A collection of stand out tracks off of debut albums.
First impressions are important. Doubly important in the billion dollar music industry. On average, musical artists have about fifteen seconds to capture a listener’s attention – so what an artist chooses to do with that first crucial quarter of a minute can be imperative to either gaining or losing a listener forever.
Granted the music industry has changed drastically in the past two decades, furthering itself from full album format, realizing it can make just as much, if not more, on a hot single without the multimillion dollar risk investment of sending a band into a recording studio for months but ultimately, the same truth remains: First impressions are critical.
This upcoming list of best opening tracks on debut albums is by no means an authoritative account. I am not a music critic or music writer by any means. I used to play music in bands but found no real mainstream success. This entire project is only a product of my undying love for the witchcraft that is music. The original time traveling device. The invisible muse.
The rankings are not based on the commercial or critical success of the song or band but it does seem to reflect that higher on the list. Some of these bands are even one hit wonders – with such good opening tracks, that are still impossible to ignore. I hope you enjoy this list and would like to know your favorite opening track of a debut album in the comments.
30.) Thom Yorke – “The Eraser”
Origin: Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England
Genres: IDM / Electronic / Alternative
Described by Rolling Stone as, “one of the most influential singers of his generation” Thom Yorke doesn’t disappoint on his first solo effort breaking away from his legendary quartet, Radiohead. The Eraser is dark, anxious and mournful juxtaposed against bubbly synths and drum machines. Exposing pop music’s hidden teeth. Bubblegum dystopia at its finest.
29.) Coldplay – “Don’t Panic”
Origin: London, England (1996)
Genres: Alternative Rock / Pop Rock / Pop
Labels: Parlophone / Atlantic / Capitol / Warner Music / EMI / Fierce Panda
The most successful band of the 21st Century – with over 100 million albums sold, some could argue that Coldplay’s first three albums might be some of the best records of all time. But it all began with this soft, heartfelt tune with dreamy guitars and a sense of wonderment.
28.) Streetlight Manifesto – “Everything Went Numb”
Origin: New Brunswick, New Jersey (2002)
Genres: Ska / Punk Rock
Labels: Victory / RISC / Pimento Music Company
After the dissolution of ska juggernauts, Catch 22, lead singer Tomas Kalnoky took his million miles a minute vocal style and started fresh – to almost immediate cult fanfare and critical acclaim with Streetlight’s debut, everything goes numb. The band has managed to release another four albums despite a decade long legal battle with professional dickheads, Victory Records.
27.) Chris Cornell – “Can’t Change Me”
Origin: Seattle, Washington (1983)
Genres: Alternative Rock / Hard Rock
Labels: SST / Sub Pop / A&M / Epic / Suretone / Interscope / Mosley
Following the break up of Grunge legends, Soundgarden, Cornell went off to prove that he was much more than a heavy metal frontman. Showcasing a more delicate side than he had a chance to in Soundgarden, Chris would go on to have a commercially and critically successful solo career as well as join forces with another band farther down our list. There is a reason why Chris Cornell is portrayed as “God” in any fictional piece on this website. RIP Chris.
26.) Boston – “More Than A Feeling”
Origin: Boston, Massachusetts (1975)
Genres: Hard Rock / Progressive Rock
Labels: Epic / MCA / Artemis / Frontiers
Tom Scholz brainchild, Boston would come out of the blue and rock the world with debut album, Boston. The demos of the titled release was recorded in Scholz’s apartment and Scholz was so intent on controlling m what is now known as the “Boston Sound” – he tricked record label, Epic who had signed the band into thinking the group was recording on the west coast when in all actuality the band returned to Massachusetts to record again in Scholz’s home.
25.) Lily Allen – “Smile”
Origin: Hammersmith, London, England (1998)
Genres: Pop / Electropop
Labels: London / Regal / Capitol / Warner Bros / In The Name of
Harnessing the raw power that was MySpace in the mid 2000’s while working at a record store and dealing ecstasy, Lily Allen (after some label trial and tribulations) dropped the bombshell debut, Alright, Still. With her conversational style and reggae undertones, the entire album is as satisfying as a day drink out of a paper bag in the heat of summer.
24.) It Dies Today – “My Promise”
Origin: Buffalo, New York (2001)
Labels: Trustkill / Life Sentence
Active: 2001-2010 // 2012-2015
Buffalo boys, It Dies Today may have not had the lasting power that another local hardcore heavyweight had (Every Time I Die) but their live shows and debut album were phenomenal. Simply put, “My Promise” is true destruction. Let’s just ignore everything that came out after and pretend Caitiff Choir was their singular release.
23.) Garbage – “Supervixen”
Origin: Madison, Wisconsin (1993)
Genres: Alternative Rock / Electronic Rock / Industrial Rock
Labels: Almo Sounds / Interscope / Geffen / A&E / Stunvolume
Active: 1993-2005 // 2007 // 2010-Present
Scottish born singer, Shirley Manson has been kicking down doors for decades. Impossible to ignore, Manson has been at the forefront of feminism and LGBTQ+ rights since the start of her career. Backed by an incredibly talented group (including genius producer Butch Vig) Manson plainly stated her intentions of world domination on Garbage’s eponymous debut album as she repeats, “Bow down to me.” And we all did.
22.) Filter – “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
Origin: Cleveland, Ohio (1993)
Genres: Industrial Rock / Post-Grunge / Alternative Rock
Labels: Reprise / Wind-up / Pulse / Rocket Science
Active: 1993-2003 // 2007-Present
Filter frontman, Richard Patrick reflected on two important conversations he had with Trent Reznor while he played In Nine Inch Nails touring band (89-93’). He told Trent, at the conclusion of the Pretty Hate Machine Tour that he found it interesting that Trent is going to live in a big mansion in New Orleans and he’s broke, going back home to live with his Mom and Dad. Trent replied, “Well go write a record.” At first the dismissive attitude would anger him but he eventually heeded Reznor’s advice. Writing what would be Filter’s debut album. The next conversation they would have was Reznor contacting him knowing he needed money. Trent suggested he deliver pizzas Pat a local pizzeria. Richard quit Nine Inch Nails and the rest, as they say, is history.
21.) Tracy Bonham – “Mother Mother”
Origin: Eugene, Oregon (1995)
Genres: Alternative Rock / Post-Grunge
Labels: Polygram / Zoe / Engine Room Recordings / Lojinx
Referencing this album, in 2015 Bonham said,
“That whole album was my experiment with getting a guitar. I was rebelling. It was just raw. I was like, ‘Just get out and do it; get behind a microphone and just scream.’ Twenty years ago I had more doubts; I thought, ‘I can’t just stand there and do that’ — which is when I knew I had to do it.”The Village Voice 2015
Anchored by her phenomenal hit single, “Mother Mother” classically trained pianist and violinist Bonham would find more success strumming and screaming about the anxieties (and dirty thrill) of flying the coop.