MMM Top Ten: 10 Musicians That Changed Their Sound

Science has taught us that the only absolute constant in the universe is changing, but some change is more drastic than others. Below is a list of 10 bands and artists whose sounds evolved massively.

#10. Maroon 5

Photo Credit: Travis Schneider

Formed in Los Angeles as a post-grunge act called Kara’s Flowers, Maroon 5 experimented with a variety of sounds before settling on the mix of pop, neo-soul, and r&b that they continue to churn out today. The perfect music to chill to as you wait for your appetizers at Chili’s.

#9. Depeche Mode

Photo Credit: Anton Corbijn

Depeche Mode grew out of the post-punk movement and got in at the ground floor of the industrial pop vibe, making great use of synthesizer and electronic looping technological strides of the late 70s and early 80s. Depeche Mode’s early singles were tinny, upbeat dance numbers that would give little hint of what was to come. By 1986’s album Black Celebration the Mode had become a dark and brooding outfit whose sound would continue to embrace moody atmospheres while distancing themselves from the almost naive din of early singles like “Just Can’t Get Enough.”

#8. Beastie Boys

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The Beastie Boys began as a straight-up hardcore band on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1981. They were, in this particular genre, not great. In 1983, they put out the hip-hop-inspired joke single “Cookie Puss”, realized that rap was their calling, and then proceeded to become one of the longest-lasting rap groups in the game.

#7. The Beach Boys

Photo Credit: Michael Ochs

In the early 1960s rock and roll music about surfing and other beach-related activities was a genre unto itself for some reason. The Beach Boys set themselves apart as the peerless leaders of the vocal contingent of this subset of rock and roll. Their harmonies and squeaky clean lyrics and image made The Beach Boys an instant hit. But as the ’60s wore on and the drugs grew stranger, band architect Brian Wilson took The Beach Boys away from the sands of Southern California to space.

#6. PJ Harvey

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Polly Jean Harvey stormed onto the scene in 1992 with her album Dry. Raw, stripped-down, and angry, PJ’s punk rock roots were obvious and powerful. As time went on, however, Ms. Harvey refused to be tied down to one genre. From her angry early work, PJ Harvey has embraced orchestral pop, electronic, and folk music to keep her legion of fans enthralled.

#5. Tom Waits

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Thomas Alan Waits began his career with 1973’s Closing Time and quickly established himself as a jazz-influenced crooner and skid row poet. By 1980, however, Tom had moved to the east coast and adopted a style more Captain Beefheart than Bing Crosby and continues to put out weird and wonderful sounds to this day. 

#4. Black Flag

Photo Credit: Bob Chamberlin

Originally called Panic, The mighty Black Flag was formed in Hermosa Beach in 1976. From the beginning, Flag had a revolving door of singers but the sound was unmistakably slash-and-burn American hardcore. That would change with the addition of Henry Rollins on vocals and the release of 1984’s My War. Three-chord speed would give way to sludgy doom and humorous lyrics turn to meditations on suicide and loneliness. Black Flag changed their sound and the sound of punk to come.

#3. Joy Division/New Order

Photo Credit: Nick Wilson

This one is a twofer. Joy Division, the dark and brooding leaders of post-punk ceased to be after the suicide of singer Ian Curtis in 1980. But from the ashes of Joy Division rose a band that was the next logical musical step: New Order. New Order kept the darkness but lost the jangle. The band embraced electro-dance wholeheartedly and worked to blend disco with post-punk moodiness.

#2. Radiohead

Photo Credit: Alex Lake

Formed in 1985, Radiohead came to international attention with 1993’s single “Creep.” The vibe of “Creep” gave rise to erroneous comparisons to Nirvana and Radiohead was determined to forge a new sound with their next album. And they certainly did. 1994’s The Bends introduced a Radiohead drastically changed and infinitely changeable.

#1. David Bowie

Photo Credit: Nina Schultz

No list of drastically evolved musical acts would be complete without mentioning the Thin White Duke. From blues revival to glam to funk, to soul, to space jazz, Bowie drew the blueprint for music evolution and promptly set fire to it.

Written by: Padraig Mara

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