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One-Album Wonders

Music | By Matthew for The Top 13 on February 17, 2010

Though the topic of one-hit wonders in pop music is frequently debated, there is far less discussion about those artists who release one amazing hit album but never again reach the heights of that one classic record. There are many reasons these artists become one-album wonders, including untimely deaths and acrimony among band members, and some are simply unexplainable. And while perhaps fans should simply enjoy what we got from these artists, it's hard not to wonder why we didn't get more. With that in mind, we present the Top 13 One-Album Wonders.

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Fugees - The Score

1

Fugees - The Score

1996

Thought of as the Fugees' only album by many, The Score was actually the trio's second full-length, a follow-up to their lesser-known debut Blunted on Reality. One of the defining albums of the 1990s, this hip hop crossover album not only sold 18 million copies, but also led to successful solo careers for Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill. The group rode the crest of mega-stardom for a solid year after this album's release, only to break up amid reported conflict between its members. With the exception of a couple of brief one–off reunions, the Fugees have never recorded a follow-up to their only classic album.

Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks

2

Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks

1977

Perhaps the daddy of all one-album wonders, no other group has ever found more notoriety with such a slim discography. Everybody knows its pink, ransom-note style artwork, and the timeless punk anthems "God Save the Queen" and "Anarchy in the UK." Yet people often don't realize that this is the Sex Pistols' only proper album; the scores of compilations and cash-ins just don't count. And punk posturing aside, this is a very, very good rock and roll album (even if Johnny Rotten's sneering vocals can get a little monotonous). Classic from start to finish.

Jeff Buckley - Grace

3

Jeff Buckley - Grace

1994

Well on his way to a big career based on talent alone, it was his drowning death that really turned Jeff Buckley into a sensation. This singer-songwriter debuted with a classic, and his untimely death means we'll never know how he would have followed it up. Best known for its spine-tingling cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and his own "Last Goodbye," Grace remains a memorable collection of songs that showcase Buckley's thoughtful songwriting and soaring voice. A number of live and leftover recordings have been posthumously released, but sadly there was never another full-length album.

The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

4

The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

1989

If the Sex Pistols record is the daddy of all one-album wonders, it would be safe to refer to this one as its son. With the release of this self-titled album, the Stone Roses became the next big band, earning comparisons to U2. NME actually named this album the "Greatest Album of All-Time." But while new fans of the Stone Roses were born with each spin of this fantastic self-titled debut, the band simply faded into obscurity. When they finally resurfaced five years later with a sophomore effort, it was met by disappointing reviews and a mediocre commercial reception. And while Second Coming wasn't all that bad, it will forever remain in the shadow of one of the best debut albums of all time.

The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

5

The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

1976

If Talking Heads set the standard for art rock, the Modern Lovers helped set the table. Born from much of the same scuzzy/cool New York influence that defined Velvet Underground, the one and only album from cult singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman's original band is an accidental classic of sorts. The fact that it was cobbled together from recording sessions with various producers over a multi-year period and released after the band broke up explains the lack of a true follow-up album, despite classics on the debut such as "Roadrunner" and "Pablo Picasso."

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

6

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

1998

Singer-songwriter Jeff Mangum's band had already released its debut On Avery Island two years prior to this breakthrough album, and while that was certainly an interesting record, its experimental soundscapes didn't make much of a wave in the music world. Many of those same eccentricities would find their way onto In the Aeroplane Over The Sea, but this time they would do so by way of catchier, more accessible songs. One of the most highly acclaimed indie releases of all time, it gave Neutral Milk Hotel a legion of fans that would continue to grow over the years. Sadly, the band's second album also would be its last. Mangum reportedly became disenchanted with the music business and disbanded the group in 1999.

Spacehog - Resident Alien

7

Spacehog - Resident Alien

1995

Few people seem to remember this quintessential 1990s album, which brought Spacehog modest acclaim and the best sales of the band's career. That's too bad, because this British gem combined elements of Bowie, the Beatles, and some Nick Lowe and the Stones for good measure into a cohesive and catchy album that gave us one of the best singles of the decade with "In the Meantime." The band managed only a pair of ill-fated follow-ups finally before breaking up in the 2000s, and is better known now for lead singer Royston Langdon's marriage to Liv Tyler.

Camp Lo - Uptown Saturday Night

8

Camp Lo - Uptown Saturday Night

1997

The debut album from this East Coast hip hop duo from the Bronx – comprised of rappers Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede – seems to have been left behind in the 1990s. Though Camp Lo got a little love from MTV for its single "Luccini" and the album reached as high as 27 on the Billboard charts, that's about as far as it went. And that's too bad, as retro-flavored tracks like "Coolie High" and "Black Nostaljack" should have been classics. Since then, Camp Lo has released three additional albums, though not one of them even sniffed the Billboard 200.

Blind Faith - Blind Faith

9

Blind Faith - Blind Faith

1969

One of the first and certainly one of the most formidable of the so-called super groups of the era, Blind Faith represented the collective and considerable powers of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, and lesser-known but equally talented Ric Grech. While the album was heavy on long-winded jams, it also yielded two hit singles with Clapton's "Presence of the Lord" and Winwood's classic "Can’t Find My Way Home." It's only natural, however, that these guys were a one-album wonder – very few groups could survive the weight of so many sizable egos in one place.

At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command

10

At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command

2000

Although Relationship of Command was actually this El Paso punk/hardcore band's third album, it's no surprise that many people received their introduction to At the Drive-In with this release. It's a tight, loud, and ferocious as hell collection that balanced aggressive punk sounds with progressive melodies and tempos, and the song "One Armed Scissor" is rightfully considered one of the classic singles of the 2000s. Disappointingly, At the Drive-In's breakthrough album would be its last. The band broke up barely a year after its release, with two of its founding members forming the successful, albeit far more progressive-styled The Mars Volta.

Tom Tom Club - Tom Tom Club

11

Tom Tom Club - Tom Tom Club

1981

A side project from married Talking Heads rhythm section members Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, this little one-off developed into its own entity and garnered a separate fan base all its own. Best of all, it produced two maddeningly catchy singles with "Wordy Rappinghood" and the often-sampled "Genius of Love." While the group would go on to release four subsequent albums, they would never come close to recapturing the success of its debut.

The Postal Service - Give Up

12

The Postal Service - Give Up

2003

A side project from Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and producer Jimmy Tamborello, it's conceivable that the pair never intended for its 2003 debut to be a major success. Nevertheless, the collaboration (which featured contributions from Jenny Lewis and Death Cab's Chris Walla) found an audience that held it up as a masterpiece of sorts. Give Up even earned mainstream recognition when the track "Such Great Heights" was prominently used in television ads. Though a long-anticipated follow-up from the duo has yet to materialize, its one and only full-length remains a catchy and melodic synth-pop classic.

Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

13

Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

1998

It stands to reason that one of the driving forces behind both the rampant success and eventual breakup of the first entry on this Top 13 couldn't get it together to release a proper follow-up to her classic solo debut. While two Fugees-related albums might seem a bit redundant, this is a quintessential one-album wonder. Critics heaped praise on the album and it sold more than 19 million copies. What's more, the hype was fully justified – Miseducation is a rock-solid, genre-spanning opus that touches on hip hop, reggae, pop, R&B, and Latino music. And Hill shines both as a capable rapper and soul diva. Today, Hill is sadly known more for her at times outlandish antics than her recording career.

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Comments Leave a comment

zircona1 

Elastica's first album would be on my list. Is that Spacehog album really THAT good? I never cared for them back when 'In the Meantime' was all over the radio.

8:10 AM   Feb 17, 2010

jason ★★

Good call on Elastica, that's a guilty pleasure of mine. Also sad to see no Black Star on here (hopefully they will do another great album and make it a moot point).

8:50 AM   Feb 17, 2010

stillathreat ★★

I might replace Camp Lo with Black Star - Camp Lo had follow-ups, though I'd agree they didn't come close to being as good as the debut. Black Star, on the other hand, had one classic and then nothing.

9:03 AM   Feb 17, 2010

tloveisready ★★

What about Hootie?

10:36 AM   Feb 17, 2010

brian 

This is a list of one-album wonders. I celebrate Hootie's entire catalog.

10:55 AM   Feb 17, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

I put Hootie up there with Jewel.

12:26 PM   Feb 17, 2010

holmessss 

Great List! I loved me some Spacehog back in the day, just listened to them on youtube again after reading this post. I would add Oasis. Remember when they were gonna be the next Beatles?

1:02 PM   Feb 17, 2010

jason ★★

Also, fantastic call with Relationship of Command. That album is so much better than anything else that any of ATDI's members have ever done that it don't make no sense.

2:09 PM   Feb 17, 2010

sarahcheffy 

I'd include Temple of the Dog. Takes the 'One-Album Wonder' categorization to a whole new level. The story makes for one of my more favorite rock dramas.

7:02 PM   Feb 17, 2010

gracefulactor 

You left out two big ones: Alice Deejay and The Buggles.

11:44 AM   Sep 05, 2010

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