On Thursday (February 11), the MTV Newsroom blog asked a question: Is Kanye West’s The College Dropout (which came out six years ago this week) the best debut album of all time? It sparked a number of debates both in the newsroom and on the site. Did The College Dropout accomplish more for Kanye than Appetite for Destruction did for Guns N’ Roses? Why was Nas’ watershed Illmatic left off the list? How could we possibly include Hootie and the Blowfish?
When the poll numbers finally came in, there was one band who dominated above all others. Pearl Jam won hands down with 71 percent of the vote. While there was some obvious ballot stuffing care of the message board denizens at the Ten Club, the victory for Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten is not without merit. As we said yesterday, Ten is a remarkable collection of instant classics that bridge the gap between a handful of sub-genres, and it still holds up today. While Kurt Cobain tends to get credit for re-arranging the mindsets of rock fans in the ’90s, Pearl Jam’s Ten was just as big a part of that revolution as anybody else.
As for the rest of the poll participants, West finished in a distant second place with 13 percent of the vote, followed by Oasis’ Definitely Maybe with a somewhat surprising seven percent. Save for Britney Spears (who picked up four percent of the vote), nobody else cleared one percent, which is somewhat surprising. The most shockingly low score? Appetite for Destruction, Guns N’ Roses’ debut album that is largely thought of not only as a stellar debut but also one of the best rock records ever made. Like Ten, it literally has no low points, from the iconic opening riff of “Welcome to the Jungle” to the closing bass bounces of “Rocket Queen,” it delivers power, precision and pop sensibilities in an extremely well-balanced package.
With any poll, there will always be complaints about omissions, and there were a handful of ideas that commenters brought up. The Cars’ self-titled 1978 debut could have made a case for inclusion (it bridged the gap between punk and new wave, and of its nine songs, eight became genre staples). Many people also brought up the first album by the Doors, which is a strong debut but fantastically overrated (especially on the second side). And several people complained that Led Zeppelin’s I should have been at the top of the list. But that band really didn’t find its groove until II (which contained hits like “Whole Lotta Love” and “Moby Dick”), and while I is strong, there’s an awful lot of meandering blues jams on that record. Still, it’s got a great cover, which should count for something.