Editorial: Album Sequels Are The Worst
Welcome To My Nightmare is one of the greatest albums of all time, it’s theatrical classic rock sound and eerie subject matter defining the soul of Alice Cooper. So why on earth, thirty-six years after Nightmare came out, did Alice Cooper release Welcome 2 My Nightmare? Did anyone ask for a contemporary follow-up to this perfect piece of hard rock history? The album itself is a mixed bag—certainly not Cooper’s best but in no way his worst—but by being an apparent sequel to its maker’s most famous work, it is inherently awful.
Sequels to famous albums are terrible. They do a disservice to their creators, their predecessors, and themselves. No listener has ever been incredibly excited by a sequel to their favorite record, because all it means is that they will now have to excuse said sequel whenever they talk about how much they love the original. Do these artists, after gaining several years of life and experience, really think they’re going to do it all again? Because they can’t, they won’t, and no one really wants them to.
Especially bad are sequels made many years after the albums they’re following up, which seem only like cash grabs based on the now-legendary status of their most revered work. These have been a trend for some time now (Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell) but in the past five years or so have become far more common (Operation: Mindcrime II, Hellbilly Deluxe 2). None of these records possess the same level of talent as their originals, or even really the same spirit. Nor should they—the artists who made them have grown since then, experimented with new sounds and identities. Did they really believe that now, so many years later, they could finally begin crafting a follow-up to their great classic? Or did they just think that people like what they already know?
The problem is, of course, the constant comparison. Next to everyone’s favorite album, Everyone’s Favorite Album II: The Quest for Rent Money will always look pitiful. If one considers an album a snapshot of a band at the time, then everything about it becomes part of that album’s brand. The minute you attach a sequel to that album, you lessen its brand value, because now it’s part of some saga that involves lesser material. Michaelangelo’s David is a classic piece of art, but if it was followed by ‘David 2: David Trims His Toenails’ and ‘David 3: David Eats Spaghetti’, it would be seen as one entry in the bizarre and lackluster ‘David’ saga.
When they come out alongside their originals, album sequels aren’t as bad. Just because an album has a previous title with ‘2’ attached doesn’t make it a sequel as we know it. Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys pt. 2 or Danzig’s Danzig II: Lucifuge aren’t nearly as ill-conceived as the previously mentioned sequels because those were made around the same time as their predecessors and continue in the spirits of the albums before them, often showing musical development as they go. Bands writing comeback albums are also different; maybe this band is trying to create a sequel to their entire career, but at least they’re making something new and sometimes different (Celtic Frost and Death Angel, for example, were good about their comebacks being more than a rehash). An artist wanting the pieces of their career as many parts of a single theme is one thing; writing a follow-up to a revered classic is something else entirely.
This isn’t a trend only found in music, which is perhaps why musicians think it’s acceptable. Film franchises that fans once thought sterling in their legacy are now being rehashed in the hopes of banking on nostalgia; every Terminator movie after T2: Judgment Day is an example of this. Anchorman 2 took nine years to follow up its brilliant original, and every joke in the movie seems to declare this fact. Hell, it was recently announced that Warner Bros. has greenlit Beetlejuice II, a sequel to the ultimate stand-alone weirdo horror comedy (let’s not even get into the rumor that Michael Keaton will be replaced with Johnny Depp). Meanwhile, Chuck Palahniuk is writing Fight Club 2 as a comic book and Irvine Welsh published a Trainspotting prequel almost a decade after his brilliant original. Everyone who once seemed to understand the way media works is now revisiting stories that everyone liked just the way they are (there are, of course, exceptions to the rule—Mad Max: Fury Road was as good as it was only because those involved waited forever to make sure they got everything right).
The changing face of the entertainment industry is responsible for a lot of these unnecessary second acts. Artists who thought they grasped the way their business worked are now competing with blog writers (wooo, go blog writers!) and Vine celebrities. Their new efforts seem either antiquated or confusing to agents, editors, and fans alike. So where to turn? Well, when was the last time they were blowing people’s minds with their cutting edge and relevancy? What do people associate them with? Maybe that half-baked concept for a sequel they’d always toyed with has some legs. Why not give it a go?
At a certain point, you can’t hate your favorite artist for making an ill-advised sequel. This is their livelihood, and you can’t take the original away from them, so creating a follow-up to their classic album is their prerogative. But they should know that these sequels are never a good idea. It’s better they put out something new and original, even if it only does so-so and younger fans don’t recognize it, than try to follow up the source of their legacy and forever damn the original.