Ever so often a publication of one form or another will inevitably do a ranking of top films, and it's inevitable that Citizen Kane tops the list time after time. Yet nobody watches Citizen Kane with any frequency, not the way people still occasionally watch The Godfather or Gone With the Wind. Film critics are all too eager to rattle off the laundry list of groundbreaking techniques that Orson Welles introduced as a 25-year-old (!) writer/director, but I can't imagine that anyone watches the film repeatedly the way other classics are viewed. Nevertheless, I'm often curious as to how Welles handled the fact that every movie he directed the rest of his live (13 in total) would inevitably fail to measure up with the first. He made a number of other excellent films, but he wouldn't ever top that debut, and so it is that he is, fairly or not, viewed as someone who a) peaked at 25, and b) later became infamous as a drunken pitchman.
If it weren't for Heartbreaker, Ryan Adams wouldn't catch half the shit he does now. It's easy for people to say that he's too prolific with his output the last several years, but that's really just a nice way of saying that the majority of his recent work hasn't been very good. After all, Jack White has released eight albums the last ten years, but nobody accuses him of needing to self-edit (most likely because he's consistently put out good/great albums.)
But in many respects it's tough to blame Adams. It's not as if his albums have been bad, and in reality most are better than average. Unfortunately, like Welles, he happened to put together a masterpiece when he was 25 years old, and at this point he's unlikely to top it. Again, this isn't necessarily his fault, as over 99% of albums recorded by anyone since Heartbreaker came out are inferior to Adams' debut. (However, he'd make it much tougher for people to write him off if he would go back to listening to Gram Parsons instead of the Grateful Dead.) One edge that I'll give Adams over Welles: Heartbreaker ages much better than Kane.
A side note about "Come Pick Me Up": This probably says more about me than it does about the song, but within the airing of grievances voiced by Adams, the line "steal my records" always strikes me as the most evil. That's against the law, you heartless harlot!
Ryan Adams - Come Pick Me Up (mp3)