Recording artists with staying power: an endangered species?

Perhaps it’s just a sign I’m getting old, decrepit, and irrelevent, but it seems like since the 90’s or so, there’s been more continual turnover in the world of popular music and fewer artists with staying power. (Or, as Chris Rock said at the MTV awards a few years back, it’s “here today, gone today.”) Granted, there have always have been (and always will be) the one-hit wonders and the acts who have a few hits before quietly disappearing into obscurity, but each era of popular music does manage to produce a number of acts who sustain their popularity and relevence over a period longer than five years and have a substantial fan base that remains loyal for more than one or two albums–at least until now. During the last 10 to 15 years, it’s become increasingly common for acts to have one HUGE album (usually their first one) but then have each subsequent release fall victim to the law of rapidly diminishing returns (not that they were any good to begin with, but current burger-pitchmen Hootie & the Blowfish are poster boys for this occurrence).

So who, since 1992, are the recording artists that have managed to beat the follow-up jinx? For me, Green Day is the one that immediately comes to mind but I’d like it if you could name some others and shed some light on whether acts in popular music (i.e., hip-hop, rock, country, etc.) are more disposable now than they were in the past and why.

I don’t think it’s any more common now than it’s ever been. For every artist with staying power, there are dozens of one-hit-wonders.

What’s what I was thinking…

It seems like largely a perspective thing: in 10 years it’ll probably seem like acts from the 90’s had a lot of staying power since we’ll have forogtten about all the hyped-up one-hit-wonders and will remember the groups that manage to stick around.

Have you seen a top singles list from the early 70s? None of the bands you’d expect are on it, and almost none of the bands on it have survived at all. Disposable pop has always been disposable, and will always be disposed.

Radiohead, Blur and Oasis come immediately to mind. I don’t care that much for them myself, but they’re still pretty popular. Oasis is once again touting the any-day-now release of their new album, and their tour is reportedly selling well.

Live has a new-ish single on the radio these days. Marilyn Manson debuted in (I think) 1993. Pearl Jam was 1991.

Don’t get me wrong… I pretty much hate all this stuff. But it started in the nineties and is still going reasonably strong.

And we won’t even touch the affront to the ears that is New Country, which hit its stride in the early 90s and refuses to go away.


I just know I’m gonna regret askin’ this, but–what’s the difference between New Country and Old Country supposed to be?

A possible problem is that major labels no longer take the time to care for and nurture talent. If the money isn’t flowing, a label would rather drop someone and try all over again with a new group/artist.

However there are many many many artists who have staying power and continue to release music, but that doesn’t mean that they are either on a major label, or that they are following every trend. Thwartme also makes a point of mentioning British acts, and there are quite a few that have had plenty of hits in the UK but that have barely ever made a blip on the US radio. Also, yes, there’s new country pop which has a number of enduring stars, and there are a number of enduring rap stars (though I don’t listen to rap nor consider much of it catchy or memorable musically).

MTV and VH1 and the Clear Channel megacorp would have you believe there are only and have always only been about 20 music stars ever at any given time. Apparently youth culture thrives in a vacuous way entirely only on what is new and novel (but not too novel or new) and not on what is of lasting quality.

“New Country” is whitebread pop, only with twangs in the singing. Shania Twain (whom I loathe) is an excellent example.

I think that with the current music industry setup, we may never again see an act with the longevity that we saw spawned out of the 60’s – The Stones, the Beatles, Beach Boys, etc…We’re talking 40-year-old music now.

To help with perspective, are there any acts that were new 20 years ago who will still be big 20 years from now? Let’s see…the nominees for the 1985 Best New Artist Grammy were Sade, a-ha, Freddie Jackson, Katrina & The Waves and Julian Lennon. Other then occasionally hearing Walking On Sunshine, does anyone seriously think these artists will have any impact in 2025?

So this year, we have Maroon 5, Los Lonely Boys, Joss Stone, Kanye West and Gretchen Wilson up for Best New Artist. I don’t think it’s a stretch to see every one of these folks being nothing more than a Grammy footnote in 2045.

What mrunlucky said.

I remember reading an interview with Joni Mitchell, in which she said that she probably wouldn’t have made it if she were starting out today, because the major labels insist on big sales right out of the gate.

You gotta keep in mind, though, that those three artists in particular were the first to make it big as rock n’ rollers. Everything was uncharted territory back then, and there was no one older to compare them against, so they had an advantage over the acts of today.

And I’m not saying that popular music today doesn’t suck, only that it might not be so easy to compare it to older music.

Not sure on the timing of their debuts, but…

No Doubt
Cheryl Crow
Sarah McLaughlin
Dave Matthews band
Celine Dion

to name a few.

I think you’ll see more career longevity amongst the mid-level acts (too numerous to mention), or big hit maker that went back down to mid-level and found a home there.

Well, yeah. But the MopTops only lasted about six years, as a group. Beach Boys are still around, but the original combo didn’t last very long, neither did CCR. And Stones have continued to release albums way past consume before date. They’re not the Stones anymore, they’re playing the roles of the Stones.
Younger people keep discovering this great music, but they do that with stuff that came later, too:

Beasty Boys
Robbie Williams
Green Day
Alicia Keys

Remember that when Beatles first made it big, they were the proto boy band and the movies were not all that different from Spice World.
I’m not saying all the above artists make great music, but there are artists who obviously have staying power. It’s ten years since Basket Case. Back then, I would’ve guessed that Wheezer would stay great and Green Day vanish. I was wrong and there are twelve year old kids downloading their new album right now, and then they’re gonna try finding U2 on the net.

**jsgoddess **pretty much nailed it with Shania Twain but to go further, the person I’d consider the bridge between Old and New (and who is largely responsible for the change) is Garth Brooks. He popularized rock/country and, like any musical act that’s so successful, was aped for years on end and wound up making country into a semi-mainstream genre. After that, it was just a matter of degree to switch it to the pop/country acts of the late nineties and today, i.e. Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, etc.

Older country would be Johnny Cash, Merl Haggard, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Crystal Gale, and some holdouts from the modern era like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson to some extent (he tries to be pure country but plays rock/country as well), and Dwight Yoakam.

Man. I can’t believe I just posted so extensively on country. My dad rubbed off more on me than I thought.

Ah, but you’re forgetting the country-crossover sensations of the 70s - Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, the Oak Ridge Boys and yes, Crystal Gayle. They made country pop back when Garth was still in high school.

And I have to object to the phrase “making country into a semi-mainstream genre.” Country music has influenced rock for a long, long time (see: Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly.)



Don’t forget Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles for country/rock of the 70s.

Oh, but there’s cross-pollination, and there’s crossover, and then there’s “pop, but embarassed to call it that”.

Yeah, see, I’m old. I still think of U2 as pretty new. I only recently realized that I’ve been aware of them since at least 1982, and that’s a long damn time ago!

I knew someone would call me on that but I was expecting it to be on the inclusion of Marty Robbins, not Crystal Gale. He’s probably my favorite artist of that persuasion but he was an opportunist and played whatever he thought would make him money. At least according to my dad… he was dead before I was even born and most of my knowledge of country pre-Boot Scootin’ Boogy comes from osmosis or my dad’s rantings.

He was born in '49 and a good portion of the music he listens to is as old, if not older, than he is and he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about modern country, especially anything after the early to mid-nineties. I love mentioning Faith Hill to him and watching the vein in his forehead throb. Hehehe.

My mistake; I meant “[once again] making country into a semi-mainstream genre.”. Elvis, Buddy Holly, and other rockabilly artists were as much country as they were rock ‘n’ roll.

Incidentally, I was born in '82.