Weezer, 'Pinkerton' (1996)
The peppy yet wounded Weezer became alt-rock superstars after their winkingly crushed-out "Buddy Holly" became an MTV staple, and frontman Rivers Cuomo initially decided to write a rock opera about fame in response. That plan didn't entirely work out, and Cuomo decamped to Harvard to study classical composition — a move that largely informed the songwriting of Pinkerton, which was darker and more churning, marked by lyrics that dealt head-on with Cuomo's personal and sexual frustrations during what he called "two very weird years." (That comes from Cuomo's note about the record to his fan club, which also notes that he "really wanted these songs to be an exploration of my 'dark side' — all the parts of myself that I was either afraid or embarrassed to think about before.") Initially, listeners were not pleased with this trip into Cuomo's deeper consciousness. Rolling Stone's readers called Pinkerton the third worst album of 1996, and even though Weezer's debut had gone double-platinum a little more than a year after its release, Pinkerton wasn't certified gold until 2001.