The biggest album flops of all time
Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan! Spinner marked your 66th on May 24 by calling your 1970 release Self-Portrait the most monumental album flop of all time. The website’s list of the 25 biggest album flops is a curious swath of schadenfr— oops, you guys don’t want me to use that word anymore. Still, how else to describe a list that revels in the falls from grace, artistic overreaches, and acts of hubris of such big stars as Dylan, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Bruce Springsteen. (Curious observation: Two discs on the list, by Puff Daddy and the Spice Girls, both bear the same undeservedly optimistic title: Forever.)
Now, Self-Portrait is an admittedly unlistenable album that sold poorly, but the biggest flop ever? Bigger than No. 2, Garth Brooks’ In the Life of Chris Gaines, which pretty much ended the career of one of music’s top-selling acts, or No. 3, Mariah Carey’s Glitter, which nearly ended her career and cost her label almost $50 million? Conversely, there are some selections here that seem unfairly petty. Yes, U2’s Pop flopped, as did Green Day’s Warning, but in the overall arc of their respective careers, both albums now look like speed bumps. Calling Matthew Sweet’s Altered Beast one of the biggest flops ever because it sold only a third as many copies as his Girlfriend seems nitpicky given that neither indie-rock release sold more than 600,000 copies anyway. And to call the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique — a CD that was an instant classic and has proven enormously influential — a disaster merely because it didn’t rack up huge sales makes you wonder what point is served by using this list’s vague criteria at all.
Still, it’s fun to recognize the record-buying public’s good taste in not falling twice for Vanilla Ice, Sisqó, the Knack, or Chingy, or even once for Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline. Do you agree with Spinner’s choices, PopWatchers? What other acts of unwarranted musical chutzpah deserve mention here?