Which artist has failed the most to live up to the promise of a brilliant debut album? Check out today's Ask the Critic question and post your own

By David Browne
April 08, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Lauryn Hill: Kelly Ryseron / Camera Press / Retna

Which artist failed to live up to a brilliant debut?

Which artist has failed the most to live up to the promise of a brilliant debut album? —Kevin Smith

Is there anything more depressing than falling in love with a new band or singer based on their first record, only to have those feelings completely dissipate when their lame second album arrives? Hardly, I’d say — you almost feel betrayed. I grew sad and angry all over again just compiling this list of major disappointments. Living Colour never topped the volcanic burst of Vivid, the Violent Femmes never returned to the horny-geek poetry of The Violent Femmes, N.W.A turned into cartoon thugs immediately after Straight Outta Compton, and Guns N’ Roses ? well, say no more. But the real heartbreaker for me remains Lauryn Hill. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill seemed to signal the start of a truly auspicious, ferocious career (I’d always been cool on the Fugees, if only because their best songs were all remakes — talk about the easy route). Instead, eight (!) years later, that record now seems like the peak of her career, especially in light of its follow-up, the artistic stumble that was MTV Unplugged 2.0. (She kiiled her career, softly.) For the last few years, Hill has been at work on a new disc, but the fact that it’s taking so long is hardly a good sign. Although I’m not a particularly religious sort, I’m just praying she won’t join the sorry list from earlier in this paragraph.

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