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Trope Namer - Disco
For a time in the late '70s, the music genre of disco was the biggest thing ever. While it had its roots in the ethnic and gay club scenes of New York City and Philadelphia in the late '60s and early '70s, it burst into the popular consciousness with the blockbuster success of Saturday Night Fever and its soundtrack in 1977. Clubs like New York's Studio 54 became the places to be and be seen. Then, even before The '80s officially started, a backlash emerged from both white and black music listeners. Whites gravitated towards various forms of rock, specifically punk, new wave, prog rock (though that too was on its way out at the time), and assorted types of hard rock and metal (including Hair Metal, which itself became the Disco of the '80s), and rejected the genre's hip, urban image. Meanwhile, the black leaders of funk (e.g. George Clinton) actively led a campaign to "rescue dance music from the blahs," rejecting disco's fusion of "their" music style with mainstream pop structure. Not helping matters was disco's popularity (and continued Cult Classic status) in gay clubs, which added homophobia to the backlash. The European origins of some successful musicians and record labels also added xenophobia and nationalism to the mix. Many radio stations promised "Bee Gee-free weekends", and a novelty country song called "Disco Sucks" became a crossover hit on the pop charts. Meanwhile, hard rock and punk rockers mocked it publicly, even if several of them admitted in VH-1's "I Love the 70's" that they thought the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was brilliant. It got to the point where, on July 12, 1979, the Chicago White Sox (whose South Side base meant that their fans were black and white in about equal measure) hosted a "Disco Demolition Night" promotion (see picture on main page, see The Other Wiki for more information), the brainchild of a White Sox executive and a spurned album-oriented rock (code for progressive) DJ. Fans could bring in their disco records in exchange for less than a dollar admission; since the game was a doubleheadernote the plan was the records would get blown up in the middle of the field between the games, and the stands at Comiskey would be extra-full because everyone and their uncle would pay to see those stupid disco records get what they deserved. Instead, the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game (the last time a game was forfeited in the American League) after the explosion led to a riot—fueled by another ill-considered moneymaking venture that afternoon: Comiskey Park had a discount on beer that day (whoops). It got so bad that even rock artists who were influenced by disco, like Rod Stewart and African-American Motown record artists like Marvin Gaye, were attacked and parodied. Attacked on two sides and with a powerful image against it, disco was fading fast and completely dead in early 1981, and with it the fashions and styles related to or heavily associated with it (such as flared trousers). For the rest of The '80s, admitting that you liked disco may as well have been admitting to cannibalism. While dance artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson continued to take influence from it (not to mention the influence it had on early hip hop), whatever remaining fandom the genre itself still had was restricted to gay clubs, which marginalized it even further. Disco would start to reemerge (or at least, come to the surface for fresh air) during The '90s' wave of nostalgia for the '70s and its backlash against all things '80s, mainly in the form of sampling for rap and dance songs (it didn't hurt that most popular dance music, particularly house and its offshoots, can trace its lineage straight back to disco). Still, during this same time, The Simpsons had a character named Disco Stu who was used almost purely for comic relief, showing that the genre was still a ways away from returning to public acceptance. Today, it seems as though the Trope Namer itself is becoming a subversion of its own trope. The newest generation of teenagers has grown up with no memory of disco or their parents' hatred of it; to them, it's simply a style of music that they will like or dislike on their own merits. The Sirius XM disco station probably introduced more than a few new fans, as seen by the surprisingly large reaction to its removal, which forced it to be Uncanceled. Similarly, the advent of the internet allowed some people to discover disco for the first time after terrestrial radio stations stopped playing it. Many of the negative connotations associated with it have died out, and many of its enemies have toned down the vitriol and forgotten about it, and this can be seen on the pop charts; in 2013 alone, a number of "disco revival" songs by artists as diverse as Bruno Mars, Robin Thicke, and Daft Punk have been Top 40 hits. So the anti-disco backlash is itself becoming Deader Than Disco. Finally, the anti-disco backlash is seen by many as having had a very ugly undercurrent. Music historians who have investigated why disco became so fiercely hated agree that overexposure wasn't the sole factor behind the death of disco, but that homophobia, sexism, and racism also played into it (disco having succeeded, if only for a brief time, in uniting Americans across color and sexual lines). Robert Christgau called out the latent homophobia and racism in the "Disco Sucks" movement as early as 1979. As Todd in the Shadows pointed out, hatred of disco often spilled into a more general backlash by white listeners against all African-American music, effectively raising a wall between the "white" and "black" music worlds that wouldn't be crossed until Michael Jackson and Prince became huge in the mid '80s. Of course, the above only describes the United States. If you ask a Brit or a European about any anti-disco backlash, you will likely get a series of puzzled looks. Across The Pond, post-disco stayed popular well into the '80s, heavily influencing New Wave (which eventually leaked back over to the US), Synth-Pop, Italo Disco, and other styles of popular music. In Eastern Europe and in Russia, it lingered well into early 1990s, and disco is still very much alive in Poland (as disco polo, which became something of an Ascended Meme when used in a presidential election). For much of The '80s, the global pop charts were dominated by derivatives of disco, post-disco, and punk. Artists like Amanda Wilson and Laura White now carry its torch proudly into the present day. And this isn't even taking into account disco's influence on underground music, especially Post-Punk bands like Public Image Ltd. and ex-No Wavers like Material, Contortions, and Liquid Liquid. All operated under the basic premise of "take a disco beat and pile weird stuff on top of it", often to great and innovative effect. PiL even had a hit with a song called "Death Disco"... although who was singing probably had some effect. In the U.S., Talking Heads were heavily influenced by disco while racking up hits and critical acclaim. There was also the Industrial fascination with Eurodisco, but that's another matter entirely. This marriage of punk and disco later evolved into the alternative dance and Madchester genres of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which saw the success of groups like New Order and The Stone Roses. Then, the overtly disco-influenced dance-punk genre of the early 2000s led to the rise of acclaimed indie band LCD Soundsystem. The disco revival scene hit a peak in 2013, when Daft Punk's single, "Get Lucky" (sung by Pharrell Williams, who himself released the hit dance song "Happy"), became one of the biggest hits of 2013, proving that the influence of disco was not dead.
Subgenres & Trends
- The castrati were mainstays in 18th century opera in areas where women were prohibited from singing, until Mozart, who himself had several roles for them, came along. They very rapidly fell into disuse in the 19th century as composers wrote more male roles with high voices for women and tenors. Since most of them came from poor families in Italy, where the process of making one a castrato became illegal in 1861, the "elephant songbirds," as described during the premiere of Adelaide di Borgogna, an opera by Gioachino Rossini that had a more common travesti role, became "dodos" when the last castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1922. note
Subgenres & Trends
- The "Class of '89" ushered in a new generation of country music, when acts such as Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Clint Black brought a new sound that blended traditional sounds (which were starting to come back in vogue after the Urban Cowboy era thanks to Randy Travis, George Strait, etc.) with a slicker, more commercial approach that freshened up the genre for a new generation of fans without fully abandoning traditional country values and sounds. While the "Class of '89" acts are not themselves examples by any means, they did create two examples of this trope by association:
Nelson: What is this place?
- Many of the "Class of '89" acts were younger men in cowboy hats and pressed suits, which caused many new artists in The '90s to adopt a similar image. While some were reasonably well-received in their day, most were derided as copycats of the A-listers, and "hat act" came to be a derogatory term. The craze died off in the late '90s as country shifted back to a greater pop influence. Pretty much the only former "hat acts" who survived unscathed were Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, both of whom grew the beard into more distinctive and substantial artists, thus keeping their careers alive well into The New '10s. Rhett Akins also escaped the "hat act" era by reinventing himself as a popular songwriter in the 2010s, in addition to fostering the career of his far more successful son, Thomas Rhett.
- The entire city of Branson, Missouri, owes its existence to this trope when the aforementioned newer artists began taking over at the turn of The '90s. Almost figuratively overnight, singers like Charley Pride and Barbara Mandrell went from having No. 1 hits to not even making the charts. Branson was the only place they could get anyone to pay to see their shows. So they all just moved there and opened up theaters. Even 1960s rock artists like Paul Revere and the Raiders took to Branson when the hits dried up and, in many cases, the original members left the fold. As The Simpsons put it...
Bart: Branson, Missouri. My dad says it's like Vegas, if it were run by Ned Flanders.
- Billy Ray Cyrus came out of nowhere in 1992 with "Achy Breaky Heart", a song that was a phenomenal crossover the likes of which Country Music had not seen in years: it spent five weeks at #1 on the country charts and got as high as #4 on the Hot 100, also reaching Top 5 in Australia and the UK, and boosting Cyrus's debut album Some Gave All to an eventual 9× platinum sales in the US. It was also one of the key songs that revived the line-dance craze in the US, which held on for most of The '90s. Despite "Achy Breaky Heart"'s commercial success and massive Ear Worm status, most musical critics (and even other singers, most notably Travis Tritt) derided Cyrus as a one-trick pony who had nothing going for him but good looks and lightweight music that was more indebted to arena-rock and hair metal than to country. "Achy Breaky Heart" quickly became a punchline about mullets, muscles, and ripped shirts. While his other singles didn't fare as well, he still hit the country Top 10 five more times by 1994 before dropping off hard — outside 1999's "Busy Man", nothing he put out afterward made a significant dent in the charts. However, it seemed that he was attempting to move past his now-derided image of tight jeans, vests, and a mullet in favor of a cleaner-cut image and softer, more mature songs, even to the point that he cut an album of Christian music in 2003. He also took up acting, most prominently in the PAX series Doc (2001-04)...
...then his daughter, Miley Cyrus, started having success as both a singer and actor thanks to Hannah Montana, which also featured her dad frequently. Miley's own status as a polarizing artist, along with her father sometimes making tongue-in-cheek references to his past in-show (most notably with a song titled "I Want My Mullet Back"), only brought back memories of what a divisive artist Billy Ray was. While Billy Ray did have a momentary return to the country Top 10 with "Ready, Set, Don't Go" in late 2007-early 2008, this was almost entirely due to the song being re-recorded as a duet with Miley (who had no other major hits at country radio) halfway through its chart run. Despite a large number of country hits, a sizeable discography of over a dozen albums, a decent acting résumé, and a daughter who (despite her own career tumults) largely avoided being stuck in her father's shadow, Billy Ray Cyrus is seen nowadays as little more than a One-Hit Wonder and a punchline; as Todd in the Shadows put it in his "One Hit Wonderland" retrospective, "your average person couldn't tell you a damn thing about the guy that doesn't involve the words 'achy', or 'breaky', or 'Miley', or 'mullet'."
- Toby Keith was a big name in Country Music for many years. His 1993 debut single "Should've Been a Cowboy" was a #1 smash on the country charts and remained one of the most popular country hits of the entire decade. For the next five years, he was clearly a rising star: his first three albums were all certified platinum and the fourth was certified gold, and all but two of his first fifteen singles had made Top 10 on the country charts. Even more impressively, he had survived a label shakeup that eliminated two different divisions of Mercury Records, thus causing every single off his third album to be distributed by a different division. But in 1998, he approached Mercury with songs for an intended fifth album; they rejected the batch of songs except for two, which were slapped onto a Greatest Hits Album, and asked him to try again. When his next batch of songs was also rejected, he exited his contract and signed to the then-new DreamWorks Records, whose Nashville branch was headed by his then-producer James Stroud. Although his first DreamWorks single flopped, he insisted that it be withdrawn in favor of "How Do You Like Me Now?!", one of the songs that Mercuy had rejected. Despite a slow start on the charts, "How Do You Like Me Now?!" went on to become a five-week #1 hit on the country charts, the biggest country hit of 2000, and his first Top 40 entry on the Hot 100. He amassed five albums for DreamWorks between 1999 and the label's closure in 2005, with all five producing a near-endless string of smash hits and, for the first time in his career, multi-platinum sales. The increase in hits was not without controversy, however, as some fans derided him for beginning to include more macho posturing in his material (such as "How Do You Like Me Now?!" and the Country Rap "I Wanna Talk About Me"). He also inspired further divisiveness with his post-9/11 release "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)", which some felt was too over-the-top in its Patriotic Fervor (and the subject of a highly publicized feud with Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks). Despite the pushback over his new image, he remained a major draw at radio, and seamlessly moved to his own Show Dog label after DreamWorks Records closed.
But after a while, his radio momentum began to slow, as he was tending to cut his singles' chart runs short in order to release one album per year — a move that made no sense in an era where the singles charts move much slower than they did in The '90s. Nor was he helping himself by choosing questionable singles such as the novelty songs "She's a Hottie", "Every Dog Has Its Day", and "Trailerhood". Despite his fortunes fading slightly at radio, he was still a big moneymaker thanks to Show Dog (which later merged with the existing Universal South label to become Show Dog-Universal), a line of mezcal, and the restaurant chain Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. He seemed to hit a new high in 2011 with "Red Solo Cup", which was not originally intended as a single but quickly went viral due to its quirky and cameo-heavy music video, netting him his highest entry on the Hot 100. However, his momentum quickly fizzled out after that, as he chose to release a set of alcohol-themed singles after that in hopes of recapturing the same magic that "Solo" did. This culminated in his album 35 MPH Town producing his worst-performing streak of hit singles to date, and its followup never even materializing due to its intended lead single coming nowhere close to the country top 40. Meanwhile, I Love This Bar & Grill was coming unraveled due to a myriad of franchise issues, causing many locations to close and many more planned locations to stop construction abruptly. The Show Dog-Universal merger only seemed to drag down Universal South's existing roster of artists thanks to Invisible Advertising and poor single choices (although both Joe Nichols and Randy Houser managed to have brief resurgences when they both moved to Broken Bow Records).
As of The New '10s, Keith himself is now seen as a punchline for the use of cartoonishly overblown Patriotic Fervor (not helped when he kept going back to the America well so many times with "American Soldier", "American Ride", and "Made in America" — nor by such things as his restaurant chain unironically calling its French fries "freedom fries" as late as 2015!), Testosterone Poisoning (see "I Wanna Talk About Me", "Who's Your Daddy?", "She's a Hottie", etc., all of which would almost certainly be labelled as "bro-country" if they were released in The New '10s), and booze (nearly every single from "Red Solo Cup" onward) in country music, as well as the utter incompetence of his label.
- Lonestar was one of the biggest Country Music bands of the Turn of the Millennium. Their first two albums were modest successes, both going gold and producing five Top 10 hits among them while forging a honky-tonk sound not too dissimilar to Brooks & Dunn, with whom they shared producer Don Cook. But after losing bassist John Rich (who went on to become one half of Big & Rich), the band switched producers to Dann Huff, who gave them a bigger, lusher country-pop sound. This culminated in their 1999 smash "Amazed", which spent a massive eight weeks at #1, was named the biggest country hit of 1999 on Billboard Year-End, and also topped the Hot 100, making it the first country song to top both the country and Hot 100 charts since Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's "Islands in the Stream" in 1983. The album produced three more #1 smashes and sold triple-platinum, while their next album had another massive crossover in lead single "I'm Already There", which like "Amazed" before it, made it as high as #2 on the AC charts. A single from their first Greatest Hits Album, "My Front Porch Looking In", also took Billboard Year-End honors for 2003 despite only spending a single week on top. However, after that album, their fortunes began to fade at radio, with one last #1 in 2004 from "Mr. Mom" before their songs started peaking lower and lower. After two flop albums that only had one minor Top 10 hit from each of them, the band lost both its contract with BNA Records and lead singer Richie McDonald. According to guitarist Michael Britt, the band's downfall during the latter stages was due to the label constantly forcing them to record "family"-type songs such as "My Front Porch Looking In", "I'm Already There", and "Mr. Mom", or big-voiced, theatrical Power Ballads in the style of "Amazed" — an opinion shared by many critics such as Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic, who wrote that the band "took fewer risks than ever" on their last BNA album. Replacing McDonald on lead vocals was Cody Collins (formerly of a short-lived country group called McAlyster), whom many critics considered a poor fit due to his weaker voice. Although McDonald returned in 2012, the band's sound continued to be stuck in lightweight fluff, and their singles have largely only been serviced to small-market stations ever since. If anything, Lonestar is known more as the band that started out strong, only to get meddled into Tastes Like Diabetes territory and never return.
- Sugarland went from being one of the hottest duos in country music to falling completely off the radar. The group was founded by lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles, guitarist/mandolinist Kristian Bush, and guitarist Kristen Hall, all of whom had varying degrees of success in Atlanta's folk-rock scene (most notably, Bush was previously one-half of the duo Billy Pilgrim). Their debut album Twice the Speed of Life produced three Top 10 hits and sold double-platinum, and Nettles sang duet vocals on Bon Jovi's first country release, "Who Says You Can't Go Home", which topped the country charts in summer 2006. Not even losing Hall after the first album seemed to slow them down, as their second album sold even better, and accounted for their first #1 hits, while also producing the Signature Song "Stay", which won the duo two Grammy Awards and serious critical acclaim (and general praise for the risky nature of the single — five-minute ballads with only acoustic guitar rarely fare so well). Love on the Inside fared almost as well as its predecessors, netting the duo three more #1 hits and becoming their first album to reach #1 on Top Country Albums. Sugarland was also sweeping the Duo categories at the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association, and seemed to be dethroning Brooks & Dunn as the genre's biggest duo.
Then came their fourth album, The Incredible Machine, in 2010. While its lead single, the insanely catchy "Stuck Like Glue", was a massive crossover and their highest-selling digital single, the album itself was met with mixed reception for its increasing acoustic-pop and arena-rock influences mixed with Lighter and Softer lyrics (elements that were starting to show on Love on the Inside). The critcism of the duo straying too far from its country roots was only exacerbated through collaborations with Rihanna and Matt Nathanson. "Tonight", the final single from the album, became their worst-performing single. The final nail in the coffin, however, wasn't anything related to the band's music or their members' behaviors, but rather bad weather, as just before their performance at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011, a stage collapsed in high winds, killing seven and injuring 58. The duo were held as scapegoats for the accident and found themselves at the head of several lawsuits, ultimately resulting in them paying a large chunk of settlements. After a small tour and a cut on the soundtrack to Act of Valor, they went on hiatus in 2012 due in part to Jennifer's pregnancy. Both members have continued to record solo material during the hiatus, but neither has been able to gain much traction independently, either. Sugarland's legacy anymore seems to be that of an act that started out strongly, only to grow too experimental and too reliant on style over substance — or worse, as the band who saw their careers "blown away" by an unfortunate weather occurrence they had nothing to do with. Sugarland released a new album and launched a new tour in 2018, so it remains to be seen if they will bounce back.
- Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" was a huge country music hit in 2003, ascending to the top of the country charts in only five weeks (tying a record for fastest ascent to the top which held until 2007) and staying there for seven weeks, in addition to peaking at #22 on the Hot 100. The song was intended to bridge the gap between 9/11 and The War on Terror, with politically charged lines like "Have you forgotten how it felt that day / To see your homeland under fire and her people blown away?" and "You say we shouldn't worry 'bout Bin Laden". While the country fanbase took very well to it for its patriotic themes, most other people derided it as an aimless tune that seemed to have nothing more to say about its issues than your average talking head on Fox News Channel. Between its narm factor and the lyrics that could only have come from one very specific time period (it's hard to "worry 'bout Bin Laden" anymore, as he's dead; also, the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in 2011), it's quite obvious why this song isn't played anymore, not even during patriotic-song binges around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.
- New Jack Swing suffered from a ton of backlash by the mid-1990s, with some critics calling the scene watered down cookie cutter R&B/Hip Hop and slowly driving them out. However, you could make the argument that oversaturation might have been the real culprit, as all the new jack swing songs started to sound the same. New jack swing was arguably at its climax in 1991 until Jodeci came out and created a new R&B sound, which was later dubbed Hip Hop Soul (by the time that Mary J. Blige's debut album was released).
- Auto-Tune — or rather, the extremely obvious robotic type of auto-tune that was popularized by T-Pain in the late '00s — has fallen victim to this. When T-Pain used autotune to make his singing voice sound more "robotic", it launched a trend of countless rappers and singers doing the same thing, such as Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Akon, Flo Rida, Kesha and 3OH!3. Songs featuring the technique were inescapable from 2007-10 and filled up parties everywhere. However, it was also subject to frequent mockery due to how annoying it sounded; the backlash became too much to bear. Most artists who used it began to move away from the technique; those who continued using it found diminished sales and show attendances. T-Pain, the one who popularized it, would hit this status himself. It's now viewed as a punchline for late-00s hip-hop and one of the most regrettable trends as of late.
- Crunk music is firmly dead in the water today. Created by the Three Six Mafia in the '90s, and then popularized by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz in 2003 with their huge hit "Get Low", it was absolutely massive in the mid-2000s. It was this genre that put Southern Rap on the map, making the city of Atlanta the capital of Hip-Hop (an effect that's still being felt today). Crunk filled clubs and house parties all across the nation, basically being to rap in the '00s as to what Post-Grunge was to rock music in that same decade. However, crunk quickly gained a massive hatedom both in the hip-hop community and out, with its misogynistic objectifying of women, glorification of drugs, and screaming vocals about immature subject matter (primarily about being drunk/stoned, and having sex with prostitutes/strippers In Da Club, or both). The lyrics took Cluster F-Bomb and N-Word Privileges to the extreme (which, being a subgenre of Hip-Hop, is really saying something), with virtually every other word being "fuck" or "nigga". The final killing blow was likely Soulja Boy's backlash. Today, virtually all crunk artists are completely forgotten, with the possible exception of Lil Jon (mainly because of his viral hit "Turn Down for What", in collaboration with DJ Snake). The basic idea of crunk ("danceable hip-hop music") lives on in the form of Trap Music, but genre itself is unlikely to come back anytime soon, as it's not only the most hated genre of hip-hop but one of the most despised genres in the entirety of music in general.
- An offshoot of crunk, Crunkcore, is also firmly Deader Than Disco, maybe even more than its parent genre itself. It developed in the late 2000s as a fusion between crunk and the vocal styles of screamo; many crunkcore bands, however, did not scream and often just combined the crunk atmosphere with scene fashion and pop melodies. Bands like Millionaires, Broke NCYDE, 3OH!3, Family Force 5 (notably combining crunkcore with modern Christian themes) and Blood on the Dance Floor helped popularize the genre. They also gained a massive backlash for not only carrying the same misogynistic Intercourse with You themes as regular crunk, but for their even more annoying vocal and image style. Crunkcore died out just as immediately as it got popular, and while many of these bands continue to exist, they changed their sound to abandon crunkcore completely.
- Another offshoot of crunk, snap, is also stone dead. Spawned in Atlanta sometime in the mid-00s, its origins aren't entirely clear, though most will point to Dem Franchize Boyz and D4L as the creators of the genre. What is known is that it quickly became monstrously popular. A Lighter and Softer variant of crunk that downplayed the aggression in favor of a more danceable sound, snap ruled the charts from 2005 to around 2008 thanks to hits like D4L's "Laffy Taffy", Dem Franchize Boyz' "Lean wit It, Rock wit It", David Banner's "Play", and the Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)", which were downright ubiquitous and sold absolutely incredible amounts via online sales. Its downfall came almost as swiftly as its rise for two reasons: one was the rise of smartphones, which allowed people to store a song library on their phones and killed off the ringtone market (a great deal of snap's dominance came from ringtone sales), while the other main cause was the absolutely gargantuan Hatedom from both hip-hop and the mainstream as a whole, who saw snap as stupid, substance-devoid, and Money, Dear Boy personified. The term "ringtone rap" was largely referring to snap, and as the genre derived most of its popularity from cheap digital singles and ringtones, this view was not inaccurate. By the end of 2008, snap was having its last gasp by way of V.I.C.'s "Get Silly"; following this, the genre spent 2009 rapidly dying and was essentially gone completely by 2010. Nowadays, snap is viewed as the absolute nadir of 2000s hip hop and pop in general, not to mention one of the worst things to ever occur in rap period, and there has been absolutely nothing even resembling a revival of the genre; the artists themselves are invariably remembered as a bunch of one hit wonders if they even are remembered, as it's more likely that people will just recognize the songs without knowing who recorded them.
- MC Hammer is a notorious example. In the early '90s, he was one of the biggest rap stars in the world, with the album Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em going diamond (ten million sold — the first rap album to accomplish that feat) and "U Can't Touch This" becoming a sensation. He made flaunting flashy clothes and an opulent lifestyle fashionable (rather than the strictly "hood" styles of most rappers of the time), and was on the leading edge of rappers acting as commercial pitchmen. He was seen as hip-hop's Michael Jackson, the "King of Rap" whose legacy would shape the genre for decades to come. However, as discussed by The Rap Critic, there soon came three factors that derailed his success.
First, the Gangsta Rap boom caused him to switch his sound in order to stay relevant, shortening his name to "Hammer" and taking on a more hardcore, Darker and Edgier persona. Whilst his 1994 album The Funky Headhunter was a platinum-selling success upon its release, and spawned the minor Memetic Mutation "it's all good", it ruined the clean-and-wholesome image that he had cultivated, which had allowed him to sell rap to mainstream America without the controversy raised by the more hardcore artists. He was a devout Christian who started his career as a street preacher and a member of a Gospel rap group called the Holy Ghost Boys, included a religious song on every one of his albums even after he went into secular music, and went back to preaching after his rap career fizzled out; seeing him in a Speedo thrusting his crotch while surrounded by scantily-clad women (in a video that would be banned from MTV) alienated the parents who saw him as a family-friendly alternative to the sex and violence in contemporary pop and rap music. Even worse, it got him labeled a sellout and a poser by actual gangsta rappers and hip-hop fans, who knew of his clean-cut reputation and didn't buy him for a second as a tough, street-wise hustler. (The fact that he recorded several diss tracks probably didn't help.)
Second, he was massively overexposed. Even at his height, rivals like LL Cool J were dissing him for what they saw as over-the-top commercialization, which included shoes, T-shirts, Hammer pants, and his Saturday Morning Cartoon Hammerman. This may have actually provoked his switch to gangsta rap, as it's possible that he felt he needed to prove to his detractors that he wasn't a one-trick pony.
Finally, he single-handedly redefined the phrase "Conspicuous Consumption" for Generation X. There was his infamous mansion, for starters. Then there were his expensive music videos, which set records at the time. Throw in the cars, the thoroughbred racehorses, an entourage that ballooned up to nearly 200 people at one point (allegedly, he would "hire" friends and relatives who needed a job to do nothing as a form of charity) and to top it all off, the gold chains for his Rottweilers. He had to file for bankruptcy in 1996 as a result of this, and he remains a symbol of living beyond one's means. This is referenced in Nelly's song "Country Grammar (Hot Shit)", where he talks about how he's going to "blow 30 mil like I'm Hammer."
Hammer's reputation has been damaged to the point that he is remembered by younger audiences as a One-Hit Wonder. That demographic would be shocked to discover that not only did he have six top 40 hits (including five top ten hits), but "U Can't Touch This" was only his fifth-highest charting song on the Hot 100, only reaching #8. "Pray" peaked at #2, "Have You Seen Her" went to #4, "Too Legit to Quit" went to #5, and even "The Addams Groove" went to #7.
- Soulja Boy exploded out of nowhere in 2007 with "Crank That (Soulja Boy"), a viral dance tune that became the first ever rap song to become a hit through the power of the internet. The dance spread across waves like wildfire, and the accompanying music video got a whopping 27 million views on YouTube at the height of its popularity, an insane number when YouTube was still in its infancy. The song topped the Hot 100 for seven weeks in late-2007, when he was just 17 years old. A year later, he released "Kiss Me Thru the Phone", which would become an inescapable rap crossover hit that was played non-stop on both pop and rhythmic stations, and sold over five million in the U.S. alone. It seemed like Soulja Boy would continue onward into more viral success.
However, his popularity would collapse rapidly by the '10s for a few reasons. His primary audience was kids and teens, who eventually matured and grew out of him. He infamously dissed the well-regarded Lupe Fiasco in a 2010 interview, prompting Lupe to release a successful diss track in response. Soulja also tried to play the part of being One of Us, but gaffed with lyrics that referred to Light Yagami as "Death Note", turning off the anime fans he was attempting to court. Nowadays, despite his five Top 40 hits, he's remembered as a One-Hit Wonder for "Crank That", which is only brought up as a symbol of how bad rap music got in the '00s. His newer albums have completely flopped.
- Of all the acts that fell off at the turn of the '10s, few fell harder than T-Pain. After he was discovered by Akon, his popularity exploded with his 2005 debut album Rappa Ternt Sanga. As the title would suggest, he abandoned rapping early on in favor of singing. However, calling it "singing" was something of a stretch. The entire album was one big celebration of Auto-Tune, which T-Pain used to make his voice sound more robotic. Despite being panned by many critics, the use of auto-tune quickly caught on and produced two Top 10 hits with "I'm Sprung" and "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)". He also helped rap legend E-40 have his first major pop hit by appearing on his 2006 track "U & Dat". His music became a staple of clubs and parties all over the world. He continued that success with his 2007 album Epiphany, which proved to be an even bigger success, as it produced his first #1 hit with "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')", became his first chart-topping album, and sold even more than his first album did. In early 2008, he also made Flo Rida a star by appearing on his debut 10-week #1 single "Low", making him inescapable everywhere. By this point, it seemed like everyone was following his lead with extensive use of auto-tune, as countless rappers and singers were mimicking his style. It looked like T-Pain was going to carry on as one of the leaders of modern hip-hop music.
However, as he got more and more popular, an equally large backlash had also been forming. He was already widely disliked for his use of auto-tune that so many mimicked, as well as his lyrics that often glorified the use of alcohol and drugs and objectified women. Auto-Tune itself was also starting to get a backlash by the '10s, which may have been spearheaded by Jay-Z's hit "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)", made as a response to the omnipresence of the software. T-Pain began to be seen as a symbol of what was wrong with urban music, and while it wasn't immediately noticeable, the fall was beginning to take place. His 2008 album Thr33 Ringz only peaked at #4 on charts despite being released a year after his last chart-topping album, producing one Top 10 with "Can't Believe It" that was powered by Lil Wayne, and two other songs that only barely scraped the Top 40. Aside from a minor success with DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" in 2010, the transition to the '10s marked the beginning of the end for him. While 2011's REVOLVEЯ produced a #10 hit with "5 O'Clock", featuring Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen, it was powered solely by a strong debut from Khalifa's fanbase, as he was a hot, fast-rising rapper at the time (and, to a lesser extent, some Americans deciding to give Allen a chance after ignoring her for years). The followup "Turn All the Lights On" (featuring Ne-Yo) failed to even reach the Hot 100; the album itself only debuted at a measly #28 and became his first album to not reach certification. Robotic auto-tune began to die out because of this; the many artists he influenced began to move away from that kind of sound. Not helping matters was hip-hop and R&B's general decline from being the mainstream genres, and the rise of Electronic Music supplanting it at clubs and parties. This may have been the result of hip-hop being flooded with obvious auto-tune in the first place. All of this left T-Pain in a tough spot, since he couldn't easily escape the backlash to auto-tune due to being the Genre Popularizer for it. The fall became evident in 2013 when he released "Up Down (Do this all Day)", which featured B.o.B., and it reached a measly #62. The following year, he released a greatest hits album titled T-Pain Presents Happy Hour: The Greatest Hits, which didn't even make the Top 200. T-Pain is set to release his fourth album Stoicville, which has been repeatedly delayed since 2014 and the three singles he released for it, "Stoicville", "Make that Shit Work" and "Roof on Fye", have failed to chart anywhere at all.
Though still touring today, T-Pain has gone from playing in massive arenas and headlining big events to playing in nightclubs, resorts, and small-name music festivals. His music is now viewed as emblematic of everything wrong with hip-hop in the mid-to-late '00s - trashy, excessive, misogynistic, annoying, and generally idiotic. It's telling when almost all of his music nowadays is completely forgotten, only remembered for the terrible lyrics and annoying auto-tuned voice that sang them. Even the songs that he was featured in have been forgotten by sheer association (who seriously remembers E-40's "U & Dat", Rick Ross' "The Boss" or Lil Mama's "Shawty Get Loose"?). "Low" and "All I Do Is Win" seem to be the only exceptions to this. Airplay is virtually non-existent, only getting an occasional spin on throwback stations, with his spot on "Low" making up most of it. While "never say never" is the motto of the music industry, it'll be miraculous if he could ever crawl out of the hole he's fallen in, and since he is the symbol of one of the most reviled, Deader Than Disco trends of recent memory, that miracle is a vanishing possibility.
- Vanilla Ice burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1990 with his debut single "Ice Ice Baby", which topped the Hot 100. His next single, "Play That Funky Music", wasn't quite as big as "Baby", but it was enough to peak at #4. All of this was enough for Ice's debut album To the Extreme to spend 17 weeks on top of the Billboard 200, going on to sell over 7 million copies in the United States. At this point, Vanilla Ice had a bright future ahead of him.
Unfortunately, his record label, SBK Records, had created a fake backstory about Vanilla Ice, and worst of all, Ice was being accused of plagiarism, which he awkwardly denied. As it turned out, the bassline for "Ice Ice Baby" was stolen from Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure", while "Funky Music" did not properly credit Wild Cherry's lead singer Rob Parissi as a songwriter. The original artists were then properly credited after the lawsuits were settled, at the cost of "Funky Music" being blacklisted from most radio stations. His motion picture debut, Cool as Ice, didn't make the Top 10 on its debut weekend, got terrible reviews, and earned Ice a Razzie for Worst New Star (and its soundtrack debuted at #89). All his albums since then have completely failed to chart anywhere. In fact, the executives at Republic Records seriously compared his 1998 Rap Rock album Hard to Swallow to John Travolta's Career Resurrection in Pulp Fiction. He soon fell into drug addiction and at one point was nearly Driven to Suicide, forcing him to (understandably) put his recording career on hold to focus on his mental health recovery.
While he's made a full recovery, is back to recording new music (with Psychopathic Records no less), and has made a small fortune flipping houses on DIY Network, of all things, to most people in America he is the punchline about white rappers. Beavis and Butt-Head sharing that look of "Are you kidding me?" when the video for "Ice Ice Baby" came on and then abruptly switching channels probably sealed the deal. (They would do the same thing with Milli Vanilli — see their entry below for further details.)
Genres & Industry Trends
- Charity Motivation Songs. The first few multi-artist singles were done in response to the famine in Ethiopia in The '80s, and they were seen as revolutionary in bringing many artists together to promote a worthy cause. Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" and USA For Africa's "We Are the World", both aimed at supporting those affected by the famine, are credited for kicking off the trend (though a Canadian response to both singles called "Tears Are Not Enough" was also successful), and other multi-artist singles since then, such as the 1991 song "Voices That Care" (aimed at boosting the morale of those fighting in the Gulf War — which ended the very day the single got released) and the Artists Against AIDS Worldwide recording of "What's Going On", made international charts. As time went on, however, Values Dissonance kicked in and multi-artist charity songs are now largely viewed as Glurge and (as this brilliant AV Club article notes) mostly concerned about promoting the artists themselves instead of the cause.
While the UK, who brought us "Do They Know" many years earlier, has continued to pump out multi-artist charity singles, many of which went to #1, the last American one of note was the 2010 "We Are The World" remake benefiting those affected by the Haitian earthquake, which, despite peaking at #2 on the charts, was widely panned by critics and considered inferior to the original version. Adding a rap verse, having autotuned parts courtesy of Akon, Lil Wayne, and T-Pain (all of whom became this trope after a few years), and giving parts to common targets of hatedom such as Miley Cyrus, Nick Jonas, and Justin Bieber, probably did not help, even though it also featured the likes of Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand and Céline Dion, as well as keeping the vocals of Michael Jackson from the original as a tribute to him. It also held the distinction of being the lowest-rated song of all-time on Rate Your Music (at least, until "I'm with Her" by Le Tigre overtook it). Nowadays, even the original charity singles like "We Are the World" have been derided as egotistical-sounding glurgefests—the only song to really escape this is Band Aid's original recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which may also be a divisive song but still enjoys airplay around Christmastime and otherwise doesn't share much of the tropes that sour many charity recordings; and even that song is accused of having a negative portrayal of Africa.
- During The '50s, Pat Boone was one of the biggest pop performers in America. He explicitly served as The Moral Substitute to the edgy Rock & Roll artists of the day by singing Bowdlerised covers of their songs, with a number of them (such as his versions of Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" and Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame") actually making it higher on the charts than the originals. Nowadays, though, the original songs serve as the First and Foremost versions, while his covers have faded into obscurity. When he is remembered, it's usually as a symbol of the buttoned-up cultural conservatism of '50s pop culture; the fact that he's since found steady work as a right-wing Christian commentator hasn't done much to challenge that image. He has a cult following among metalheads for his album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, which featured covers of classic metal songs in his big-band style. (Ronnie James Dio even sang backing vocals on Boone's cover of "Holy Diver"!) Even then, though, it's chiefly an ironic fandom, akin to that of Chuck Norris.
- The animated character "Crazy Frog", former mascot of German music and cellphone company Jamster, was everywhere in Europe early in The Noughties. The character was a male frog-like creature with a high-pitched voice who sang various songs and sometimes making weird sounds and gibberish. He was so popular that he gained his own set of video games and a few arcade cabinets. However, by the mid 2000s, the character started gaining a lot of dislike from the public and resulted in Jamster having to retire the character in early 2007 and ended up getting replaced with Schnuffel, the company's current mascot who has gained more positive reaction with the public. The character even made a cameo in The Amazing World of Gumball where it gets chased by a group of angry animals.
- Liberace, the flamboyant piano player, was one of the most popular and highest paid music performers of The '50s. He was especially popular among teenage girls, who swooned over him the way their big sisters used to swoon over the young Frank Sinatra. His popularity extended well into The '60s, as a pleasant alternative to rock 'n' roll. Most popular non-rock and non-Motown music performers of the '50s and '60s are forgotten today, but not Liberace, oh no. He's still remembered, all right... as a ridiculously camp figure, a joke on that era's cluelessness of his obvious closet homosexuality ("I wish my brother George was here" was referenced on some Looney Tunes cartoons). If a character refers to Liberace (Superman II, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series), they're Ambiguously Gay. What's more, his legacy in modern times suffers on account of the fact that he was, during his life, very adamant about denying that he was gay, giving him a Periphery Hatedom in today's LGBT community. Being openly gay back then was tantamount to career suicide, but even after his death in 1987, his estate and personal physician went through great efforts to cover up the fact that he died from AIDS-related complications. His fall from grace appeared complete when his Las Vegas museum closed due to waning popularity in 2010 (with plans to reopen it in 2014 failing to materialize).
- Of all the artists to top the Hot 100 in The New '10s, few fell as hard and fast as Robin Thicke. This R&B singer had been around for years, with a few hits on urban radio, one major pop hit ("Lost Without U") and steady work as a songwriter for other artists. He finally broke through in 2013, riding a wave of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity thanks to his kinda-sleazy song "Blurred Lines", which became the unofficial Song of the Summer, and an equally controversial performance with Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMAs. This seemed to work primarily because of a carefully constructed image of a Rule-Abiding Rebel. He played the part of a lecherous womanizer, but got something of a pass because he was clearly Happily Married and devoted to his wife and high school sweetheart, actress Paula Patton, who appeared on the cover of his debut A Beautiful World.
However, the controversy surrounding "Blurred Lines" began to catch up to it due to it being seen as promoting sexual assault; a popular Tumblr post that featured rape survivors holding up cards with their rapists' quotes on them that eerily echoed the song's lyrics and others like it gained more public attention. Moreover, throughout 2013 and 2014, stories began to emerge that Thicke's sleazy creep persona wasn't all an act, and after getting proof in the form of a photo taken in an elevator with mirrored walls showing him groping a female fan, Patton finally left him. His follow-up album Paula, as the name implies, was a transparent, desperate and depressing attempt to win her back, only digging him further down. And to make matters worse, Paula bombed with only 24,000 copies sold in the US in its first week (compared to 177,000 for his debut) and international numbers even worse (only 550 copies in Canada, 530 in the UK, and 158 in Australia - even being knocked out of the top 500 bestselling albums of the year in that country by a Greatest Hits Album from Blondie, which sold 159 units). By the summer of 2014, Thicke's name became more synonymous with "that rapey song" than anything else, with few people defending the implications of "Blurred Lines" anymore.
Things only got worse for Thicke with the allegations that he copied his megahit from Marvin Gaye, which proved to be true, and in March 2015, Thicke and collaborator Pharrell Williams (who managed to escape this status) lost the lawsuit and were forced to pay Gaye's descendants $7.5 million due to the jury finding that "Blurred Lines" infringed the rights of "Got to Give It Up". In August 2016, Thicke and his featured artists on "Blurred Lines" announced that they would appeal the settlement against the Gaye estate. Despite support from Maroon 5's Adam Levine and other artists who are far from DTD status, this is unlikely to repair Thicke's reputation. Today, most of the rhythmic and urban stations that he had been a staple of for over a decade have dropped him from the airwaves, or at least significantly downplayed his presence. Even airplay of his mega-hit nowadays is sporadic as the aforementioned subtext and infringement of the song have become its most famous aspects. Thicke has been called the Vanilla Ice of the 2010's. It's likely he'll be seen as an Old Shame for many of his former fans and for those who actually liked "Blurred Lines" at the height of its popularity (what also doesn't help is the fact that "Weird Al" Yankovic parodied it to make "Word Crimes" for Mandatory Fun). What truly solidified Thicke's Deader Than Disco status was in 2015, where rap superstar Flo Rida attempted to breathe some life into his career by having him sing in his summer jam "I Don't Like It, I Love It". Not only did it not help revive his career, but he brought the song down as well. It spent weeks floating at the bottom of the charts and fell short of the Top 40 peaking at #43, before subsequently plummeting downward. Comparing that to Rida's other two singles from the My House EP ("G.D.F.R." and the Title Track), which had no problems reaching the Top 10, it's easy to see why it failed to be a hit. The final nail was "Back Together" featuring Nicki Minaj, which tried to throw back the disco sounds of "Blurred Lines", only to fail to get any traction whatsoever. While other similar R&B crossover stars with a single pop hit like Pharrell Williams remain iconic examples of R&B in The New '10s, Thicke is seen as a quintessential One-Hit Wonder to most of the general public. Of course, "never say never" is the mantra of the entertainment industry, but for him to recover from falling that far that fast with all the controversy surrounding him would take nothing short of a miracle at this point.
- In 2002, Avril Lavigne burst onto the scene at only 17 years old with her Top 10 hits "Complicated", "Sk8er Boi", and "I'm With You", which propelled her album Let Go to 6x platinum status. Lavigne quickly became the face of a movement of singers/songwriters rebelling against the "manufactured" pop and sexual images peddled by the likes of Britney Spears (to the point that she was called the "anti-Britney") and was viewed as a Spiritual Successor of sorts to Alanis Morissette. She had built a reputation as a girl with an attitude, but also with a sweet spot on the inside, with her combination of rock and Pop Punk with mainstream sensibilities giving her a large magnitude of teenage fans, girls and boys alike. Not only that, she also built up a large following in Asia, especially Japan. In 2004, she released the Darker and Edgier Under My Skin, which was also a massive success and spawned the hit "My Happy Ending". She even tried her hand at acting in a number of films, such as Over the Hedge and the film adaptation of Fast Food Nation. She then married Sum 41 frontman Derryck Whibley around that time. Her popularity as an artist peaked in 2007 when she released "Girlfriend", which (despite many fans crying They Changed It, Now It Sucks!) became her first song to hit #1 on the Hot 100. Its music video was, for a time, the most-viewed video on YouTube, and its parent album The Best Damn Thing was the best-selling album of 2007.
Unfortunately for her, she simply couldn't keep up the momentum after "Girlfriend" was released. She had planned to release a follow-up album in 2009, but various issues, including a 2009 divorce from Whibley (who also produced several songs on the album) and Executive Meddling by the record label, pushed it back to 2011. By that time, not only had her previous hits faded from pop culture memory, but other female pop stars, including Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Kesha, had risen to prominence and eclipsed her in popularity. On top of that, Pop Punk in general was starting to fall out of favor with audiences in favor of Electronic Music influenced pop/rock. Goodbye Lullaby only debuted at #4, and failed to even reach Gold status in the US, while many fans saw it as a sellout move that took a far more commercial direction as opposed to her more personal and angsty earlier albums. She'd also long had a brewing hatedom among Punk Rock fans who saw her as a "poser" and her Pop Punk style (along with that of contemporary artists like Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco) as borderline blasphemy; her increasingly pop-oriented direction only made their charges easier to stick. The album did spawn a Top 20 single with "What the Hell", but it didn't have anywhere near the staying power that her previous singles did, while her follow-up singles barely scraped the Top 70 on the chart.
She seemed to be making a comeback in 2013 with her Top 20 single "Here's to Never Growing Up", which managed to attain platinum status in the US, but she went and blew it completely the following year with "Hello Kitty", an attempt to capitalize on both the dubstep craze and her continued popularity in Japan. It certainly got attention... for all the wrong reasons. The video, which was filmed in Japan and had emotionless, robotic backup dancers and filled with exaggerated Japanese imagery, was widely derided for being racist and stereotypical (or at least Japandering taken to embarrassing extremes), and the song itself was decried as an incoherent and annoyingly grating mess, barely charting on the American or Japanese charts. Her self-titled album, which contained both of the previously mentioned songs, was the biggest flop in her career, selling even worse than her previous release (although admittedly, it was released against Eminem's hotly-anticipated Marshall Mathers LP 2). And then, to add another blow, in 2014 her career was again put on hold for several years, this time by an infection of Lyme Disease. By 2017, Lavigne has recovered from her illness and expects to release her sixth studio album sometime in 2018, claiming that she will return to her roots with a "more personal and emotional" sound, but there has been no hype for the album yet and it would take a great uphill climb for her to reclaim even a fraction of the fame she'd once enjoyed, as nowadays, Lavigne is solely seen as a relic of the early-to-mid 2000s who made annoying pop songs like "Complicated" and "Girlfriend" that got stuck in your head for the wrong reasons.
- The revolving door of female pop-rockers in the early-mid '00s that included Avril Lavigne continued with Ashlee Simpson. She was billed as an edgier version of her big sister Jessica (she dyed her hair black! And she played rock!), and was expected to follow her and Lavigne's footsteps to become a major pop star. Her first album, Autobiography, went triple platinum. Then came her disastrous performance on Saturday Night Live in October 2004, where she was caught lip-syncing when her band started playing the wrong song, followed by an embarrassing "hoe-down" when she realized what was happening. While she still had three more hit songs following the incident, her image was badly tarnished. Matters were only made worse by an equally disastrous half-time performance at the Orange Bowl a few months later, in which she was singing live — and it showed.
Together, the two concert debacles created the impression that Ashlee couldn't actually sing without studio help, and her music career was all but over. Her following album, 2005's I Am Me, sold far less than Autobiography and didn't even reach the platinum mark, and she only released one more album after that, the commercial bomb Bittersweet World in 2008. She's had a bit more success as an actress, playing Violet Foster on the short-lived Melrose Place Sequel Series and Roxie Hart in Broadway and West End productions of Chicago while mostly abandoning the punk image of her days as a pop star, but when she's brought up today (outside the tabloids), it's usually in the same breath as Milli Vanilli, as the punchline of jokes about lip-syncing and manufactured pop stars.
- The Jonas Brothers scored a massive following with young girls. Songs like "SOS" and "Burnin' Up" were huge hits on the pop charts, and they were able to sell over 18 million albums worldwide in just a couple of years. They also took part in acting on the Disney Channel, starring in Camp Rock alongside Demi Lovato, and they eventually got their own show called Jonas, and later Jonas L.A.. Unfortunately for them, they also built up a massive hatedom on the internet right from the get-go, and as the girls that flocked to them grew older and moved on to other things, eventually only the hatedom remained. Touring died down because no one wanted to see them and Jonas L.A. was unceremoniously canceled due to low ratings. Before long they were known only as a joke in spoofs such as the South Park episode "The Ring", in which they're depicted as a manufactured and disposable group under the thumb of the Disney corporation as personified by a corrupt and evil Mickey Mouse. Currently, the band is broken up and they have no plans for a reunion, as Kevin has decided to leave the superstar life behind in favor of living a normal life with his family while Joe and Nick are pursuing their own careers with the aim of distancing themselves from their previous material.
- In 1989 and 1990, German pop duo Milli Vanilli was one of the biggest pop acts on the planet. Best known for their hit singles "Girl You Know It's True," "Blame It on the Rain," and "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You," the group managed to sell over 6 million copies of their North American debut album Girl You Know It's True over the course of a few months. In February of 1990, they were awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. They were on top of the world.
There was just one problem, though: the duo's members, Rob Pilatus and Fabrice "Fab" Morvan, didn't actually sing their own material on the album. Over the course of 1990, after a series of onstage lip-syncing mistakes (highlighted by a Repetitive Audio Glitch) and an MTV interview in which they displayed a spectacularly poor grasp of the English language (much worse than on their album), rumors began to circulate that Pilatus and Morvan weren't the real singers. When their manager confessed in November 1990 that the rumors were true, there was a huge public backlash against the band, with 27 lawsuits demanding refunds being filed, their Grammy Award being revoked, and Arista Records deleting their music from their archives, putting them out of print (probably the highest-selling act to do so). Milli Vanilli's popularity collapsed overnight, and for the next several years they were only brought up as the butt of jokes by stand-up comedians. They would not make headlines again until 1998, when Pilatus was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in a hotel room. Today, Morvan has gone solo, releasing a couple of surprisingly decent albums and singles and even recording new songs with one of the original vocalists in Milli Vanilli.
- When it was released in 2000, "The Christmas Shoes" by the Christian Rock band NewSong became a massive crossover hit with secular listeners, topping the Adult Contemporary chart in the US, reaching #42 on the Billboard Hot 100, and hitting #31 on the Country Music charts. Another version of the song by Girl Group 3 of Hearts also made the country music charts a year later, and a novelization was adapted into a Made-for-TV Movie. These days, it frequently shows up on lists of the worst Christmas songs of all time, mainly for its glurge-y lyrics that paint a very twisted portrait of the True Meaning of Christmas (which Patton Oswalt devoted a stand-up routine to tearing apart and making fun of). Because of the song's reputation, the song gets rarely played nowadays on radio stations during the holidays, not even on Christian or Country radio.
- Emo Music, specifically the 'emo-pop' that burst into the mainstream in the early-mid 2000s. Popularized by bands such as Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, it experienced considerable backlash in the last couple of years of the decade, to the point where artists previously considered to be at the heart of the scene were publicly mocking it. By The New '10s, groups that had formerly embraced the style had either disbanded or modified their sound, and the labels 'emo' and 'scenester' had become epithets and insults among young people.
- Post-Grunge is dead in the water today, being to the Turn of the Millennium what the trope namer was to The '70s - the punchline of a decade. It originated when bands played music that took the most popular elements of Grunge music while scrubbing down the more experimental elements and doing away with the dark lyrics that were undergoing a backlash at the time due in part by Kurt Cobain's suicide. Post-grunge quickly became the most popular mainstream rock genre in the late 90s and only continued to get bigger in the 2000s, providing an ample amount of crossover hits and the forerunners of the genre such as Foo Fighters, Creed, and Nickelback became some of the biggest bands in the world. And since post-grunge was mainstream friendly, people flocked to it to get away from more "dangerous" music genres; then, when "dangerous" music was in vogue again, a wave of harder-tinged acts like Hinder, Buckcherry, and Saving Abel came out to cater to those who were starting to write the original acts off as too light (though it was still mainstream-friendly).
By the late 2000s though, fatigue would set in for a variety of reasons. Firstly, while other rock genres grew to popularity around the time period, post-grunge reigned with a virtual stranglehold on the mainstream to the point where it became inseparable from rock music as a whole, and due to its mainstream-friendliness, this led to an oversaturation on the radio stations. On top of that, the genre built up a reputation for being formulaic in its musical structure and lyrics. With those two combined, it didn't take long for a Hatedom to develop and backlash against the music and the bands playing it to reach full swing. Bands like Creed and Nickelback became the biggest targets of Snark Bait and were held responsible for having "killed rock music" (or at least leaving it stagnant). The harder-tinged acts also faced backlash for the childishly hedonistic and misogynistic themes of their own lyrics; the bands that avoided these sorts of themes had to either modify their sound or Genre Shift completely in order to stay afloat. And because post-grunge had become nearly inseparable from rock music as a whole for over a decade, many rock fans felt that once the genre succumbed to its own fatigue, it did lasting damage to rock music's reputation and contributed to its decline from the mainstream music scene of the 2010s, enabling Electronic Music to fill in the void and finally establish a foothold on the mainstream American music consciousness.
Today, post-grunge is held up as a cautionary tale in what happens when you take a genre as unique as grunge and turn it into a mass-produced commercial product. Only a few bands managed to survive the fall and still consistently put out hits and play to decently sized audiences (though not nearly as large as in their prime). Even then, it was largely because those bands incorporated elements of other genres into their sound to the point that some would say they're "not really post-grunge anyway" or abandoned it altogether. Besides them, the scene is a graveyard full of bands that can't chart to save their lives, are stuck playing in small clubs, and are little more than Snark Bait (if they aren't completely forgotten altogether). Whenever anyone uses the term "butt rock" in a derisive fashion, they're most likely referring to post-grunge, and one would have a hard time finding a rock band formed in the 10s that plays this style, since Lighter and Softer pop/indie-inspired rock and Electronic Music-infused rock have become the vogue, and if a band is going to play harder-edged rock in this day and age, it will most certainly not be in the style of post-grunge.
- "Shock rock", rock music whose main allure was how shocking and offensive it was to Moral Guardians (such as Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, and GWAR), has largely died out. The main reason is due to cultural desensitization to such musical flamboyance — mainstream pop singers like Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Adam Lambert, Miley Cyrus (post-Hannah Montana), and others have made shock value such a major part of their routines that it's become, well, routine to expect musicians to push the envelope. Secondly, the internet has made far more extreme bands and genres (Gangsta Rap, Death Metal, horrorcore, etc.) accessible to young people wishing to rebel against their parents. Furthermore, the Moral Guardians that once railed against shock rock, and gave it much of its allure in the process, are nowadays seen as ineffectual jokes. The last true shock rock band to make it big was Marilyn Manson in the '90s,note and since then, this once-controversial style of rock music has turned into joke fodder.
- The Power Ballad was once a staple of Hair Metal groups during The '80s. "Love Bites" (Def Leppard), "Open Arms" (Journey), "When the Night Goes Down" (Judas Priest), "Carrie" (Europe), "Is This Love" (Whitesnake), "So Many Tears" (Dokken) are just a handful of the songs that dealt with more emotional issues such as love and intimate relationships while de-emphasizing the sexual aspects. They not only showed off the voice range of the frontman, but they also revealed a more tender, sensitive side to these manly metal groups. The 80s had a very different view of masculinity, as the 70s "alpha male" craze died out (taking "cock rock" with it) and this was more than a decade before the rise of gay culture subverted all previous conventions. Power ballads actually helped for hair and metal bands to earn airtime on the radio since they had more appeal to the non-hardcore audience. Today, however, Rated M for Manly is emphasized more, and if the song is a "manly man shows a soft side", it's likely to be of a more subdued and subtle tone (whereas power ballads aren't exactly on the subtle side). In this day and age, power ballads would be considered Narm.
- Creed was arguably the biggest band in the world around the turn of the 21st century, reaching their peak with their Diamond-selling sophomore album Human Clay in 1999. However, between frontman Scott Stapp's on- and off-stage antics and their Signature Songs "With Arms Wide Open" and "Higher" being played on a seemingly infinite loop on the radio, a backlash formed from which the band would never recover despite breakups, reunions, and follow-up albums. The tipping point came when the band performed in Chicago at the Allstate Arena in 2002. Stapp was so drunk that he could barely stand up, and he fell off the stage several times and eventually got booed off after only three songs, with many people calling it one of the absolute worst performances in the history of rock music. Creed soon broke up, and the backing bandhi formed Alter Bridge with a different singer, and while they never reached the same level of success, they got far better reviews. Stapp's personal life, meanwhile, spiraled out of control, to the point that he was broke and living alone in a hotel for a period of time.
Today, Creed remains one of the biggest pariahs of the music world, being voted as the worst band of the '90s by the readers of Rolling Stone in 2013 by such an overwhelming margin that the editors said the competition "wasn't even close" between Creed and second-placer Nickelback. Today, it is a social taboo to admit to being a Creed fan or even admitting to owning one of their albums during their Glory Days, the general consensus on them being that they were a poor man's ripoff of Pearl Jam with an obnoxious frontman (both on and off the stage). An article where the author went to Creed and Nickelback's New York concerts the same night notes how "people who talk about Creed want to position themselves as distanced from what Creed is alleged to represent".
- Hinder, as noted above, was one of the many bands that fell to this status due to the fall of Post-Grunge. After spending some time in the underground, they signed a deal with Universal Records in 2005. While "Get Stoned", their first single off of Extreme Behavior (their major-label debut), wasn't a massive hit, it was enough to make the album debut at #6 on the Billboard 200. That changed when "Lips of an Angel" was released. The band's rise was meteoric from there. Topping multiple charts and staying there for a while, "Lips of an Angel" was ubiquitous, to the point that a Country Music cover by Jack Ingram was also a minor success. The other two singles off of the album ("How Long" and "Better than Me") soon followed suit and managed to essentially take over the airwaves for this band, and this was all enough to propel the parent album to triple-platinum sales. Hinder was one of the biggest modern rock acts on the planet at this time. Take It to the Limit, their 2008 follow-up, debuted even higher at #4, and while its main singles "Use Me" and "Without You" weren't quite as huge as "Lips of an Angel", they still filled up rock radio. That being said, it was obvious that the band had slid some, as it took forever to even reach Gold and has still not reached Platinum; some of this may have been their move towards a sound more reminiscent of Hair Metal as opposed to the hard rock-tinged post-grunge of Extreme Behavior.
The first sign of serious trouble was when both of singles from 2010's All American Nightmare barely charted (though the Title Track was a #6 hit) and the album itself only debuted at #37. While plenty of bands would still see this as a big success, it was a massive slide from where they were. Not only did this not correct itself by 2012, but Welcome to the Freakshow, their fourth major-label album, debuted at #65 (only selling 60,000 copies as of 2015), and "Save Me", the lead single, charted even lower. Sales were so bad that their major label Republic Records unceremoniously dropped them. The final nail in the coffin was when frontman and founder Austin Winkler left the band in the middle of a tour due to his drug issues. The band tested out Jared Weeks, the former frontman of Saving Abel (another band that fell to complete obscurity when post-grunge declined), for the rest of their tour, only for him to leave soon afterward. Now signed to The End Records, a rock label owned by rising star BMG, they released When the Smoke Clears with a friend of the band on vocals to negative reviews; it managed to peak in the 70s on the Billboard 200 before vanishing the next week. The music video for their single "Hit the Ground" struggled to reach 80,000 views within six months of its release and only peaked at #34 on the Mainstream Rock charts; on top of that, the band had to crowdfund the album just to try and build some buzz due to nonexistent promotion from their label. Hinder released their sixth album, The Reign, on August 11 2017, which failed to chart, with one single peaking at a lamentable #39 on rock radio. Around that time, the remaining band members sued former lead singer Winkler over trademark infringement.
While still around, Hinder has gone from being a well-drawing live act and being all over the airwaves to playing in small clubs with other has-beens and barely making the charts, and their music is viewed as emblematic of everything that was wrong with modern rock in the mid '00s and early '10s: trashy, misogynistic, childishly hedonistic, and generally moronic. When people refer to an act as "butt rock", they're talking about bands like Hinder. Also, it's pretty well known by now that "Lips of an Angel" is about a man pining for his ex despite his present girlfriend being in the next room, and saying he has to whisper even though he belts out the chorus... in other words, it's a song that's all about Your Cheating Heart. This becomes Harsher in Hindsight when one realizes that Winkler is divorced, and was accused of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend. Suffice to say, Hinder is all but forgotten, and if they're even remembered at all, it's to be a punchline for being one of the worst examples of "x-rated post-grunge".
- Limp Bizkit started out in 1997 after they were discovered by Jonathan Davis and they dropped their debut Three Dollar Bill, Y'all$. While it initially went unnoticed, they were able to get good word-of-mouth spread out through extensive touring, eventually going up to #22 on album charts. Their blend of metal and hip-hop combined with angsty lyrics and use of turntables was a winning combination for teens and young adults across the world, and brought Nu Metal to the forefront of mainstream culture. They also performed at Woodstock '99, which ended in complete disaster, and the band's performance of "Break Stuff" was highly criticized as having fanned the flames of discontent among the crowd. Whether it truly was their fault or not is still debated over to this day. Still, this did nothing to hinder the sales of their sophomore album Significant Other, which shot up to #1 and sold 7 million units in the US alone. Their fame skyrocketed even further when their following album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water was released in 2000, which debuted at #1 with over 1 million copies sold in its first week and overall sold over 20 million units worldwide. Songs like "Nookie", "Break Stuff", "Re-Arranged", "My Way", "Take a Look Around", and "Rollin'" dominated the airwaves of rock radio. They even crossed over to urban radio with the Method Man-backed "N 2 Gether Now". They were on top of the world, and while they never were critical darlings, their sales spoke differently.
However, the band's popularity rapidly collapsed in the early-mid '00s. First was when their guitarist Wes Borland - who was a fan-favorite and considered the most talented band member - left. Next, their 2003 album Results May Vary was delayed multiple times, got terrible reviews when it finally came out and barely made it past platinum. Not helping matters was an ill-received cover of "Behind Blue Eyes". This album proved to be a Genre-Killer for Nu Metal (which was already in decline at the time) and a Creator Killer for Limp Bizkit, as the band soon went on a hiatus. They later reunited in 2011, when their album Gold Cobra got the best reviews in their career, yet it debuted at a dismal #16 on the Billboard 200. However, "Endless Slaughter", their latest single off of the oft-delayed Stampede of the Disco Elephants, was met with near-unanimous derision and was widely decried as an incoherent, nonsensical mess.
Once one of the turn of the Millennium's most popular rock bands, Limp Bizkit is now considered a disgrace to the genre, and even though nu metal did regain some esteem in the eyes of the music industry and the public, they're still considered a complete joke even by casual listeners. Rock radio has almost completely given up on Limp Bizkit, and most of their airplay comes from "N 2 Gether Now" on urban radio. The band is so hated in the States that most of their touring is done overseas, where they weren't hit nearly as bad as with the backlash. The last time they really made any news at all was when long-time turntablist DJ Lethal was fired due to his drug issues. While they're still relatively popular in Europe and Latin America, few bands are more hated nowadays than Limp Bizkit, and the funny thing is, Fred Durst doesn't really disagree with the criticism.
- Canadian rock group Nickelback peddled around for a few years and exploded on the scene in 2001 with their album Silver Side Up, with its lead single "How You Remind Me" topping the charts for four weeks and being named the biggest single of 2002. It went on to become the most played song on American radio stations through the entire decade! As reigning rock band Creed was starting to face massive Hype Backlash, Chad Kroeger and his band were looking to inherit the throne from them. Silver Side Up would go on to sell more than 6 million copies in the United States alone. As the band went to work on their next album, Kroeger remained in the spotlight by recording a song for the Spider-Man soundtrack. "Hero", a collaboration with Saliva's Josey Scott, became another massive hit on both the rock and pop charts. From that point forward, there was no looking back. Subsequent albums The Long Road in 2003, All The Right Reasons in 2005 (their first album to hit #1), and Dark Horse in 2008 all went multi-platinum and spawned several big hits on the Hot 100 and the rock charts. By the end of the '00s, Nickelback could be said to have defined rock music in that decade as much as Nirvana did in the '90s.
However, in the process, the group became one of the biggest Snark Bait targets on the internet (one popular meme is pointing out the similarities between their hit songs), with many rock fans holding nothing but unbridled hatred for the band as a mockery of rock music whose continued mainstream success was leaving the genre stagnant and preventing other bands from being able to make any impact. Their 2011 release Here & Now, despite just narrowly missing out the #1 spot to Michael Bublé, would fail to produce any hits ("When We Stand Together" fell just short of the Top 40) and barely make it past platinum. In 2014, their New Sound Album No Fixed Address debuted at #4, getting trounced by the biggest boy band in the world. Its singles bombed outside of the Hot 100, though "Edge of a Revolution" topped the Mainstream Rock charts. The album sold only 80,000 copies in its opening week and might not go gold for years, and changing their sound to make it pop and funk-oriented certainly didn't help. Their ninth album, Feed the Machine, got the same mediocre reviews from critics and didn't chart very well. However, the listeners' reaction was more forgiving, as even the band's detractors were surprised by the Title Track's harder sound. Nevertheless, Nickelback is still a far cry from their prime and certainly will not be shaking off their Snark Bait reputation any day soon, and if you were to ask any music fan why rock music has declined from the mainstream since the 2010s, there's a good chance they'll blame Nickelback for it.
- Not long after they were discovered by Fred Durst, Puddle of Mudd became one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Their album Come Clean, released in 2001, would become one of the biggest sleeper success stories of the year. The song "Blurry" would go on to become an enormous megahit, being played nonstop on rock and pop stations across the country. "She Hates Me" would continue the hot streak, and "Control" and "Drift & Die," although not commissioned to pop radio, would keep their popularity in the stratosphere. By the end of its run, Come Clean would have sold more than five million copies.
Unfortunately, their follow-up, Life on Display, would prove to kill their popularity as fast as Come Clean made it. The album got trashed by critics and failed to even go platinum, and none of its singles came close to the monumental success of "Blurry" or "She Hates Me." Puddle of Mudd quickly vanished from public consciousness after that. They would have a small comeback in 2007 when the title track to their third album Famous was embraced with open arms by rock radio stations, but it was the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired "Psycho" that put them back on top, as it would go on to be their biggest hit on both the active and modern rock formats since "Blurry". It looked like Puddle of Mudd was about to reclaim their throne.
But that's not what would happen when they released Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love & Hate. Not only would the album tank massively and get the same tepid reviews as Life on Display, but its two singles, "Spaceship" and "Stoned", would barely crack the rock charts' top 10. Less than a year afterwards, all the original members of the group except Wes Scantlin were gone, and their only release since then has been a cover album. Today, Puddle of Mudd is one of the most hated bands of the new millennium, with any reference to them today only being done to criticize Wes Scantlin's "whiny voice" (or his uncanny resemblance to professional wrestler Edge) or as another example of "X-rated post-grunge garbage."
In later years, Scantlin became a raging alcoholic and even more notorious for his obnoxious behavior on and off-stage, such as accusing a fan of stealing his house and repeated arrests. The final straw was a gig in England in March 2016, when Scantlin was so drunk that his bandmates walked offstage. Even in the "never say never" world that is the music industry, Scantlin has fallen so hard that it would be nothing short of a miracle for him to regain any of his respect.
- Smash Mouth was once one of the biggest pop rock bands on the planet. Releasing their debut album Fush Yu Mang in 1997, its ska punk style differed from their later sound, but "Walkin' on the Sun" turned out to be a smash Black Sheep Hit. This success led them to adopting a Lighter and Softer sound on their next album, Astro Lounge. The album spawned the song "All Star", whose popularity grew to epitomic levels after being featured in numerous movies like Mystery Men and Shrek. The song pretty much became the unofficial anthem of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and while they were never truly praised by rock critics, their sales proved otherwise. Their Self-Titled Album wasn't as big as a hit, but still spawned their Covered Up version of "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees, which kept them in the public consciousness in the new millennium.
As time passed by, however, their popularity dried out. Their next album, Get the Picture? wasn't at all a hit despite the songs "Hang On" and The Beatles cover "Getting Better" being featured in The Cat in the Hat (given that movie's negative reception, one might argue this didn't help at all). Their next few albums were released independently; while they still had an audience of the Nostalgia Filter type and still had their newer songs featured in movies and TV shows, they simply couldn't find their popularity anymore. By the early 2010s, even the nostalgia audience moved on, as evidenced by 2012's Magic being a dismal flop, likely due to its We're Still Relevant, Dammit! attitude (such as titling a song "Justin Bieber" and having a guest artist that would become a One-Hit Wonder). Even with Shrek becoming a meme that sucked anything related to it in it, as well as appearances on Neil Cicierega's Mouth Sounds mash-up mixtape, the band still couldn't find an audience after they died out.
In 2015, videos were leaked of lead singer Steve Harwell cursing at his audience for throwing slices of bread at him (at a food festival, no less) and threatening to fight his fans. Because there were many people there and they simply had to get footage of the situation due to how absurd it was, many clips of said incident were posted to YouTube. That proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back, as whatever remaining popularity and fans they had died overnight. A cursory look at the comments pretty much consist of Shrek references, Take That! bread puns, Guy Fieri references, fan haters criticizing Smash Mouth fans for liking them way past their prime, and other things (in fact, The A.V. Club's coverage of the incident had nothing but threads of bread puns in the comments). In 2016, Smash Mouth released an EDM single titled "Love is a Soldier" with producer Specter (not to be confused with Phil Spector). The official lyric video was also Snark Bait, with more references in the comments to bread, Guy Fieri, and Shrek. Today, Smash Mouth's considered to be a washed-up band and songs like "All Star" are merely brought up today as references to Mouth Sounds and Shrek.
- Drowning Pool's debut single "Bodies" was a big hit on rock radio, peaking at #6 on Active Rock and #12 on Alternative. The song proved to be hugely memetic, quickly becoming the band's Signature Song and being featured in countless TV shows, movies, video games, sporting and pro wrestling events, and commercials. However, the song very quickly came to be overused in AMVs, Notepad tutorials, and Windows Movie Maker videos, a result of it being featured as part of YouTube's AudioSwap library, which also included other singles from Wind-Up Records artists. Even worse, however, was the controversy surrounding the song, with its chorus of "let the bodies hit the floor" and its connection to a number of high-profile crimes. The song was repeatedly played to torture inmates at Guantanamo Bay, in 2003 a teenager shot and murdered his parents while listening to "Bodies", and most infamously, in 2011 Jared Loughner had uploaded a video set to "Bodies" of him burning the American flag before going on a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The song was also included in iHeartMedia's (then Clear Channel) list of "lyrically questionable" songs that was given out to their radio stations after 9/11. Originally written as a mosh-pit anthem, "Bodies" very quickly came to be viewed as a mass murder anthem instead, and while Drowning Pool themselves condemned the Tucson shooting, their chart success slid down the drain until their 2016 album Hellelujah completely missed the Billboard 200.