Dork Age / Music

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    Country and folk 
  • Garth Brooks' In The Life Of Chris Gaines, an experimental alt-rock album and pre-release soundtrack for a movie that never was, did not go over well with his fandom. Not only was the Out-of-Genre Experience unwelcome to his country fans, but taking on a new look and the identity of the title character just made it worse. Even still, while the album bombed, failure is relative. The album itself peaked at #2 on the U.S. charts, went double platinum, and most bizarrely of all, produced Garth's only trip to the Top 40 of the Hot 100.
  • Brooks & Dunn have their 1999 Tight Rope album. Following their biggest flop to date with "South of Santa Fe" (their only single not to enter the Top 40 at all, reportedly because program directors were saying they didn't want another song with Kix Brooks singing lead instead of Ronnie Dunn), they led off Tight Rope with a lukewarm cover of John Waite's "Missing You" (obviously trying to re-capture the magic of their extremely successful cover of B. W. Stevenson's "My Maria") and the honky-tonk "Beer Thirty". Both failed to make Top 10, while "You'll Always Be Loved by Me" crawled to Top 5 in 2000. The album was their worst-selling, and was critically panned for sounding tired and weak overall. It was their last album under original producer Don Cook (and one of his last production gigs period), although he only produced half of it; the other half, including all three singles, was produced by Tim McGraw's producer Byron Gallimore, with whom the duo never worked again. The fall was so great that Montgomery Gentry snagged the Duo of the Year awards that year despite being brand-new on the scene. Even the members themselves admitted they were close to breaking up because they felt they had run their course. Fortunately for B & D, they caught a second wind with "Ain't Nothing 'bout You" in 2001, which became their biggest hit to date. Its corresponding album Steers & Stripes and followup Red Dirt Road were huge successes commercially and critically, putting them back on track until their 2011 retirement. When B & D released their second Greatest Hits Album in 2004, none of the singles from Tight Rope were included, even though they did include "South of Santa Fe"!
  • Bob Dylan grew tired of being viewed as "the spokesman of a generation", and decided to record the country music album Nashville Skyline specifically to alienate people who viewed him as such. This continued with Self Portrait and Dylan, which were popular with critics but sold very poorly. Then Dylan recorded some albums that his original audience liked (including Blood on the Tracks), and then he converted to Christianity and changed his style again, losing most of his original fans over a quarter of a century (and gaining a few back after 1997's Time Out of Mind.)
  • Lonestar went into one around the first decade of the 21st century. After their 1999 smash hit "Amazed" became the first song since 1983 to top both the country and Hot 100 charts, the label pushed for more bombastic ballads of its ilk, and more sentimental fare after 2001's "I'm Already There" was almost as big a hit. This resulted in what had formerly been a hot honky-tonk influenced country band getting pushed into theatrical, bombastic, Tastes Like Diabetes fare. Once such songs started producing diminishing returns, the band quit its label, and lead singer Richie McDonald went solo for a while. The Dork Age was only exacerbated by new lead singer Cody Collins simply not fitting in with the band, so Richie returned in 2011. While the band has long since stopped having hits, consensus is that their material since Richie's return has at least started getting better again.
  • Rascal Flatts entered one after switching producers from Mark Bright to Dann Huff, covering the albums Me and My Gang, Still Feels Good, and Unstoppable. Pretty much the only single off any of them that is almost universally seen as good is "What Hurts the Most", the lead single to Me and My Gang, which was their biggest crossover hit. Pretty much all of their other singles were derided as either bombastic and hideously overproduced power ballads (not too dissimilar to what Huff had previously done with Lonestar a few years earlier) or extremely forced up-tempos like "Me and My Gang", "Summer Nights", or "Bob That Head" (their first single not to hit top 10, and widely considered their worst overall due to both Accidental Innuendo and an ear-splitting Careful with That Axe intro). In addition, lead singer Gary LeVox was panned because of his extreme Vocal Evolution into a ridiculously high-pitched and loud style with hideous amounts of melisma. They started to reverse course when their label, Lyric Street, closed in 2010 and they moved to Big Machine. Their first two Big Machine albums, Nothing Like This and Changed, were generally seen as improvements even though Huff was still producing them. Rewind seems to have finally taken them out of the Dork Age, as the band alternated between producing by themselves and with rock producer Howard Benson, relegating Huff to only one track.
  • Randy Travis had 1993's Wind in the Wire, a Western-themed one-off for a short lived TV series of the same name, and his first album not to be produced by Kyle Lehning. The singles went nowhere (at least in the US — "Cowboy Boogie" went to #10 on the Canadian country charts), but he soon got back on track with the next few albums. A label exec at Warner Bros. Records even referred to that particular album as an "angst period".
  • Neil Young's early-mid '80s output, especially the album Trans. He was fed up with David Geffen and wanted out of his contract. Geffen in return sued for those albums being "not commercial" and "musically uncharacteristic of previous recordings."

    Heavy metal 
  • Aborted went through a major one of these from 2005 to 2010. It started with The Archaic Abattoir, which, due to its prominent metalcore influences, was fairly polarizing overall; some fans saw it as a unique new twist on their established sound and applauded them for not trying to make Goremageddon 2.0, while others hated it and saw it as a sign of worse things to come. It was around this time that the band also started experiencing a truly jawdropping amount of lineup changes, and 2007's Slaughter & Apparatus: A Methodical Overture, which was even more polarizing, failed to win back the fans alienated by the previous album. 2008's Strychnine.213 wound up being the nadir of their career, with its deathcore overtones, anemic riffing, overblown and out-of-place Dimebag/Wylde-aping guitar solos, and Sven's bored-sounding and phoned-in vocal performances leading to a universally despised final product (the band hated it just as much). They didn't really emerge from this slump until Sven fired the entire band, hired back Dirk Verbeuren, welcomed in an all-new string section, and released the Coronary Reconstruction EP in 2010, and even then, lingering bits of the band's notorious proclivity towards unstable lineups remained when Ken Sorceron was fired in 2011 after a falling-out with Sven, followed by the firing of Eran Segal (the other new guitarist) and Mike Wilson (Sorceron's replacement) in 2012 for similar reasons.
  • Anthrax during the '90s. On the one hand, some of the band's most critically acclaimed material and mainstream success occurred during the period, including their famous collaborative version of "Bring The Noise" with Public Enemy, which is frequently credited for inventing Rap Metal. On the other hand, many fans still look poorly on the band's more grunge-influenced material, and on John Bush of Armored Saint, who replaced longtime singer Joey Belladonna during this period.
  • Black Sabbath went through a Dork Age in the last half of The '70s, with their two last albums with Ozzy being mediocre after a run of six mind-blowingly awesome albums. Ronnie James Dio saved them from that, but he left after two albums. Ian Gillan hopped onboard for a decent album, then various more lineups got assembled, that nobody can agree which one is good and which one's a dork age.
  • Alice Cooper has a few eras that could qualify, having played in many styles to many audiences, but none are as reviled as the transition he made in 1980: he completed his long transition from hard rock and switched to new wave. Worse, he abandoned his famous eye makeup, cut his hair, and developed a more androgynous image inspired by A Clockwork Orange. The new style alienated his remaining fanbase and the four albums he made in this period performed poorly. It took six years (three of them spent in retirement sobering up) before he went back to his hard rock roots and image to great success.

    And even then, the success was almost purely commercial, as the "Hair Metal" period of Alice Cooper was even more critically reviled than the previous period (as it aged much, much more poorly). It wouldn't be until 1994's Last Temptation and 2000's Brutal Planet that Alice Cooper's Dork Age would end once and for all.
  • The metal community has come to regard Cold Lake, Celtic Frost's one-off shot at glam rock, to be synonymous with "total fucking disaster".
  • Listening to Digimortal can be a very, very unpleasant experience, especially to one familiar with Fear Factory's classic body of work. It's another thing when a band like Megadeth attempts to incorporate pop music into their sound; when a band that has built themselves purely on amelodically brutal Testosterone Poisoning tries it, well, "forced" doesn't even begin to describe the end result. Unsurprisingly, the band were thrown into a 10-Minute Retirement, and while their work since their reunion has been well received, many fans still feel that their best days are behind them.
  • For Helloween, it was the period between Kai Hansen's departure (after Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2) and Andi Deris's arrival (before Master of the Rings). This period comprises the Michael Kiske-fronted albums Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, which left the band near dissolution.
  • During the mid-late '90s, In Flames were seen as the definitive melodic death metal band, successfully mixing growled death metal vocals with melodic guitar riffs and even Middle Eastern-styled acoustic melodies. While the band was gradually moving away from their traditional melo-death style since 1999's Colony, it was 2002's Reroute To Remain that officially marked the beginning of their Dork Age, thanks to its Nu Metal influence, simplified songwriting, and greater reliance on clean singing. The album even went so far as to include a folksy country rock song that bore little resemblance to anything the band had ever done up to that point. The band was believed to have dropped the ultimate bomb, however, with 2004's The Soundtrack To Your Escape, an album that continued the nu-metal sound of Reroute to Remain, contained even more clean singing than the last, relied heavily on synth leads, and was notably devoid of guitar solos. Fortunately, the band regained a fair amount of credibility with 2006's harder and more traditional-sounding Come Clarity and remained pretty consistent until 2014's Siren Charms, which many consider to be an even worse album than Soundtrack to Your Escape.
  • Iron Maiden helmed by Blaze Bayley. The band continued to write good material during this time (some songs from those albums remained in the setlist after he left), and Blaze is a fine singer on his own. But, because of the difference in vocal range (Blaze is a baritone, whereas Bruce Dickinson is a tenor, which is more usual for metal vocalists), he had a hard time performing the band's earlier material live. A few fans add the two albums before as well, as they lacked guitarist Adrian Smith and had some subpar material and attempts on Darker and Edgier (such as raspier vocals) that didn't sit well with them.
  • Similarly, Judas Priest with Tim Owens on vocals. Their 1997 album Jugulator was largely panned by fans for having downtuned guitars and subpar vocals (although it did contain the Grammy-nominated song "Bullet Train"). 2001's Demolition, meanwhile, was criticized for pandering to the Nu Metal trend of the era. The band at least partially regained credibility in 2003 with the return of Rob Halford and the release of Angel Of Retribution two years later.
  • KISS:
    • The band realized the potential for making a profit, but overplayed their hand with a video game, a comic book series, and a universally-panned film. The whole thing culminated in the group attempting to cash in on the disco craze of the late 1970s, and they are today blamed for the downfall of the first generation of metal, leading to the rise of punk, hip-hop, and disco.
    • People often forget that KISS was a fairly obscure group for their first year or so of existence. Fans were already getting tired of glam rock by 1974 (Alice Cooper was starting to move away from it), and KISS's debut album was notably more popular in Japan than in the United States. Dressed to Kill was their true breakout album, as it coincided with the beginning of the "showman" period in which (with a few exceptions) they have since spent their entire career.
    • Their attempt at a Concept Album / Rock Opera was poorly received as well.
    • And there was their attempt in the '80s to drop the facepaint and sci-fi costumes and reinvent themselves as a "hair" band in the Twisted Sister mold. In retrospect, it did manage to produce what would later be considered a solid, underrated gem in Lick it Up, their sole album from the era that contained Vinnie Vincent as a member and key songwriter. Furthermore, it worked. The "Unmasked" period coincided with the revival of metal: KISS took an honored spot as patriarchs among the newer bands, and their career was revived. Notably, KISS' great achievement is considered to be combining rock with theater, and it should be considered suspicious that they're appreciated for something that actually has nothing to do with music.
    • Music From The Elder, the hair metal period, Psycho Circus not actually being an original KISS album, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer performing as psuedo-originals... come to think of it, everything is a dork age except for the original lineup albums, Creatures of the Night, Lick it Up, and Revenge.
  • KMFDM tried to break away from its long history by switching record labels and changing their name to MDFMK. While the "new" band's album was well received, fans were incensed that they refused to play any of their old songs in concert. The band relented, going back to their old name and playing selections from their entire catalog.
  • Though its reviews were comparable to those of their earlier work, Linkin Park's fans trashed their 2007 album Minutes to Midnight, which almost fully abandoned their use of rapping and turntables. 2010's A Thousand Suns proved even more polarizing with the experimental direction it took in both its sound and its themes. The genre shift is known by fans as a Dork Age, though few of those remaining since those albums' release have left since, mainly due to the band returning to familiar territory with Living Things in 2012 and especially The Hunting Party in 2014. (Some would argue this period is itself a Dork Age for the band's increased incorporation of mainstream-EDM influences.)
  • Loudness has accomplished the feat of having several of these, at least to some fans (other fans will see them as some of the best periods ever in the band's history), as a result of being a Long Runner, and while very successfully averting We're Still Relevant, Dammit!, at the same time being so in tune with the current trend in metal that people who hated that trend will hate that era. Pretty much the only era that no one considers a Dork Age is the 1991-1992 era, because it is solid Thrash Metal regardless of time or culture.
  • Poor, poor Machine Head. In the mid '90s, they were one of the pioneers of the "post-thrash" sound that defined underground American metal during the decade along with Pantera, Fear Factory, Sepultura, Biohazard, Life of Agony, and many others. While other bands were emphasizing influences such as Industrial, Funk, Hardcore, and Grunge, Machine Head's sound was planted firmly in Thrash, yet still sounding both modern and timeless. Until 1999's The Burning Red, which showcased a drastic shift into Nu Metal on both an aural and visual level, and the quality of songwiting suffered greatly from the creative dissonance involved. To make matters even worse, they/Rob Flynn put out a followup up called Supercharger that was even worse on these accounts.

    Thankfully, they/he dug themselves out of the hole by reintroducing their classic Thrash sound on subsequent albums Through the Ashes of Empires and The Blackening, though a bit too late as their particular Dork Age left a scorching black mark on their/Flynn's reputation that they/he have yet to fully recover from, especially as the band still looms in the shadows of both it and their classic album Burn My Eyes.
  • Both Risk (Lighter and Softer done horribly wrong; also one of the only non-country albums ever produced by Dann Huff) and The World Needs a Hero (Darker and Edgier done horribly wrong) are considered to be the nadir of Megadeth/Dave Mustaine's career. One could also throw the "Sell Out" album Cryptic Writings in the mix as well, and go as far as declaring everything between Youthanasia and Endgame as this trope. You can argue the band are still stuck in a Dork Age, and go as far back as Countdown to Extinction for its beginning. What's less arguable, though, is the fact that the disastrous Super Collider very strongly suggests a Dork Age in and of itself.
  • The post-Black Album period of Metallica (Load, Reload, St. Anger) doesn't exist for many fans. Well, maybe Death Magnetic can be Rescued from the Scrappy Heap (if you pirate the Guitar Hero rip instead of getting the atrociously-mastered CD), but anyways...
    • The death of Cliff Burton/introduction of Jason Newsted is often cited as the cause of these problems. Whilst unfair on Newsted (his first album with Metallica, ...And Justice for All, is really good after all), since replacing him with Rob Trujillo, they have improved, though that may simply be coincidence.
    • The Napster suit in 2000 perpetuated this for many, as even the people Metallica was (supposedly) pandering to were disgusted with the band afterwards.
    • Many fans include The Black Album as well, particularly for It's Popular, Now It Sucks.
    • There's often a tendency among fans to want every album by that band to sound the same, and when somebody like Kirk Hammett has an adventurous streak and wants to experiment with sound, it alienates part of the fan base. This also happened to Motörhead when Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy joined them for Another Perfect Day. Robertson's insistence on wearing disco shorts and refusal to play older Motorhead songs didn't help his case any, but the songwriting on that album pretty much defines well-written metal of the early 1980s.
  • Mötley Crüe. Having to contend with the newfound popularity of grunge, which pushed glam and hair metal off the charts, as well as internal affairs with Vince Neil leaving the band, they signed a deal with Elektra Records and seemed to be coming out on top. Unfortunately, their first release, their 1994 Self-Titled Album, was underpromoted (their tour was scaled back from stadiums to smaller venues) and largely unknown due to MTV placing them on a blacklist because of interview mishaps, not to mention the loss of Vince Neil which led to fans disregarding the album (no one even knew who John Corabi was). Which is a damn shame, because it really deserves more praise. After this, they were able to bring back Vince Neil, but this led to 1997's Generation Swine, which was the result of a tumultuous struggle between the band and their producers, and ended up with a very different sound from their previous work, including the grunge-inspired '94 album. This album was far more experimental and spacey, which the fans couldn't really get behind, since they were expecting the original lineup to return to their sleazy, fast-paced metal roots. To make matters worse, shortly after the release of 2000's New Tattoo, their new drummer Randy Castillo died of cancer. From what's been said of 2008's Saints of Los Angeles, it seems they've left this period behind them.
  • Funnily, while a lot of metal bands and musicians were entering a Dork Age in the '90s, Ozzy Osbourne was slowly coming out of one. While his first two solo albums (Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman) were hugely successful, things took a major turn for the worse when famed lead guitarist Randy Rhoads was unexpectedly killed in a plane crash. His first replacement, Jake E. Lee, was actually a pretty capable guitarist. But the two albums made with him in the band, Bark At The Moon and The Ultimate Sin, were total disasters. The latter album, especially, was heavily criticized for pandering to the then-emerging glam metal scene (though it did contain one of Ozzy's most popular songs, "Shot In The Dark"). To make matters worse, Ozzy's problems with substance abuse were spiraling out of control, as was his relationship with wife Sharon Osbourne. Fortunately, Ozzy slowly began to pick himself back up in the late-80's, beginning by hiring guitarist Zakk Wylde for 1988's underrated No Rest For The Wicked. After that, he cleaned up most of his personal issues and released the album No More Tears in 1991, which was and still is widely regarded as one of his best ever solo albums.
  • In the mid-'00s, Powerman 5000 decided to abandon their Industrial Metal sound and their sci-fi fashion sense and image with the punk-influenced albums Transform in 2003 and Destroy What You Enjoy in 2006. While Transform has its fans, few will defend Destroy What You Enjoy, which, tellingly, is the only one of their albums that is not carried on iTunes. That thankfully short-lived period ended with Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere in 2009.
  • Six Feet Under went through one of these in the early 2000s. Their first three albums are regarded as solid '90s death metal records, with their debut Haunted in particular being considered a classic by fans. In 2000, however, they released the phoned-in cover album Graveyard Classics, which polarized people; some fans liked it for their death metal take on classic rock songs, while others felt it was unnecessary and So Bad, It's Good at best. But the band's fourth original album True Carnage is when they started to go downhill. To date, it's their lowest-rated record, being trashed for its sludgy production values, experimentation with Nu Metal, sluggish performances, and a pretty clear lack of effort. As if that weren't bad enough, their very next record Bringer of Blood dialed up the nu-metal considerably, and featured even more vapid songwriting along with shallow lyrics that would make even Fred Durst cringe. Fans hoping for improvement ended up getting the final nail in the coffin; a second Graveyard Classics album that was a cover of AC/DC's entire Back in Black album, which is universally despised even by the band's most diehard fans, and the standalone song "Dead and Buried", which featured Chris Barnes' worst vocal performance of all time. They managed to win some people back with three solid records in a row, but it wasn't until 2012's Undead that they managed to get themselves out of their rut entirely.
  • Even Slayer wasn't immune to the crippling power that The '90s had on metal. They lost their drummer Dave Lombardo, and experimented with Nu Metal for a while (something Kerry King himself openly wishes to forget). However, since the mid-Noughties, Lombardo is back, and Slayer is making straight Thrash Metal again. Then, Jeff Hanneman (who was regarded as the best songwriter in the band) passed away and Lombardo's replacement, Paul Bostaph (who is a very good drummer himself, the hatred just comes from being compared to the man who pretty much wrote the metaphorical book on that style of drumming) has returned once again. The alleged circumstances behind Lombardo's departure have not helped matters.
  • When irreplaceable guitarist Michael Schenker left UFO in the 1970s, a sizable portion of the fan base considered them to have ceased existing, despite a resultant run of albums that were more consistent than the ones during Schenker's difficult tenure.
  • Van Halen's recruitment of Gary Cherone (formerly of Extreme) after Sammy Hagar's departure is currently regarded as "never happened" by the band, having been excluded completely from a two-disc greatest hits collection put out years after the release of Van Halen III, the only album featuring that singer. The second album they had planned to release with him was scrapped after they realized how unpopular he was. Ironically, he's also the only singer of the band that doesn't hate Eddie Van Halen.

  • Eminem on the albums Encore and Relapse. His career peaked around 2002-03 with his fourth album The Eminem Show and his film debut in 8 Mile (a loose biopic of his upbringing), but by the time he began writing and recording Encore, his drug problems had begun to overwhelm him. The resulting album, released in 2004, was seen as a critical misstep filled with juvenile lyrics, shallow (and quickly dated) pop-culture references, and a Flanderization of his "Slim Shady" persona. His follow-up Relapse in 2009 was intended as a comeback, but most critics thought it was just dull, going too far in the opposite direction and losing the sense of humor that set his best material apart. Eminem's actual comeback would come with Recovery in 2010 and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 in 2013, and as of now he's restored much of his former popularity, putting his mid-late '00s Dork Age firmly behind him.
  • MC Hammer's 1994 album The Funky Headhunter — with the possible exception of the single "Pumps and A Bump" (as long as you ignore the video). While the song was a platinum-selling success at the time, his attempt to jump on the Gangsta Rap bandwagon destroyed the clean-cut, churchgoing image he'd built in the early '90s. His fans turned against him, and fans of gangsta rap saw him as a poser.

  • Tori Amos' eighth album, The Beekeeper, qualifies according to some critics and even a sizable number of fans, especially since it followed the widely popular Scarlet's Walk. It has gotten a bit more appreciation, if only from fans, for how the songs delve into some complex and unlikely themes, including Gnostic Christianity.
  • B2ST was considered to have gone through this after their megahit "Fiction". Neither of their next two mini albums did well in comparison, and the single "Shadow" was particularly underwhelming. They turned this around with the release of "Good Luck", which was composed by rapper Junhyung and fit the group much better, resulting in a return to popularity.
  • Pat Boone, icon of whitebread, mocked this trope once by appearing at an event with Ozzy Osbourne's family in leather and with pierced nipples and temporary tattoos. He even released an album of metal covers, called In a Metal Mood: No More Mister Nice Guy, performed in his signature whitebread style. His take of "Crazy Train" was used as the theme for The Osbournes (He and Ozzy were next door neighbors for many years until Ozzy and company moved shortly before the series' run). He's since claimed that his fanbase views that album as not just a Dork Age, but a Devil Age, and it actually resulted in him getting kicked out of his church for a while.
  • Duran Duran, contrary to myth, did continue its popularity in the wake of its "Fab Five" lineup being whittled down to Simon, Nick, and John, but the one album where their future was in serious jeopardy was with 1990's Liberty, which while containing such fan-beloved songs as "Serious" and "My Antarctica", was the one moment when the band were at the brink of falling apart. Then they came back with 1993's The Wedding Album. Later on, the period after the short-lived "Fab Five" reunion period brought forth a loathed element of Dork Age with Red Carpet Massacre, which not only contained no songs of any musical merit but had Timbaland and Justin Timberlake getting involved with the production of the album, which many die-hard fans simply could not stomach. Thankfully, they've gotten back their mojo with 2010's All You Need is Now, produced by the much more appropriate Mark Ronson.
  • For a thankfully brief period with the 2003 album 0304, Jewel abandoned her trademark sensitive, folksy, Lilith Fair poet persona in order to become... a clone of every sexy pop princess of the early '00s. She claimed that her violently-impossible-to-like song "Intuition" was meant as a satire of interchangeable, pretty, blonde pop singers. Sadly for her, that's a little hard to believe, considering she made a bunch of money off that song being used to launch a women's razor line called "Intuition".
  • Jewelry was this ever since Seo In Young's departure from the group, with release few and far in between and lacklustre.
  • The period in between 1986's The Bridge and his 1993 pop music swan song River Of Dreams is not often considered an artistic high point in the career of Billy Joel, at least compared with his previous albums. The Bridge was somewhat marred by an overabundance of '80s synthesizers (only slightly tempered on 1989's Storm Front) and an overall cynical flavor to many of his lyrics (written during his Creator Breakdown due to financial litigation and the breakup of his marriage to Christie Brinkley), while there's a general dropoff in songwriting quality. While this era produced many good songs ("River Of Dreams", "Leningrad"; "The Downeaster 'Alexa'", "I Go To Extremes", "A Matter Of Trust", "Shameless", "This Is The Time"), and the Love It or Hate It "We Didn't Start The Fire", Joel's last number one single, the post-An Innocent Man studio albums received mixed reviews by the Joel-faithful critics (and sites like the AllMusic Guide).
  • Two come to mind with Elton John: 1977-1982, when his lyricist Bernie Taupin had little or no influence on the albums of that period, his sales slowed, he dabbled in disco for an album just as the style grew out of fashion, and his albums in general were of an inconsistent quality, and 1985-1990, where Taupin was more involved, but Elton's music became overly produced and synth-heavy, much of the classic '70s Elton John Band who backed him in his 1983-84 period were fired and replaced by session musicians, and Elton's drug and alcohol habits, bulimia, and reckless love life were taking a toll on him.
  • One example of a band that tried for a new, Darker and Edgier image and just... shouldn't have is demonstrated in the video and song, "Dirty Dawg". Let's just say, it really didn't go over well with New Kids on the Block's established fandom.
  • Prince's phase of replacing his name with a symbol and insistence on being called "the artist formerly known as Prince" resulted in his being labeled as a Cloudcuckoolander. The era following his split from long-time record label Warner Bros. (1996-2003) definitely counts. To recap, Prince started to release his album on his own "NPG Records" imprint with various distributors, his tours mainly catered to a small but dedicated hardcore crowd, and he started to experiment with different styles of music, mainly Jazz in the latter half. To top it all off, Prince converted to Jehovah's Witnesses near the end of the 90s and decided to stray away from the vulgar, sexual image he initially became known for. The age ended in 2004, first with a high profile appearance Opening the 2004 Grammys with Beyoncé, and second with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His 2004 album Musicology and its corresponding tour marked his return to the main stream and becoming an in-demand live act.
  • Kenji Sawada has had two. First, his 1969 debut album Julie has been essentially disowned by him, having come out during a brief lineup hiatus for his band The Tigers and sounding vaguely easy-listening, with a simple studio orchestra and little to no live potential. Second, there was his second "self produced" period of 1995-1999 due to taking on increasingly avant garde musical direction (1995's Sur<- was stated to be Indie Pop by Sawada himself) and frequently changing membership in his live band JAZZMASTER.
  • SNSD' "I got a Boy" is best described an erratic song without focus, and their subsequent song "Galaxy Supernova" was considered underwhelming at best.
  • Britney Spears' infamous Creator Breakdown period in the mid-'00s counts as a personal Dork Age, if not a creative one. Her 2007 album Blackout received mixed reviews from critics but good ones from her fans (something that was never unusual for her), and has since been Vindicated by History for the influence that its Synth Pop sound had on late '00s/early '10s pop music. However, it was her first album to not go to #1 on the charts, as by that point in time, Britney was better known for her tabloid antics than for her music, which culminated in her losing custody of her children and being placed under the conservatorship of her father. This seemed to have done the trick in getting her life back on track; her following albums Circus and Femme Fatale were both smash hits that put her name back in the spotlight for the right reasons.
  • Scott Walker entered into such a phase in the early '70s. After the entirely self-penned Scott 4 failed to chart, his following five albums consisted almost entirely of covers and outside compositions. These days, most fans just pretend that Walker's solo career stopped entirely until Climate of Hunter in 1984.

    Rock (non-metal) 
  • Aerosmith:
    • After becoming one of America's most successful bands in the '70s, Aerosmith went through one of music's most famous examples in the '80s after Joe Perry and Brad Whitford's departures in 1979 and 1981 respectively. Their two albums released during this period, Night In The Ruts and Rock In A Hard Place, don't exist in any greatest hits compilations. When Joe and Brad returned, they had fallen so far it took a hip-hop collaboration with Run-D.M.C. and 1987's Permanent Vacation to return them back to the spotlight. Their success since then has managed to be greater than their '70s heyday, and is considered the greatest comeback story in popular music history.
    • Their stuff post Nine Lives is looked upon by many (even the band themselves) as a second Dork Age which continues today, depending on how you feel about "Legendary Child".
    • In a way, the early '80s were a personal Dork Age for Joe Perry himself, as he tried going at it solo and went nowhere until rejoining Aerosmith.
  • There's argument over whether AFI entered this or left it by switching their sound from hardcore punk to new wave glam rock.
  • The whole of David Bowie's fandom seems to consist of various factions who love and hate different phases of his decades-long career, due to his frequent sound/image makeovers.
    • His 1967 self-titled debut, which he has since disowned as Old Shame. His second album, now known as Space Oddity, was originally a self-titled reboot.
    • In his "canon" career, the huge success of 1983's mainstream-friendly, pop-rock Let's Dance made him more popular than ever before, even as it alienated longtime fans who regarded him as a sellout. That wouldn't have been so bad had he not acted against his better instincts and stayed with that sound for the next few years, with Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987). Even he admits that he just must not have cared when he made the latter, though "Time Will Crawl" is a great song (actually, most of the singles from this period rode high on the charts — they were just quickly forgotten). Side projects like the Live Aid "Dancing in the Street" video with Mick Jagger, Absolute Beginners, and Labyrinth yielded more mockery from the press. The accompanying Glass Spider concert tour for Never Let Me Down was a money-spinner but razzed as overblown (although the concert video of it has its fans), and Bowie was so miserable with it all that he considered giving up on music. Instead, getting out of this dork age led him into...
    • The Tin Machine years of 1989-1992. Initially, his choice to eschew pop for a Hard Rock group where he wasn't supposed to be the Face of the Band was welcomed by the British music press and listeners, but the bloom swiftly faded from that rose. (However, his solo Sound+Vision tour during this period went over well.)
    • After Tin Machine came to an end, his output is dotted with studio albums that small-but-vocal chunks of the fandom regard as Dork Ages. Black Tie White Noise (electronic lounge pop, some numbers doubling as dedications to his then-new wife Iman), Earthling (intelligent drum and bass just as it was approaching Deader Than Disco status), hours... (softer, more introspective fare that prompted Reeves Gabrels, the guitarist who collaborated with Bowie in Tin Machine and his other '90s works, to leave), and Reality (mainstream alt-rock) all have their haters. This leaves four mostly-loved albums — 1. Outside, Heathen, The Next Day and his swan song, Blackstar — and consistently well-received tours.
  • John Cale of the Velvet Underground was a drug-addled, overweight, mentally-unwell shell of his former self for a period in the early to mid-eighties. Fortunately, he cleaned himself up, but not before filming some very embarrassing live performances.
  • Fleetwood Mac has had two. The first one was the early-mid '70s period with Bob Welch and between Peter Green's departure and the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The second was the period between Buckingham's departure and the reformation of the Rumours-era lineup in 1997.
  • Those Gang of Four fans who preferred their rougher, harsher, punkier edge in albums such as Entertainment feel this way about their 1984 album Hard, which was funkier and poppier than anything they'd released before. Others see Hard as a catchy, logical extension of the musical themes explored in their previous album, Songs of the Free (which included their most famous song, "I Love a Man in a Uniform").
  • Green Day, a band that's been going strong for well over twenty years, has some albums that aren't as fondly remembered as others.
    • Their 2000 album Warning was considered to be this at the time of its release, its Genre Shift into Folk, Ska Punk, and Surf Rock as opposed to the Pop Punk that made them famous leaving longtime fans polarized and the band fading from mainstream popularity. However, it's since come to be Vindicated by History for its songwriting, with "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" seen as one of the band's signature ballads.
    • Nowadays, fans generally view the ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! trilogy of albums in 2012 as Green Day's creative low point. Coming off of their Career Resurrection in the mid-late '00s with American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, the three albums marked the band's most ambitious undertaking to date, with each album a Genre Throwback to a different style of classic rock (Power Pop, Garage Rock, and Arena Rock respectively). However, critics and fans alike saw the project as a regression from the themes of their two prior concept albums back into juvenilia and adolescent angst, which came off as far less convincing when all of the band's members were pushing forty. The staggered release schedule of the three albums (they were all released separately within weeks of one another, rather than as one triple-album) also prevented singles from gaining traction on the radio before a new bunch of Green Day songs came to push them off. Even Billie Joe Armstrong sees ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! as an Old Shame, saying that the band was directionless and "prolific for the sake of it" and arguing that his drug abuse at the time affected the albums' quality. Their 2016 follow-up Revolution Radio wasn't particularly acclaimed, but it was still seen as a return to form, and they and their fans haven't looked back.
  • Billy Idol went through one of these in the early '90s. Faced with waning popularity and flagging album sales, he attempted to reinvent his image (and cash in on the emergent hacker/cyberpunk subculture) in 1993 by replacing his bleached-blonde spiky haircut with bleached-blonde dreadlocks and releasing the album Cyberpunk, a fusion of glam rock and electronic dance music. With the exception of the single "Shock to the System" (which was closer in style to his earlier work), the album's songs consisted of overwrought synthesizer riffs, pretentious monologues, and lines lifted directly from William Gibson novels. The album flopped hard: critics universally panned it, Billy's old fans were left feeling betrayed, and real cyberpunks saw him as a hopeless poser. Even though the album has managed to acquire a cult following in the following years, it's still universally agreed that the cover of the Velvet Underground's "Heroin" that appeared on this album is the absolute worst version of the song ever recorded.
  • Much of the Japan fan base is divided between those who preferred their glam rock era (Adolescent Sex, Obscure Alternatives, et. al.) and those who preferred their New Wave/New Romantic era (e.g. Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum). David Sylvian himself considers the debut album (1977's Adolescent Sex) "old shame" and his whole solo career has been an extension of the musical themes first explored with Tin Drum, from the Eastern musical elements to the esoteric lyrics about such things as inner pain and loneliness.
  • Fans of the Dave Matthews Band generally hate the albums Stand Up and Everyday for leaning towards a mainstream pop sound.
  • In a rare case of by the band's own admission, Oasis had at least one of these. Noel Gallagher writes off much of the late '90s output, and also chunks of the mid '00s. On a greatest hits DVD, he even went so far as to ask why somebody didn't just to tell them to "stop".
  • Pearl Jam fans usually feel that the band had two of them.
    • The first one took place from 1998 to 2002 (known as the "black" era because of the album covers), give or take a couple years. For many longtime fans, Yield was rather structured and post-grungey, Binaural was spacey and samey, and Riot Act veered too far into strange genres (folk, punk, Middle Eastern music, et cetera), odd time signatures, and the overly confrontational and mean-spirited George W. Bush criticism piece "Bu$hleaguer". Their self-titled 2006 effort, which largely returned to the band's roots, was better received and spawned more hits.
    • Many fans consider the band to have been in a second one since 2012 or so, with their song "Olé!" considered uncharacteristically derivative and their following album Lightning Bolt (on which the song did not appear) bland and forgettable.
  • The period between frontman Syd Barrett's leaving Pink Floyd in 1968 and the band releasing either 1971's Meddle or 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon is sometimes considered one of these. Understandable, since Barrett was responsible for virtually all of the band's material before he left. There is also a vocal part of the fanbase that considers the two albums from after Roger Waters left to be a Dork Age, though again, opinions differ considerably (generally, somewhat more bile is spewed at A Momentary Lapse of Reason than at The Division Bell). Waters himself described Momentary Lapse as a "pretty fair forgery." Then again, Waters accused pretty much anything Gilmour did with the Floyd post-1985 as a "forgery" (except The Division Bell, which was instead upgraded to "rubbish" and "nonsense from beginning to end"), given the band's in-fighting and power struggles. Waters' "Radio KAOS" from 1987 was equally '80s synth-driven, and later the production values became an Old Shame to him.
  • Many Queen fans hate the disco album Hot Space with a passion. Releasing a disco album in 1982 proved to be a very poor move, and indeed it rendered them Deader Than Disco in the US for quite some time. The only song from it that most people will defend is "Under Pressure", the famous duet with David Bowie. Both John Deacon and Roger Taylor also expressed their dislike for it several times. On the other hand, Freddie virtually wrote its sequel for his debut solo project, and Briannote  still claims that without it, there'd have been no "Thriller" (ridiculous as it sounds). Moreover, while most people tend to acknowledge "The Cosmos Rocks", some of the other activities Taylor have been involved with (e.g. recording with Britney Spears and 5ive) are treated as if they'd never happened.
  • Dee Dee Ramone's 1989 rap album Standing in the Spotlight, recorded as "Dee Dee King". The only thing of value to come from it was the song "The Crusher", which was revived for the Ramones' last studio album, Adios Amigos.
  • Some fans of Rush look at their mid '80s output as this, due to heavy reliance on sythesizers. There are, however, still some songs from this period that are considered classics.
  • Slade's Dork Age started with the 1976 album "Nobody's Fools", a calculated attempt to appeal to American tastes (inspired by soul, blues rock and folk rock) which completely backfired, not only failing to find an audience in the States, but also all but destroying their career in the UK and Europe. The next four years would see a succession of desperate and often bizarre attempts at re-engaging the mainstream audience - Elvis covers, a football record, even notoriously the "Okey Cokey" - before their set at the 1980 Reading Festival brought them to a new hard rock / metal audience and a career resurrection that lasted into the mid-80s.
  • Most fans of The Smashing Pumpkins, despite differences in opinion on the later material, would like to pretend that Zeitgeist never happened. Billy Corgan's assertion that the existing concept of a band releasing an album is a dead one leading to his current Teargarden by Kaleidyscope releases may well prove to be a Dork Age in progress.
  • Supertramp and former co-leader Roger Hodgson tried desperately to update their sound in the mid-to-late '80s with then-modern synthesizers, drum machines, and '80s production techniques, with not always successful results. In Hodgson's case, not long after he released his synth-heavy, L.A. session musician-laden 1987 solo album Hai Hai, he sadly fell out of a hammock and broke both his wrists, with doctors telling him that he would not be able to play music again. With therapy and determination, Hodgson got better, and returned to performing and recording by 1997, more fully embracing his classic styles and sounds.
  • Tears for Fears lived its Dork Age with one album — 1995's Raoul and the Kings of Spain. While Roland Orzabal managed to score a hit album minus Curt Smith with the preceding release, 1993's Elemental, and the 1995 album contained solidly good music, Raoul was a little bit too conceptual for some people and it basically flew under the radar.
  • Opinions differ on whether this applies to They Might Be Giants and their move away from their classic backing tape sound into a full band during the mid-90s. After the critical and commercial success of the albums Flood and Apollo 18 they recruited live backing musicians for the release of 94's John Henry and 96's Factory Showroom. Fan and critical opinions of the records were muted at the time of their release, and due to their label Elektra's inability to market the albums they were not commercial successes. (As time has gone by both albums have gained increased respect from TMBG's fanbase, with guitarist John Flansburgh going on record to state that Factory Showroom is his favorite band release.) By the early 00's the band had worked the kinks out of their new sound, and went on to new acclaim from critics and fans, culminating in their first Billboard Top 40-charting album, 2012's Join Us.
  • Tokio Hotel with the Humanoid Album. Arguably, that is. The band both lost and gained fans with this album, though it seems to be more on the lost side.
  • Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats was probably a deliberate attempt to create one.
  • Because of Weezer's notorious Broken Base over their older stuff versus their newer stuff, a proper Dork Age is hard to nail down and agree on. What CAN be said is that the band themselves directly apologized for the dance rock tracks on albums like Raditude and Hurley in the single "Back to the Shack". To quote the lyrics:
    "I'm sorry guys I didn't realize/That I needed you so much/I thought I'd get a new audience/I forgot that Disco sucks."
  • Many fans consider everything The Who did after Keith Moon's death to be an extended Dork Age. Even more will agree that it started with John Entwistle's death in 2002.
  • To most fans of the British post-punk outfit Wire, their early '90s output almost certainly qualifies.
    • The Drill, made up entirely of variations on the band's revolutionary 1985 track "Drill", is interesting in concept but tedious in execution; Manscape, on the other hand, is a continuation of the band's explorations in MIDI technology and programmed rhythm. The latter is notable for being the album that prompted long-standing drummer Robert Gotobed to leave the group, thinking that he had been rendered obsolete, which led to the band changing their name and not releasing another album as Wire until 2000. Both LPs have their defenders, and few will say that Manscape is completely devoid of good material — "Torch It!", "Children Of Groceries", and "You Hung Your Lights In The Trees" are all fairly popular among fans of the band — but likewise even fewer will call them flawless or deny that they are extremely dated (a rare quality in Wire's output).
    • Depending upon who you ask, Wire's post-Gotobed tenure as Wir (roughly 1991-1996) may qualify, although most agree that The First Letter was a massive step up from Manscape. (It even got them a minor hit with "So and Slow It Grows"). More controversially, some fans of the band's earlier and later work will dismiss their entire '80s/'90s output as this, citing the excess of digital synths and slicker production.
  • X Japan has been in one since 2008 according to the part of the fandom that believes they stopped being good in 1992 or 1996. Other fans think they were in a short one that ended around the 2010 Yokohama show or Lollapalooza, and others don't think they were ever in one.

  • Whether "Weird Al" Yankovic has ever had one of these is up to the individual fan (many fans like to joke that his losing the glasses, growing out his hair, and shaving his mustache is the closest he's come), but there are a sizable number who are seriously willing to dismiss everything from between Poodle Hat to Mandatory Fun, when the parody songs became increasingly built around flash-in-the-pan singles ("Another Tattoo", for example, is a parody of the almost-unknown B.O.B./Bruno Mars "Nothing on You"). Not that this wasn't a problem before, but by MFT, Al himself admitted he couldn't keep up with modern music on an album-recording schedule and abandoned albums entirely.