Although this century has barely begun, the 21st century has seen some amazing releases by artists who were, to put it politely, fading into the background.
To celebrate these musical achievements, we’ve put together a collection of the 10 best comeback albums of the 21st Century so far.
In no particular order…
1.American Idiot – Greenday
Greenday experienced steady success in the early 80’s and 90’s as a punk rock band, and achieved widespread fame with their album Dookie in 1994.
After releasing Nimrod, they began to lose their momentum, and took a break after the lackluster performance of Warning in 2000 and the theft of their recordings for the unreleased Cigarettes and Valentines.
The band struggled to work together during this time, but the War on Terror proved to be their saviour.
They released American Idiot to a massively positive reception, reaching a new generation of fans who had been too young when Dookie was released, and have remained an icon of pop punk since.
The album itself has gone on to be adapted into stage musicals, film and has won multiple awards including two Grammys.
2. Beautiful World – Take That
After an 11 year hiatus and the departure of Robbie Williams to start a (hugely successful) solo career, it was no small shock when Take That released Beautiful World in 2006.
It immediately shot to the top of the UK charts – all of them – and was the first album to ever achieve this.
It achieved platinum certifications in several countries around Europe, including 9x platinum in their native UK and 2x Platinum in Ireland.
Take that all you Take That nay-sayers!
3. The Next Day – David Bowie
After a decade long break from music, with many thinking Bowie had completely retired from the music industry, he announced his upcoming album, The Next Day on his birthday in 2013 to the delight of fans around the world.
Critics were unanimously impressed, with some considering it to be his greatest work yet.
It quickly shot to the #1 spot in the UK and the #2 spot in the US, and both of these in dozens more locations.
4. You Are The Quarry – Morrissey
Morrissey’s solo career never quite had the strength of his time with The Smiths.
He was still popular, but his commercial performance was erratic through the 90’s. After the failure of Maladjusted in 1997, being panned by both fans and critics alike, he took a 7 year long break from music.
When he finally returned in 2004 with You Are The Quarry, Morrissey fans across the world rejoiced.
It seemed his native England had missed him dearly, and rewarded his return to form with a #2 chart spot on release of the album, losing out to Keane’s debut album.It also went on to spawn a number of powerful singles, particularly Irish Blood, English Heart and First of the Gang to Die which are usually enough to reduce burly men to tears.
5. Syro – Aphex Twin
Aphex Twin has always been something of a mixed bag.
His fans have adored him, but the general population will be more likely to wonder exactly what the hell they’re listening to and if it’s even music.When he released Syro in 2014, a long 13 years had passed since his last recording and fans were eager to hear it. It regularly makes up any list of the best comeback albums of the 21st century, and for good reason. Syro was well received by critics and fans, and it’s slightly more mellow sound and well characterised sound helped it reach a much wider appeal than his previous album Druqks. Syro also went on to win a Grammy for the Best Dance/Electronic Album.
6. 13 – Black Sabbath
Since Black Sabbath formed in 1968, they’ve been instantly recognisable as one of grand daddy’s of heavy metal. Their career halted in 1995 after the release of Forbidden, with Ozzy being busy doing his own thing. However, when they reunited in 2013 to bring us this masterpiece, it showed they hadn’t lost any of the creative talent and were still clearly the epitome of heavy metal. Black Sabbath worked with producer Rick Rubin, who is mostly known for his hip hop work, but has also been prolific when it comes to collaborating with the biggest stars in pop, rock and many other genres.13 went on to become their first number one album since Paranoid, sold over a million copies, and won several awards including a Grammy for Best Metal Performance with the album’s lead single, God Is Dead?
7. Compton – Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre’s comeback wasn’t a result of fading into obscurity and then suddenly revitalizing his career.
With his shifted focus onto being a producer, it was only natural that his own musical releases would slow. However, the scrapped Detox album meant that it was a long time before fans were able to hear any new material.The Compton album was given the kick it was needed to be completely finished with the release of the biopic Straight Outta’ Compton. On release it was performed well, was universally praised and achieved gold certification. Compton clearly shows Dr. Dre’s talents as a producer and collaboration artist coming to the surface, as it features numerous guest vocalists and writers working in tandem.
Sadly, it looks like this will be the last we see of Dr. Dre as a recording artist, as he claimed the album would be his ‘grand finale’.
8. Slowdive – Slowdive
22 years between releases is a pretty long time, and in that time the shoegazing genre had more or less completely died.
However, with every new generation there’s a new opportunity for anything, except perhaps Disco. And so it was with Slowdive, who managed to pull of a huge comeback with their self titled album Slowdive in 2017. Unlike the others that we’ve looked at, Slowdive never managed to top the charts, although they did respectably well by managing to break into the top 100.
Their fanbase has never been the most widespread, but they are extremely vocal and passionate who promptly went nuts when Slowdive hinted at a new release. All in all, Slowdive represents a new passage without sacrificing their roots.
9. Aerial – Kate Bush
After the release of The Red Shoes and giving birth to Bertie in 1998, Kate Bush disappeared from the public sphere.
An image of Bush as a recluse built up, although she dismissed this as simply wanting to focus more on her family life.
Despite this, the adoration she had earned in his early career was still bubbling away just below the surface. With the release of Aerial, Bush proved that not only did she still have what it takes to succeed, but had improved too. Aerial was her first and only double album, and was certified platinum in the UK and Canada. Critics were absolutely and universally delighted with the album, and many consider it to be her greatest work.When Bush performed live in 2014 on her Before the Dawn concert series, tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, a testament to how powerful her ability to draw a crowd was. In this way she may be one of the best comeback artists of all time, having never lost fans despite the long gaps in her career.
10. Bloodsports – Suede
Despite being the band that kicked off the wave of Britpop in the 90’s, they struggled to keep their momentum going.
Lineup changes, commercial difficulties and a shift in what was popular seemed to cement their demise, and they officially called it a night in 2003.Ten years later, Bloodsports came out. Despite everything that had plagued Suede, the album was a resounding return to form. Unbelievably, Brett Anderson’s vocal range doesn’t seem to have diminished in the slightest.
Although Bloodsports peaked at number 10 in the UK charts, it has been named as one of the best albums of 2013 by many publications and was met with many positive reviews.
10 Best Comeback Albums of the 21st Century (So Far)
It’s still a bit too early to make a definitive list of the best comeback albums of the 21st century.
Chances are that the best comeback artist hasn’t even been born yet. Still, we’ve had some pretty amazing blasts from the past and we’re only in the second decade.
Hopefully this is a sign of even better things to come.
If you disagreed with our list of the 10 best comeback albums of the 21st century (so far) why not tell us who you thought we should have included?
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.