linkin park
James Minchin

Fan poll: 5 best debut albums of all time

Debut albums set the tone. In the ’90s, Weezer made such a good record that when they got darker on their second, it sent their trajectory as a band into a spiral. In the 2000s, there was a slew of stellar debuts, from New York’s burgeoning indie-sleaze scene to the golden age of nü metal and pop punk. Then the 2010s heralded superb entrances from Odd Future, Billie Eilish, and SZA, to name a few. Even this year, plenty of bands are launching their careers and creating an impression in the process — just look at the Last Dinner Party.

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That said, we asked our readers to name the best debut albums of all time, and they fired back with wide-ranging answers that encompassed many genres and decades. Find the top fan picks ranked below.

5. The Killers – Hot Fuss

Twenty years later, the KillersHot Fuss is still a total blast. Besides the perennial shout-along “Mr. Brightside,” cuts like “Somebody Told Me,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” and “Change Your Mind” resonate just as deeply as they did back then. The album was, understandably, front-loaded with anthems that defined a generation, but time has been kind to its back half, too, which shines with lesser-loved songs that are equally radio-friendly. In the end, Hot Fuss was thoroughly representative of the indie-sleaze movement that defined a time and place in NYC — a golden era that’s starting to wrap back around.

4. The Used – The Used

The Used knew they had something special when they played “Maybe Memories” — the opening track from their 2002 self-titled debut, which became a landmark release for the emo and post-hardcore scene — over the speakers at a bowling alley and saw people’s reactions in real time. At that point, the members hadn’t traveled out of Utah often. Staying in Venice Beach while recording, plus getting to team up with workhorse producer John Feldmann, who’d frequently do all-night sessions, resulted in a “magical time,” in the words of Bert McCracken.

3. Avril Lavigne – Let Go

Avril Lavigne made a deep impression with Let Go, which she released when she was only 17. Through a series of evocative singles like “Sk8er Boi,” “Complicated,” and “I’m With You,” she captured teenage attitude in a way that made people take her seriously, inspired by the anger of angst of Alanis Morissette. Her fashion sense — the album cover features her wearing baggy pants and highlights — was also genius, even though she was just wearing old soccer shirts and stealing her dad’s neckties. “I would wear the same shit over and over. No one ever fucking does that now,” Lavigne says of the era.

2. My Chemical Romance – I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love

Helmed by Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love foreshadowed My Chemical Romance’s breakthrough — though no one could predict that they’d reach such massive heights. Filled with a collection of ambitious tracks, the album leaned into the realms of hardcore, prog, and pop punk but was bolstered by the strength of their storytelling. They had a message and purpose from the start, famously forming in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. “The world changed that day, and the next day we set about trying to change the world,” they said.

1. Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

Of course our readers voted Hybrid Theory as the best debut album of all time. Released at the turn of the millennium, Linkin Park knocked it out of the park on their first try, as its legacy and impact have since reached towering heights. The record found its audience quickly, thanks to the band being able to convey misunderstood youth and pent-up rage. With Chester Bennington’s inimitable voice, who sent songs like “Crawling,” “One Step Closer,” and “In The End” to the heavens, the band flowed between rap, metal, electronica, and alternative rock with style and skill. In the wake of Bennington’s passing, Hybrid Theory hits even harder than the day it was released.