For a discussion on how disco itself relates to this trope, see here.
Note: A musician/group is not Deader Than Disco if they've had one or two underperforming songs/albums or are seen as Snark Bait by the general public. Otherwise, just about every mainstream musician or musical group in existence would be this trope! For a musician or group to be Deader Than Disco, they need to have irreparably fallen into mainstream obscurity, either through career-damaging behavior or simple shifts in cultural taste.
Second Note: This is not a forum for Complaining About Shows You Don't Like. Just because you're personally disgusted by a specific band or genre doesn't mean they can't be enjoyable in principle or have significant lasting appeal with the general population.
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Rock in general was actually thought to be this in the early 1960s. By this time, Elvis Presley had been drafted, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens had died, etc. Meanwhile, thanks to the success of such groups as The Shirelles, female-fronted pop and dance music were quickly overtaking rock and roll in terms of popularity. By about 1962, rock had been largely written off as a passing teen fad... and then The Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show. And the rest, as they say, is history...
...until, ironically, the birth of Disco. The then-emerging genre took a significant bite out of rock's mainstream dominance. And even after it had become a public mockery (hence its status as the Trope Namer), it paved the way for competing genres, like bubblegum pop. And then rap/hip-hop along with a resurgence in the popularity of R&B took an even larger chunk out of rock's mainstream dominance. Not to mention the rise in non-musical forms of entertainment among teenagers, such as video games and teen-oriented television programming. While it's unlikely that rock will ever become Deader Than Disco (how ironic that would be!), most will agree that the genre no longer has the cultural impact or significance that it had during the 1960s and 1970s. Rather, it's now seen merely as one of many genres of popular music.
A little Genre existed in the 1960s called "Raga Rock". For those who don't know, Raga Rock was Indian-inspired rock music that mainly focuses on using Indian instruments and music structure (like "Love You To" by the Beatles, "The Sunset" by The Moody Blues, and "White Summer" by the Yardbirds). Besides a few hits, it never really caught on, and it didn't stick around as by the 1970s everyone had abandoned the Counter-Culture and Hippie movements.
Hair Metal, the genre with the honor of being to The Nineties what the Trope Namer was to The Eighties — i.e., the subject of mockery for an entire generation. After big success in the '80s, hair metal went into rapid decline at the start of the '90s, when Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind set the world on fire and turned grunge into the next big thing by providing a heavier alternative. For years afterward, hair metal was stereotyped as the music of lowlifes, stuck-in-the-'80s housewives, and your uncool parents. While '80s nostalgia has caused its popularity to increase, at least in the mainstream, it has never climbed back to its former heights, and it is still treated as a subject of mockery by metalheads (as seen in Brutal Legend). Still, considering that it at least sounds like hard rock, it is far more respected amongst metal purists and classic hard rock fans than other formsof rock/metal.
Grunge music itself significantly declined in popularity in the mid-1990s with the rise in popularity of Alternative Metal bands like Korn and Deftones resulting in many grunge bands changing their style to adapt. The suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain didn't help.
Emo pop-rock. Brought into the mainstream in the mid-2000s 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 Tens, groups that had formerly embraced the style had either disbanded or modified their sound, and the associated 'Emo' and 'scene kid' subcultures had mostly fallen out of favour with youth.
Many, many, many novelty songs and one hit wonders. Even though people expect them to be fads and fade out, there's still an amazing jump between "cute, fun fluff" and "anyone who sings this gets a punch in the nose." Good examples include "Achy Breaky Heart" and the Macarena.
And line-dancing itself...
Arguably the alternative hip-hop and jazz-rap crossover craze from the early '90s. From 1992-'94, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Arrested Development, Us3, and Digable Planets won critical acclaim, had hit singles, and collected awards. They were hailed as the new face of hip-hop. But their popularity has waned and their style has few critical supporters today. In fact at the time some was criticized for not doing anything special besides sample jazz records. Some created records that are still highly praised though, like the aforementioned artists. Other hip-hop artists from that same era — namely gangsta rap, political rap, and hardcore hip hop artists, such as Nas, Dr. Dre, the Wu Tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Bone Thugs N Harmony, and Snoop Dogg — stood the test of time far better. On the other hand those genres created some great records, but it's also the reason many people hate rap.
New jack swing also suffered a similar backlash around this time, with some critics calling the scene watered down cookie cutter R&B/Hip Hop and slowly driving them out.
Although you could make the argument that over saturation might have been the real culprit. All the new jack swing songs started to sound the same.
There is a second wave of alternative rap which includes rappers like P.O.S., Aesop Rock and El-P, but it's mostly targeted at fans of alternative and indie rock, who are mostly enthusiastic supporters of them. Rap radio stations, on the other hand, still avoid the genre entirely.
Interestingly enough there was a time when Alt/Rap was played along side Hardcore Hip Hop, Political Rap, and Gangsta Rap. Which is one of the reasons why The Golden Age Of Hip Hop is so fondly remembered.
Opinions vary, but, at least in the mainstream's eyes, pretty much any hip-hop that isn't Lil Wayne, Drake or Eminem is now considered "alt-rap" by default.
Speaking of rap, Gangsta Rap is no longer the mainstream force that it was in The Nineties. The deaths of The Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur, at the height of gangsta rap's mainstream success, brought it screeching to a halt. Gangsta rap's popularity came from its anti-establishment themes and its violent lyrical content (especially in comparison to clean-cut artists like Run-D.M.C. and Will Smith), but the second that the people rapping about these things figuratively took it seriously and started killing each other, artists started distancing themselves from that image. In the 2000s, that particular style of rap was pretty much no longer present, having been largely driven underground and supplanted by Boastful Rap and Glam Rap. Only a small handful of "gangsta" artists, like 50 Cent and The Game, had much mainstream success since, and even they have had to adjust to the sensibilities of modern rap.
In turn, Glam Rap witnessed something of a commercial decline in the 2010s, with alternative and electronic hip-hop almost superceding it.
And like gangsta rap, Political Rap is also pretty much back underground. At one point a large movement right besides both alt/rap and gangsta/hardcore hip-hop in the early to mid-1990s. Now it's basically none existent on terrestrial radio, and music channels. Some believe the genre and artists have been "blacklisted". In fact, some conspiracy theories maintain that Political Rap was intentionally subverted to make its largely African American fanbase buy into various self-defeating and negative social stereotypes.
Nu Metal. The concept of referring to certain superficially similar, but otherwise very different forms of music (Alternative Metal, Hard Rock, rap metal, Heavy Metal), as "nu metal" is itself Deader Than Disco, but so are many of the bands that got lumped together under that label. Some bands only managed to stay relevant by abandoning their old rap-metal style in favor of one that wasn't being endlessly mocked (Linkin Park's U2-esque arena rock style, Papa Roach's mainstream hard rock sound), and most of the rest have been pretty much forgotten outside of their diehard fanbases. While it still has some influence (namely in deathcore, which incidentally is something of a spiritual successor), its stigma of "downtuned jumpdafuckup riffs and ineffectual adolescent angst for white trash and angry tweens" is still unlikely to go away any time soon.
Kid Rock has, interestingly enough, remained commercially relevant by switching to a Southern/heartland rock style during the mid-2000s.
A lot of the Britpop bands of 1993-97 have gone from hugely popular and making the cover of NME to widely derided. The movement itself has come in for a lot of revisionism but bands like Shed Seven are nowadays little more than the butt of jokes.
The Turn of the Millennium saw much commercial success for 'Post-Punk revival' bands in Britain, such as Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs and The Libertines. The flood of derivative groups that followed in subsequent years led to the term 'landfill indie' being disparagingly used by the media and public to describe the genre in general, and by the end of the decade it had all but faded from the mainstream.
Intelligent drum'n'bass, an offshot of sample-based dance music that was extremely trendy in the UK during the mid-1990s. Following the success of Goldie's Timeless and LTK Bukem's Logical Progression in 1995 and 1996, intelligent drum'n'bass was latched onto by the British music press as the hot new sound of inner-city black Britain. At a time when the NME and Melody Maker almost exclusively covered skinny white teenage guitar bands, it was the acceptable face of urban music; it was "intelligent". The musical formula - slow build-up, double bass, skittery drums - quickly became a ubiquitous feature of television commercials, and it seemed that every CD single released in 1996 time had a drum'n'bass mix near the end of the tracklisting. It peaked in 1997, when Roni Size's Reprazent won the Mercury Music Award for New Forms and even David Bowie built much of Earthling around drum'n'bass, at which point the novelty wore off. Goldie's second album was slammed for self-indulgence - the first track was over 60 minutes long - and the genre as a whole was quickly displaced in the affections of music critics by trip-hop, which deserves a separate entry of its own.
Most digital synthesisers and drum machines of the 1980s and early 1990s were extremely hard to program, and so producers simply used the preset sounds over and over again. As a consequence, several machines from the era wore out their welcome and have completely fallen from fashion. Examples include the warm electric piano and slap bass sounds of the Yamaha DX 7; the Phil Collins-esque sound of the Simmonds SDS and Linn drum machines; the chimes and breathy pads of the Roland D-50; and the house piano and bassy organ of the Korg M1. Several of the aforementioned produced a sound that crossed the Uncanny Valley, a broken imitation of reality that was good enough for the time but has dated badly. Ironically, the more obviously electronic sound of previous analogue synthesisers and drum machines (themselves Deader Than Disco after digital synths became widespread) - such as the Roland Juno, and the TR-808 - came back into fashion during the 1990s and has never really gone away.
As of 2012, the D-50 (via a card made for Roland's V-Synth), Korg M1 and Wavestation (Korg Legacy software), DX-7 (FM 7, FM 8) and the Fairlight CMI (Fairlight Pro app on iTunes) have been revitalized in software and hardware formats, and Korg's MOD-7 software for its Korg Kronos workstation can emulate FM and vector synthesis, too. So even early digital synths are coming up for reappraisal.
The Boy Band's Distaff Counterpart, the Girl Group, never experienced quite the backlash of boy bands, probably due to them having a solid Periphery Demographicdriven by the fanservice on display. But once again, it's telling that Beyoncé's time with Destinys Child is almost never brought up when people talk about her career, and that the only major girl groups to have much popularity in the last several years are the Pussycat Dolls (in America) and Girls Aloud (in Britain). And most girl groups have to sell on their sex appeal alone, which prevents things like AKB48 from ever happening anywhere outside of Asia given how tame they are in comparison to Western pop.
Related to the above, British listeners had pop groups like the Spice Girls (more on them below), S Club 7, All Saints and Steps, which were usually manufactured by record labels or the first talent shows (Pop Idol, Popstars, etc.) to appeal almost exclusively to a younger demographic. They ruled the UK and U.S. Top Forty airwaves in the mid-late '90s, but now they're mostly forgotten with the exception of the Spice Girls, who have had succesful reunion tours and somewhat succesful solo careers.
The Easy Listening genre. Also known as Elevator Music and sometimes (incorrectly) Muzak, Easy Listening featured bland, unthreatening covers of forty-year-old pop songs performed by string orchestras and choruses, the members of which must have needed a direct pipeline to the No-Doz Corporation to get through their days' work. The genre was popular not just in offices and shops but also with senior citizens who apparently enjoyed the extremely sanitized versions of the songs they enjoyed as teens. The genre died out as its primary audience did - and as businesses either ditched music entirely or hired companies such as Muzak to provide a more marketing-directed music feed (which, today, is used mostly by telephone holding systems). Nowadays the average senior citizen only remembers such predecessors of Easy Listening as Perry Como and Mitch Miller as remnants of their parents' youth, and are more likely to listen to oldies from the early days of rock, when they themselves were young. Similarly, businesses and offices have mostly switched to classic (pre-MTV) rock and adult contemporary.
Related to the above, Beautiful Music and its noteworthy successors, Exotica and Space Age Pop, are far beyond dead. BM itself mostly morphed into Easy Listening, Space Age Pop went on to influence electronic music, and Exotica still clings on, as it's popular with the Tiki subculture (you know, tiki bars, Hawaiian shirts), and a handful of revivalists do still play the music. But it's hard to believe that there was a time when Les Baxter and Martin Denny were anything close to big names. Some of this has to do with Exotica being rather insensitive by modern standards.
However, Baxter has gather a small cult following in recent years due to limited releases of his work as a film composer (he was one of American International Pictures' favorite composers in the 1960s).
Also related to Easy Listening's death, the rise in Adult Alternative during the late 80's and early 90's killed the squeaky clean adult-oriented pop of the 70's and early/mid 80's. At that time, singers like Michael Bolton and Debbie Boone (both of whom specialized in safe and melodic pop ballads) were huge, with Boone's 1977 ballad "You Light Up My Life" being to this day one of the biggest hits of all time according to Billboard Magazine. Like the Easy Listening genre, this style of music pretty much died when its audience did, replaced with the notably edgier genre of adult alternative. Today, the squeaky clean adult pop groups of the 70's and 80's are remembered, if at all, as little more than punchlines for their sappiness and general blandness.
Ambient electronic music was quite popular in the 1970s and '80s. It found a niche due to it's atmospheric, dreamlike quality. It found frequent use as the soundtracks of a significant number of radio shows, TV series, animated series, documentaries, planetarium shows, computer games, and theatrical films. This gained some artists a cult status that exists to this day, even if in some cases it may be a case of Retroactive Recognition with respect to the artist's name. Some examples include Brian Eno, Jean Michael Jarre, Vangelis, Kitaro, Paddy Kingsland, Shuki Levy, the MOS Technology SID chip, Rob Hubbard, and Tangerine Dream. This genre of music seemed to experience a backlash by the 1990s, but this backlash was mostly limited to North America. The fact that most of these electronic artists were British, European or Japanese may have played a part in a large percentage of Americans turning their back on it in the interest of embracing more acoustic classic rock, "back to their roots"Americana style music.
Surf Rock. Even when it was popular, it eventually mutated into "Hot Rod Rock" after the people singing it changed subject matter. A few revivalist bands like Man or Astro-man? became popular in the 1990s, but even they distance themselves from the label now. Psychobilly is the closest you'll generally come to it nowadays; while never a popular genre, it has always had a highly devoted cult following.
"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 big reason is 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, while the internet has made far more extreme bands and genres (gangsta rap, death metal, horrorcore) 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, and since then, this once-controversial style of rock music has turned into joke fodder.
Straightforward R&B, slow jams, ballads, and pure Soul music is almost non-existent on urban radio. There was the revival of Retraux soul called Neo-Soul but it burned out possibly due to mislabeling and Hype Backlash.
The "Nashville sound" of the 1950s-60s, a slick and often orchestral sound that owed more to pop than country. In the 1970s, it was renamed "countrypolitan" and sometimes snuck in a little bit of a disco flavor. By the early 80s, pop-leaning country began shifting towards "soft rock with a steel guitar", and it's pretty much stayed there ever since.
"Outlaw country" of the 1970s. A more unkempt and raw style with rock influences, gruff vocals, and lyrics about drugs, alcohol, etc. Examples were Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Williams, Jr. — and in many cases, they really were as rough and tumble as they professed until it caught up with them. Many modern artists throw around the word "outlaw" when describing themselves, but they really can't hold a candle, as they didn't live nearly as rough a life as Willie, Waylon, and company. Hank Williams III is the closest you'll generally find to a modern-day torchbearer, but that's largely due to crossover appeal with metal and hardcore, which he has strong connections to.
Pop-country and traditional country have been cycling through this trope for decades. In The Eighties, the Outlaw and Bakersfield style of country became outpaced by pop crossover-friendly acts such as Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, and Alabama, who dominated the decade with slick songs that were as conducive to AC and Top 40 playlists as country. Then by about the mid-80s, a more traditional-leaning batch of artists began to emerge, including Reba McEntire, George Strait, Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs. By 1989, the so-called "Class of '89" emerged, a group of artists who all debuted that year (including Clint Black, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks) who managed to make a new brand of country that was clearly traditionally influenced with plenty of honky-tonk fiddle and steel, but still marketable to the masses; i.e., "neo-traditionalist". Fueling the fire was Brooks & Dunn, a honky-tonk influenced duo whose smash "Boot Scootin' Boogie", combined with Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart" (although an anomaly with its blatant 80s rock overtones), helped spark a renewed interest in line dancing. Then in 1995, Shania Twain emerged from nowhere and led a shift back toward country-pop crossovers, typically dominated by female artists such as her, Faith Hill, and Martina McBride — although it was also in this time period that Dixie Chicks managed considerable success despite a clear bluegrass influence. Even some acts who had debuted in the "neo-traditionalist" peak years attempted to change their style with varying degrees of success, most notably in Mark Chesnutt scoring a massive crossover hit with a not-remotely-traditional cover of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and Lonestar's 1999 hit "Amazed" becoming the first song since 1983 to top both the country and pop charts. All of those artists then fell off in the first few years of the 2000s, particularly the Chicks (whose fall from grace is further explained below), and Faith, who alienated herself from country radio in 2002 with her 100% pop-based album Cry. Ever since, country has occupied a middle ground that is neither overtly indebted to its roots nor overtly primed for pop crossover appeal, so with few exceptions, not a lot of country artists have achieved the mainstream exposure and crossover smashes of the acts mentioned above.
The "hat act" craze, a subset of the early-mid 90s "neo-traditionalist" boom. Many of the aforementioned "Class of '89" were fairly young men in cowboy hats, and such men came to flood the country market. While some actually proved to be talented, many others were criticized as bland copycats, and "hat act" came to be a derogatory term. The craze died off in the late 1990s as country shifted back to a more pop influence. One of the few "hat acts" who survived into the 21st century is Kenny Chesney, who managed to move beyond the "young hunk in a cowboy hat" image to his own unique sounds. Meanwhile, Rhett Akins moved from a fourth-string "hat act" to become a popular songwriter in the mid-late 2000s, in addition to supporting the budding singer-songwriter career of his son, who goes by Thomas Rhett.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, tape trading (the practice making copies of audio cassettes and sending them via mail to other fans of the music) was practiced by fans of extreme music such as heavy metal and hardcore punk, allowing fans all over the world to hear bands that they'd normally never hear on the radio or MTV. Tape trading allowed many bands to garner fanbases far from their homes despite being ignored by mainstream media outlets, and is credited with contributing to the early success of bands such as Metallica and Slayer. In the mid '90s, the rise of digital media and Internet file sharing made tape trading obsolete, as fans could download high-quality mp3s of songs in less than an hour rather than waiting days or weeks for tapes to arrive in the mail. These days tape trading is only practiced by a small number of heavy metal fans as a nostalgia hobby rather than a practical way of getting new music.
Blues-based rock. Thanks mainly to the surge of Alternative Rock, anything that sounds like Blues Rock is automatically considered 'old-timey' rock and roll (even though blues rock only found major mainstream success for a short period of time) for better or for worse. Many modern rock stations won't even play anything that sounds like it doesn't come from Post-Grunge-Nu Metal-Alternative Rock-Alternative Metal unless it's a major band (i.e. Metallica; Guns N Roses; Led Zeppelin).
Doubly for Psychedelic Rock, although Alternative Rock and Stoner Rock have been keeping it as an important part of their sounds.
Interestingly, a growing trend in rock music as a whole has been the shifting eversoslightly towards psychedelia and the blues. While it's unlikely that they will take over the world, it's possible that a full-fledged revival may be imminent.
Try to find a single major metal band that sounds anything like Black Sabbath. There is a genre that glorifies them, but this genre's mainstream high point was Black Sabbath. That style of metal, while definitely not dead and in fact is rising in popularity, essentially died the second metal discovered Punk Rock and Hard Rock and ran with it.
Progressive Rock fell hard in the late '70s, thanks to both Punk Rock and disco. Both Yes and Genesis managed to avert this in the '80s by retooling their sound to fit the new decade.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, dubstepnote While the genre originated in the UK in 1998, it didn't break into the mainstream until around 2008 was a very popular music genre. It dominated the dance music charts and became a staple of video games, and almost everyone, from teenagers to adults, was listening to it. By 2013, however, a tide of backlash swept over the genre, and today, mention of dubstep is more likely to bring up attacks on the genre and its leading artists than it is to bring supporters. Although it's not as widely relieved as, say Broke NCYDE or Insane Clown Posse and still has a fairly large fanbase, it's far from the music-dominating force it once was during the early-2010's.
This only really applies to the US-oriented "Brostep" strain of Dubstep though (i.e. Skrillex, NERO, Borgore etc.), In European circles, artists influenced by the UK strain of Dubstep (i.e. the original incarnation of the style, often referred to as "Post-Dubstep") such as Burial or James Blake remain quite popular.
Jam bands such as the Grateful Dead and Phish. Nowadays jam bands are mostly remembered for having a grand example of Fan Dumb, fans who follow the bands around everywhere and essentially nothing else related to them.
Kayokyoku, somewhat of a modern precursor to J-pop. The 1980s and 1990s saw heavier western influences seep into Japanese music, and for the most part heavily Japanese associated popular tunes are left to enka. Virtually overnight, western influences killed "kayo" as a musical form and formed modern J-pop, with much of the remaining active kayokyoku artists such as Kenji Sawada and Momoe Yamaguchi have taken up the label of J-pop or J-rock and essentially leaving more traditional musical output behind.
Related to this, "ero-kayo" or erotic kayokyoku. Basically entire albums of sexually charged psychedelic pop usually sung by supple-bodied young women with sexual groans and moans by the women thrown in. Yeah, the novelty wore off VERY fast.
Related to hair metal, gratuitous shred guitar solos with session musicians in many non-rock genres became popular around the same time, even in places where no one today would want them, like an adult contemporary ballad or a bubbly pop song. Even by the late '80s, this had descended into self-parody and was seen as overindulgent, and by the rise of grunge, this trend was already dead. Today, the only non-rock artists that seem to use guitar soloing are country artists like Brad Paisley.
Both Greatest Hits albums and compilation albums (such as the surprisingly popular “Now! That's What I Call Music” albums) are flatlining for exactly the same reason. Both operated on the same premise: an album filled with popular songs without unwanted filler (either a cross-section of popular songs from a certain year, genre, etc., or collection of hits from a single artist, with the occasional new song thrown in in the case of the latter.) Admittedly something of a cash-grab by record labels, admittedly one that was actually popular, as many people enjoyed having the ease of one album playing several hits instead of constantly changing CD's around (both ABBA Gold and The Immaculate Collection by Madonna were incredibly popular.)
However, the rise of mp3s and digital music have caused both to collapse. Now that mp3 players offer listeners the ability to place songs in whatever order they so choose in the form of playlists, alongside the move to a more singles-based market instead of the previous album-based, listeners can get whichever songs they want, in whatever order they want, without the songs they don't. There's the occasional outlier, but Greatest Hits albums and compilation albums have become the Variety shows of the music industry.
Japanese Pop Music did not have it easy in the age of the digital revolution. The Japanese record labels were, in many ways, even more out-of-touch than their American counterparts, with their digital side being Orwellian and difficult to access. Furthermore, the music was seen as "childish" and bland by non-Japanese listeners, and the way the system was designed to gouge money by encouraging bulk-buy sale incentives (popularized by AKB48) led to a rise of uninspired J-Idol groups trying to get a slice of the pie. Finally, the fandom itself does not promote inclusion in any way, which gave it a poor reputation overseas. All of this combined allowed Korean Pop Music to supplant it in popularity.
Most J-Pop or J-Rock artists who still have a significant fandom outside of Japan have either gone indie and/or separated themselves from the politics of the record industry(Kenji Sawada, X Japan) or else have such a significant role and personality outside of music that music itself doesn't seem to be the main factor(Gackt, Miyavi).
The rise of digital music formats has pretty much killed off albums in general, as the music industry has become much more single-oriented. Many people just skip the filler tracks altogether and just listen to the hits.
Specific artists (hip-hop)
Hip-hop/rap music is especially known for being a very cutthroat industry, even by pop music standards, and is full of stories of artists who released a hit radio single, became wildly popular for a brief period, and then promptly faded back into obscurity (as the examples below demonstrate). In fact, the success stories of long-running rappers such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, and Jay-Z are major exceptions to the rule. The vicious nature of the rap industry has been the subject of many a rap single; one of the most famous examples is Cypress Hill's "(Rap) Superstar".
MC Hammer is a notable example of a single musician succumbing to this trope. 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 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. Then, however, came three factors that derailed his success and caused him to fall harder and faster than even Michael Jackson, turning him into an almost overnight punchline:
Switching his sound to Gangsta Rap in order to stay relevant. Whilst his 1994 album The Funky Headhunter was a platinum-selling success upon its release, and spawned the Memetic Mutation "it's all good", not only did it get him labeled a sellout by other rappers (the fact that he recorded several dis tracks probably didn't help), it ruined the clean-and-wholesome image that he had cultivated (he was, and still is, a Pentecostal minister, and included a Christian song on every one of his albums), which had allowed him to sell rap to mainstream America without the controversy raised by the more hardcore artists.
Overexposure. 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 CartoonHammerman. 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.
Redefining 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 basically 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 S**t)", where he talks about how he's going to "blow 30 mil like I'm Hammer."
MC Hammer's contemporary, Vanilla Ice, had what was then the fastest-selling hip-hop album ever with To the Extreme, and for a time "Ice Ice Baby" was as omnipresent as "U Can't Touch This". However, his film Cool as Ice bombed, his ganja-themed follow-up album Mind Blowin was a dud, and he soon fell into drug addiction and at one point tried to kill himself. Furthermore, he made a public mockery of himself by awkwardly denying that "Ice Ice Baby" sampled the main riff from "UnderPressure". Now, while he's back to recording new music (with Psychopathic Records!), and has made a small fortune flipping houses, of all things, to most people in America he is thepunchline about white rappers.
Beavis and Butt-Head glaring in disgust 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.)
50 Cent was one of the hottest rappers of the early 21st century. His 2003 debut Get Rich or Die Tryin' was one of the most popular rap albums of all time (more than 8 million albums sold in the United States alone), and thanks to his business savvy, he appeared to be on top of the world. Unfortunately, however, his rap career steadily declined not long after, thanks to both a polarizing fan reaction to his second album The Massacre and his rather pretentious, over-the-top public demeanor.
The latter in particular seriously damaged his music career in 2007, when it was revealed that Kanye West would release his third album Graduation on the same day 50 released his third album Curtis. This led him to boastfully declare that if Kanye's album sold more copies than his, he would officially retire from rapping. Sure enough, Graduation outsold Curtis by a landslide, and while 50 hastily retracted his declaration, the damage had already been done. His most recent album, 2009's Before I Self Destruct, garnered mediocre reviews and just barely managed to reach Gold certification, and his follow-up Street King Immortal is stuck in Development Hell. While Get Rich or Die Tryin' is still highly regarded by professional critics and hip hop fans, 50 Cent is not nearly as popular as he once was, and now he seems to be concentrating more on acting than his music career.
The same applies to 50 Cent's one-time rival, Ja Rule. After being mentored by Jay-Z on the hit song "Can I Get A..." (which was also popularized by the film Rush Hour), Ja Rule followed up with an extremely successful solo album and quickly rose to become one of hip-hop's biggest stars of the late '90s and early '00s. He would release a multi-platinum album every year from 1999 to 2002, and also started a short-lived acting career.
However, his fall came swiftly and precipitously in the year 2003, primarily for two reasons. The first was the rise of the aforementioned Fifty, who was a long-time underground rival from Queens, NY and seemed to make antagonizing Ja Rule and his Murder Inc. record label the main goal of his early career. Furthermore, the fact that Ja Rule had started out with a tough Gangsta Rap attitude but then softened his image over the years (by the peak of his career, he was primarily known for performing pop-oriented love ballads/duets with female R&B singers) only made his critics' attacks on him all the easier to stick. Ja Rule responded to the critics with several attack albums, but they were mostly critical and commercial disappointments and a far cry to his earlier success. By 2005, he had disappeared from the public eye, which was further compounded by the collapse of Murder Inc. due to various legal issues. He has since released a few independent albums, but the only time he has really been relevant in the news was for going to jail on a gun-possession charge.
Another of 50 Cent and Ja Rule's contemporaries to fall victim to this was DMX, who in The Nineties was once one of the best-selling artists in hip-hop. He released numerous platinum-selling albums, peaking with his Magnum Opus...And Then There Was X in 1999, which included the Signature Song "Party Up" (Up in here! Up in here!). He also collaborated with many other rappers (including legends such as Ice Cube, Jay-Z, Eminem, and Nas) and became one of the best-known examples of Wolverine Publicity in hip-hop singles. And like Fifty and Ja, he briefly dabbed into an acting career as well.
Unfortunately, DMX would also become infamous for his otherrap sheet and soon found himself unable to stay out of trouble with the law as his fame rose. Although he initially was able to still sell well in spite of his legal troubles, his arrest record and jail sentences eventually took their toll in preventing him from being able to record music and by the latter half of the 2000s, he was widely regarded as a has-been laughingstock. 2008 was a particularly bad year for X when he was arrested over a dozen times for various offenses and also embarrassed himself in a bizarre interview in which he professed ignorance over who then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was (and made fun of Obama's name). He attempted a bit of a comeback in 2012, releasing a new album for the first time in 6 years, but he has recently also filed for bankruptcy (after being arrested several more times), showing that he still has quite a bit to recover from.
Specific (other genres)
Liberace, the flamboyant piano player, was one of the most popular and highest paid music performers of The Fifties. 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 Sixties, as a pleasant alternative to rock 'n' roll. Most popular non-rock music performers of the Fifties 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 obviouscloset homosexuality. If a character refers to Liberace (Superman II, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series), they're Ambiguously Gay. His fall from grace appeared complete when his Las Vegas museum closed due to waning popularity in The New Tens.
Not helping his legacy in modern times was the fact that Liberace was, during his life, very adamant about denying that he was gay, giving him a Periphery Hatedom in today's LGBT community. Even after his death, his estate and personal physician went through great efforts to cover up the fact that he died from AIDS-related complications.
The entire city of Branson, Missouri, owes its existence to this trope. When Garth Brooks and other younger stars took over Country Music in the early '90s, they brought in new fans and, more importantly, new Nashville record execs who didn't care about most of the established stars of country (although a few, like Reba McEntire and George Strait, managed to cross generational lines). Almost figuratively overnight, singers like Charley Pride and Barbara Mandrell went from having #1 hits to not even making the charts. Branson was pretty much the only place they could get anyone to pay to see their shows. So they all just moved there and opened up theaters. As The Simpsons put it...
Nelson: What is this place?
Bart: Branson, Missouri. My dad says it's like Vegas, if it were run by Ned Flanders.
The Darkness: They were huge in 2004, won loads of awards, album sold over a million copies in the United Kingdom alone. Then the follow-up album arrived in 2005, sold less well and the band subsequently split. Now, despite probably still having a copy of Permission To Land kicking-around, most people pretend they never liked them in the first place.
Others did enjoy the second album, the follow-up bands Hot Leg and Stone Gods (of singer Justin Hawkins and of the rest of the band + new singer, respectively) and are looking forward to the upcoming reunion.
The Spice Girls were one of the few British pop groups between The Eighties and The New Tens to successfully cross The Pond and make it big in the United States. At their peak from 1996 to 1998, they were everywhere. "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" were inescapable, "Girl Power" was the slogan of a whole generation of tween girls, and the movie Spice World was an inexplicable blockbuster hit. Wikipedia's article on them refers to that period of time, unironically, as "Spicemania". They remain the highest-selling Girl Group of all time even after their backlash... and oh, what a backlash. By 2000 Geri Halliwell was long gone from the group, their album Forever was shaping up to be nothing short of a disappointment, and all of the remaining members were pursuing solo careers. Today, the band is chiefly remembered for its campiness and flamboyance, and its members are better known for their work and lives after the Spice Girls.
The orchestra hit. A recording of same was included with the Fairlight CMI digital sampling workstation of the early 1980s, and was quickly exploited by producer Trevor Horn for Yes' Owner of a Lonely Heart and anything else Horn produced over the next few years. It became a cliche of 80s synth pop, appearing on records by Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys and New Order. The sound was resurrected in cartoon form by the rave and acid house crowd in the early 1990s - notably by Altern-8 and The Immortals for their Mortal Kombat theme - but was killed stone dead forever by its association with 2 Unlimited. It hasn't come back since, not even ironically.
The 90s vogue for Gregorian chants and/or New Agey music mixed in with modern instruments. Canto Gregoriano, Adiemus, Enigma and the like sold ridiculous amounts of discs back then but soon receded back into semi-obscurity.
In 1989 and 1990, German pop duo Milli Vanilli was one of the biggest pop acts on the planet. Best known for their hit single "Blame It On The Rain", the group managed to sell over six 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-synching 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. Morvan continues to pursue pop stardom, on his own terms, to this day.
The Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed metal bands in existence during the '90s. However, the departure of their charismatic lead vocalist (Max Cavalera), coupled with the band's perceived pandering to the Nu Metal trend of that era (ironic when you consider that Roots came out a little before the Nu-Metal movement really took off), caused a rapid decline in their popularity. Today, the band is pretty much forgotten by all but a few loyal and dedicated fans, despite how popular and influential they were during the 90's.
Their first four albums are almost universally revered among metal fans, however, and Chaos A.D. (despite being a bit of a Base Breaker) also has many fans - some of which even consider it to be their overall best album despite the stylistic shift. Roots, on the other hand, is now remembered mostly for the nostalgia factor present among those who loved it when it came out.
The Dixie Chicks were among the biggest acts in Country Music in the late '90s and early '00s. They had an eclectic style that mixed mainstream country and bluegrass with just enough pop edge and "girl power" attitude to be cool outside the typical country demographic. Then in late 2002 and early '03, lead singer Natalie Maines got in a feud with Toby Keith over his post-9/11 Patriotic Fervor anthem "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue", and later (in the weeks before the invasion of Iraq) said in a concert that she was ashamed that then-President George W. Bush was from her home state of Texas.
This went over very badly in the country music fandom, much of which was pro-Bush and pro-war. Overnight, country radio dropped the Chicks like a hot potato — their then-current single "Travelin' Soldier" plummeted from #1, their next single went nowhere, Maines received death threats over her comment, and one station organized an event where people could bring their Dixie Chicks albums and merchandise to be destroyed by a bulldozer. Their only subsequent album, Taking the Long Way in 2005, was largely made in response to the backlash, and while it did receive critical acclaim and go double-platinum, that was in spite of a total rejection from the country fandom and radio stations. Not only did the controversy destroy their career, but a solid case could be made that the backlash against the Dixie Chicks (along with Shania Twain taking a break from recording around the same time) marked the beginning of the end of "girl power" country music; in the ensuing years, Lighter and Softer artists like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood became the most popular female country singers.
Before performing a cover of Madonna's "Material Girl" in one of her 2009 concerts, Sarah Slean remarked that it was a song emblematic of 1980s greed and that it sounded grotesque in the era of The Great Recession.
Neil Young's 1979 song "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" was the source of the line "It's better to burn out than to fade away", which was quickly memetically mutated into a popular Badass Boast and Shout-Out both in music and beyond (e.g. Highlander). But that ended after it was used in the suicide note of Kurt Cobain in 1994. Since then, Neil places greater emphasis on the line "Once you're gone, you can't come back."
While never overly popular, Anita Bryant had a notable career in music during the 1960s. Come the '70s, she became better-known as a vocal, pretentious Heteronormative Crusader. This pretty much killed any chance of future interest in Bryant's music. Fans of her music today are extremely rare, even among elderly people, to the point where many people now are unaware that she was once a singer. Maybe she should have stuck to music...
Country Joe and the Fish was considered one of the seminal rock groups of the 1960s, with their contributions to the psychedelic rock genre and their lyrics relating to the issues of the time (the band was even a major highlight of Woodstock). After they broke up in 1971, their music managed to date horribly and today is nothing more than a footnote of the history of rock music.
During The Fifties, 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 does have 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.
Limp Bizkit. Around the Turn of the Millennium, they were one of the most popular bands in America, garnering tremendous commercial success and helping to bring Nu Metal into the mainstream with their 1999 album Significant Other and 2000 follow-up Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water. However, the band's popularity rapidly collapsed in the early-mid '00s, with their 2003 album Results May Vary regarded as being not only a Creator Killer, but also a Genre-Killer for nu metal in general. Though their 2011 comeback album Gold Cobra saw some success, debuting at number 16 on the Billboard 200 list and becoming the band's best acclaimed album by far, they haven't come close to returning to their peak.
Creed was arguably the biggest band in the world in the early '00s, reaching their peak with their sophomore album Human Clay, which went Diamond. However, between Scott Stapp's jerkass antics, "With Arms Wide Open" and "Higher" being played on an infinite loop on the radio, and the continuing debate as to whether or not they were a Christian band, a backlash formed, and when it hit circa 2002, it hit hard. While the effect wasn't immediately noticeable, as Creed had quit putting out work before breaking up in 2004, ten years later 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-place Nickelback (itself a band with no shortage of anti-fans).
Today, it is pretty much a social taboo to admit to being a Creed fan or even admitting to owning one of their albums during their Glory Days. Airplay of their music is sporadic at best, and while the non-Scott Stapp members of the band went on to form Alter Bridge with Myles Kennedy to much acclaim, their success has not rubbed off on their work with Creed. When Creed got back together in 2009 and released Full Circle, it was slammed by critics and barely managed to go Gold, and the subsequent concert tour fared little better.
Justin Bieber. He was one of the first "internet celebrities" to become a legitimate, mainstream pop star, having started out posting YouTube videos of himself singing covers of R&B songs in the late '00s. He was a pop music sensation among teenage girls, known as "Beliebers", and while he also had a massive Hatedom (mostly revolving around his high-pitched singing voice, his bishie appearance, and of course his fans themselves), it did little to slow his popularity. Things started to change in 2012, however. First, his fanbase turned out to be dependent on a Fleeting Demographic, as shown when the British/Irish Boy BandOne Direction underwent a meteoric rise in popularity in the US. Bieber's fanbase was gutted by the rise of One Direction; his sophomore album Believe sold an underwhelming 374,000 copies in its opening week and took nearly half a year to be certified platinum (In turn, One Direction's Take Me Home opened with 538,000 copies sold and went platinum in just five weeks), while One Direction started winning all of the awards that Bieber would've claimed just the prior year.
It was in 2013 when the second, and arguably bigger, cause of his Deader Than Disco status kicked in. Bieber's public demeanor took an increasing turn for the jerkass, which battered his already-negative public image and turned many of his remaining fans against him (which benefited One Direction even more). He attempted to remain in the music world with a second concert film, Justin Bieber's Believe, and with the new album Journals, both released in late 2013, but Believe was a Box Office Bomb (especially compared to his first concert film just two years prior), and Journals flopped so badly that iTunes withheld sales figures. By the end of 2013, he had become better known for his tabloid antics and his on-and-off relationship with Selena Gomez than for his music, and many former "Beliebers" now hold him in very poor regard.
The Wanted were never massive to begin with, but were able to establish themselves as a popular group in the UK; in the U.S., not so much. They were billed as part of a "new wave" of Boy Bands alongside One Direction, and scored a massive American hit in 2012 with "Glad You Came." There was just one problem: at the time of their American breakthrough, four out of The Wanted's five members were in their early 20s, therefore the group was starting to get a little too old to market themselves as a boy band. Still, they kept firmly targeted at the teen market, and the "fangirl" demographic didn't show interest in the group whereas other audiences were alienated by the boy band premise. A controversy erupted shortly after "Glad You Came" peaked in where one of the group's members made an offensive comment about Christina Aguilera, which pretty much precipitated their downfall. The band's generic dance-pop sound led to poor album sales in the U.S., and because the genre was starting to get tons of backlash at that point, radio quickly gave up on them. However, the main factor that brought their demise was the existence of One Direction themselves, whose younger members, nicer personalities and more unique sound helped win over teenage girls in ways that the Wanted couldn't.
Linkin Park was once one of the most popular rock bands in the world. Their debut album, Hybrid Theory in 2000, was a defining Nu Metal album, and their mix of rap, rock, and electronica made them very different from other bands of the same type. In 2003 they released Meteora, which had a huge opening week but ultimately wasn't as successful as their previous album (likely due to the mounting backlash against nu metal), and so for their third album, they changed their sound to a Coldplay/U2-esque alternative rock sound. This move worked, as Minutes to Midnight was another monster hit album that opened with the biggest week of 2007 at the time. However, while their follow-ups A Thousand Suns and Living Things both debuted at #1, they only sold about one-third of Minutes to Midnight's opening week and ultimately failed to go platinum. Furthermore, rock music in the '00s was in a deep slump and was fading from the mainstream, especially among women and non-white listeners, who were increasingly turning towards rap, R&B, and dance music; Linkin Park were lucky enough to be one of the few modern rock bands who were still able to sell despite their genre dying.
Eventually, it turned out not even they were immune. For their sixth album, The Hunting Party, they reverted to their hard rock style, but it came at a price. Although they were once again fully embraced by rock radio, alternative stations dropped them like a hot potato. The rise of streaming services and piracy also proved a threat to rock album sales. When their album launched in June 2014, not only did it get trounced by Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence, but it also lost out to Sam Smith's In The Midnight Hour, which is especially jarring because it just happens to be Smith's first album.
Not for lack of trying on his part, but people are already beginning to call time of death on Robin Thicke's musical career. Kicking around the business for years, 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 devoted to his wife and high school sweetheart, actress Paula Patton.
However, throughout 2013 and 2014, stories began to emerge that his sleazy creep persona wasn't all an act, with the occasional photo as proof, and Patton finally left him. His follow-up album Paula, as the name implies, was a transparent, desperate, and somewhat depressing attempt to win her back, only digging him further down, while a Twitter Q&A went haywire fast when Thicke was inundated with angry messages. The trust between Thicke and his female fans was broken, potentially irreparably, and 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). By the summer of 2014, Thicke's name is more synonymous with "that rape-y song" than anything else, with few people defending the Unfortunate Implications of "Blurred Lines" anymore. Of course, music is a business with "never say never" as a mantra, but for him to recover from falling that far that fast will take nothing short of a miracle.