If there’s one universal truth to alternative music, it’s that there’s no one path to success. Many talented artists grind for years, putting out record after record until one day they accumulate a global following. Others may find commercial success following the release of their debut album.
Of course, that’s not to say that any such artists are any more deserving of recognition than others. After all, the mainstream spotlight is a finicky thing. Still, such rapid breakouts are nothing short of impressive when they do occur.
Here are 10 alternative artists who broke out with their first album.
The Killers – Hot Fuss
When it comes to debut albums, few match the iconic standing of the Killers‘ Hot Fuss. However, your exact perception of the response to the release may be contingent on where you lived at the time. Despite hailing from Las Vegas, the band actually owe a significant portion of their mainstream success to the U.K. In fact, they maintain such popularity over there that “Mr. Brightside” has continued to chart consistently for over 15 years now.
Weezer – Weezer
With tracks such as “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly,” it’s no wonder that Weezer‘s debut self-titled album was a breakout success. Released in May 1994, it had achieved RIAA gold status by December, platinum by January and 2x multi-platinum by the following August. Their sophomore record, Pinkerton, didn’t receive quite the same commercial success, taking about five and 20 years to meet the gold and platinum milestones, respectively. However, their second self-titled album (Green Album) followed right on the heels of Blue, sweeping both titles in less than a year.
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
We all know that Julien Baker has been making waves in the modern alternative scene, even capturing the interest of well-established artists such as Anthony Green. But did you realize that her mainstream success goes right back to her debut album, Sprained Ankle? Her display of emo-laced indie rock received immediate attention following its release in October 2015, charting on Billboard‘s Heatseekers Albums chart the next month.
The Used – The Used
The Used had already signed to Warner‘s Reprise Records prior to releasing their debut self-titled album. So, it’s not particularly surprising that they started garnering some traction after it dropped in 2002. What was incredible, however, was just how quickly they became a prominent staple in the alternative music scene. Before the year was up, the album had topped the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Now almost two decades and seven additional studio albums later, “The Taste Of Ink” still remains their most popular track, according to Spotify streams.
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
Anybody involved in the alternative music scene circa 2005 remembers the rapid emergence of Bloc Party. It was like one day we’d never heard the name, and the next, it was everywhere. Of course, that’s not to be unexpected with a debut album like Silent Alarm. The record brought a revolutionary display of danceable, emo-leaning indie rock, foreshadowing the genre’s next decade of progression. Unsurprisingly, it charted globally within its first year.
PVRIS – White Noise
It’s truly mind-blowing that PVRIS have now been in our rotations for the better part of a decade. After all, their emergence is one of the most iconic rises in modern music history. That’s because it wasn’t a rise at all but more of an explosion that coincided with their debut album, White Noise. But really, what more could we expect from a band who tackled their first full-length with the likes of Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage?
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Does anyone else have a vivid memory of hearing “It’s Time” on the radio for the first time and wondering where the hell it came from? That’s because Imagine Dragons became practically an overnight sensation with the release of their chart-sweeping debut album, Night Visions, in 2012. While we were admittedly totally blindsided by their emergence, we immediately knew that they’d be dominating alternative music for years to come.
Panic! At The Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out
Did Panic! At The Disco ever really have a concrete debut, or did A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out just bleed into our collective conscience? We’re leaning toward the latter being the reality. The record launched them into stardom so fast that we blinked and missed the rise. Of course, that seems to happen whenever Pete Wentz lends his support to a new project.
Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
If you continued watching MTV into the 2010s, you probably had a moment when you heard Wolf Alice through your TV screen and thought, “Wow. How haven’t I been listening to this band for the last decade?” Well, that would be because they only emerged into the alternative spotlight in 2015 with My Love Is Cool. While they’d released a handful of EPs prior, it was this record that swept the U.K. charts and gained them global fame in a matter of weeks.
Avril Lavigne – Let Go
You didn’t think we were going to let go of this topic without acknowledging Avril Lavigne‘s meteoric rise, did you? Believe it or not, the pop-punk icon had actually gotten her start as a folk and country artist. Fortunately for the broader alternative scene, though, she redirected and put out Let Go. The debut was met with remarkable commercial success, immediately catapulting Lavigne into the forefront of a scene that she’d continue to influence for decades.
Who are some of your favorite artists who broke out after their first full-length? Sound off in the comments!