Obviously, for TV, where the term comes from, it is an irreversible drop in quality - or rather, the moment when a show becomes so ridiculous and self-parodic it's impossible to enjoy future episodes of the show anymore, even if they're better, because you've already seen as canon that the Fonz just jumped over a shark on a motorcycle/Roseanne inexplicably fought terrorists on a train/Scrappy be an idiot/whatever. And there's just no coming back from it because no matter what else happens, THAT has happened also.
I don't think the same thing applies to music. I don't even know that there can be a "no turning back" moment. Yes, in the canon of that artist's output, Knocked Out Loaded has happened, but it doesn't really taint their future output the same way. There aren't characters and ongoing stories to be invested in. By the TV definition of jumping the shark, it can really only happen once. But in music, it's not extremely uncommon for a group/artist to release an awful album followed by a complete return to form, even an amazing album.
So, for example, you could definitely say that Rush jumped the shark with Farewell To Kings (which, I agree with John that the album is terrible in almost every way), but their best albums were still ahead of them. Then maybe they jumped the shark again with, I don't know, Hold Your Fire before having a great comeback with Clockwork Angels.
Basically, the short version is that I think the idiom has more of an instinctual, "you know it when you see it" definition when applied to media that isn't television rather than a hard and fast definition, if you know what I mean.
: The way I see it, jumping the shark is an
: obvious and dramatic sign of decline. It
: doesn't mean that no more good is possible,
: but it does mean that they have forgotten
: how to recapture what they used to have in
: the first place. Also it's important to say
: that jumping the Shark is simply a sign, it
: doesn't mean the effects are immediate
: (though sometimes they are), or that the
: effects are caused by the event itself
: (though again, sometimes they are). I like
: many of Yes's late-period albums, but that
: doesn't change the fact that they feel
: fundamentally different from their classic
: I like the album a lot but 90215 is probably
: the most significant "Jump the
: Shark" moment for Yes as it permanently
: altered the group's dynamic. They would no
: longer forge new paths in music after that.
: either they would follow trends, do what
: their record label wanted, play the
: nostalgia circuit, or attempt to recapture
: their old sound to varying levels of success
: and never quite get it right. The ABWH-era
: series of fiascos were another major moment
: since it led to the band's lowest point ever
: with Union.
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