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By “comeback,” I don’t just mean a resurgence in popularity and success. Some of these artists are actually doing pretty well right now — fun. and Maroon 5, case in point. In this case, I’m going to define a comeback as a singer doing their ‘thang,’ which in past years was not happening, at all. An ideal comeback is a one-way trip back on top. I’d rather have Maroon 5/Adam Levine going back to their blues-soul-rock that made them initially credible.
I don’t want to admit that these are a collection of pipe dreams long enough to fill a house’s plumbing needs, but they are about as likely to happen as Elvis showing up after all these years saying something exactly like, “Hey guys, been chillin’ in Florida with Andy Kaufman and John Belushi. Waddup?” I admit most pop artists hit their creative peaks early in their career, and then quickly fizzle out in popularity, unless you’re like Cher who pretty much refuses to go away.
Obviously I won’t be able to include every single credible artist actually deserving a comeback. That would require about at least a dozen top-10 lists. And I’m not going to be silly and include bands that will never, ever get back together, like the White Stripes or Oasis.
1. Lady Gaga
Along with the rest of the English-speaking world, I am going to pretend Born This Way didn’t happen. When we all saw Gaga bloodily ‘hang herself’ performing “Paparazzi” at the 2009 VMAs, that was the moment we either realized a) that she was crazy or b) that she was a genius. And her third release, Born This Way, cast that reel out just a little too far for the general music-minded population to be all, “Hey, yeah, she’s a pretty cool dude.” She went from making Kermit ponchos to hiding in an egg and putting silicone shards in her cheeks — what is that?
I miss this stuff.
Remember when good ole Chris Bridges, better known as “Luda,” was just rapping about chicken, Southern hospitality and getting women to move out of his way? That was before he decided to get serious, a.k.a shaving his dreads and starring a couple of movies. For point of reference, he was in Crash as a black dude who hates being treated like a black dude, and in a couple special Law & Order: SVU episodes as a murderer who hates pretty much everything. It was pretty cool that he was playing Ice-T’s nephew, though. But aside from a couple club-ready remixes and singles (remember “How Low”?), Luda is as irrelevant as the fifth cast member on whatever Real World we’re on.
3. Missy Elliott
I seriously do feel bad for Missy. The former "Misdemeanor" was hitting the charts big time back in the early 2000s with singles like “Work It” and “Lose Control,” as well as putting in countless hours producing in the studio. She released six albums between 1997 and 2005, her last being The Cookbook. But since then, she’s been dealing with her diagnosis of the incurable Graves disease in 2008.
Elliott told People magazine in 2011 that she couldn’t even hold a pen to write music because the disease’s symptoms include muscle tremors, mood swings and hair loss. Now she’s back with a couple new songs with longtime collaborator Timbaland, which failed to chart at all. Still waiting on you, Missy.
Why wouldn’t you wish for more of this?
4. Dixie Chicks
Admittedly, this is one of those more-serious pipe dreams, in which the now-domestic Chicks — Natalie Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison — will never sell another diamond-certified album or craft the raucous romps and lushly romantic harmonies that characterized their pre-Bush-hatin’ careers. Their last release, 2006’s Taking the Long Way, netted them tons of new fans and critics, but the band has been largely absent from the biz since nabbing the Album of the Year Grammy. Their hiatus has been marked by Maguire and Robison releasing a duo album as the “Court Yard Hounds” in 2010, but no new music has been released from the trio since.
Comeback would include the platinum-blonde spikes.
I’ve heard the “We Are Young” band’s first album, Aim and Ignite is a lot better than the album that made them a household name, Some Nights. Even then, it was
OK, Madge’s world tours still seem to be going pretty strong these days. But she’s trying to impress upon us simple folk that she is still 21 years old and can then date other 21-year-olds, while also having a teenage daughter and 30-plus years of industry experience under her belt. The whole dressing and singing like the not-icon-level pop starlets — I call it pandering, wasting her talents, plain and simple. To be clear, I’d say the same thing about male singers, I just can’t think of any right now.
As opposed to this:
7. Lauryn Hill
Hill, formerly of the Fugees, hit it big with her instant-classic 1998 debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, establishing a proper middle-ground between contemporary hip-hop and old-school R&B. After a four-year break that netted her another Album of the Year Grammy with Santana’s Supernatural and a self-imposed exile from the biz, Hill followed with a solo acoustic show on MTV Unplugged 2.0.
And that’s when things got weirder, with Hill firing her management team and making denouncing statements about the Catholic Church while performing at the Vatican. "Ms. Hill" has apparently stockpiled libraries of new music since the mid-2000s but not released any new albums, instead making concert and festival appearances. Are we getting closer to something new and put-together like this?
9. Maroon 5
Apparently unlike a lot of people my age, I was a huge fan of Adam Levine and co.’s last pop-rock album, Hands All Over. Mutt Lange’s smell was all over it, and I couldn’t take it off repeat for a week. So I (mistakenly) bought their fourth record, Overexposed, hoping it would provide a smart-for-them commentary on the band’s recent comeback and Levine’s then-new stint on The Voice. Suddenly, relevant! But the three songs they’ve scored hits with are all sweet-tasting radio ditties — but no bluesy-rock drips like “She Will Be Loved” or “Sunday Morning.” Those are some real roots I’d like to see them get back to on an all-acoustic album (iTunes Sessions aside).
Check out that classy tie. And fewer tats.
10. Backstreet Boys
This is really just hearkening back to the boy-band era of my childhood. I get it, people. We’ll never go back to boy bands when they were glorious and respectable. Today’s youngsters will never appreciate the beauty that was once Justin Timberlake’s Ramen-noodle blonde hair or Nick Carter’s middle part.
And their music was pretty sweet, too; back then, guys could get away with liking N-Sync or the Backstreet Boys (never 98 Degrees, though). None of this “One Direction versus the Wanted” stuff. Justin Bieber was never a thing; it was Nick’s younger (and obviously more talented) brother Aaron Carter all the way. Backstreet Boys apparently still records (??) with all five members, having released a comeback album, 2005’s Never Gone, and three since. But producer Max Martin struck some gold with ’90s sing-alongs such as “Larger Than Life”. Choreographed dance moves, cheesy deep stares, way-over-budget videos — those were the days.
They wore matching white outfits, back when that was a thing.