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Breakout Debut Albums Through Time

I suddenly thought about some of the artistes and bands that broke out in success in the last decade (the 90s), the music that came and made an impact in my life. They are originals that carved a genre in its own right. It was easy to pick out the few without going through my CD rack.

At the top of my list, it definitely has to be Maxwell. Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite (1996) is the smoothest, most slick album in my lifetime. This debut album was so good that the immediate follow-up Unplugged album was a masterpiece. I could have almost sworn that if I had been in the recording studio with them, I probably would have exploded!

Next up, Big Runga’s Drive (1997). In my opinion, she is the most understate artiste. There is only a handful of young singer-song-writer that could have produced so many great songs on a debut album. I mean, who hasn’t heard of the song Sway? It’s probably the national anthem for every New Zealander. From a young girl, she has bloomed into a talented and beautiful woman. An amazing 4 studio albums in 15 years. I can’t wait to take in every tune and song in her latest album, Belle (Nov 2011).

Good Feeling (1997) by Travis. This debut album was not as big as the 2 follow-up albums that had brought their music to the next level. But come on, what song title can be better that ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’? Even as I’m writing this down, I already feel like rocking out. They were so brilliant in picking out the perfect song titles like ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me’ and ‘The Boy With No Name’.

If you do not know the song ‘Yellow’ then you deserve to be shot! Coldplay, Parachutes (2000). If there is the Bono of U2, then there is also Chris Martin of Coldplay. There must be that extra something about this rock icon that married a Hollywood superstar, Gwyneth Paltrow. Coldpay is a consistent band that even 12 years on, the 20-something of today regards Coldplay as one of the coolest bands around.

After choosing Travis and Coldplay as one of the best breakout albums, it’s hard to find another successful debut. When I heard Geneva, Further (1997), I really thought that they were one of a kind. Andrew Montgomery is not Noel Gallagher, but his haunting and chilling vocals will haunt you. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a friend carrying the Further album (the physical CD, mind you!) in his hand. I knew this CD had to be good!

Dido, No Angel (1999). This is not a debut album, but singing along to ‘Thank You’ is like singing your hearts out to Adele’s ‘Rollin’ In The Deep’. You could have probably heard Dido’s track in every street corner around the world the time the single was released. Just like Sinead O’Connor and Sarah McLachlan, Dido has the voice of an angel.

If you have heard of Maxwell, Fiona Apple must have been one of your favourites too. Both of them debut their albums to the world around the same time and they are both very much unique. When you listen to these 2 artistes, you know that they are both different yet something in each of them will resonate with you (well, for me at least).  Releasing Tidal (1996), Fiona Apple said, “I decided if I was going to be exploited, then I would do the exploiting myself”. Her second album When The Pawn… was the longest title in the Guinness Book of World Records from 2001 to 2007.

Lastly, how can we forget Lauryn Hill? The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1997). How I wished she had produced more work for both in Fugees and as a solo artiste (just like Beyonce had in her solo career and Destiny’s Child). I feel that this was the most extraordinary album by her.

Of course we can’t leave out bands and artistes like Radiohead, Mary J Blige, Missy Elliot, Chemical Brothers, Oasis, Suede, Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, The Wallflowers, The Verve, Alanis Morissette and the list indefinitely goes on. These are just some of the few that are on repeat in my music player, I guess my personal taste in music is not a secret anymore!


– Paul Khor



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