Musicians/Bands that got huge but still maintained "cred" with fans and critics throughout?

Example of a musician that was huge but was always respected as a musician:

Bruce Springsteen. He seems to have always been considered not only a huge success but also a great musician. I haven’t run into anyone who has said “That dude sucks”.

Example of band that was huge hit but lost cred in the process:

Metallica. This bands core audience abandoned them when they changed their sounds circa Black album. As each subsequent album came out they were panned by ciritcs and fans alike. They seem to have recovered with the last album though.

The Beatles, just to get that our of the way.

BTW, good question (that can be reasonably answered), but there’s not a single artist you can name that will not prompt a response, from someone, somewhere, of “Oh, that sell-out? He/she/they used to be good…”

Modest Mouse. They got big and their fans were still loyal; hell, their fans were happy for them. They used to be a bunch of dirt poor, rough-neck guys from rural Washington State, and now they’re a successful group - isn’t that the dream of every aspiring rocker? I say, why begrudge your favorite bands their success once they become popular and make money? I’m glad for them and I totally support their “selling out” - on the condition that they maintain the quality of their music.

I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers are another example of a band which found extreme success but did not compromise at all on their sound and still continued to put out great music. In Scar Tissue Kiedis tells the whole story of the band all throughout their ups and downs. There is one guy who got rich off his music but never lost touch with what made his music good.

Kings of Leon failed to do this, and it bothered me. I’m happy that they’re now rich and have a million groupies, but I’m sad that their old albums are so awesome and their new one sucks so bad. Why couldn’t they have tried to maintain their style?

Mike Oldfield of Tubular Bells fame. Tubular Bells was huge and radical, the inaugural album of Richard Branson’s Virgin Records label in 1973. Ommadawn was also fantastic. He has had fans loyal to him for decades, despite constantly breaking new ground, sometimes more successfully than others. I was reintroduced to Oldfield’s work a few years ago, and have listened to it constantly since. I didn’t fully appreciate it when it first came out, although millions of others did.

Oldfield’s 2008 album, Music of the Spheres, was the most stunning of all, IMHO. Still hints of Tubular Bells and his unique style, but showing that he can handle the classical genre with flair.

Rush. 40+ years, 40 million sales worldwide, packed shows the world over to this day and a hugely dedicated fanbase consisting an inordinate number of musicians.

This is a good example of what I’m talking about.

The Peppers may have been a bunch of drug-addled guys with a lot of personal troubles, especially in the early days after Hillel Slovak died, but after reading Kiedis’s memoir (and listening to their music for my whole life) I think there are few high-profile rock bands in the world who are so passionate about their music. Sometimes in interviews or in his book, Kiedis goes into quasi-spiritual jives, a muddled mixture of Native American-type stuff, punk rock philosophy, and the kind of euphoric sense of righteousness that you get when you’re on drugs, but I think he genuinely means every word of it. It’s very rare that a mainstream musical act earns my admiration the way that band has.

A fun topic for discussion, but, as has been stated, is basically just a list of YMMV preferences. The Beatles were scorched on a regular basis, as has pretty much any artist who took chances.

**Dylan has stood the test of time, but you wouldn’t necessarily have known that as he went through a few of his phases.
Neil Young
has been pretty consistently respected

**Peter Gabriel **moved from Genesis to world beat and his own deeply-psychological explorations

**Prince **- see, lots of folks just write him off as a nutcase - his changing his name to the glyph didn’t help. But if you know he did it in order to break his contract with Warner Bros so he could own his own masters - and you can look past the superficial weirdness he wears like a second skin - well, he’s Prince; as a musical artist and producer, he’s better than you. :wink:

I recall Springsteen losing cred with fans when he ditched the E Street Band and moved to California.

Every single one of Metallicas albums released prior to the black album sold more copies after the release of the black album. And we’re talking about several million more copies. Metallica is a weird example. You could argue that the Black Album, even though many hardcore fans dislike it, turned people on to the bands earlier material and created the core audience it enjoys today.

Also, Metallicas albums tend to get very good reviews. Rolling Stone gave Death Magnetic, St. Anger, Garage Inc., and Load 4 Stars. Reload and S&M received 3 stars. I would consider this a panning by critics.

-R. Incognito

Harrumph. I don’t need him around, anyhow.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is still good though, even with all the lineup changes over the years.

Metallica’s Black Album is one of the best albums Metallica did. It’s everything that came after that sucked horribly.

The Beastie Boys started out as a joke, and grew into critical acclaim as they matured.



Radiohead hasn’t been mentioned yet? Thom Yorke and the Boys could put out an album consisting of coughs and sneezes and it’d be regarded as a work of groundbreaking genius by critics and fans alike.

Bob Seger famously kept his albums available in the 8-track format for the Michigan fans who still had those machines. I think that went on as recently as the mid-90s.

A number of groups big in the '70s - Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Elton Jon, about a million others. No serious music fan is going to look at Led Zeppelin’s success and say, “Man, what a bunch of sellouts.”

Steely Dan

They Might Be Giants. (For suitable values of “huge”). Some of their albums have been more successful than others, but they continue to draw packed houses on tour, and they keep experimenting with new stuff - most recently, their children’s albums. (Which, BTW, are entirely listenable for adults - especially “Hear Comes Science”.)

I think Deep Purple might qualify. Despite all the lineup changes, they’ve put out a string of well-received albums and still have a loyal fan base.