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These artists knocked it out of the park on their third try

Alanis Morissette
Wayne Wilson
Getty Images
Alanis Morissette

We've all heard of the sophomore slump. After collecting heaps of commercial and critical success, an artist falters on their second try. But, what about the third effort?

For some acts, it's a shot at redemption. Primal Scream, for instance, had put out two records to middling results before releasing their beloved third album, Screamadelica.

For others, it's a breakthrough; Alanis Morissette wasn't expecting her pivot from dance pop to alternative rock to yield many sales, but Jagged Little Pill went on to become one of the best-selling records of all time.

Then, there are the artists who experienced no such mid-career slump and simply kept releasing bangers: Kendrick Lamar, A Tribe Called Quest and Adele, to name a few.

The third album can be a tragic final chapter, as was the case with Nirvana and Aaliyah. It can also be an opportunity for daring sonic reinvention. Radiohead and Björk followed up critically acclaimed sophomore albums in 1997 with something altogether new, strange and exciting with OK Computer and Homogenic, respectively.

Whatever the case may be, the artists in this playlist knocked it out of the park on their third try.

Copyright 2023 XPN

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.
Bruce Warren is assistant general manager for programming of WXPN in Philadelphia. Besides serving as executive producer of World Café, Warren also contributes to Paste magazine and writes for two blogs: Some Velvet Blog and WXPN's All About The Music Blog.