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Comebacks are hard to pull off. For every Eminem or Aerosmith, there are several acts that fell short of their former successes by a long shot. Here are 15 comebacks hindered by lukewarm reviews, low sales, or bad blood.
The rap-metal group reunited its original lineup in 2011 and released the album Gold Cobra. When compared to the massive hit that was Chocolate Starfish In The Hotdog Flavored Water, the album is considered a major flop. Following Gold Cobra, Interscope would drop the band from their label.
Guns N’ Roses (Axl Rose)
The saga that is Chinese Democracy began in 1994 when the Guns N’ Roses began work on the follow-up to their failed The Spaghetti Incident. Due to a combination of heavy drug use and bad blood, bassist Duff McKagan, guitarist Slash, and drummer Matt Sorum all left the band and the album in the hands of frontman Axl Rose. Recording finally began in 1998, but Chinese Democracy would not see release until 10 years later. It debuted No. 2 on the top 200 but performed well below expectations. While the album would garner mostly favorable reviews, any success Chinese Democracy gained was tainted by the lofty expectations of decade-long hype.
After a brief resurgence in the early aughts as a reality TV star, Vanilla Ice took a page from his friends the Insane Clown Posse and began shooting for a more indie audience. Here’s a tip for anyone—unless you wear grease paint and rap about soft drinks like Faygo, don’t take advice from I.C.P. Though it’s hard to call his 2011 offering, W.T. F. (Wisdom, Tenacity, and Focus), a total failure, its wide variety of musical genres seems to symbolize Ice’s struggle to find a larger audience and identity. Following the pop cultural phenomenon that is “Ice, Ice, Baby,” it seems a true resurgence remains out Ice’s reach. Well, outside the Juggalo community, anyway.
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In a parallel story to his 90s counterpart, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer struggled throughout most of the 90s to top the success of “Hammertime” and the album Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em. Despite having modest success with singles like “Too Legit To Quit,” Hammer’s subsequent albums fared poorly. The Funky Headhunter would fail due to a change of image (to keep up with the emerging popularity of gangsta rap) and sexual content. His follow-up, V Inside Out, would return the rapper to his cleaner image in attempted comeback. Failing to garner even the gold status of Headhunter, Hammer would hang up his parachute pants and go gospel, becoming an ordained minister by the end of the 90s.
The Spice Girls
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After the British pop sensations lost Geri Halliwell from their lineup, their third album, Forever, would tank on the Billboard Top 200. The group would disband only to return in 2007 to promote a Greatest Hits album, with Halliwell back in the mix. The original line-up would record two new songs for the compilation, but the album would only peak at #93 on the Billboard 200.
In 2006, rock legends The Who released their first album in 24 years. Endless Wire would debut at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, with the single “It’s Not Enough” hitting No. 37 on the Billboard Rock Charts. Along with the album’s lukewarm performance, it would get mostly negative reviews from critics, who would dismiss it as fodder for only the most loyal fans of the group.
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After it was revealed that pop duo Milli Vanilli weren’t actually singing any of their own songs (in actuality it was Charles Shaw, John Davis and Brad Howell), it seems the group’s careers were over. However, one-half of the group, Fab Morvan, decided to release a solo record in 2003 in attempt to break the stigma. His album, Love Revolution, would be a critical success but failed to resonate with mainstream audience and never broke onto any Billboard charts.
The Sex Pistols
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The surviving members of The Sex Pistols reunited in 1996 for the Filthy Lucre Tour. They would do a similar tour again in 2007 and the next year in 2008. While the band hasn’t put out any new material since Never Mind The Bollocks in 1977, these reunions have gotten them increasing flack from critics, who refer to these concerts as sell-out cash grabs. These accusations have been further inflamed by the band’s sale of their catalog to Universal Music Group in 2012 and the 2010 release of a Sex Pistols fragrance.
Van Halen released A Different Kind of Truth earlier this year. The album saw the return of vocalist Dvaid Lee Roth to the group for the first time since 1984 and performed decently on the Billboard Top 200 (peaking at #2, but failing to become certified anywhere besides Canada). Unfortunately, Van Halen’s semi-comeback would be tainted by the cancellation of 30 of its summer reunion tour dates. Many media outlets would subsequently accuse them of having the same old Van Halen personal problems that broke up the band in ’84. Roth’s replacement, Sammy Hagar, would be quoted as saying he saw it coming, though the band’s members cite “fatigue” as the issue. The tour will be continuing in 2013, so perhaps Van Halen is merely teetering on the edge of a failed comeback.
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After disbanding in 2002, Courtney Love brought back her popular grunge rock band Hole in 2010 with Nobody’s Daughter. Though the album would hit No. 15 on Billboard Top 200, it would go down as one of the biggest commercial and critical flops of the year.
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Though he dominated the charts in throughout the 1980s, pop-punk rocker Billy Idol failed to find much of an audience in the following decade. In 2005, he returned to the studio for the first time in over a decade to create Devil’s Playground. The album, seen as a return to Idol’s snarling rock style, failed to generate an actual comeback to his previous Billboard successes. It would peak at 46 on the Top 200 and would hang on for a mere five weeks. A year later, Idol would return to the studio for—of all things—a Christmas album, Happy Holidays. It makes The Sex Pistols look like the picture of punk integrity by comparison.
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To their credit, The Doors managed to stretch out the lifespan of their group long after the death of lead singer Jim Morrison. They would use Morrison’s spoken word recordings for An American Prayer in 1978, which would go on to be a major commercial success. The band would continue this trend, releasing similarly conceived singles throughout the 90s. In 2002, band members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger reunited to create The Doors of the 21st Century. They would tour under the name and perform the band’s live music until drummer John Densmore stepped in and took legal action. Since then, the group has played under such names as Manzarek-Krieger or Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors. This proves, first and foremost, you should not attempt to comeback on the name brand name status of a band that basically died with its lead singer.
The Smashing Pumpkins
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The Smashing Pumpkins disbanded in 2000, only to reunite—in part—for the 2007 album Zeitgeist. It would be a kind-of-sort-of-reunion involving only frontman Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. The duo made Zeitgeist with the goal of recording an accessible, mainstream rock record. The result failed to capture the success of their previous albums. Though it peaked at No. 2 on the US Billboard Top 200 and eventually was certified Gold, the album underperformed and garnered mixed reviews. Chamberlain would leave the band shortly thereafter.
Naughty By Nature
Following a dispute over finances, DJ Kay Gee would depart the rap trio Naughty By Nature in 2000. Treach and Vin Rock, Nature’s remaining members, banded together to overcome his departure with Illcons in 2002. Though it would peak at #15 on the Billboard Top 200, it seemed without Kay Gee the album received a cool response from fans and critics. Treach and Vin Rock disbanded shortly thereafter until 2011, which saw the release of Anthem, Inc. with all three members reunited. Despite marking the 20th anniversary for the group, it failed to even gain the success of its previous album.
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DMX, one of the biggest selling rap artists in history, experienced a long hiatus following his 2006 album Year of the Dog… Again. He re-emerged in September 2012 with Undisputed. Despite decent reviews, the album debuted at #19 on the Billboard Top 200 and to date has sold merely 25,000 copies. It has been labeled a flop thus far– especially when compared to his past album sales.