Backstage: Flip flop

A look at some of the most high-profile recording disasters.
U2, Pop (1997).
U2, Pop (1997).
Michael Jackson, History (1995)
Michael Jackson, History (1995)


News that ultra annoying reality TV star Heidi Montag spent more than $2 million recording her debut album only for it to sell 700 copies got us thinking about some other more high-profile commercial recording disasters of recent years. (ed’s note: Some of these albums still rock in our opinion!)

U2, Pop (1997)
Pop represented the culmination of U2’s flirtation with electronica. Despite the commercial success of Achtung Baby and Zooropa, Pop appeared a beat too far for an increasingly estranged public. The meat and two veg sound of the album’s follow-up All That You Can’t Leave Behind dragged the band back into the mainstream.
Sales: Joshua Tree (15 million +); Pop (1.5 million).

Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Later recognised as marking the Beastie Boys’ seminal transformation from frat prats to artistes, Paul’s Boutique was the commercially disastrous follow-up to Licensed to Ill. Still a great album.
Sales: Licensed to Ill (9 million); Paul’s Boutique (2 million).

Michael Jackson, HIStory (1995)
Jackson’s ‘90s comeback album was an unmitigated stinker that was also overshadowed by sordid child molestation charges brought against the singer at the time. Jackson’s career – and reputation – never recovered from either catastrophe.
Sales: Thriller (35 million); HIStory (4 million).

Oasis, Be Here Now (1997)
The album that confirmed our worst-kept suspicions of the Brothers Gallagher and relegated Oasis to also-rans after the all-conquering (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. The album’s failure saw the brothers trade on tabloid fodder in a desperate attempt to maintain their flagging profiles.
Sales: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (11 million); Be Here Now (3m).

Guns ‘N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy (2008)
Axl Rose’s (note not ‘G ‘n’ R’s) critically panned comeback special was the subject of much derision after such anticipation. The album, which endured one of the longest gestations of any in history, was a major embarrassment, not to mention a sales shocker.
Sales: Appetite for Destruction (20 million); Chinese Democracy (1 million).

Mind Blowin’, Vanilla Ice (1994)
He of the recently aborted Barasti’s gig sank without a trace with this stinker after the success of his Ice, Ice Baby-anchored predecessor, To the Extreme. Bob Van Winkle’s (aka Vanilla Ice) street cred also disappeared, leaving him little choice but to reinvent himself as a tattooed hip-hopper.
Sales: To the Extreme (10 million); Mind Blowin’ (125,000).

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