Some bands spend their entire careers trotting out the same album. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s certainly something to be said for consistency. But some bands consider consistency synonymous with boring. They prefer to shake things up, to keep us on our toes. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it can be spectacular. Here are 10 bands that successfully changed genres and run the gamut from everything from punk to rock to metal and never looked back.
10. Sugar Ray
Back when Sugar Ray started, they were a hardcore punk outfit. They got nowhere. So they added a DJ to the group and moved from punk to nu-metal. Again, they got nowhere. Then they released “Floored.” 99% of the album was nu-metal, but the 1% that wasn’t, the soft rock “Fly,” soared to No.1 on the Billboard’s Airplay List. After that, Sugar Ray never went back to nu-metal again. The shift alienated their old fans, but they’d never had too many of them anyway.
As ultimate-guitar.com writes, the pincushion known as Ministry singer Al Jourgensen might be a legend on the industrial metal scene today, but back in Ministry’s earliest days, they sounded more like a poor man’s Depeche Mode than gods of metal. According to Jourgensen, their half-hearted synth-pop sound was the fault of their record label. The record label eventually got dumped, Ministry went metal, and they’ve never looked back since.
8. New Order
As Ranker writes, before New Order became New Order, they were Joy Division, a post-punk band headed up by lead singer Ian Curtis. Curtis died in 1980, but the band continued, albeit with a new name and a new sound. Post-punk was out, synth-pop was in. Suffice to say, the change went down a storm. Over the next decade, New Order dominated the charts, with hits like “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “True Faith,” and “Blue Monday” winning over a new audience and turning the band into the darlings of the music press.
7. T. Rex
In the late 1960s, Tyrannosaurus Rex were a folksy little outfit loved by hippies but disregarded by pretty much everyone else. Frontman Mark Bolan had the hair, the poetry, and the acoustic guitar of a folk hero, but he didn’t want to be the next Pete Seeger. He wanted fame. He wanted fortune. He wanted platform boots and glitter and a catsuit. So he dialed back the poetry, switched the acoustic guitar for an electric one, shortened the band’s name to T.Rex, and released “Electric Warrior.” It was a revelation. It ushered in the era of glam rock, gave David Bowie a platform, and turned Bolan into a bonafide rock legend.
Who doesn’t love a bit of Journey? Everyone apparently, although judging by the band’s 80 million record sales, at least a few of those haters are telling porkies. Before they became the biggest guilty pleasure in music history, Journey were an earnest little collection of musicians who thought jazz fusion was the way forward. It wasn’t, as the dismal reception received by their first two albums testified. Their record label issued an ultimatum: get better or get going. They got better. Or at least, they got bigger, switching the jazz for arena rock and hiring a powerhouse singer in the form of Steve Perry. “Don’t Stop Believin'” followed soon after. The rest, as they say, is history.
5. Bee Gees
The brothers Gibb actually started as a folk band in the ’60s, and a pretty successful one they were too, with songs such as “Massachusetts” and “New York Mining Disaster 1941″ giving them a good run of chart success. But times change. By the turn of the decade, people were ready for something different. The Bee Gees weren’t, and continued to serve up the same folk-rock standards they’d been plying for years. The difference between now and then was that no one was interested. They broke up, reformed, and, after a little nudge from Eric Clapton, unbuttoned their collars and went disco crazy. Suffice to say, their second act proved a lot more successful than their first.
Genesis was one band with two very different frontmen and two very different sounds. Between 1967 and 1975, they were prog-rock pioneers, with a theatrical style and a theatrical frontman in the form of Peter Gabriel. They didn’t achieve massive success, but they achieved more than enough to keep them in synthesizers and keyboards. Then, in 1975, Gabriel announced he’d become disillusioned with the music industry and wanted to spend more time with his family. He stepped down from the mic, drummer Phil Collins stepped up to it, and overnight, Genesis became a very different band. They dropped the concept albums and switched progressive rock for straight-up rock. Some fans never forgave Collins for the change. But ultimately, Genesis were a more successful band with him as their leader than they’d ever been with Gabriel. Whether they were a better one is a different story entirely.
When Pantera first started making it big, they were a glam metal outfit with big hair and a dubious taste in fashion. Heavy metal fans looked on them with disdain, and well they might. Ultimately, it didn’t matter what they thought – this was the early ’80s, and glam metal was where it was at. But nothing lasts forever. By the end of the decade, the glam metal scene was on its last legs. After a few cautious flirtations with a heavier sound, Pantera decided to part ways with vocalist Terry Glaze and embrace it fully. Diamond Darrell became Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo joined as lead vocalist, and, before anyone really knew what was happening, Pantera had become one of the biggest and most influential bands in heavy metal.
2. Beastie Boys
As treblezine.com writes, back when Adam Horovitz, Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch first came together, they did punk… not well enough to get them anywhere in the charts, but well enough to land them support gigs with the likes of Dead Kennedy and Bad Brains. In 1983, they decided to venture away from hardcore and give hip-hop a try. The result was “Cooky Puss,” which proved enough of a hit on the New York underground club scene to entice them away from punk for good. By the time they exploded onto the scene with 1986’s “Licensed to Ill,” they’d successfully refashioned themselves into the white Run-DMC. The re-inventions didn’t end there, but that first leap was the biggest.
1. Fleetwood Mac
Back before Fleetwood Mac were an American pop band, they were a British blues band. Formed in 1967 by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, and guitarist Jeremy Spencer, they achieved moderate success in the UK with chart hits like “Albatross”, “Oh Well” and “Man of the World”. But the band struggled to keep its members. Over the next few years, people came, people went, and no one really knew who was in and who was out from one day to the next. The biggest change came in 1975, when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band. The blues became history, with the band spending the next few years perfecting a very new, very radio-friendly pop sound. By the time “Rumors” was released in 1977, not a hint of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac remained. By all accounts, it worked out well for them.