Pop music is a fickle mistress, and even though she can show an artist all sorts of devotion the first time around, she can just as easily shun that same artist the second time around. In the music business, the second album is always the hardest one to pull off, as the expectations tend to be high, the time constraints are usually even tighter and the audience tends to move on pretty quickly. But it seems like these rules do not apply to Katy Perry, who drops her sophomore release Teenage Dream today. In the wake of the success of her smash debut One of the Boys, Perry came back fighting with the chart-topping “California Gurls” and the rapidly-rising “Teenage Dream,” and the rest of the album is similarly incredible.
The thing that really puts Teenage Dream over the top is its consistency. There are no real weak tracks to be found (though if you don’t think Perry is much of a balladeer, you’ll probably take issue with two or three of these), and it’s a good mix of over-the-top tracks (like the sex-crazed “Peacock”), party tunes (“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”), kiss-offs (“Circle the Drain”) and sweet old-school pop creations (“E.T.”). In fact, it’s quite possible that Teenage Dream is the best second effort in pop music history.
It’s amazing how many classic pop artists have second albums that are sort of middling. Michael Jackson shouldn’t really be held to it, but his sophomore release was Ben, which isn’t very good. Same goes for sister Janet, whose second album Dream Street has largely been forgotten. Even Mariah Carey’s second album Emotions is in the good-but-not-great category.
There are some heavy hitters, though. Britney Spears’ second album Oops! … I Did It Again is roundly considered her best work, while ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake’s second effort (FutureSex/LoveSounds) is considered a modern classic. Perry even has competition from her contemporaries like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. But the most intriguing match-up is with Madonna, whose Like a Virgin often shows up on lists of the best pop records ever made. It’s an incredible collection of songs that ended up being indescribably influential, and the stakes were awfully high coming off the success of her self-titled debut (which has more hits than you remember, including “Lucky Star,” “Holiday” and “Borderline”).
But we’ll let you be the judge. Who has the best second album in pop music history? Cast your vote below and let us know your arguments (or anything we might have missed) in the comments.