Genre change - Bands changing their sound

A lot of bands have become popular after changing their sound, usually by becoming more pop, or just pop. For example, the Go-Go’s were punk before being a successful pop band. The Goo Goo Dolls were a rock band before going all pop.

But the biggest surprise to me, that I just learned yesterday, was that before having fame with pop songs Sugar Ray had a hard rock sound. Now granted they flopped with that sound, but still, songs like Rhyme Stealer, Mean Machine, and Iron Mic are a far cry from what got them famous.

So, since there are probably a million of them, what other bands got famous after changing their sound?

In all fairness, the Goo Goo Dolls sound has stayed remarkably consistent throughout their career. All bands have a tendency to become less raw and more “pop” as they mature.
I would say U2 fits your OP. Their early albums Boy, October and War were their New Wave Angry Irish College Rock Band phase.

Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum were their Rock Americana phase.

Actung Baby was their Alt Rock phase.

Zooropa and Pop they experiemented with Electronica.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb they went back to a more Adult Alternative sound.

Yeah, U2 has been amazingly adaptable. As for the Goo Goo Dolls or other bands that get more pop I wouldn’t say it was a sign of maturity, but rather record sales.

Before Steve Perry joined, Journey was a jazz band IIRC.

Progressive rock/Jazz fusion is how I would describe it.

Can we include bands that changed their sound after they’d become famous? If not, well, please ignore this whole post.

Eurythmics were synth-pop for their first four albums, then switched to Motown-inspired pop rock for two albums, then went back to synth, then went back to rock, then broke up, then got back together and did adult contemporary, then broke up again.

k.d. lang went from country to modern-day torch singer.

Cher started out doing sort of folk-inspired, very sixties-sounding (because it was the sixties) pop, then switched to disco, then switched to what I would describe as an extremely light version of hair metal (basically pop-rock with “darker” imagery), then went to club music, and apparently is about to come back again with a country-rock album.

With her last album Kelis switched from R&B to dance with barely any traces of her previous style.

Nelly Furtado was a sort of neo-soul-folk-world-singer-songwriter-whatever and when that started to fail she came back as an R&B singer produced by Timbaland (to huge success).

No Doubt became famous when they softened up but I don’t know whether that would be a change of genre or more a watering down of their original sound.

Pink’s first album was R&B in the vein of TLC but she quickly changed to her current pop-with-guitars (often described as “pop-rock” but it doesn’t really sound rock-y at all) style.

They started out as a ska band, then Gwen’s brother left and they became more pop and Gwen took over the band.

Lots of bands made major changes to their sounds as the 60s progressed, led by The Beatles, who sounded different every year.

Tommy James and the Shondells were bubble gum until they went psychedelic with “Crimson and Clover” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” The Young Rascals dropped the Young along with their r&b roots to do California Summer of Love tunes like “Groovin’.” The Beach Boys went from surf and car music to California rock to the psychedelia of “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains” and then back to soft rock with the Holland album. The Small Faces’ only song to hit in the U.S. was British psychedelia as “Itchycoo Park,” but they started more as pub rockers. Pink Floyd started with more psychedelic sounds and then evolved through a couple of albums until they stunned the world with Dark Side of the Moon. Fleetwood Mac, a hard-core blues band, went all California when Bob Welch joined, years before Buckingham and Nicks. The Byrds abandoned electric folk for country rock. Quicksilver Messenger Service changed its sound everytime a new guy entered the group, and had a San Francisco folk-spacey album, a hard rock live album, a couple of California pop rock albums, and ended sorta countryish. Santana had the same dynamic, and did the rock-jazz fusion album Caravanserai that sounde like nobody else. Most of Motown jumped into the psychedelic era, led by Marvin Gaye and the Temptations and even the Supremes did “The Happening.”

When you put out an album or two every year, your work closely reflected the times, which were - gots to say it - a’changin’. As rock went from junk for teenagers to protest and drug music, it swept every group still working along with it. And speaking of Dylan, how many different phases has he gone through in his career? And even so, did he make as big a change as wispy folkie Donovan did when he let loose with “Season of the Witch”?


Early '90s, they were among the seminal members of the Norwegian Black Metal scene.

Within a few years, their sound changed dramatically, and today they’re experimental ambient electronic.

And then there were the Bee Gees, god help us all, who went from folk-pop stuff to disco. They weren’t unknown before the switch, of course, but became positively monster big afterwards.

Genesis were another band that had a major shift in sound. Granted, by 1975 there were only two original members left (Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford), but even if you trace the course of the band while Phil Collins was a member, they went from a pseudo-Victorian theatrical progressive rock five-piece in 1971 to a kind of art-pop trio in 1981.

There was always a distinct sound that made them still sound like Genesis (mainly due to Banks) but play the casual listener Foxtrot and then Invisible Touch and see if they can join the dots.

True fact: Sugar Ray started out as metal band. They didn’t catch on much until “Fly” came out and softened their sound. Me, I liked them better when they had songs like “10 Seconds Down,” and “RPM.”

Hmmm, don’t know why I didn’t think of them. :smiley:

Grateful Dead

Jug Band–Blues–Hardcore Psychedelic Improv–Country Western/Folk Rock/Americana–Jazzy Freeform–Disco Era 70’s Rock n Roll…

Finally, in the 1980’s until 1995 (when Jerry Garcia died) an overall amalgamation of all of the previous genres, infused with the inimitable, unique and original spin that the band put on all of the material from the various stylistic periods that they had performed over their 30 year career.

The most impressive part of this musical odyssey is that they were sincere and passionate about all the various styles that they embraced—They were not trying to fit in, they were incorporating the various types of music that they were most influenced by at the time.

The Grateful Dead steeped themselves in the creative output of their fellow musicians, and were constantly listening to new and varied styles and sounds, borrowing freely from the great ones…

Sorry, I just think “hard rock” is inaccurate. They were for real a metal band way back when (okay, not a good one, but still), not another band like Nickelback or Buckcherry.

Maybe I should have said metal instead of hard rock. And actually, they had a little punk mixed in as well.

The most extreme examples I can think of are Ministry, a synth-pop band that went to extremely grinding industrial metal, and Pantera, a slightly edgy glam metal band that essentially created the groove metal genre.

The Ministry example in particular is night and day.

And of course, their first album (1968’s From Genesis to Revelation) was a pop album with some Bee Gees influence. Not very good, though, and they didn’t get well-known until at least the third album.

Arrived too late. :smack:

Pink Floyd and Genesis are the two which immediately spring to mind (love Selling England By the Pound). Bee Gees enormously successful reinvention. Jefferson “Starship”.

But U2?? Oh pulleesse…these guys are now simply a clever music construct. All light power and sound with little originality since 1992. I feel a yawn coming on.

Just sayin… :smiley:

Gary Numan started out leading a stark guitar riff band in the late 1970s, and later discovered the synthesizer, completely changing his sound to a hard pop synth band.