Arguably, the entire genre of Hip Hop owes its current existence to this trope. Until the late-80's, the genre was dismissed as a passing fad by most music critics, due to its generally shallow/goofy lyrics and repetitive beats. But then, in 1988, two albums were released that would go on to legitimize hip hop as a relevant form of music: "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" by Public Enemy and "Straight Outta Compton" by NWA. The former featured biting political commentary, centered around the oppression of black culture in mainstream America. While the latter contained some of the most genuinely scathing lyrics ever heard in popular music up to that point (it was, in fact, one of the first albums to earn a "Parental Advisory" sticker). In the wake of those two albums, Hip Hop took on a much more serious and socially conscious tone, much to the delight of both critics and fans. A few years later, the genre of Gangsta Rap showed the world just how dark and edgy hip hop could be, cultivating in the real life deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG. And then came the sub-genre known as Horrorcore. Gangsta Rap turned Up to Eleven, with lyrics worthy of Death Metal.
Lana Del Rey's album "Ultraviolence" was particularly well-received because of its darker and edgier themes and more personal content. Among other things, the album deals with abusive relationships, drug use, and prostitution.
Linkin Park. They started out with "Hybrid Theory", which, aside from "One Step Closer" and "A Place for My Head", have no real screaming, though they did have angsty lyrics, and had no swearing. "Meteora" had angst, but no hard screaming or swearing. Then came "Minutes to Midnight", when lead singer Chester Bennington and lead rapper Mike Shinoda swore like sailors, with several uses of the word "fuck", and had "Given Up", one of their darkest songs to date, with suicide references. After that was "A Thousand Suns", a concept album about nuclear destruction, along with several more uses of "fuck" and "shit". Then the band became Lighter and Softer with "Living Things", with only one "angry" song, Lies Greed Misery, and no profanity.
Suede's sophomore effort Dog Man Star saw them moving away from Britpop to a more art-rock, drug-influenced sound. The record got mixed reactions upon release and was fairly commercially unsuccessful, but is nowadays regarded as the band's Magnum Opus.
Believe it or not, Pantera started out as a mere Glam Rock act, with their debut Metal Magic not quite living up to its title and a vocalist that sounded straight out of Foreigner or Loverboy, along with family-friendly lyrics that sounded straight out of a 1950s teenager's locker. Their following records Projects in the Jungle and I am the Night, however, were each progressively more Heavy Metal influenced, and their once-squeaky clean singer had gotten noticeably harsher and started showing impressive falsettos, while the lyrics began delving into Hotter and SexierSex, Drugs and Rock & Roll territory, Fantasy themes, horror and Angsty subject matter (one song even deals with suicide).
Power Metal marked a change in the band's overall focus, with a new vocalist named Phil Anselmo adding an element of grit and aggression to the band's lyrics and image. The main crossover point was Cowboys From Hell, where the band dumped the '80s glam fashion for a more adequate "street thug" look, and adopted a contemporary Thrash Metal sound combining the vocals and guitar sound of fellow Southerners Exhorder.
Then they managed to go from Darker And Edgier after three albums, to even more, MUCH MORE, with the release of their eighth album "The Great Southern Trendkill", which dealt with the afforded-mentioned subject matter relating to suicide, drugs, the end of the world by a massive flood, the media and many more topics along with Anselmo AND Seth Putnam from Anal Cunt himself sounding like both are ready to go "fucking hostile"
Judas Priest went here by releasing Painkiller, an album full of hard-hitting power and speed metal, with none of the happy-go-lucky synthesizers and lyrics of their previous album Turbo (they did keep the synths, but only to evoke dark atmospheres). Subsequent albums (the Ripper Owens period especially) continued the trend, although most fans dismiss these albums (which seems to happen with more Ripper-sung albums; see Iced Earth's albums The Glorious Burden and, less often, Framing Armageddon.)
Sonata Arctica's music has been progressing from the standard cheesy excesses endemic to power metal to more grim lyrics and darker sounds. It seems to be working, though one wonders how far they can stretch it...
Their music has always been a bit dark thematically, though, even if they did used to sound like an explosion in a Skittles factory. Their latest album however, is all over the place.
The cover of Imagine by A Perfect Circle is darker, edgier, and downright depressing. With a simple shift to a minor chord, the song switches from hopeful and uplifting to cynical and depressing. "Imagine all the people sharing all the world! ...yeah, like that'll ever happen..." The change has been likened to going from a friendly, smiling hippie offering you peace and love and flowers, to a grim suicide bomber outlining his manifesto to a huddled, frightened crowd.
Any cover by Marilyn Manson. Impressive when he picks already-dark or creepy songs.
Manson satirized the trope itself in the song "This is the New Shit".
Dope's cover of Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)".
As well as Ten Masked Men's cover of the same song, and others.
Progressive metal band Dream Theater subtly evolved in this direction lyrically, vocally, and musically; in terms of lyrics, the band started to explore slightly darker themes over time, and the occasional curse word started popping up, but this change has been mostly for the better, as their softer songs don't really portray the technical brilliance of the instrumentalists: vocals such as "The smile of dawn/Arrived early May/She carried a gift from her home/The night shed a tear/To tell her of fear and of sorrow and pain, she'll never outgrow" (from 1992's Images And Words) stand in stark contrast to guitar riffs and drumming which wouldn't be out of place in a Metallica song. The vocals also got darker over time, due to James' vocal injury and an increasing presence of Mike Portnoy's backing vocals. As well, their music has gotten heavier over time, with an increased use of seven-string guitars.
These elements are probably best exemplified by Awake and Train of Thought. Awake, their third album, was easily their heaviest for some time, standing out especially well in contrast to their previous album Images and Words. Then came Train of Thought, their seventh album, which was extremely heavy and included about 80% of the swear words used in the band's career.
Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps album is an example, as Young responded to the death of Elvis, the rise of Punk Rock, and his own fears of becoming culturally irrelevant by turning his soft-ish folk rock into nihilist hard rock with heavy distorted guitars, in a postmodern stage show with giant amps, roadies dressed like Jawas, and decaying film footage from Woodstock. It worked - the album received widespread popular and critical acclaim, and has been cited as one of the earliest examples of what would become Grunge music.
Much, though not all, of John Lennon's songwriting took this direction in the late sixties due to a combination of drug use (especially heroin), the influence of Yoko Ono, and a growing disillusionment with his role as a Beatle. This culminated in his 1970 solo album Plastic Ono Band in which, under the influence of primal scream therapy, he expressed his childhood traumas and adult pain starkly and directly in a way that he couldn't do with the Beatles. While Lennon continued to write hard-edged songs afterward, most of his subsequent work was more pleasant and hopeful in tone.
The Beatles as a group went Darker and Edgier gradually, from For Sale up to the White Album, but seemed to be going in the opposite direction at the time of the breakup.
Compare the album "The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp" to anything that King Crimson's done, ever. The first King Crimson lineup was Giles, Giles and Fripp, plus Greg Lake.
Similarly, compare the album "From Genesis to Revelation" by Genesis to the track "The Knife", which was from the very next album.
Also compare "The Aerosol Grey Machine" with any of Van der Graaf Generator's subsequent output.
This is a common theme with progressive bands that have their roots in the flower power 60's psychedelia days, as prog as a whole is generally much more serious- The Pink Floyd being the Ur Example.
Porcupine Tree have been doing this since 2003 or so. While they never made the most upbeat or happy music out there, there's a definite change between psychedelic, Pink Floyd-influenced rock like The Sky Moves Sideways, and the metal Fear of a Blank Planet, which has ends with "Sleep Together", about the album's 'narrator' trying to convince another teenager to commit suicide with him.
Crystal Castles' second album is more abrasive and darker compared to their more accessible debut.
Van Halen's fourth album, Fair Warning. Most of the band's, silly hard-partying atmosphere (which made them famous) from the previous albums disappears and a heavier, more serious sound is heard. This is mostly attributed to the tensions between lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen and lead singer David Lee Roth at the time. The album features "Mean Street" and a foggy synthesized instrumental "Sunday Afternoon in the Park" that is full of terror.
It would get even darker with 1995's Balance, musically and lyrically.
Winger was originally known for being a standard glam act with a pretty-boy frontman and musicians that were far above the rest of the pack, but their overly poppy leanings made them among the most frequent targets of ire from the anti-glam crowd, which wasn't helped by the relentless mockery they received on Beavis And Butthead. 1993's Pull answered these criticisms with a shockingly dark and mature album that emphasized their technical ability while completely eliminating the poppiness of their earlier material. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and the album went unnoticed until the mid-00's glam revival.
Counting Crows' first album, August and Everything After, was a sweetly melodic, very subdued folk album. Their second, Recovering the Satellites, added distortion guitar, angry lyrics, and several swear words. Eventually they found a middle ground which worked quite well.
Massive Attack. While Blue Lines and Protection weren't entirely sunny, Mezzanine had a sonic background so dark, it absorbed light.
Trip-Hop as a whole has moved in this direction. It originated as a soothing, acid jazz-inspired blend of hip-hop and dub; in mid 90's, the post-punk influences turned into angry distorted riffs, the trippiness became heavy psychedelia, and the Retraux atmosphere traded nostalgia for old horror movie creepiness.
Jazz musicians will occasionally take songs from seemingly light repertoire and turn the intensity up. Sonny Rollins took the corniest of show tunes (such as "There's No Business Like Show Business") and turned them into positively hip (for the time) jazz tunes. John Coltrane famously turned the light-hearted, optimistic My Favorite Things into what one critic described as a "hypnotic eastern devish dance", one that lasted an impressive 13 minutes.
Trane himself is a truly a great example of this trope. Starting with light-hearted simplistic albums like Blue Train before becoming gradually more complex with Giant Steps and My Favorite Things and culminating in the madness of Ascension and Meditations.
Blue Train is many things, but it is in no way simplistic. Look at the chord progression to "Moment's Notice," for example, and you'll see that it's an early iteration of Coltrane changes - the substitutions that would eventually result in Giant Steps. Although Coltrane hadn't yet gotten to what would later be called his infamous "sheets of sound," Blue Train is still a seminal album in the history of jazz.
And jazz musicians don't do this "occasionally" so much as constantly. Most of the standard repertoire that is required knowledge for jazz musicians is songs lifted from Broadway musicals of the '20s, '30s, and '40s. For example, of the six songs on Miles Davis's 1956 Relaxin' With the Miles Davis Quintet, four are from musical theater or film ("If I Were a Bell," "You're My Everything," "I Could Write a Book," "It Could Happen to You").
Happened naturally to Michael Jackson in the mid-90s. His 1991 album Dangerous was, like his previous albums, a mix of standard pop and uplifting songs. His next album, HIStory (1995), came out following his 1993 child molestation allegations and it shows. The album is filled with dark songs that exude paranoia and anger, dealing with topics like betrayal, media scrutiny, loneliness, and a song about a child dying from neglect. It also has more swearing than any other Michael Jackson album, including the only instance of the word "fuck." Even the sole love song on the album, the R. Kelly-penned "You Are Not Alone", is a little bit of a downer because it is about separated lovers. Jackson's 2001 album Invincible would retain some of the darker influences from this period though it would also be a bit of a return to form, with more upbeat, love/life-affirming songs compared to HIStory.
Hanson, in a sense, though more with their image than the actual music. I think they've used swear words in a few interviews or stuff they had, and the lead singer had sex before he got married. As for their music, they're not as light and innocent as they were as children, but still a very upbeat group. It's more that they've switched their style.
Her 2013 album Bangerz was her first album released in separate explicit-lyrics and edited editions.
Disturbed's discography, over time: the first album was mainly about anger and the world being a horrible, horrible place, all inspired by lead singer David Draiman's past experiences (which later evolved into retrospective navel gazing then to themes of empowerment and victory). Then he started getting some new experiences to work off of, creating Indestructible, then Asylum after that (that band's darkest, most serious records yet). Time will tell if the lyrics ever get back to the "a bit of humor through pain" theme.
Blue Oyster Cult was called a satanic band for good reasons. These include suicide pacts, possession, the dead rising, people dying in the dessert, and the last person on earth.
A lot of Dubstep remixes tend to go down this path while still using the same lyrics as the original song. This is easily accomplished with the thunderous basslines associated with the genre. For comparison: Example - Kickstarts versus the Bar 9 remix, the former sounding much more hopeful and cheery than the latter, made even more evident with the corresponding official videos.
Manic Street Preachers started off with a double album Generation Terrorists, which had a political glam-punk sound inspired by Guns N' Roses. Their second album, Gold Against the Soul, was more introspective compared to the first, while retaining the glam of their debut. Richey James Edwards, one of the band's songwriters, began to lose control and go on a downward spiral, resulting in the increasingly dark nature of his lyrics. This culminated with the grim, pessimistic atmosphere in the band's third album, The Holy Bible. Just as the band was about to tour stateside to promote their third album, Richey disappeared (he would later be presumed dead). The band, reforming as a trio, recorded music that was Lighter and Softer, even though the band would occasionally release darker albums such as Know Your Enemy and Journal For Plague Lovers (which contained the last of Richey's lyrics).
David Bowie albums, or stretches of such, tend to alternate between this and Lighter and Softer (owing to his penchant for the New Sound Album trope), but an even clearer example of this can be seen with his stage personas in The Seventies. After the flamboyant tragic rock messiah of Ziggy Stardust and the variants of Aladdin Sane, et. al., with 1976's Station to Station came The Thin White Duke — a heartless Fascist. This persona owed a lot to a Creator Breakdown and his heavy drug abuse at the time (including cocaine addiction), and Bowie's decision to pull himself up from it all was accompanied by a choice to not only dump the persona, but to only be himself on stage from that point on.
Lady Gaga released The Fame, her first label-sponsored LP. The album had a very upbeat, joyful theme, centered mainly around party life, along with love, along with the idealist's view of fame and tributes to her favourite artists. Her follow-up EP, The Fame Monster, is it's "hangover". The cover, monochrome with the Gaga veiled up to the nose by a cape; combined with music centered around love evoking a bad, sexy romance novel; romantic anxiety ("Dance in the Dark"); and sex; the music took a more dark, perverse, challenging, and personal route
Many hold that if you compare her to other teen pop stars shes dark and edgy. Other contend that, in comparison to many other genres and groups, she's not that much different from any other popstar despite a different packaging.
Gorillaz pulls a not-so subtle variation in their story canon, which started out as a zany and darkly humorous setup but got noticeably darker in the second and third phases. Party animal Murdoc shifted sharply into a violent psychopath with the Plastic Beach arc, (though this may be justified as an already twisted man being driven to desperate measures by greed.) In accordance, his relationship with 2D has changed in portrayal from comedic bullying to pretty abusive, though it could always have come off this way if you thought about it.
The first album by Skid Row was a pretty typical Hair Metal album, containing popular rock anthems such as "18 And Life" and "Youth Gone Wild" as well as the Power Ballad "I Remember You". The band's second album, Slave To The Grind, was darker, edgier, and less mainstream than the first with many songs adopting a Thrash Metal sound and lyrics about drugs, politics, and criticism of religion.
All of the Strapping Young Lad albums are this to Devin Townsend's solo work. Although some of Devin's solo albums can be considered dark based on their lyrical content and heaviness. Physicist and Deconstruction are heavier compared to others and their lyrics are darker. Ocean Machine's lyrical themes revolve around Life, Death, Isolation, etc. Ki for it's moody atmosphere. And Ghost 2 will appear to have more in common with Ki in terms of atmosphere rather than the original Ghost, which was Devin's attempt at Lighter and Softer.
And for a less meta example in the Within Temptation camp, 2011 opus The Unforgiving is far-and-away the most intense and darkest album they've put out, lyrically and musically.
The 80's albums from British band Madness progressively got more serious as time went on. Their first album, "One Step Beyond", featured reggae covers and songs about singing and dancing, any potentially serious subject matters (such as the chorus in "Mummy's Boy" that reveals the song's main character to be a pedophile) sung purely tongue-in-cheek. By their sixth album (the tellingly titled "Mad Not Mad"), they were singing critiques of the modern song industry itself, cynical parodies of Americanism and a surprising number of completely serious songs about child abuse. Their post-90's comeback albums have largely subverted this trend though.
While Metallica certainly went in a Lighter and Softer direction with their music during the 90's, ReLoad was decidedly darker and more sinister-sounding than the comparably upbeat Black Album and Load.
Similarly, Ride The Lightning shed most of the youthfulness and camp of Kill'em All in favor of songs centering around death and fate.
Megadeth's return to metal from The System Has Failed onwards has been this, with Mustaine revamping his singing style into a snarling spitting style and going for a heavier and less speed oriented form of metal. His lyrics are almost exclusively political now.
Th1rt3en took them back in a more radio-friendly direction, which was further expanded on with Super Collider.
Anthrax played this trope completely straight with Persistence Of Time. They continued with Sound Of White Noise, then gradually declined with the remaining three John Bush albums. Their newest album, Worship Music, is an almost complete return to the campiness of the band's eighties albums.
Iced Earth played this trope straight with Burnt Offerings, which band leader Jon Schaffer admits was due in no small part to his growing frustration with label Century Media.
A classical music example: compare Tchaikovsky's somewhat syrupy Romeo and Juliet ballet suite to Prokofiev's rather darker take on the story.
Delta Goodrem: Went from dealing with some hopeful innocent themes and young love dilemma's (Not Me Not I), kissing the wrong guy (My Big Mistake), and wanting to be free (Predictable) in Innocent Eyes, with a soft fresh piano focused sound to dealing with issues within her friendships/close circle (Nobody Listened), issues with her own mortality (Extraordinary Day), issues with being a celebrity (Electric Storm), issues with being The Insomniac (The Analyst) and having a general crisis of identity in (Mistaken Identity), with a jazz-rock-classical piano-based contemporary songwriter pop soundtrack, and occasional screaming, ranting, random phrases and the such.
Power metal band Kamelot took this tack with their 2010 release, "Poetry for the Poisoned." The band has been tactfully reticent about details but there are hints, readable between the lines, that this is the reason for their former vocalist Roy Khan's departure.
Epica zigzagged this trope a bit with 2 consecutive albums. Their 2009 release "Design Your Universe" was, musically speaking, the darkest, heaviest, and most intense of their works as of 2012, but had arguably the most optimistic and uplifting lyrical message. Their 2012 release "Requiem for the Indifferent," by contrast, lightened up the compositions and went in a more prog-metal direction but took on a condemning, accusatory lyrical tone that decried the injustices of modern society and the inaction of those who could make a difference.
Lamb Of God had always been known to deliver some already dark, heavy and intense albums, like "Ashes In The Wake" and "Wrath", but then they managed to one-up themselves with 2012's "Resolution", which resulted in both some of their darkest songs ever, (Such as "King Me", "Ghost Walking", "Insurrection" and the bonus track "Bury Me Under The Sun") and some of Randy Blythe's most insane and intense vocals (Most notably "King Me", which featured different styles of singing, such as spoken word, the basic grows and Randy's screams of insanity and rage towards the end.)
Basically, they did what Pantera managed to do with "The Great Southen Trendkill".
Metal band Ill Nino's fifth album Dead New World featured a much more aggressive sound than their previous works, with more frequent and angry harsh vocals (with the exception of a couple songs), louder production, heavier riffs, darker subject matter, and less Latin influence. And this is from the same band who put out an album 7 years earlier that was basically a slightly harder version of early Linkin Park.
Kelly Clarkson may have gone in a decidedly harder and more rock-oriented direction on Breakaway, but her follow-up My December played this trope completely straight. It had a crunchier guitar sound, Clarkson's angriest vocal performance to date and some truly scathing lyrics in certain songs. Enough that many pop radio stations pulled lead single "Never Again" from rotation just a couple weeks after release. The decision to make such an album stemmed from Clarkson's exhaustion from constantly touring, several bad relationships, and her growing frustration with her manager. After many fans and critics complained about this change in tone, Clarkson for the most part returned to lighter and more upbeat pop music on her next two albums.
The "Outlaw Country" subgenre of Country Music that was popular from the 1960s to the early 1980s was darker and edgier than the more clean-cut and family friendly "Nashville sound" mainstream country music. Outlaw country musicians such as David Allan Coe, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings had long hair, beards, and dressed in denim jeans and work shirts rather than rhinestone-covered stage outfits that mainstream country artists were fond of. Outlaw country songs frequently dealt with subjects like alcoholism, failed relationships, poverty, and other subjects that many blue-collar Americans could identify with. Outlaw country was sometimes called "Texas country" because many outlaw country musicians came from Texas instead of Tennessee.
The Band Perry's second album has a much harder rock edge than their first. "Better Dig Two" is a definitely darker song than almost anything on their first album, and "DONE." is by far their hardest song yet.
Def Leppard's 1996 album Slang showcased a more organic, darker musical style and subject matter, fueled by personal turmoil in the band members' lives, express themselves more honestly and by their willingness to experiment with new sounds and acknowledge the 1990'sAlternative Rock movement. It was their first album since their debut On Through The Night not to be produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange.