Your instincts are right in that it isn't as good as your first, and you've identified the reason behind it (it's not your background that's the issue, though it could be better) but the key is lightning
Since you're totally right about lightning, there is something I don't agree with.
When you're shooting portraits, your subject is the main reason of the photo. You can have (I've seen them) a winner photo with flaws in lightning, but framing and focal points are critical to the portrait. If you create a diversion from your subject, then the photo is not about your subject anymore.
What's about the background? It is not, it's about the black edge. The background can make two things. It can highlight your subject or it can ruin your photo (this applies to portraits with backgrounds of course).
This photo, by itself, could be a dark photo from the movie Sin City. It has the mood, it even has the lighting technique close to solarizing, blowing highlights, so for me, without the black edge, could be a very decent personal photo.
The black edge creates an unnecesary tension. Why I said so about the background? Maybe without the black edge could have worked better.
But then again, photography enters the realm of personal choice and taste.
Alex, shave man!!!