Vs. is the second album by the American alternative rock band Pearl Jam, released on October 19, 1993 through Epic Records. After a relentless touring schedule in support of its debut album, Ten, released in 1991, the band headed into the studio in early 1993 facing the challenge of following up the commercial success of its debut. The resulting album, Vs., featured a rawer and more aggressive sound compared with the band's previous release.
Pearl Jam decided to scale back its commercial efforts for Vs., including declining to produce music videos for any of the album’s singles. Upon its release, Vs. set the record for most copies sold in a week, a record that has since been broken. Vs. occupied the number one spot on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, the longest duration for a Pearl Jam album. The album has been certified seven times platinum in the United States.
The band took the approach of recording one song at a time, and agreed with O'Brien to mix the songs as each one was finished. O'Brien had the band members set up much as they do live, and most of the songs were developed out of jamming sessions. Guitarist Stone Gossard said that most of the songs were arranged once Vedder joined in and started singing. The first week of recording produced "Rats", "Blood", "Go", and "Leash" before the band hit a lull. In order to keep up his intensity, Vedder traveled into San Francisco and began sleeping in his truck, as well as the sauna at the recording studio. Bassist Jeff Ament said that "toward the end it got fairly intense" and that the band "tried to make it as uncomfortable for [Vedder] as we could." The album was finished in May 1993. Vedder later said, "The second record, that was the one I enjoyed making the least...I just didn't feel comfortable in the place we were at because it was very comfortable. I didn't like that at all."
The songs on the album tackle personal as well as social and political concerns. Topics on the album include child abuse ("Daughter"), gun culture ("Glorified G"), police racism ("W.M.A."), and the media ("Blood"). "Glorified G", a song mocking gun enthusiasts, was inspired by an incident in which Abbruzzese told the band he had just bought two guns which sparked a conversation about guns within the band. "Daughter", "Dissident", and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" are three storytelling songs. "Daughter" tells the story of a child who is abused by her parents because they do not understand her learning disability; "Dissident" tells the story of a woman who takes in a political fugitive; and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" tells the story of an old lady who has been stuck in a small town her whole life.
Paul Evans of Rolling Stone gave Vs. a favorable review. He said, "Few American bands have arrived more clearly talented than this one did with Ten; and Vs. tops even that debut." He added, "Like Jim Morrison and Pete Townshend, Vedder makes a forte of his psychological-mythic explorations...As guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready paint dense and slashing backdrops, he invites us into a drama of experiment and strife." Jon Pareles of The New York Times stated that "Pearl Jam uses its new album...to broaden its music," and added that "most of the album...projects individual misery as public catharsis." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B–. He said, "Vs. is not a carbon copy of Ten; for that alone, [Pearl Jam] get points." However, he countered by saying that "Vs. confirms once and for all that there's nothing underground or alternative about [Pearl Jam].
Pearl Jam made a conscious decision beginning with the release of Vs. to scale back its commercial efforts. The band declined to produce music videos after the very successful "Jeremy", and opted to give fewer interviews as well as make fewer television appearances. "Ten years from now," Ament said, "I don't want people to remember our songs as videos."
Vs. included the hit singles "Go", "Daughter", "Animal", and "Dissident". All four placed on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. "Daughter" was the most successful, reaching the number one spot on both the Modern and Mainstream Rock charts, spending a total of eight weeks at number one on the latter. Album tracks "Glorified G" and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town" also charted. In 1995, "Daughter" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and "Go" received a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.
Originally, the album was titled "Five Against One" (The song "Animal" features the lyric "One, two, three, four, five against one..."). It was changed at the last minute, first to a self-titled album and then to Vs., a nod to the general theme of conflict present in most of the songs in the album. Referring to the title, Vedder said, "They were writing all these articles...Our band against somebody else's band. What the hell are they talking about? You know, don't try to separate the powers that be. We're all in this together.
The decision to change the album's name at the last minute resulted in a few different versions of the record:
There are also different versions that are unrelated to the title:
Several songs from the band's third album, Vitalogy, were premiered during this tour. The band's April 3, 1994 concert in Atlanta, Georgia was broadcast live on the radio in the United States. A few days later, the body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was found in his home due to an apparent suicide. This deeply affected Vedder, who later said that "the day that we found out about Kurt...I was just spinning." He considered canceling the remainder of Pearl Jam's tour, but then opted against it, stating, "I decided I would play those next two weeks and then I'd never have to play again." Pearl Jam was outraged when it discovered after a pair of shows in Chicago, Illinois that ticket vendor Ticketmaster had added a service charge to the tickets. Pearl Jam's plans for a 1994 summer tour were cancelled as a result of a Ticketmaster boycott.
|1993||US Billboard 200||1|
|Australian Albums Chart||1|
|Canadian Albums Chart||1|
|Dutch Albums Chart||1|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||1|
|Swedish Albums Chart||1|
|UK Albums Chart||2|
|Austrian Albums Chart||7|
|German Albums Chart||8|
|Swiss Albums Chart||9|
|Hungarian Albums Chart||34|
|1994||New Zealand Albums Chart||3|
|1993||"Go"||US Mainstream Rock Tracks||3|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||5|
|US Modern Rock Tracks||8|
|Dutch Singles Chart||21|
|Australian Singles Chart||22|
|German Singles Chart||96|
|"Daughter"||US Mainstream Rock Tracks||1|
|1994||"Go"||New Zealand Singles Chart||19|
|UK Singles Chart||190|
|"Daughter"||US Modern Rock Tracks||1|
|Irish Singles Chart||4|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||11|
|Canadian Singles Chart||16|
|Australian Singles Chart||18|
|UK Singles Chart||18|
|Dutch Singles Chart||46|
|"Animal"||New Zealand Singles Chart||7|
|US Mainstream Rock Tracks||21|
|Australian Singles Chart||30|
|"Elderly Woman Behind the|
Counter in a Small Town"
|US Modern Rock Tracks||17|
|US Mainstream Rock Tracks||23|
|"Dissident"||Norwegian Singles Chart||2|
|US Mainstream Rock Tracks||3|
|Irish Singles Chart||7|
|Dutch Singles Chart||14|
|UK Singles Chart||14|
|French Singles Chart||24|
|German Singles Chart||97|
|\"Glorified G\"||US Mainstream Rock Tracks||39|
|1996||\"Daughter\"||US Billboard Hot 100||97|
|Entertainment Weekly||United States||"100 Best Albums from 1983 to 2008||2008||78|
|Pause & Play||United States||"The 90s Top 100 Essential Albums||1999||11|
|Visions||Germany||"The Most Important Albums of the 90s||1999||46|
|Juice||Australia||"The 100 (+34) Greatest Albums of the 90s||1999||14|
|The Movement||New Zealand||"The 101 Best Albums of the 90s||2004||37|