This week marked an unusual accomplishment on the Billboard 200: For the first time in 14 years, the last five no. 1 albums on the chart have been from performers who had never been to the top before. We went back to check out what five albums were hot sellers during that period and compared them to this year's first-timers, to see what "generation" has the better taste. Old millennials, get ready to spar with the young millennials. We lined the albums up from one-to-five, based on where in the order they fell during their respective years...Destiny's Child, Blink-182 and Meek Mill face off.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The streak from 2001 actually consisted of six albums, the last of which was Alicia Keys' debut, Songs In A Minor. As we can't be sure what next week's no. 1 album will be, we opted to leave Keys out of the competition, as she doesn't technically have a competitor. If next week's no. 1 ends up being a first, we'll update the story accordingly.
WEEK 1: Survivor by Destiny's Child vs. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
It's funny how things worked out for this first round battle. Although the battle is technically between Destiny's Child and Florence + The Machine, most onlookers are more interested to see us compare Beyoncé and Florence Welch, two powerful women with powerful voices, dominating their respective groups. We're sorry to disappoint, but we're not going to start a cat-fight between the fan-bases of both acts because A) they're both incredible solo performers and B) although no one (besides Kelly Rowland) disputes that Bey is the main attraction...comparing her solo output to that of her launching-pad group just doesn't work. There are too many forces at work for the latter's records to deem that Beyoncé is the sole "auteur," as say Trent Reznor is with Nine Inch Nails. Welch actually has a somewhat diminished role during How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, at least compared to previous albums. Her vocals are still the headlining event, yet the work of The Machine merits more attention than it did during Ceremonials. Although we stated our intentions to not compare Beyoncé's solo career with Destiny's Child...we can't help it. Bey is simply deeper and has gotten better with each album. Destiny had already peaked with The Writing's On The Wall and Survivor just doesn't hold up.
WEEK 2: Lateralus by Tool vs. Drones by Muse
Interesting. Once again the respective no. 1 albums seem to line up, despite being released 14 years apart, as both are considered among the most popular acts in contemporary progressive rock. That said...the styles are drastically different. Muse opts for an arena-ready sound, reminiscent of Matt Bellamy's beloved Queen, while Tool dabbles its feet in mainstream rock while preferring the sludgier depths of metal. Both bands have drawn-out and somewhat complex plans behind the albums presented here, both prepared primarily by the guitarists. Muse's Bellamy has written a storyline that jumps between plots tied together by the concept of "drones," whether that means government mind-control or abuse of smartphones. Tool's Adam Jones didn't write a plot for Lateralus, but several of the songs follow complex mathematical themes...such as the title track, which features time signatures and lyrics aligned along the Fibonacci sequence. Although Drones might pack the catchier singles, Lateralus is considered a golden standard for rock instrumentals.
WEEK 3: Break The Cycle by Staind vs. Before This World by James Taylor
The trend continues in terms of albums from different decades lining up. How do Staind and James Taylor have anything in common? Your correspondent didn't appreciate either Break The Cycle or Before This World. Rock fans will obviously pull for Staind, as this album broke the band through to the mainstream with singles such as "It's Been A While" and "Outside." Your correspondent will even give a favorable nod to those tracks. But the rest of the album? Staind is a band that got along well for years thanks to stellar singles, but never managed to put it all together into one solid album. Taylor, for as much as we were disappointed in Before This World, has. Perhaps it's with that bias that we give him the win in this one, although we had hoped for more after a 13-year absence without new music.
WEEK 4: Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by Blink-182 vs. Dark Before Dawn by Breaking Benjamin
Let us be the first to say that neither of these would be our first choice for either performer. Blink-182, believe it or not, was actually getting more mature as it released Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and Breaking Benjamin released its first solid album in a while after dismantling much of its lineup. That said, we still miss the frightening/psychedelic elements of the latter band's early albums Saturate and We Are Not Alone. Blink is fortunate in this case that, although we would easily take Enema of The State over this, Take Off doesn't come near to being as sappy and unbearable as the band's self-titled that followed it. Among the winners on Pants And Jacket is "First Date," a song that—while just as teen-pleasing as "The Rock Show"—crafted a hook as strong as anything in Blink's discography, which resonated with high schoolers and thirty-somethings, who remembered that phase of life, alike.
WEEK 5: Devil's Night by D12 vs. Dreams Worth More Than Money by Meek Mill
Ah good...the tiebreaker once again finds two comparable albums facing off: The debut of D12 and the second album from the increasingly popular Meek Mill. Looking back at Devil's Night, it strikes us at just how disappointing Eminem's group efforts have been. The emcee was hammering on the door of hip-hop with The Slim Shady LP and then blew it off its hinges with The Marshall Mathers LP, still one of the most acclaimed albums of this millennium. Those less familiar with hip-hop had long seen it as a tale of two cities: New York and Los Angeles. Therefore D12, Em and his seven buddies, seemed like a promising sampler of Detroit's other talent. We know now that there's plenty of talent hiding in the city's abandoned buildings...just not on this album. Devil's Night couldn't live up to the discography of its headliner, nor could D12's follow-up album three years later. Similarly, his collab with Royce Da 5'9" didn't reach its potential either. Mill doesn't have the talent of Eminem. But Dreams Worth More Than Money came with honesty (reflected in its title) and sincerity, something that D12 was never able to pull off.
ROUND AND MATCH WINNER: 2015.