Ah the realm of music. I have to give it to my fellow critics who review music. Out of all the visual/auditory media that is out there music is definitely the most subjective. Unlike other media that are relatively new creations in the grand scheme of life itself, music has been around since synchronized auditory noise was invented by some cave man grunting after he killed a saber tooth tiger. Music has evolved over time and is an integral part in our very psyche.
So for something that is almost as important to us as eating, breathing, and sleeping (scientists would argue this) how do you judge what makes a good song and what makes a bad song? Sure you have the obvious ones Stairway to Heaven by Led Zepplin comes to mind and so does Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. But then you have songs that fit a VERY large gray area like the recent ear worm to dig through our brains Call Me Maybe by Carly Ray Jepson. With the amount of adornment and media attention it got and the fact that it plays the same impact as some of the other songs are concerned whose to say that it is a ‘bad song’ or even a ‘meh song’?
Music is difficult to review because music itself is obviously the medium best left to individual interpretation. People usually have very stern opinions on movies and television with critics backing them up, but music their is a small collection of songs that people adore and people hate and they vary depending on the persons preferences. Not to mention the amount of music being produced is easily quadrupled per year as oppose to its other counter parts.
So that being said I am going to review this to my best of my abilities AND for today’s review I want to look at the term ‘sell outs’. I posted on my facebook page a while back asking people who they thought was the biggest sell out of all time. Not surprising I got completely different answers for every last one. Some ranged from individual artists to bands to complete genres. This really reinforces my point that even the terms we use to define music is VERY subjective.
So when I decided to make a list of the biggest sell out bands of all time I really had to think long and hard about what it means to be a ‘sell out’ band. After much deliberation here is my definition:
Sell Out: A band, solo singer, or musician (by and large) that after gaining ‘mainstream’ success with a particular genre of music not deemed ‘pop music’, then noticeably and/or deliberately changed the style of said music to fit appease a more mainstream audience.
So then I have to define ‘what is mainstream’. Well from my perspective mainstream popular music was slowly being created and connected with Rock and Roll while some signs of it could be seen in the 70’s real mainstream pop music burst onto the scene in the 80’s with musicians like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and so forth.
Basically the music is a marketed and tested brand on what would be popular with a mass audience and not fit into a single musical genre such as Rock and Roll, Jazz, Blues, and so forth.
So with that being said you will not see any artists that were famous before the 80’s because in truth, mainstream pop culture sound had not yet been truly invented.
Also performers who are associated with mainstream music can also be discounted on this list. Thus you will not see Madonna’s, Justin Timberlake’s, and so on and so forth on this list because they really can’t ‘sell out’ because they were in mainstream pop culture to begin with.
So after all that… I can hopefully say that I covered all bases for this list. These are five bands/artists who discarded the original genre that made them famous to create a more mainstream style sound.
Without further ado this is the Top 4 Biggest Sell Out Artists of All Time
This one is a bit of a stretch since Train can be considered a ‘pop music’ kind of band… But I will argue that they did fit into a sub genre of the early 2000’s, the post-grunge age. This genre seemed to be a more light tone to the grunge music of the 90’s and its transition into the electronic ‘pop music’ we hear today.
And to be honest… I actually really like Train. I really enjoyed some of their older stuff… Not as much for the music but for the thought provoking lyrics that band created. Drops of Jupiter and Meet Virginia are just two very intelligent songs that paint a picture with the lyrics that they are using.
But then as time has past Train has slowly lost the thought provoking lyrics and replaced it with… Well absolute shit.
After Save Me San Fransisco (which rivals Red Hot Chili Peppers love boner for the state of California.) and Pat Monahan’s mediocre solo album, the band took a swift downturn into the realm of mindless break up/love songs.
The following is Train’s Drops of Jupiter and 50 Ways to Say Goodbye
With the exception of the mariachi band in the second video that is kind of cool.. Though perplexing. The second song is complete and utter crap. The lyrics are straightforward and bitter with no imagery except for the ways this girl is dying horribly just because she broke up with the guy. A huge downturn to their early roots.
3. Green Day
I think Green Day gets more flack than what they deserve. The bands sound has changed over the years but overall from American Idiot and before the band has actually put out some very thought provoking and intelligent stuff. Even while most were calling foul way before it, I usually was one who stuck to his guns and said that the band is still putting out good stuff… And then 21st Century Breakdown happened and after that I quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
Green Day is probably the strangest of the entrants on this list because even with 21st Century Breakdown the music wasn’t terrible. But it was obvious that Green Day was taking a turn towards a more popular culture than its punk/alternative roots… Or maybe it is because 21 Guns showed up on Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen and I’m still jaded from that. Either one works really.
Out of the four on this list… I would say Metallica is the most ‘aware’ offender. While other bands might have slowly transitioned, it seems that Metallica knew damn well what they were doing and when the fans cried foul, they just waved one big middle finger in the faces of all the fans.
Being one of the ‘Big Four’ bands who invented Thrash Metal (along with Slayer, Megadeath, and Anthrax) Metallica was one of if not THE symbol for hardcore rocking in the 80’s and 90’s.
Ride the Lightning has a special place in my heart as being the first CD that I ever purchased and my God was it metal! To me Metallica always was the face of what it truly meant to be metal metal, the real stuff, hardcore all the way!
Then the softer music of the early 90’s happened… Then the Napster Controversy… And then… Saint Anger…
I know some people like the song Hero for the Day and hell even St. Anger won a fucking Grammy. (One of the many reasons I question the validity of the Grammy’s in general) But to me these two songs symbolize everything that went wrong with Metallica. Hero for the Day is the complete antithesis of what it means to be Metallica. Metallica is hardcore, Metallica is loud, Metallica is something you bang your head to while thrashing in a huge pit with sixty other people just fighting to stay alive! Metallica is not a soft ballad! And then when fans start to call foul you give them one gigantic middle finger in the way of St. Anger just to say ‘You want it?! Here you got it fuck stick!’
Out of all the bands on this list… Metallica is probably the band that deserves to be on it the most!
1. No Doubt
Man o’ man was it hard to choose between No Doubt and Metallica. This is splitting hairs between the two I almost wish I could put 1 and 1A between the two but ultimately their needed to be a definitive winner and No Doubt won the war.
What really won it over for me was not only did this band switch gears to a more mainstream pop culture sound, but unlike Metallica where the change seemed to be more ‘building over time’, No Doubt damn near made people’s neck snap from the shear whiplash that was their change in sound.
Let me set the scene. No Doubt was a Ska band that burst onto the scene soon after Nirvana blew open the door to alternative music and bands outside of Top 40 hits were starting to get major recognition for their work. Not only did Ska make one hell of an impact but other forms like the surprising Swing Revival came from this phenomenon that Smells Like Teen Spirit unleashed onto the world.
No Doubt, like most ska bands had a very rhythmic melodic sound that mixed standard band instruments like guitar, bass, and drums with brass instruments such as trumpets and pianos. Lyrics could both slow paced driving force and fast beat with a rap style to them. After two previous CDs, No Doubt reached major success with the album Tragic Kingdom that had seven major hits on it which included I’m Just a Girl, Spiderwebs, Happy Now?, and Don’t Speak
This albums did wonders for Ska music no longer subjected to the realms of obscurity Tragic Kingdom helped to propel Ska into the spotlight…
Then Rock Steady happened and by 2001 No Doubt had thrown their roots out the window. By this time the Ska sound was back to the realms of alternative listeners basements and 90’s kids longing for the music of Sublime so there wasn’t much room for No Doubt to go with their 2001 album… So they give us Hey Baby
Below this is two links, the first being to their song Spiderwebs and after that is Hey Baby
Notice the difference?! What am I saying of course you do! It is almost impossible to fathom that these two songs came from the same person and as for Gwen Stefani’s solo career… Hollaback Girl… That is all I need to say… Still gives me nightmares. While the band has been a no issue since Gwen Stefani went solo they do occasionally get back together and have had a few call backs to their roots. But other then that it is safe to say that No Doubt takes my title for biggest sell out band.
Well that is it for another review. If you enjoyed it please like and subscribe for more posts.