A major label deal may seem like a dream come true for any musician, but for many independently minded artists, major labels have often suppressed their true creative voices, resulting in sub-par work. These seven artists, however, still managed to deliver incredibly strong albums for their major label debuts.
1. The Replacements - Tim (1985)
Though the Replacements' finest hour (or half-hour, really) was its 1984 album Let It Be, its Sire Records debut Tim from the following year contains the band's most consistently brilliant pop songwriting, including two of its best known songs, "Left of the Dial" and "Bastards of Young."
2. R.E.M. - Green (1988)
While R.E.M.'s first few albums were written in a jangly post-punk style, by the mid-80s the band ventured off simultaneously into both folk music and arena rock. Its 1988 major label debut Green perfectly captured both sounds, placing stadium-sized rockers such as "Orange Crush" alongside acoustic material such as "The Wrong Child."
3. Sonic Youth - Goo (1990)
Like many of its contemporaries such as Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, Sonic Youth gradually got more and more accessible as the '80s wore on while still retaining its punk roots. Following the art-rock sprawl of 1988's Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth signed with DGC and released the stellar Goo, ushering in the '90s alt-rock domination more than a year before Nirvana would drop Nevermind.
4. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
Nirvana is one of the rare indie bands that actually improved by leaps and bounds once it signed to a major label. Though its 1989 debut Bleach is an invaluable record in the story of grunge, its DGC debut Nevermind is an all-time classic in the story of popular music as a whole, bringing genius pop melodies to its dark, sludgy sound.
5. Green Day - Dookie (1994)
Like Nirvana, Green Day also improved once it moved over to a major label, even delivering its best album Dookie as its major label debut. Though Dookie isn't significantly different from the band's first two albums, it did continue the upward trend in singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong's songwriting.
6. Elliott Smith - XO (1998)
Though the songs on Elliott Smith's early albums were performed mostly on acoustic guitar and not much else, with each successive album he gradually incorporated more complex arrangements and production. 1998's XO, Smith's debut for DreamWorks Records, was his first album recorded in a proper studio (instead of on a four-track in someone's basement) and proved that he was capable of more than just hissy, lo-fi gloom.
7. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica (2000)
When listening to Modest Mouse's angular and abrasive early albums, it's hard to believe that this band would ever attract a major record deal or a number one hit. However, with its Epic Records debut The Moon & Antarctica, Modest Mouse moved away from its post-punk roots towards something more lush, atmospheric and vaguely radio-friendly, delivering what is arguably its strongest album (emphasis on arguably, since 1997's The Lonesome Crowded West gives it a run for its money).
What other bands had great major label debuts? Let us know down in the comments section!