Perhaps it’s not a new phenomenon, but comeback and reunion albums have become a more frequently accepted way of life than most bands’ breakups at this point. It seems obvious at this point though; who wouldn’t want to relive their artistic success for exponentially more cash than they may have made when they were still building their legend? Some former creative partnerships have been just too acrimonious to mend even for a non-hypothetical pile of cash though, as the Misfits, Van Halen, and the Police all know too well from short-lived truces.
But after A Tribe Called Quest’s swan song last year (We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service), Brand New’s purported final album last month (Science Fiction) and LCD Soundsystem’s first album following a not-so-definite seven-year hiatus (American Dream) earlier this month — all of which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart — it’s pretty clear that such legacies have legs. Those three success stories are all widely beloved artists whose public esteem only swelled in their absence, though there was still some heartwarming element of surprise to their reunions reaching the summit that they did.
In descending order of likelihood, here are bunch of other hypothetical reunion albums that could conceivably threaten the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart if these fervently beloved artists were to reemerge from studio retirement tomorrow.
Tool has confirmed for eons that they’ve been working on a new album — likely spending years alone striving for the perfect drum sound — and they also headlined this year’s Governor’s Ball back in June, an unusual feat for a rock band, let alone one whose tunes regularly evade normal choruses and time signatures while spelunking past the eight-minute mark.
But Maynard James Keenan routinely quashes rumors that such a set is coming out anytime soon — he’s explicitly put the kibosh on a 2017 release — and that Gov. Ball set only included one unreleased song, “Descending,” which bassist Adam Jones still insists will sound nothing like the finished version, possibly to dismay YouTube bootleggers. Either way, their last two albums, 2001’s Lateralus and 2006’s 10,000 Days, debuted at the Billboard 200’s top spot and those only followed mere five-year breaks, and their upcoming album (12 years and counting) would seem a decent bet to join them. One thing Tool fans know how to do is wait.
System of a Down
The flipside of Tool is System of a Down, whose last two albums both reached No. 1 in the same year, 2005, but they’ve barely confirmed in passing that they are working on a new record, with Serj Tankian telling this writer in 2015 that the band is “open” to it and they all agree it needs to be a big “leap” from anything they’ve done before. Considering nu-metal’s greatest band managed to weave ska, R&B, jazz and disco into their cinderblock riffs and bizarre political tirades, all before calling it quits, it’s safe to say it make take a while before they figure it out.
Bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan have expressed frustration to Loudwire this summer, implying that the band’s principal songwriters are the holdup. Meanwhile, Tankian continues to prolifically release Mike Patton-styled detours like his jazz ensemble lark Jazz-Iz-Christ on his own label, Serjical Strike. Fans are undoubtedly jonesing for this one, and the political landscape could give a new System record added poignancy (just like A Tribe Called Ques)t if they brought even a fraction of the old anti-establishment fury to the end product.
My Chemical Romance
While Tool and System of a Down are officially still in business and making fans salivate for their first new material since roughly the same time, mall-punk now-legends My Chemical Romance perhaps stand the greatest chance of the actual disbanded acts to both return and reach the top of the albums chart. Even with just four years passed since their official breakup, their presence is most felt as one missing in action during a particularly emo-friendly rock renaissance, and they’re positively rebellious compared to the polished new synth-pop Paramore is peddling and the relatively mature sounds of the new Blink-182 and Brand New albums making big splashes close to their niche.
The true analogue here is Fall Out Boy, who didn’t quite split but came back in a big way with hits and visibility and everything after the half-decade sabbatical that followed 2008’s widescreen arena-rock pivot Folie a Deux — and critics have only embraced MCR more over time. Meanwhile, Gerard Way’s 2014 solo bow Hesitant Alien didn’t exactly kickstart an alternative solo career, and while he’s been particularly successful as an award-winning comic-book artist, it’s hard to imagine him staying away from music for too long. Fans positively plotzed when the teasers for the 10th anniversary edition of The Black Parade last year were thought to be a new album entirely.
Did you see the ratings for this year’s BET miniseries The New Edition Story? They’re enough to make you believe in the original new-jack boy band, even if you didn’t notice they released an album called One Love as recently as 2004. New Edition announced a new album and tour this year, and those are expected to do their best numbers since the group’s heyday, though reaching No. 1 would certainly be a challenge; Bobby Brown and Bell Biv Devoe haven’t had hits since the early ‘90s and throwback R&B is a tough landscape right now — even the beloved TLC’s much-touted final album TLC bowed at a modest No. 38 this year. Could N.E. compete with the likes of Beyoncé, Solange, Frank Ocean, and the Weekend on the charts?
Hootie and the Blowfish
Laugh if you must, but frontman Darius Rucker has scored four different Billboard top 10 albums on his own during the last ten years, including two that reached No. 2. The Cracked Rear View singer now enjoys two audiences, as both the frontman on one of the best-selling pop-rock albums of all-time and as a highly respected journeyman in country music who’s scored hits under his given name. Hootie and the Blowfish have been officially confined to charity concerts since 2008 but Rucker was quick to clarify that they “aren’t even split up right now” and that the band would possibly continue after he releases “three or four” solo country records. He’s up to five.
You can also bet that enough time has passed that his fans don’t feel goofy at all about buying a Hootie album in the late 2010s. All that kind of stands in their way is the fact that they put out four albums post-Cracked Rear View that many didn’t notice. But Rucker’s solo numbers don’t lie and it’s hard to imagine him outdoing the group proper, especially when they pulled off Cracked Rear View.
Sunny Day Real Estate
If Brand New can do it, why can’t the inventors of their whole world? Jeremy Enigk’s obscure solo career has been helped by the devoted faithful, most recently for an album called Ghosts crowfunded by PledgeMusic that’s expected to drop this year. But it’s been eight years since he actually released one (2009’s limp OK Bear) and his fellow founding emo fathers regrouped as Sunny Day Real Estate in 2014 to attempt a new album that got shitcanned, save for a Record Store Day single (“Lipton Witch”).
It’s been 17 years since the emo greats’ last reunion to bear fruit – 2000’s gorgeously produced The Rising Tide, full of surprisingly Rush-influenced anthems, on the instantly kaput Time Bomb label. They still wield some of the best-selling catalogue entries in Sub Pop’s oeuvre — and emo, the genre they inadvertently helped create, isn’t going away anytime soon, meaning they’ll continue to be praised as gods by many. Give them a real label push and a real album and we could be looking at an underdog story bigger than LCD Soundsystem and Brand New combined.
From a chart standpoint, this may be the most ridiculous entry here; the greatest and most adored woman-led punk band in history never scratched the Billboard 200 during the ‘90s when they existed. And frontwoman-firebomb Kathleen Hanna hasn’t made much of a sales splash with either her also-beloved electropunk trio Le Tigre or her current band The Julie Ruin even with a nine-year absence from recording due to a tragic bout with Lyme disease.
But possibly more than anyone else on this list, the love for her old band is so great, and a reunion so never-even-teased that fans of a certain age would rush to (possible actual) record stores to buy it – at least, if they knew it was coming. Hanna has admirably refused to ride the coattails of the more famous artists around her – her husband Adam Horovitz in Beastie Boys or Green Day, whose smash second-wind American Idiot she guested on, or Nirvana’s epochal “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which she named. All it would take is an ethical but industry-savvy liason, like say, Sub Pop or Merge, to release a new album from one of the most influential and revered icons of the post-punk era, and finally give her the numbers to match the clippings and amount of fans with her lyrics and slogans tattooed on themselves.
Like Kathleen Hanna, Jenny Lewis’ stardom is measured in love: People are just crazy for her. Rilo Kiley was largely ignored by tastemakers during their own time, but beloved by Saddle Creek’s collegiate cult, and Lewis has since gone on to prove a formidable solo artist who collaborates with Beck and Ryan Adams (on 2014’s glowing Stevie Nicks fever-dream The Voyager), while her old band continues to garner nostalgia without having quite blown up the way anyone who heard Lewis sing ever thought she would. You can bet a new album would send old fans flying — not to mention Haim and Tegan and Sara fans who know they’d fit right in with today’s alt-rock banner-wavers.
If you think it’s a past-the-breaking-point stretch to consider the progenitors of gangsta rap putting out a new album, don’t be so sure. The feature biopic, Straight Outta Compton, was a box-office hit in 2015, and Dr. Dre’s companion album Compton was widely acclaimed as a healthy replacement for his aborted Detox project. No Eazy-E? No problem; they’ve reunited and even toured before with Snoop Dogg filling that slot, and if these are close associates of the people behind 2Pac, the original hologram performer, do you really think digitally bringing the far less revered Eazy along would be considered more sacrilege?
A No. 1 would be absolutely in the bag should N.W.A resurface, especially if they rebranded themselves as political activists – what better time to revive the group that made law enforcement fear the popular power of rappers forever? There’s already been somewhat of a dry run with Body Count’s Bloodlust this year, the most widely noticed musical project Ice-T has done in forever, and the almost-out Prophets of Rage album, by members of Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, and Cypress Hill, who are doing better on the retro circuit by joining forces. N.W.A are bigger than any of those guys and their influence has only expanded with time; the biggest traditional rapper in the world, Kendrick Lamar, is a vocal Comptonite.
The White Stripes
As with many of the people on this list, Jack White continues sell well on the road and on the charts with myriad projects that ultimately no one believes are superior to his legendary duo. The White Stripes closed up shop ten years ago after scoring a No. 3 album (2005’s muted, oddball Get Behind Me Satan) and a No. 2 album (2007’s roaring, oddball Icky Thump) respectively, and no truly agreed-upon guitar band has quite filled the void since (The Black Keys? Paramore? Twenty One Pilots? Certainly no one unanimous). With rock in decline, and Jack White still a sharp-playing weirdo who treats the world as his personal toy factory, the White Stripes who began as a Detroit lo-fi success story would return today as Zeppelinesque titans. But Meg, never a fan of the limelight, isn’t having it thus far.