The sophomore slump is real. Just ask such short-lived phenomena as Vanilla Ice and Men at Work. But it certainly hasn't affected Adele, whose sophomore album 21 logs its 21th week at #1 on The Billboard 200. That puts the album in a tie with M.C. Hammer's 1990 album Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em for the longest run at #1 by any artist's sophomore album.
Sixteen sophomore releases have logged seven or more weeks at #1 since The Billboard 200 became a weekly feature in 1956. It's easy to see why so many sophomore albums have done so well. Having an album under their belts, the artists are warmed up. Their creative juices are flowing. They know what they're doing in the studio, but still have a lot to prove.
In three of these 16 cases (The Kingston Trio, The Monkees and Whitney Houston), the artists' debut albums had also reached #1. At the other extreme, in two cases (Carole King and Don McLean) the artists' debut albums hadn't even cracked the chart until the sophomore albums exploded.
Here's a list of all sophomore albums that have logged seven or more weeks at #1 since March 1956.
The Fine Print: I'm not counting EPs, Christmas albums or live albums. I'm also not counting small-label albums (by M.C. Hammer and Eminem) that preceded their major-label breakthroughs.
1. Adele, 21, 21 weeks. This 2011 album has spawned three blockbuster #1 hits, "Rolling In The Deep," "Someone Like You" and "Set Fire To The Rain." It won a Grammy as Album of the Year. It has far surpassed Adele's 2008 debut album, 19, which climbs to a new high (#5) this week.
2. M.C. Hammer, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, 21 weeks. This 1990 album spawned three top 10 hits: "U Can't Touch This," "Pray" and a cover of the Chi-Lites' "Have You Seen Her." It far surpassed Hammer's first major-label album, 1988's Let's Get It Started, which peaked at #30. (Hammer released a 1987 album, Feel My Power, on a small label, Bust It Records.)
3. Monkees, More Of The Monkees, 18 weeks. This 1967 album did even better than the group's 1966 debut, The Monkees, which spent 13 weeks on top. More Of The Monkees spawned the #1 smash "I'm A Believer." That exuberant song topped the Hot 100 for seven weeks, which equaled the Beatles' biggest hit to that point, "I Want To Hold Your Hand."
4. Carole King, Tapestry, 15 weeks. This 1971 classic spawned the #1 smash "It's Too Late." It won a Grammy as Album of the Year. The album far surpassed King's 1970 solo debut, Writer: Carole King, which didn't chart until after Tapestry. (It eventually peaked at #84.)
5. The Kingston Trio, The Kingston Trio At Large, 15 weeks. This 1959 album did even better than the group's 1958 debut, The Kingston Trio, which spent one week at #1. The Kingston Trio At Large spawned the top 15 hit "M.T.A."
6. Taylor Swift, Fearless, 11 weeks. This 2008 album did even better than Swift's 2006 debut, Taylor Swift, which peaked at #5. Fearless spawned two top five hits, "Love Story" and "You Belong With Me." It won a Grammy as Album of the Year.
7. Whitney Houston, Whitney, 11 weeks. This 1987 album did nearly as well as Houston's 1985 debut album, Whitney Houston, which logged 14 weeks at #1. Whitney was the first album by a female artist to enter The Billboard 200 at #1 and also the first by a female artist to spawn four #1 hits: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go."
8. Backstreet Boys, Millennium, 10 weeks. This 1999 album did even better than the boy band's 1997 U.S. debut album, Backstreet Boys, which peaked at #4. Millennium spawned the top 10 hits "I Want It That Way" and "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely." (Backstreet Boys had a hit album internationally before their American debut.)
9. Janis Joplin, Pearl, nine weeks. This posthumous 1971 album did even better than Joplin's 1969 solo debut, I Got Dem Ol' Kosmic Blues Again Mama!, which reached #5. Pearl spawned the #1 hit "Me And Bobby McGee."
10. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP, eight weeks. This 2000 album did even better than the rapper's first major-label album, 1999's The Slim Shady LP, which peaked at #2. The Marshall Mathers LP spawned the top five hit "The Real Slim Shady." (Eminem released a 1996 album, Infinite, on a small label, Web Entertainment.)
11. *NSYNC, No Strings Attached, eight weeks. This 2000 album did even better than the group's 1998 debut, *NSYNC, which peaked at #2. No Strings Attached spawned the top five hits "Bye Bye Bye," "It's Gonna Be Me" and "This I Promise You."
12. Fine Young Cannibals, The Raw & The Cooked, seven weeks. This 1989 album spawned back-to-back #1 singles, "She Drives Me Crazy" and "Good Thing." It did much better than the band's 1986 debut, Fine Young Cannibals, which peaked at #49. (The group never released third studio album.)
13. Big Brother & The Holding Company, Cheap Thrills, eight weeks. This 1968 album spawned the rock classic "Piece Of My Heart," which reached #12 on the Hot 100. Cheap Thrills far surpassed the band's first studio album, 1967's Big Brother & The Holding Company, which peaked at #60. Janis Joplin fronted the San Francisco-based group.
14. Don McLean, American Pie, seven weeks. This 1971 album spawned the title song, which reached #1 and became one of the most talked-about songs in pop history. American Pie far surpassed McLean's 1971 debut, Tapestry, which didn't chart until after American Pie. Tapestry eventually peaked at #111.
15. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, seven weeks. This 1969 album did even better than the band's 1969 debut album, Led Zeppelin, which peaked at #10. Led Zeppelin II spawned the top five hit "Whole Lotta Love."
16. Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears, seven weeks. This 1969 album spawned the top five hits "Spinning Wheel," "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and "And When I Die" (all of which peaked at #2). It won a Grammy as Album of the Year. Blood, Sweat & Tears far surpassed the group's 1968 album, Child Is Father To The Man, which peaked at #47.
In the same way that these sophomore albums were highly successful, second artist/producer pairings have been notably successful. Michael Jackson's Thriller, his second solo album with producer Quincy Jones, logged 37 weeks at #1 in 1983-1984. Billy Joel's 52nd Street, his second album with Phil Ramone, spent eight weeks at #1 in 1978-1979.
And Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, the band's second album featuring the line-up that made it famous, logged 31 weeks at #1 in 1977-1978.