Fame and fortune can be frenetic, but it can also dissipate as quickly as it comes. While rare, you see debut albums sell millions of copies only for the follow-ups to fade into oblivion. Today’s band is kind of in that line—maybe a little more back-end success, but not by much.
In the mid-‘90s three guys were part of a band in Orlando, Florida. Growing weary of the lack of success and musical styling, they booted two members and began recruiting. After seeing a guitarist perform at a studio, and another at the Atlanta Institute of Music, offers were made and a band was formed. Calling themselves Matchbox 20, they were scratching the surface of putting together demos and looking for a deal. Not taking long, they inked something with Atlantic Records.
Due to the explosion of post-grunge music at the time, Atlantic rushed them to the studio to get an album out. Thankfully lead singer Rob Thomas had a few tracks sketched out, so they worked on those first and filled some other things in. Out of the dozen tracks on the debut record, only three added input from the rest of the band.
Enter Yourself Or Something Like You, released in October of 1996. Due to the rushed nature of the album, expectations were not particularly high. The first single “Long Day” was a radio success on the west coast, and that success alone gave the label enough confidence to send the band back to work out their sophomore effort. Then something funny happened—the rest of the album burst onto the MTV/national radio circuit.
Four additional Billboard Top 40 singles emerged and sales were outpacing just about any other record at the time. To date, the album has sold 12 million in the U.S. alone, with another 10 or so worldwide. In the moment, critics were harsh, some calling it elevator music or derivative of other popular bands of the time. It had the polished sound of a classic rock record, but lacked the angst and anger of modern grunge. In retrospect, this album is still heavily rotated today all over popular radio, and the rest of those bands didn’t have the staying power.
It’s easy sometimes to take an album like this and when it comes out, dismiss it because it doesn’t have the edge of whatever else you’re listening to. But when the day is said and done and you’re tucking yourself in to bed that night, this album had all the catchy tunes you couldn’t get out of your head.
No one ever admitted to buying this album, yet had significant sales—one of those phenomena typically reserved for the Bee Gees or Rick Astley. Listening to it today, it was simply misplaced in genre. It isn’t so much post-grunge as it was popular heartland rock. It was the 90’s version of Petty, Cougar or Seger. Thomas’s vocal really sticks out, and would go on to see further success in a solo career or in collaborations such as “Smooth” with famed guitarist Carlos Santana.
After selling the millions, Matchbox 20’s sophomore effort showed promise, but sits around four million copies sold to date. Two studio albums later, sales continued to decline. The most recent was in 2012 and it barely cracked the 500k mark.
Thomas has gone on to act and do various other things, the band however stayed true to MB20. They still tour occasionally—but it sounds like it’s more fair ground than arenas. Either way, this album is a total throwback and will transport you to whatever you were doing in 1997. If it’s 3 a.m. and you’re lonely, this album is sure to keep you company.
Top 3 Tracks: