowie’s legendary album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, is perhaps one of the more memorable sequels we could highlight. Throughout the album,
Bowie, while technically in a new persona, walks listeners through the development of his most beloved character, Ziggy Stardust, who he ultimately retired after a performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in July 1973.
But, what the album lacks in subtext, it more than made up for in the form of classic rock cuts.
Noteworthy Track: “The Jean Genie”
Queen –A Day At The Races (1976)
Wittingly naming the follow-up to their 1975 best-selling album, A Night at the Opera, the album also takes its name from the 1937 Marx Brothers film, A Day At The Races. It was notably the band’s first album that was not entirely self-produced, and the first not to feature the band’s long-time producer, Roy Thomas Baker.
A Day At The Races was recorded by Queen in three different studios across the U.K., and while the album did not receive the same type of critical acclaim as its predecessor, it still managed to climb its way to the no. 5 spot on the Billboard 200 charts that year.
Noteworthy Track: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson – Seashores of Old Mexico (1987)
Duets and sequels seldom mix. Although there have been a few noteworthy successes, such as Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s 2006 sequel, The Captain and the Kid and Neil Young and Ben Keith’s 1991 sequel, Harvest Moon. But, often times, it causes the album to feel forced as if the concept was an afterthought.
For instance, country rock musicians Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson probably didn’t need a follow-up to their hugely successful 1983 album, Pancho and Lefty, which was named for the country-western classic by the late Townes Van Zandt.
Seashores of Old Mexico did not include a single hit. It failed to have the same appeal as the original, which hit no.1 on the Billboard country music charts in 1983, and coincidentally, both Haggard and Nelson would face financial problems in the years that followed.
Noteworthy Track: “Yesterday” (Beatles cover)
Prince – Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Graffiti Bridge, the highly anticipated follow-up to Prince’s 1984 musical-cinematic hybrid, Purple Rain, was universally panned by film critics for its overly ambitious and somewhat surrealistic attempt at capturing the magic of the original motion picture.
The film was written and directed by Prince, who returned to the big screen as his alter-ego, The Kid, only this time, slightly older and somewhat more aloof, after inheriting the infamous First Avenue nightclub in the first movie.
Conflict ensues when rival club owner, Morris Day, steps into frame with a scheme to try and reclaim control of the Seven Corners area from other nightclub owners, portrayed in the film by George Clinton and Mavis Staples.
Whether or not you enjoyed the film, the album is infinitely better. But, that’s not to say it’s not worth watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Noteworthy Track: “Tick, Tick, Bang”
Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive II (1995)
The sequel to his 1976 multi-platinum certified album, Frampton Comes Alive, pales in comparison to the original.
Frampton Comes Alive II is one sequel we could have done without. The album features live tracks from performances of Peter Frampton’s work recorded in the ‘80s and ‘90s while leaving out all of his infamous guitar work from the 1970s.
Metallica – Reload (1997)
Just a year after releasing their 1996 album, Load, Metallica was back with “fuel, fire and that which I desire.” Reload featured several of the band’s biggest singles, including “The Memory Remains,” “Fuel,” and “The Unforgiven II.”
It was also their last album to feature longtime bassist Jason Newsted, who left the band to focus on his unsuccessful side project, Echobrain.
Nas – Stillmatic (2001)
As amazing as this album is, it doesn’t hold a flame to the original. The follow-up to Nas’ 1994 debut, Illmatic, may not sound as hard or as gritty as when he was just a 17-year-old living in Queensbridge, but it’s easily just as memorable.
Stillmatic is a fan favorite, not just because it was sharp and poignant, but because it was his first commercial success since I Am…, which hit no. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts in 1998.
It also features the pivotal Jay-Z diss track, “Ether,” which was recorded in retaliation to Hov’s 2001 album, The Blueprint; as well as some other unique cuts like, “Rewind,” where Nas spits a story in reverse, going from the ending to the beginning; or his Soprano’s themed gangster rap single, “Got Ur Self a Gun.”
Noteworthy Track: “One Mic”
Radiohead – Amnesiac (2001)
Using songs recorded during sessions for their 2000 album, Kid A, Radiohead’s sixth studio album, Amnesiac, is arguably a much darker, more stripped-down sequel. “I think in some weird way, Amnesiac gives another take on Kid A,” Yorke said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 2001. “A form of explanation.”
Noteworthy Track: “Pyramid Song”
Immortal Technique – Revolutionary Vol. II (2003)
Recorded during the second Bush administration, Revolutionary Vol. 2, attacks some controversial issues, from the attacks on September 11, 2001, to politics, poverty, religion, economics and institutional racism.
Immortal Technique deliberately retains control of all of his productions, including in order to deliver an unfiltered and unsuppressed message which really explains why Revolutionary Vol. 2 has become such a cult classic.
The album is raw and it’s brash and sometimes in your face with a powerful message about discrimination, injustice, inequality and the government’s role in all of it.
Noteworthy Track: “Obnoxious”
Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime II (2006)
Eighteen years after the original, Queensrÿche returned with this dismal pile of garbage. Continuing (and ultimately destroying) their 1988 concept album about espionage, corruption, politics, prostitution and the loss of innocence.
Picking up where the original rock opera left off, we rejoin the story’s protagonist, Nikki, who, after being released from prison, begins to plot his revenge against the elusive Dr. X.
Hostility began to escalate during production, between former frontman Geoff Tate and the remaining members of the band, resulting in the use of studio musicians rather than members of the band.
Drummer Scott Rockenfield did not play on the album at all, and a large portion of the guitars was later re-recorded by engineer Mitch Doran.
Operation: Mindcrime II received a mixed bag of reviews from the prog-rock community, bringing a new conclusion to an already resolute storyline.
Noteworthy Tracks: “I’m American”
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III (2008)
Cash Money recording artist Lil Wayne effectively blurred the lines between Hip-Hop and Pop music with this memorable sequel to his fifth studio album, Tha Carter II.
Perhaps what made the album superior to its counterparts was the amount of radio play he received with hit singles, “A Milli” and “Lollipop,” not to mention his noteworthy collaboration with Jay-Z. That’s right… Weezy got Sean Carter himself, on a track called “Mr. Carter.” Brilliant.
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (2010)
After a five-year hiatus from writing music, the ever-talented, Ms. Erykah Badu, sought out Hip-Hop producers on the internet to help compose 75 tracks, set to be split among three albums.
Unlike its predecessor, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), the sequel was far less socially conscious and outspoken. New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), on the other hand, is far more poetic and soulful, making it a superb follow-up in the still open-ended trilogy.
Noteworthy Track: “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)”
2 Chainz – BOATS II: Me Time (2013)
2 Chainz returned to his Gold-certified, GRAMMY-nominated debut, Based on a Tru Story, with his brilliantly executed 2013 sequel. BOATS II: Me Time debuted at no. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts and features guest appearances by Pharrell, Drake, Lil Wayne, Mase, T-Pain, Pusha T, Chrisette Michele, Fergie, Rich Homie Quan to name a few.
Noteworthy track: “Feds Watchin’”
Bleachers – Terrible Thrills Vol. 2 (2015)
Okay, so it’s not technically a sequel. Terrible Thrills, Vol. II is more like a cover album done differently.
The entire album consists of tracks by indie pop songwriter/producer Jack Antonoff, who adopted the moniker, Bleachers, for his debut album Strange Desire, only this time, performed by an all-female, all-star ensemble featuring Sia, Sara Bareilles, Charli XCX, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tinashe, MØ, Susanna Hoffs, Natalie Maines, Lucius, Elle King, Grimes, Brooke Candy, and Rachel Antonoff.
“I love female voices. I wish I had one. When I write songs I typically hear things in a female voice and then match it an octave lower so I can hit the notes,” Antonoff said. “That’s why so many Bleachers’ songs are sung so low. I could change the key, but I like things sounding like a male version of what in my head was a female-sung song. I’ve always written this way. So, with that in mind,
I wanted to release a version of my record that spoke to how it was written and the ways I originally heard it in my head before I recorded and sang it. I think it’s important for people to know where the songs come from and why the songs come out sounding the way they do. I hear my music as my interpretation of a song I’m writing as a female in my head, so I wanted to make that a reality with the artists who inspire me to write in the first place.”
Before going by Bleachers, Antonoff did a similar “musical experiment” of sorts with his band, Steel Train. Terrible Things Vol. I was far less poetic, but it was still very powerful, and best of all, featured another all-female, all-star line-up including Scarlett Johansson, Tegan and Sara, Holly Miranda, Deradoorian, and Alia Shawkat to name a few.
Noteworthy Track: “I Wanna Get Better”
By studying each one of these albums, and their predecessors, you too, can master “the art of the album sequel.”