Five Debut Albums from Artists Who Later Got Very Famous

Success often takes more than one try, and even megastars sometimes taste failure at the start. While some artists hit the bull’s eye with their very first project (think Whitney Houston or Britney Spears), others need to take a stab at it multiple times, struggling through low sales and broken record deals before going big. This piece peers behind the fame and glamor of five prominent artists to revisit their humble beginnings, exploring their often forgotten and overlooked debut albums.
Katy Hudson – Katy PerryRanked the eighth best-selling female artist of all time and boasting nine Billboard no. 1 singles, Katy Perry is one of today’s biggest pop superstars, so it’s understandable that many people forget, or simply do not know about, her eponymous gospel debut LP Katy Hudson. Perry was only a teen when she recorded the album and was still going by her given name, hence why she’s credited with “Hudson” and not “Perry.” The CCM collection dropped on March 6, 2001 under Red Hill Records, a subsidiary of independent Christian label Pamplin Music. Perry wrote or co-wrote all ten tracks on the LP, including a piece she composed as an eighth-grader.”I think it’s super important that I write because you have all these people who are my age in the industry that are saying, ‘I have lots to say and I’m really here for some reason,'” a 16-year-old Perry told DeWayne Hamby. “Well if you do have lots to say, write it! I mean, the least you can do is write it down on paper, get it out there some way.”

However, the album would flounder commercially. Prior to its release, Red Hill had declared bankruptcy and thus provided Katy Hudson with virtually no publicity or marketing, leaving the LP with a scanty sale of around 200 copies. The label became defunct at the end of the year, and the album’s production and distribution consequently halted.

Despite its commercial flop, Katy Hudson found recognition in the Christian music community; Christianity Today named it one of the top albums of the year, and the collection’s two singles, “Trust in Me” and “Search Me,” made it on Radio & Records‘ Christian music charts, with the former reaching #17 on the rock chart and the latter hitting #23 on the CHR chart.

In the Garden – Eurythmics
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” may be Eurythmics’ most iconic hit, but that wasn’t where they started. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart had been working together for years by the time they released their 1983 phenomenon, with the beginning of their collaboration predating the formation of Eurythmics itself. Lennox initially met Stewart while waitressing at a London eatery, and the two became a couple. Along with singer-songwriter and guitarist Peet Coombes, they later founded the pop/rock collective The Catch, which was rebranded as The Tourists following the addition of drummer Jim Toomey and bassist Eddy Chin. Although the group found some success, with three well-received LPs and two singles hitting the UK Top 10, they disbanded in 1980, and Lennox and Stewart formed Eurythmics shortly thereafter.

Despite ending their romantic relationship, the duo continued their musical collaboration, unveiling their debut album In the Garden on October 16, 1981. Described by Classic Pop’s Steve Harnell as “a gutsy post-punk collection that boasts muscle, angular riffs, as well as soulful vocals,” Eurythmics’ first effort contains a spiritual aura and sounds looser than later tracks, but it does inch towards their crispier synth-pop direction with some frosty synth sounds. Lennox and Stewart reunited with krautrock producer Conny Plank for the album, recording it at Plank’s studio in Cologne, Germany.

“Conny was so special,” Lennox remembered in a 2018 interview with Classic Pop. “The air was thick with experimentation. You entered the studio door and it was like you’d stepped into another landscape.”

However, In the Garden did not break the charts anywhere, and its two singles also found little success; “Never Gonna Cry Again” only reached #63 in the UK, while “Belinda” failed to chart at all. Although the LP is often overlooked, it did not fly under the radar of Smash Hits‘ Tim de Lisle, who called Eurythmics’ debut “an intelligent, accessible first album” when it first came out.

Quiet Riot – Quiet Riot
Formed in 1975 with the original four-man lineup of vocalist Kevin DuBrow, bassist Kelli Garni, drummer Drew Forsyth, and guitarist Randy Rhoads, American heavy metal outfit Quiet Riot made a splash in the L.A. music scene but was unable to procure a recording contract here in the States. Consequently, the group turned their attention to the other side of the Pacific, where they released their 1978 self-titled debut album under CBS/Sony Japan. The 12-track collection features two covers, renditions of Small Faces’ “Tin Soldier” and The Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over,” as well as “Back to the Coast,” a song Rhoads co-wrote with his brother Kelle. While Garni described the recording process for Quiet Riot, also called Quiet Riot I, as “pretty easy,” working with the producers was not as smooth sailing.

“Working with some of [the people] was not so great, like our constantly missing producer who was at the bar next door,” Garni told The Metal Voice. Similarly, DuBrow lamented to Guitar for the Practicing Musician in 1993 that producers Warren Entner and Derek Lawrence “didn’t know from guitars.” While Quiet Riot’s first effort slipped under the radar for most, it did garner significant publicity in the Land of the Rising Sun, as recalled by Garni.

“There was a gigantic following,” Garni explained to The Metal Voice. “All we knew was that we got a lot of fan mail and, thank God the fans back then would often send those magazines that we appeared in, so that we have a copy. So I had a huge collection of those, and we were in a lot of magazines. All the most prestigious Japanese magazines that were around, we were in all of them. And, so you said, ‘Well, I guess I made it in Japan.'”

The Fourth World – Kara’s FlowersBefore Maroon 5, there was Kara’s Flowers. In 1995, classmates Adam Levine, Ryan Dusick, Mickey Madden, and Jesse Carmichael came together to form Maroon 5’s alternative metal/rock predecessor, whose name came from a fellow student the boys were crushing on. While The Fourth World was technically not the quartet’s first album (they had self-released the garage-rock/grunge set We Like Digging? in 1995), it was their first project with a professional record label. The 11-track collection’s lead single “Soap Disco” dropped on July 22, 1997, with the full-length LP following four weeks later. The Fourth World features alternative arrangements as well as pop-esque melodies, and Levine’s voice is already easily distinguishable. It also reflects the group’s young, fresh-faced nature, with Entertainment Weekly‘s Tom Lanham writing, “these optimistic, lyrically awkward kids spend 10 more happy tracks on The Fourth World turning the tables on lethargic slacker cynicism, with Green Day producer Rob Cavallo bridling all that youthful zeal.”

However, the album fared poorly, selling only about 5,000 copies, and the band consequently lost their record deal.

“Kara’s Flowers was just floating up the wall beneath the sticks,” Levine told Pure Songwriters. “Make a record quickly, put it out. No touring base, no nothing. Just try to make it happen right out of the gate and it just doesn’t work.”

Although The Fourth World wasn’t the triumph the boys were hoping for, it serves as a compelling preview of what Kara’s Flowers would later accomplish as Maroon 5.

Björk Gudmundsdóttir – BjörkNot many people can say that their music career started as a pre-teen, but Björk is an exception. At just 11 years of age, she released her 1977 eponymous debut album, a 10-track collection that set the foundation for the Icelandic singer’s signature eclectic style.

“The record came about when Björk was at school,” Björk’s mother Hildur Hauksdóttir told Thomas Rinnan. “They used to have an open house every week where the kids had to entertain, read aloud and things like that. Björk sang a song called ‘I Love To Love.'”

Impressed by the 10-year-old’s performance, Björk’s teacher sent a tape to RÚV, then Iceland’s sole national radio station, who in turn granted the young musician airplay.

“After that she was offered a record deal by a label called Fálkkin,” Hildur recalled. “I knew two musicians here, Pálmi Gunnarsson, a bass player and singer, and Sigurður Karlsson[,] a drummer, and they had already recorded some songs with Björk. We worked on the record at the Hljdrijinn Studios in Reykjavik. Palmi and Siggi brought in some of the best players in Iceland.”

In addition to Gunnarsson and Karlsson serving as producers, the record also saw the contributions of Björk’s stepfather Sævar Arnason and guitarist Björgvin Gíslason. The tracks range from Icelandic covers of English songs, namely “Búkolla” (“Your Kiss Is Sweet” by Stevie Wonder), “Bænin” (“Christopher Robin” by Melanie Safka), “Álfur Út Úr Hól” (“The Fool on the Hill” by The Beatles), and “Alta Mira” (by Edgar Winter), to tunes specifically composed for the LP, including the opening piece “Arabadrengurinn” (“The Arab Boy”) and “Jóhannes Kjarval,” a recorder piece written by Björk herself in homage to the namesake Icelandic painter.

Following her debut project, the developing musician declined an offer to create a second record, using her earnings to purchase a piano instead. Björk began to write her own new songs, setting the stage for her remarkable future endeavors.

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Mohammad Mo
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The former Big Brother contestant has been working with MarkMeets for 5+ years.

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