Which Recurring Musical Franchise Is The Most Successful?

If you’re asking yourself, “Hey, didn’t Justin Timberlake already release an album earlier this year?”, the answer is yes, yes he did. The 20/20 Experience came out in March and, thanks to pent-up demand for new Timbertunes, has sold 2.279MM copies, making it the best-selling LP of the year so far. Apparently, our pal JT abides by the ole “Strike while the iron is hot” philosophy, which is why you see that the The 20/20 Experience: Part II was just released yesterday. Which got us thinking: How have OTHER sequel albums released this century performed?

The folks who churn out big budget Hollywood movies have long since understood the power of sequels. Since one has already spent considerable energy establishing things like a brand and a concept that audiences have responded positively to, it makes economic sense not to always start from scratch when considering your next project. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Well, as well all know, the movie business and the music business are considerably different animals. While sequels have a solid track record at the multiplex, their success is less certain when it comes to recorded music. So, on the day that JT releases his first official sequel, we thought we’d take a look back at how other musical sequels—from the likes of Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Timbaland and more—have performed so we’ll know how to gauge the success (or failure?) of The 20/20 Experience: Part II.

So, moving from least successful to most successful, here goes nothing…

8. Gym Class Heroes, The Papercut Chronicles I and II
FIRST RELEASE: The Papercut Chronicles (2005)
SALES TO DATE*: 32,000 copies

SECOND RELEASE: The Papercut Chronicles II (2011)
SALES TO DATE*: 63,000 copies

ANALYSIS: Gym Class Heroes aren’t really what you’d call an “album” band. Like a lot of other acts of their generation, they live and die by their (at times very popular!) singles. Their 2005 release of The Papercut Chronicles isn’t widely viewed as an important or influential work, but it did win them a decent-sized fanbase (including the members of Fall Out Boy). After a few middling works and Travie McCoy’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to go solo, the band churned out a second volume of The Papercut Chronicles in 2011, which featured the biggest hit of the group’s career to date: “Stereo Hearts (feat. Adam Levine).”

7. Timbaland, Shock Value I and II
FIRST RELEASE: Shock Value (2007)
SALES*: 138,000 first week sales, total sales to date unknown

SECOND RELEASE: Shock Value II (2009)
SALES TO DATE: 37,000 first week sales, total sales to date unknown

ANALYSIS: Timbaland is a future Hall of Famer as a producer. As a solo artist? Notsomuch. Shock Value was a hit out of the gate when it was released back in 2007, thanks largely to anticipation. However, word of mouth on the album—which featured a bunch of A-list cameos from the likes of Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, Elton John, Missy Elliott and more—was not very strong here in the United States (although it did become a hit in the UK). Whatever little brand equity Shock Value had in 2007, it lost when the poorly received (critically and commercially) volume II dropped in 2009. Again, the features were there—Drake! Katy Perry! Miley Cyrus!—but the public at large apparently doesn’t believe in Timbaland as a “face.” Their loss, yo!

6. 2 Chainz, B.O.A.T.S. I & II
FIRST RELEASE: Based On A T.R.U. Story (2012)
SALES TO DATE*: 623,000 copies

SALES TO DATE*: 98,000

ANALYSIS: People LOVE 2 Chainz when he’s featuring on tracks. Just ask Nicki Minaj, Robin Thicke, B.O.B., Drake, Kanye West, Juicy J and the dozens of other artists who have put 2 CHAIIINNNNNZ on their records over the last few years. As a solo artist, though, he doesn’t seem poised to be a breakout artist, which is why we were a bit surprised that he named his second solo album under the 2 Chainz moniker after his first.

5. Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor I and II
FIRST RELEASE: Food & Liquor (2006)
SALES TO DATE*: Certified gold

SECOND RELEASE: Food & Liquor, Vol. 2: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 (2012)
SALES TO DATE*: Has yet to be certified gold

ANALYSIS: When Lupe Fiasco dropped Food & Liquor back in 2006, it appeared that hip hop’s next superstar had arrived. His track “Kick, Push” was a certified crossover smash, and earned him an opening spot on Kanye West’s infamous Glow In The Dark Tour. In the intervening years, he continued to turn out critically acclaimed albums, but he got caught up in major label politics which stalled his career from a commercial perspective. His 2012 Food & Liquor sequel became one of the year’s most controversial releases, but was unable to capture the attention of the record buying public in the same way that his debut did.

4. Kid Cudi, The Man On The Moon I and II
FIRST RELEASE: The Man On The Moon (2009)
SALES TO DATE*: Certified gold

SECOND RELEASE: Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager (2010)
SALES TO DATE*: Certified gold

ANALYSIS: Kid Cudi might not exactly be a household name or a darling of the mainstream media, but he’s one of the brightest young stars of hip-hop. His 2009 track “Day N Nite” engendered him to millions, and his commitment to the “Legalize It” lifestyle will ensure that he remains a folk hero of sorts for the rest of his career. His Man On The Moon series are true stoner delights, and hardcore Cudi fans are anxiously counting down the days until he releases Volume III.

3. Lil Wayne, I Am Not A Human Being I and II
FIRST RELEASE: I Am Not A Human Being (2010)
SALES TO DATE*: 953,000 copies

SECOND RELEASE: I Am Not A Human Being II (2013)
SALES TO DATE*: 529,000

ANALYSIS: Arguably the most polarizing franchise in the current musical landscape, I Am Not A Human Being’s commercial success is something that you cannot argue against. It’s a series that does not really have a thematic throughline, but thanks to another one of Weezy’s signature franchises (more on that later), his impact on the hip-hop landscape is something that we can’t see entirely disappearing anytime soon.

2. Jay Z, The Blueprint I-III
FIRST RELEASE: The Blueprint (2001)
SALES TO DATE*: 2.7MM copies

SECOND RELEASE: The Blueprint II: The Gift & The Curse (2002)
SALES TO DATE: 2.117MM copies

THIRD RELEASE: The Blueprint III (2009)
SALES TO DATE: 1.993MM copies

ANALYSIS: Jay Z kicked the modern sequel concept off in earnest with his back-to-back releases, The Blueprint and The Blueprint II: The Gift & The Curse. The former album is arguably the best of Jay’s career, and is well-regarded as one of the best albums of this millenium, period, regardless of genre. The brand was damaged a bit with the swift release of its sequel, but rose back like the proverbial phoenix in 2009 with the release of The Blueprint III. That album is the lowest selling of the three, but in a lot of ways, it’s the most successful of Hova’s career because it contained “Empire State Of Mind,” one of the most iconic songs in music history. Will there be a Blueprint IV one day? Fingers crossed!

1. Lil Wayne, The Carter I-IV
FIRST RELEASE: Tha Carter (2004)
SALES TO DATE*: Certified platinum

SECOND RELEASE: Tha Carter II (2005)
SALES TO DATE: Certified platinum

SECOND RELEASE: Tha Carter III (2008)
SALES TO DATE: 3.6MM copies

SECOND RELEASE: Tha Carter IV (2011)
SALES TO DATE: 2.3MM copies

ANALYSIS: Far and away the most potent musical franchise of all-time, Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter series has been incredibly successful, especially on the commercial front. In a lot of ways, it reminds us of The Fast & The Furious; the first few installments of both series were good, but once the audience and the creators figured out what each other were doing, the series got REALLY good=! In the Weezy universe, of course we’re referring to the phenomenal worldwide impact that Tha Carter III had; that record sold nearly 4 million copies in the United States, but was probably pirated at a rate 4 to 5X that. It became a generational touchstone, but if you’ll allow us to make another movie analogy, the fourth installment was like Star Wars. Tha Carter IV was the Jar Jar Binks of the series, selling a lot of tickets but leaving a really poor taste in people’s mouths. So, I guess what we’re saying here is Lil Wayne=George Lucas.