The spring semester here at UIC is underway, and we’re all trying to get back into the swing of things after our month long winter break. Having a month off from classes is an absolute gift, and is also completely unheard of in the post-graduation “real world,” but for some unconventional jobs (like being a musician), a break can last decades. While we students are coming back to the reality of college life, here are 5 comeback albums that redefined sound, image, and the music industry as a whole.
1. Random Access Memories (2013) by Daft Punk
Random Access Memories was easily the most hyped album of 2013, and was the French duo’s first full length release since 2005. An homage to late 70s/early 80s underground dance music, this record features standout features and collaborators (The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, Pharrell Williams, Animal Collective) and had not one, but two smash singles (“Get Lucky,” “Lose Yourself to Dance”). Random Access Memories not only solidified Daft Punk’s legacy influence in the pop music sphere, but it also breathed life back into a genre of electro-dance music that has been forgotten due to the rise of EDM in the past decade.
2. Stillmatic (2001) by Nas
One of the greatest rap comebacks of all time, Nas’ Stillmatic helped the Brooklyn rapper to reiterate his importance in the genre and to emphasize his legacy, which was beginning to fade after releasing three disappointing albums. 1994’s Illmatic put Nas on the map, with his name in bright flashing neon and his talent widely regarded as legendary. But this was met in the mid-90’s by the emergence of Jay-Z, whose spectacularly popular releases almost totally knocked Nas out of the rap game. After three lyrically, sonically, and commercially unimpressive albums, Nas hit back hard with Stillmatic. Though not a considered a comeback in terms of time (Stillmatic was only released two years after Nas’ last album, Nastradamus) this record recaptured the influential talent and sound that was first showcased in Illmatic.
3. The Next Day (2013) by David Bowie
Undoubtedly one of the most influential acts in the history of rock music, David Bowie has an extensive and impressive discography, so it is odd to think that his twenty-fourth (!!!) studio album is the greatest comeback of his career, but The Next Day launched Ziggy Stardust back into the atmosphere with a sonic boom. Musically, The Next Day bounces from genre to genre, from influence to influence, showcasing David’s flexible talents in the best ways possible. Critically, this album was widely called a modern day masterpiece. Unlike most comeback albums, which have a tendency to directly challenge the artist’s past, The Next Day addresses Bowie’s storied past, and engages with it, using it as a springboard of sorts for the album. This record proved to the world that David Bowie had so much left in him as an artist, and though not his final album before his unexpected death last year, The Next Day is widely regarded as one of his most illustrious releases.
4. Back in Black (1980) by AC/DC
Sometimes, the breaks taken by bands in between albumsare unplanned and unwanted, as is the case with AC/DC. Following the untimely and unexpected death of lead singer Bon Scott in 1980, the band had to reevaluate its music and itself as a whole, and from there decide whether or not to continue writing, recording, and releasing music. At Scott’s funeral and after a burst of inspiration, the band regrouped quickly, and went on to record and release Back in Black less than six months after Scott’s death. Regarded as the greatest rock comeback in history, Back in Black is the second-highest selling album in history, and has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. The singles “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Hells Bell” continue to receive radio play across the globe, as the album nears its 40th anniversary. AC/DC somehow managed to overcome tragedy, redefine its image, and produce one of the most iconic albums in history all in a few months, making Back in Black an absolute masterpiece in music history.
5. Kanye West
Rather than a single one of his albums, Kanye himself is included in this list, mostly because his entire existence as an artist relies on him coming back from tragedy, embarrassment, etc. Kanye has a way about him that is so unapologetic, it is oftentimes seen as the purest form of honesty that anyone has ever dared to bare in modern media. It is because of this honesty that an entire generation views him as a sort of prophet, an artist that injects truth and gospel and features of classic hip hop into mainstream rap, a respectable task. But following the death of his mother, a tumultuous public relationship with a certain buzz-cut-sporting model, and an infamous interruption, Kanye lost credibility, respect, and trust. Then, he came screaming back into our good graces with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an extraordinary record of epic proportions that impressed the whole world. Now, six years after that release (and the release of two more critically-acclaimed albums) Kanye has once again fallen from grace, from familial issues to concert-stopping rants, he’s spiraling into what seems like will be another 2009. With this in mind, all we can to is clutch our copies of Late Registration to our chest, listen to “Ultralight Beam” on full volume, and hope that for the world’s sake, Kanye’s next album will make all his others seem like child’s play.