Top 10 Musicians Who Saved Their Careers With One Album

Top 10 Musicians Who Saved Their Careers With One Album
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Now that's what we'd call a comeback record! For this list, we're looking at musicians and bands who'd either fallen out of favor or gone on an extended hiatus, until releasing a glorious comeback album. Our countdown includes Metallica, Bob Dylan, U2, and more!

Script Written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Musicians Who Saved Their Career with One Album

Talk about a comeback record! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 musicians who saved their career with one album.

For this list, we’re looking at musicians and bands who’d either fallen out of favor or gone on an extended hiatus, until releasing a glorious comeback album.

#10: Metallica

“Death Magnetic” (2008)
Metallica is unquestionably one of the biggest and most influential metal bands of all time. While so many acts of their generation struggled to stay relevant beyond the ‘80s, they did so with the more mainstream sound of The Black Album. Unfortunately, they then proceeded to falter in the mid-to-late 90s with Load and Reload, which were enormously polarizing, before hitting rock bottom with 2003’s widely panned release, St. Anger. Thankfully, the aging rock stars managed to reaffirm their relevance in 2008 with Death Magnetic, their hardest, thrashiest album in decades. Fueled by kickass singles like “All Nightmare Long” and an epic instrumental track, Death Magnetic was just what Metallica fans had been craving.

#9: Daft Punk

“Random Access Memories” (2013)
Daft Punk experimented with their third album, Human After All, by introducing a more minimalistic, heavy, and improvisational sound. It...didn’t work for most fans. The album received mixed reviews from critics and undersold, especially when compared to Discovery. And then, aside from the “Tron” soundtrack, Daft Punk disappeared from the public eye for the next eight years. Things were looking pretty dour. That is, until Random Access Memories, which reached #1 in over 25 countries, won the Album of the Year Grammy, and sold over three million copies. While the album as a whole is great, the lead single “Get Lucky” really put them back on the map, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time.

#8: Aerosmith

“Permanent Vacation” (1987)
A lot of ‘70s rock bands struggled throughout the ‘80s, and Aerosmith was no exception. Joe Perry left the group in 1979, Brad Whitford followed in ‘81, and the band’s members struggled mightily with drug abuse. However, they enjoyed a major resurgence in 1986 when Run-DMC released a cover of “Walk This Way” featuring Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation was released the following year and proved a major hit for the band. It benefited from the high-end production of Bruce Fairbairn and resulted in such major hit singles as “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Angel,” and “Rag Doll.” Ironically enough (considering its title), Permanent Vacation proved to be Aerosmith’s comeback and went on to sell five million copies.

#7: Ozzy Osbourne

“No More Tears” (1991)
Like we said, ‘70s rock gods struggled in the 80s. Osbourne and Black Sabbath helped redefine rock music in the early ‘70s, and Ozzy’s first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz, promised great things for his post-Black Sabbath solo career. Ozzy enjoyed sporadic success throughout the ‘80s, but his career was waning by the time No Rest for the Wicked was released in 1988. If it wasn’t for No More Tears, Ozzy may have become just another washed up rock God. Luckily, No More Tears saw four singles reach the top ten on the Mainstream Rock chart (including the hits “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and “Road to Nowhere” in the top three), and it became Ozzy’s best-selling album since Blizzard of Ozz eleven years earlier.

#6: U2

“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” (2000)
With the release of All That You Can’t Leave Behind, U2 famously stated that they were “reapplying for the job…[of] best band in the world”. After Achtung Baby, the band floundered somewhat with alt rock and dance music - their 1997 album, Pop, being a particular disappointment. Critics were “meh” on it, and Pop became one of the lowest-selling albums of U2’s career. For All That You Can’t Leave Behind, however, acclaimed producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois returned to help them recapture the magic. The album won seven Grammy awards, including two songs being named Record of the Year in 2001 and 2002 respectively. The album went on to sell over twelve million copies. The “best band in the world” had officially returned.

#5: Green Day

“American Idiot” (2004)
Green Day fans really didn’t like 2000’s Warning. It was a stylistic departure for the band, especially in regards to its lyrics and themes, and it was their first major label release to not reach multi-platinum status. The band certainly made up for it with American Idiot, however, which went 6x platinum in America and sold over sixteen million units worldwide. This was due in large part to the stellar string of singles, including the platinum sellers “Holiday” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” The album was also critically acclaimed and took home two Grammy awards - Best Rock Album and Record of the Year for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

#4: Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Californication” (1999)
Red Hot Chili Peppers were a bit of a niche band before the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991. Unfortunately, guitarist John Frusciante struggled with his newfound fame and quit the band as a result. Their followup album, One Hot Minute, was a critical and commercial disappointment, and replacement guitarist Dave Navarro was soon let go due to substance abuse. With the band seemingly set to implode, a desperate Flea asked a now-sober Frusciante to return. Frusciante happily agreed, and the mentally reinvigorated band created Californication, which remains their most commercially successful album with over fifteen million copies sold. Dream of Californication, indeed.

#3: Bob Dylan

“Time Out of Mind” (1997)
The ‘80s were hard on this iconic musician. Biographers accused him of being an alcoholic, he struggled to find a consistently engaging sound, and he released a string of critically and commercially disappointing albums. Following 1990’s much-maligned Under the Red Sky, Dylan embarked on an extended seven-year hiatus. His career seemed all but done for. That is, until he partnered with producer Daniel Lanois and released the stellar comeback album, Time Out of Mind. The album was praised for its songwriting and production and it went on to win three Grammy awards, including Album of the Year. Dylan was already a musical legend, but a late career renaissance never hurt anyone.

#2: Beastie Boys

“Paul’s Boutique” (1989)
Paul’s Boutique didn’t sell like the Beastie Boys’ debut album Licensed to Ill, but it did something even better - it kept the band together. The Beastie Boys struggled following the release of Licensed to Ill and were “barely speaking to one another.” To make matters worse, they were reportedly in a feud with Def Jam Records over withheld royalty payments. It all worked out in the end, and the Beastie Boys ended up signing with Capitol. It was here they released Paul’s Boutique, which is now regarded as a landmark and influential hip hop album that legitimized the Beastie Boys as a true artistic talent.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Paul McCartney & Wings
“Band on the Run” (1973)

Bruce Springsteen
“Born to Run” (1975)

“Bloodsports” (2013)

“Black Messiah” (2014)

Alice in Chains
“Black Gives Way to Blue” (2009)

#1: AC/DC

“Back in Black” (1980)
The story behind Back in Black is just as legendary as the album itself. AC/DC attained their first taste of mainstream success with Highway to Hell, but singer Bon Scott tragically passed away just six months after its release. The future of AC/DC was immediately called into question, and the band even considered calling it quits at the height of their career. However, Scott’s grieving parents urged them to continue, and they hired Brian Johnson as a replacement vocalist. Just five months after Scott’s death they released Back in Black, one of the highest-selling albums in music history and among the most iconic rock records. Scott would be proud.
Its truly amazing how Bon Scott died, and then Brian Johnson swooped in and saved them, and his first album, Back In Black, was one of the greatest albums in rock history.
Contrary to industry wide thinking, I have never believed that a reputation is worth very much toward the value of art. It is only useful if it gets twisted into something indefensible. Most people, including Jesus, were slandered somewhere along the line