Katy Perry, she of the gravity-defying cleavage and songs about California, alien sex, partying aftermaths, and getting over break-ups with "the eye of the tiger", started out in the Christian music genre before going secular, and made it big thanks to a song about lesbian experimenting.
Sabaton now sings almost entirely about historical battles, but didn't settle on this until Primo Victoria. This can lead to a lot of Mundane Made Awesome, as the style's more or less the same, but you're hearing about the exploits of a random biker gang instead of, for instance, the battle of Wizna.
The songs recorded in the mid-1970s by AC/DC, arguably the biggest rock band on the planet today, sounded very different from their later hits; this was primarily because they weren't quite taking themselves seriously yet, and mostly preferred crude novelty songs. The first album to sound anything like AC/DC as we know them today was Let There Be Rock (1977), and even that had some goofy mid-'70s glam influence on it. And the band that was the spiritual forerunner of AC/DC - the British Invasion one-hit wonder The Easybeats - hardly sounds like AC/DC at all.
The major influence in their shift was when they hired Mutt Lange as their producer, starting with their Highway to Hell album, the last one with Bon. You can clearly tell it sounds much more like their next few albums than ever before.
For even more early installment weirdness, there's their rare debut single, Can I Sit Next To You Girl / Rockin' At The Parlour, their only release to feature little-remembered original vocalist Dave Evans: On one hand, the actual songwriting isn't too different from their Bon Scott material, and in fact the band re-recorded "Can I Sit Next To You Girl" with Scott for the album High Voltage. On the other, Angus and Malcolm Young hadn't found their signature guitar tones yet, and most strikingly, Dale Evans sang in a drastically different way from either of the band's better-known vocalists: Both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson are known for high-pitched, raspy singing voices, while Evans had a lower voice that didn't stand out nearly as much from other hard rock singers of the time. Seeing the rare promo video for the original version of "Can I Sit Next To You Girl" can be surprising too, since the band had a Glam Rock image instead of the more "working class" one they have now - Angus Young still had his trademark schoolboy outfit, but in a way that just makes everyone else look weirder in comparison.
Radiohead, whose first album Pablo Honey is cited as not being weird enough and is a fairly standard alt-rock album. They grew much more ambitious with their next album, The Bends, before becoming the wonderfully weird band we know and love with OK Computer onwards.
Listen to the first works of Pantera that came out in the early 1980's, then listen to anything from/after Cowboys from Hell. The difference can be... staggering.
Shania Twain's first album was good, if unremarkable, mid-1990s mainstream country. Her second album, The Woman in Me, paired her up with the aforementioned Robert John "Mutt" Lange (who later became her husband until 2010), and she developed (for better or worse) the slick crossover sound she's forever known for.
Conway Twitty was a rock/pop singer in his early days. It wasn't until the mid-1960s that he switched to country and became known for his sultry, romantic ballads.
Johnny Cash was originally a rock and roll singer (and in fact was one of the earliest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). In later years, he would often say that it wasn't him that switched genres; rather, but rather the genres themselves that changed. He just kept playing the same old music.
Martina McBride had a very neo-traditionalist sound on her 1992 debut album The Time Has Come, before adding a little more pop influence. Even her breakthrough hits from the mid-1990s ("My Baby Loves Me", "Independence Day", "Wild Angels", etc.) can seem like this compared to the much slicker, poppier, melismatic sound she developed as early as "A Broken Wing" in 1997.
Likewise, Sara Evans' debut album Three Chords and the Truth in 1997 was far more traditional than everything that came afterward. It even had covers of Patsy Cline, Buck Owens and Bill Anderson.
Before Big & Rich was founded, members Big Kenny and John Rich cut solo albums (which went unreleased until 2005). Although Big & Rich's music was silly, fun country-rock with some rap, Big Kenny's solo album was psychedelic rock mixed with synthpop, and John Rich's was unflinchingly bland late-nineties radio fodder.
Keith Whitley was also rather mainstream country-pop until 1988's Don't Close Your Eyes and 1989's I Wonder Do You Think of Me, which pushed him to a hardcore honky-tonk sound. Unfortunately, he died just before the latter album was released.
Similarly, listen to Vince Gill's 1980s work on RCA Records versus his 1990s and 2000s material for MCA Records. The RCA material reverberates the hell out of his voice and throws it up against walls of keyboards (par for the course in the 1980s), while the MCA material shows him exploring mainstream country, traditional country and bluegrass with equal skill.
And before that is his tenure in Pure Prairie League, where his phrasing was a bit more stuffy, and the material more 80s soft rock/AC than he would later become.
Kenny Chesney is another pretty extreme example. In the 1990s, his material was barely discernible from any other young hunk in a cowboy hat, and he had a heavy twang. By the end of the decade, he started to lean a little more pop and his voice lost some of its nasality. Starting with 2002's No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems, he moved mostly to where he is now: singing without the slightest hint of twang, and alternating between arena rock, Jimmy Buffett-esque beach country, and slow, acoustic numbers such as "You and Tequila" or "El Cerrito Place". Much of his material since When the Sun Goes Down has also had an inrospective bent, regardless of tempo.
Rascal Flatts sounded very much like a boy band on their first album, particularly on "Prayin' for Daylight" and "This Everyday Love". This basically meant catchy hooky choruses, breezy high-voiced harmonies, and none of the band members playing instruments. By the time the second album came out, they shifted to a more country-pop sound, replete with two of the band members playing their own instruments (lead singer Gary LeVox doesn't play anything) and slightly more substantial songs. But even their second and third albums seem radically different than the theatrical, bombastic Power Ballads from "What Hurts the Most" onward; this change was brought on by them switching producers, from Mark Bright to Dann Huff (who is notorious for his bombastic production).
On Rodney Atkins' first single, he sang in a tremolo-heavy voice like Roy Orbison. He also dressed like a cowboy and sported a mustache. After a five-year hiatus, he returned as basically an expy of then-labelmate Tim McGraw with the album Honesty, whose title track was its only hit. One more hiatus, and he came back with his Signature Style: baseball cap and blue jeans, a high, gravelly voice, and often-uptempo songs mainly about family and fatherhood.
Long-lasting British band Status Quo started out in the late 1960s as a psychedelic/prog rock band (during this time, they had their one American hit, "Pictures of Matchstick Men"), before switching in the early 1970s to the guitar boogie style they've maintained ever since. This is parodied by the very un-metal early songs of Spinal Tap.
CDR's 1999 debut was written and released before he had decided on a distinct sound. It's longer and more eclectic than much of his output, yet you'd be hard-pressed to draw a link between it and his later works.
The 1982 self-titled debut EP by the band Swans is vaguely creepy, saxophone-laced Post Punk with a pronounced No Wave influence; their first LP, 1983's Filth, is far harsher, not unlike some sort of primitive hybrid of Industrial and Hardcore Punk. It is also far more unsettling. And then there's their second LP, 1984's Cop. "Brutal" does not begin to describe it.
Listen to Korn's first album. Then listen to every single other one. Sure, it's all Nu Metal, but none of their work sounds as angry and raw as their first album. Furthermore, there are some noticeable Progressive Metal influences on their first two or three albums, through the inclusion of Throw It In jamming, multiple riffs and tempo-shifting in songs, elements which gradually disappeared and were simplified afterwards.
One could argue that The Beatles were an example of this. Their first three albums were pure boy band pop music, meanwhile it wasn't until Beatles for Sale that they started to find their artistic footing. However it is argued that they didn't completely go from the Fab Four to artists until Rubber Soul, which included much more experimental songs, and Revolver, which began the psychedelic rock sound that would emerge fully formed in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
This can be taken back further, to before the Beatles even got a recording contract, back when they were still unknowns and were using a variety of different names. Cracked reveals in one of their articles that they were originally a "punk" band (or whatever the late '50s/early '60s equivalent of punk was) who had much shorter hair than we remember; performed in a surly, indifferent manner; ate fried chicken onstage (leaving the bones behind them); and sneered at the audience. In general, they were probably more performance artists than musicians in those days.
Celtic Woman's first concert focused much more on the solo artists, which makes sense - it was originally intended to be a one-off event at the Helix in Dublin, bringing together five of the biggest names in Irish music. The concert sparked a tour, Celtic Woman exploded onto the World Music scene, and by A New Journey the five artists - and the production team - had gelled into an organic, coherent whole. From A New Journey onward the performances were a pretty solid mix of duets/trios/group numbers and solo numbers, with each of the girls generally having one or two solo songs in the concert, and Celtic Woman had matured into its current form.
The Residents. Their earliest known works were remarkably less coherent than their more recent output.
Merzbow, of all people. His earlier stuff put far more emphasis on avant-garde than it did noise. For example, compare Merzbient (a box set of twentysomething-year-old recordings on CD) with the more recent (2009-2010) 13 Japanese Birds series.
Linkin Park, in their Hybrid Theory EP era circa 1998-99, had a fairly creepy and somber sound with somewhat less conventional song structures than their next two albums (before they switched to U2-like alt-rock and then to an indietronica sound).
You can make this argument about Nine Inch Nails. The first album, Pretty Hate Machine, was very electronic-influenced, sounds almost like a darker version of Depeche Mode. It would take Broken and The Downward Spiral to transform the band to the industrial metal its known for.
Type O Negative were always Doom Metal, but their first album Slow Deep And Hard contained more Thrash Metal influence than their more well known Gothic Metal sound. Their lyrics focus more on Peter's hatred for certain people than they do on sex, although there are a couple of songs about the latter.
Justified in that the songs on the album were written for Peter Steele's previous band Carnivore, who were a thrash band. This is also why the sound of the album is so raw. Type O Negative would become known for their clean sound quality (rare in metal) later on.
Nickelback's debut Curb and the follow-up album The State were a far cry from the Post-Grunge Pop-Rock sound that they're famous for. Those albums were much more in the vein of Godsmack as they were much heavier and Chad Kroeger's vocal style was much louder with a lot more screaming. It wasn't until Silver Side Up that Nickelback found their signature sound.
The Spinto Band had a lot of self-released albums full of Ween-inspiredNeoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly; by the time they got signed they whittled down their influences to something more coherent. From their 2006 album Nice And Nicely Done and on, their style can basically be summed up as a mix of indie, New Wave, and Power Pop. Earlier albums like Digital Summer (New Wave Techno Pop) jump from trippy instrumentals to ska to novelty rap.
Japan's first album Adolescent Sex is camp glam rock with frequent use of the words 'dancing' and 'babe' and vocals delivered in quite a high range. Japan would become famous for melancholic new romantic music with baritone vocals and oriental influences. So anyone who was into the later stuff picking up their first album out of curiosity without reading about it first would have been shocked. Their second album, 'Obscure Alternatives' is very experimental and has Sylvian singing in both his older falsetto style and his later baritone style, with a mix of both the glam rock songs and the post-punk/new romantic style they would evolve into. Unsurprisingly, David Sylvian wishes Adolescent Sex never existed and that Obscure Alternatives should have been their first album, which is quite a brave statement considering many fans of the band discredit the first two albums entirely and start with their third "Quiet Life", which sounds like the band's signature style coming into place but not being quite there yet. Possibly because of this dramatic change in style, the compilation "Assemblage" was released at the height of their popularity in 1981. It features some of their early work and but also most of their later work that didn't appear on albums.
The Human League were one of several bands who pioneered dark synthpop, recording two very dark albums, Reproduction and Travelogue. A few years later, they dropped two of their original members, hired two female vocalists and gradually began turning into a pop-disco band, the most infamous example being Crash. They were eventually ridiculed for their change in sound and have begun re-embracing their old style. It should be noted that the two members who left the original lineup (Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh) were those who formed the band originally, but were actually fired by the singer they hired (Phil Oakey). As a result they formed the band Heaven 17 with the singer they originally intended for The Human League (Glenn Gregory), so it turned out alright for them too.
Listening to Orchestral Manúuvres in the Dark's self-titled album for the first time is a strange experience for anyone used to the band's later work. It sounds like Seventies German techno rather than Eighties British synthpop. Even the album version of "Messages" is jarringly different from the later recording that became a hit single.
The majority of Split Enz's earlier songs could best be described as strange, ethereal ballads, often over six minutes minutes in length. As of their third album they shifted to a much more poppy and mainstream music style (though still fairly quirky).
Skillet's music used to sound very explicitly religious, like a lot of Christian rock groups; Ardent Worship and Hey You I Love Your Soul being the most obvious albums. "Collide" is when they started changing, and their songs began to sound more like mainstream Alternative Rock that have various Alternate Character Interpretations. A lot of people don't even notice they're a Christian Rock group nowadays.
On their self-titled first album, Rush sounds like just another Led Zeppelin clone. This started to change with their second album, Fly by Night, when drummer Neil Peart joined and took over writing most of the lyrics, although it took another couple albums until they finally became the Rush pop culture knows them as.
Similarly, on their first album, This Was, Jethro Tull sound like a Cream rip-off. Again, this began to change with their second album, Stand Up, when original guitarist Mick Abrahams left, and front-man Ian Anderson started to monopolize the band's song-writing duties.
Queen was more like Led Zeppelin, with much more of a rock feel to them in their early albums. They didn't really hit their stride as a Genre Roulette band until A Night At The Opera, which featured hits like "I'm In Love With My Car", "39", and the wildly popular "Bohemian Rhapsody".
Their self-titled debut album in particular featured more morally-focused and religious themes (even including a song called "Jesus"). The latter was almost entirely absent from later releases, until "All God's People" on their Innuendo album 18 years later.
If you met Lady Gaga from "Bad Romance" onward, listening to The Fame will be weird, as it's mostly standard electropop that mostly lacked the Darker and Edgier shock-rock/pop overtones from the newer tunes (except maybe "Paparazzi").
Even more jarring is her pre-Gaga work as the namesake of the Stefani Germanotta Band. Their one EP, Red and Blue, features mostly (as phrased by Gagapedia) "female-vocal ballads with a glam rock edge," very similar in style to her acoustic versions of "Poker Face" and "Paparazzi". Though the title track is more in the vein of No Doubt than anything else.
The first two Matthew Good Band albums, Last of the Ghetto Astronauts and Underdogs are decidedly different from the next album, Beautiful Midnight, and miles away from Good's solo work. The sound is different (Astronauts in particular is fond of guitar-strumming instead of the guitar-playing in later albums), the themes are different, and the lyrics are much heavier on repetition. They're not bad albums, but the jump from Underdogs to Beautiful Midnight, or from either to Avalanche (Good's first solo album) is jarring.
KMFDM's second (and breakout) album, What Do You Know Deutschland, had more of a proto-EBM or industrial electro type sound, similar to Microchip League, early Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails' first album, rather than their signature Industrial Metal style. Their obscure first album, Opium, was more experimental and thus even weirder.
It took a few weird installments for KMFDM to find their sound, with three more albums between "Deutschland" and "Naive" where they really started flirting with industrial metal, even though much of the album still had kind of a dance vibe to it. They were releasing albums for almost a decade before finally doing a full-on industrial metal album with "Angst" (and even that had a couple of dance songs on it).
Pink Floyd began in 1965 as the prototypical psychedelic rock band, a band noted for improvisational "freakouts", who were encouraged by record execs to produce hit pop singles. After 1967's The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, their bandleader, Syd Barrett, became a tragic acid casualty (he only appears on three songs on A Saucerful Of Secrets, and only sings on one), and bassist Roger Waters and new guitarist David Gilmour became vocalists/bandleaders. They spent 1968-72 basically "learning to use their chisels", as Waters would recently put it in a TV documentary, experimenting and slowly forming a group sound and style independent of Barrett, creating Cult Classic albums like Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother in the process. 1971's Meddle was the first work to resemble what we now know as the Pink Floyd sound and style. They also created music for Italian psychedelic art films of largely instrumental tracks, two of which were released as soundtracks: More (1969) and Obscured By Clouds (1972). Fans who realize the existence of the first six or seven albums might barely recognize them prior to their 1973 breakthrough album, The Dark Side of the Moon, by which Waters began to take over as Face of the Band.
Delta Goodrem's first single ("I Don't Care") and the first two videos she recorded were decidedly pop to take advantage of the trend of the time. It was 2001 and she was finding her feet, but contrast incredibly with her Innocent Eyes and Mistaken Identity albums, which are Singer/Songwriter and extremely autobiographical.
While not as left-field as some others on this page, Metallica's Kill 'Em All contains some weirdness that wouldn't be found in their next several albums. James Hetfield sings in more of a "shriek" than on later albums, and the album has a couple songs ("Hit the Lights", "Whiplash") whose lyrics are, in his words, "Sort of Judas Priest, 'let's go rock out..'"
Not to mention that while the music is as fast, loud and angry as they arguably never repeated, the production is kind of muddy and the instruments are hard to discern (particularly the drums).
Covenant's first couple albums were darker and harder, closer to true industrial. They didn't take on the familiar Futurepop style until Europa, their third album.
Clutch's first LP, Transnational Speedway League is a gritty metal album with a few lyrical homages to southern life. While there are some of Neil Fallon's trademark spacy lyrics, the blues influence that is currently a hallmark of the band's music is almost nonexistant.
Underworld started out as a new wave/alternative pop band and released two albums (Underneath the Radar and Change the Weather) in this style, which also fetched them a minor American hit in the single "Stand Up". After a nearly five year recording hiatus following their second album, they emerged as an electronica/house group, which they have remained ever since.
Ministry's first album With Sympathy was a synth pop album in which Al Jourgensen attempted to sing in a fake British accent. Their next album, Twitch is an album of aggressive EBM. Neither prepared anyone for their third album, The Land of Rape and Honey, which premiered the harsh industrial sound they became famous with. Jourgensen hasdisownedWith Sympathy, calling it "an abortion" and reportedly buying and destroying every copy of it he runs across, and has been varying in his press statements on Twitch.
Coldplay's work is mostly based on pianos ("Clocks") or sonic landscapes ("Viva La Vida"), but their debut, Parachutes, is mostly filled with acoustic guitars.
The Descendents' first single, Ride The Wild \ Hectic World: As opposed to the melodic Hardcore Punk they'd become known for, the two featured songs were sort of a mix of Power Pop and New Wave, prominently featuring a Surf Rock-influenced guitar-playing style with no distortion. In addition, Milo Aukerman hadn't joined the band yet, so lacking a real lead singer, members Frank Navetta and Tony Lombardo sang one song each. "Ride The Wild" and "Hectic World" were later included on the compilations Bonus Fat and Two Things At Once, and the contrast with the rest of the material can be sort of jarring.
The first two albums of Yes count. Along with the unique playing styles of founding guitarist Peter Banks and founding keyboardist Tony Kaye, Yes specialized in re-arranged covers of Byrds, Beatles and Buffalo Springfield songs, while their originals showed more '60's pop influences. The band's second album, Time And A Word also incorporates orchestral accompaniment, which Yes would rarely use to such an extent until 2000's Magnification.
Also, their breakthrough third release, The Yes Album, was Yes' first attempt at using synthesizers, and were used in a relatively subtle way, as keyboardist Kaye was reluctant to use them. Their multi-keyboard sound would not develop until the followup, Fragile, by which Rick Wakeman would replace Kaye in the lineup.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Fever To Tell" is a lot more punk-sounding than "Show Your Bones" and "It's Blitz!".
Selena Gomez mentioned that when making her first album as "Selena Gomez And The Scene", Kiss + Tell, she hadn't yet decided on a style, so she imitated all of her favorite female singers. The album explores pop-rock, pop-punk, new wave, electro-dance and hip-hop styles in a way she wouldn't for the rest of her career. It was only when the synth-electro-dance-styled "Naturally", her personal favorite, became a Top 10 hit, that the style for her next two albums would be decided on.
Eminem's first albumInfinite had more of a low-key feel and sounded more like the other hip-hop artists of the time that inspired him, and even contained less profanity. It wasn't until The Slim Shady EP and The Slim Shady LP that Eminem established his more "unique" style and his eponymous psychotic alter-ego, as well as more story elements in his tracks.
Goldfrapp are constantly changing styles, so those more acquainted with the electro/dance of Black Cherry, Supernature and Head First will probably be quite surprised at Felt Mountain, their first album, which was incredibly trippy and about as far from dance as it gets.
Captain Beefheart fans who stumble across his first album, 1967's Safe As Milk, will be shocked to find that it's relatively normal, with very little of the weirdness that would appear in later albums like Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby. (Early Installment Lack-Of-Weirdness?)
Industrial/EBM band Eisenfunk's first album, Eisenfunk was nothing special compared to other bands. The only thing that distinguished them from others was the heavy use of electronic music and sampling. In their next album, 8-Bit, they kept the electonic music but overhaluled everything else, becoming much Lighter and Softer (and humorous) and incorporating numerous references to geekdom. It was these changes that made them well known. Their third album, Pentafunk stayed the course (for most part), leaving Eisenfunk as the odd ball album.
Gothic rock band Helalyn Flowers' first album had a rather Industrial Metal-influenced sound. With their second album, they went somewhat Lighter and Softer and focused more on synthesizers, giving it a darkwave vibe.
Michigan-based group Da Yoopers, known mainly for their novelty songs, had two dead-serious songs on their 1986 debut Yoopanese: "My Shoes" and "Critics Tune". The album also lacked interstitial comedy sketches and guest musicians, elements that would appear on all of their subsequent albums except for their fifth, 1992's Yoopy Do Wah (which also contains "When One Love Dies", one of the only other songs in their repertoire that could be considered unarguably serious).
Also, on both Yoopanese and its follow-up Culture Shock, Lynn Anderson (no, not the same lady who sang "Rose Garden") actually played a synthesizer instead of the more standard keyboards she would use on later albums.
The Avalanches' El Producto EP did have the same dense layers of samples as their more well-known Since I Left Younote (The parrot sample that would later show up in "Frontier Psychiatrist" even makes an early appearance in "Rap Fever"), but used them to a somewhat trippier and slightly less danceable effect. More importantly, while Since I Left You was instrumental except for sampled vocals, El Producto actually featured the group rapping Word Salad Lyrics over most of the songs.
German NDH band Oomph!'s first album in 1992 was considered to be an Electronic Body Music album. Their second album, Sperm (1994) had much more of an industrial metal sound, while retaining some EDM influences. It is considered to be the first NDH album, inspiring artists such as Eisbrecher, Unheilig, Megaherz, and most famously, Rammstein.
Taylor Swift was a lot less pop on her first album. The change in sound may owe to her phasing out Liz Rose as a co-writer: they wrote most of the first album together, but Rose co-wrote only a couple songs on her second. Since then, Taylor generally writes all her stuff solo.
As noted at the end of this piece, she has been moving further and further into mainstream pop.
Garth Brooks' debut album was noticeably more mainstream than his distinctive rock and pop influences on later work, even if it contains his Signature Song "The Dance". In particular, "Not Counting You" sounds like it could've been cut by nearly any guy in a cowboy hat.
Zac Brown Band's first two singles, "Chicken Fried" and "Whatever It Is", are far more mainstream than their later work. This was because they were written well before the rest of the songs on their breakthrough album, The Foundation (2009). In fact, "Chicken Fried" was originally released in 2006 by The Lost Trailers, whose version was withdrawn because Zac changed his mind about letting someone else record it.
Bad Religion's second album, Into The Unknown, wasn't a punk album at all but a PROG ROCK album!
Alice in Chains' first album, Facelift, is decidedly more metallic and glam-influenced than the band's later albums would be.
The lyrics, while far from upbeat/happy, are also a little lighter and less pessimistic.
The first Anthrax album with John Bush, Sound Of White Noise, is a bit different from their later Bush-era albums. Its production is rawer, its songs are more brutal, and Bush uses far more multilayered vocals and high pitched screaming than on the following three albums.
Slayer's first album, Show No Mercy, is quite a bit different from their later albums. It's slower and has more of a NWOBHM tint. In fact, the album is very similar in style to Metallica's Kill'em All.
Sugar Ray are primarily known for breezy pop-rock, but spent their first two albums as an Alternative Metal band. The turning point was "Fly", a massive hit from Floored that was more than a bit softer than the surrounding material. Instead of letting "Fly" become a Black Sheep Hit, they opted to just roll with it and go in a Lighter and Softer direction. They did some humorous Lampshade Hanging on this: their third album 14:59 opened with a short lyrically dissonant mock-Death Metal song called "New Direction", immediately followed by much calmer material.
The Rolling Stones' musical output was very different in their early years, especially for fans who only know of them based on their last two-three decades of work. The self-titled album released in 1964 was comprised almost entirely of covers (with one original song written by Jagger/Richards), and was heavily R&B-oriented. Their debut tour in the United States was a disaster - television hosts made fun of them for dressing as a ripoff of other successful British Invasion groups like The Beatles, and their former manager/publicist Andrew Oldham removed at least one man from the group because they did not fit the mould of "thin, long-haired boys" wearing identical suits. It was only on 1966's Aftermath that the group began to codify their signature sound, not only making the songs much more otherworldly and darker, but unintentionally ditching the "boy band" image. Also, they became more sexual than The Beatles.
When Metric first formed in 1998, they had a different stage name (Mainstream) and very different musical output compared to their later releases. The "Mainstream" EP had little to none of the signature sound the group would codify on "Static Anonymity" and "Old World Underground", was much more downtempo and electronica-based, and didn't have supporting bandmates Joules Scott-Key and Joshua Winstead (they hadn't joined the band yet).
Ayria's style has always generally been electro-industrial/futurepop, but her first album, Debris, is definitely lighter and more trance-influenced than later productions.
Smog's early albums were full of noise experiments and song fragments that sound nothing like the folk and rock Bill Callahan is best known for. If you listen to any of his first three albums and then any of his recent albums, he's unrecognisable as the same vocalist, as his voice got a lot deeper over time. Wild Love (1995) is a transition between the two eras, and in terms of Callahan's voice, you can hear the early and later Callahan in his mid 90s output in general.
Hunters And Collectors took their name from aCan song, but you wouldn't know it from the "Oz Rock" or "Pub Rock" sound they cultivated from Human Frailty onwards. However, in their early years they released two albums and two EPs that reveled in the sound of Krautrock with a bit of post-punk thrown in. Their third album The Jaws of Life takes those influences and applies them to traditional song structures and is considered by some to be their best, but their mid 80s to early 90s work garnered more acclaim and especially more sales.
Dream Theater's first album, When Dream and Day Unite, is the only album by them to feature Charlie Dominci as the lead vocalist. The album itself sounds like a prototype of the style the band would develop with Images and Words.
Sarah Mclachlan's first album, Touch, is very strange sounding, mostly because Mclachlan hadn't mastered her vocal ability at the time.
The Break Up's self-titled album was harder and more EBM-oriented, in contrast with their major-label breakout Synthesis, which is mainly gothic synthpop / nu-wave / darkwave.
White Zombie are primarily known for mixing Industrial Metal and Groove Metal in the 90's, but started out as a chaotic, lo-fi Noise Rock band in the late 80's: They cited bands like The Birthday Party, Butthole Surfers, and Black Flag as influencing this phase. Rob Zombie's voice was also only sometimes recognizable at this point - instead of the near Guttural Growler vocal style he'd use in White Zombie's nineties albums (and throughout his solo career), he sang in more of a nasal, punk-ish sneer. The main thread running through both stages of their career are lyrical references to grind-house and horror movies and frequent use of Spoken Word In Music. Interestingly, Kurt Cobain was a fan of their early work, as was Iggy Pop.
Animusic 1 and its gravity-defying drumsticks in three of the seven videos.
If you listen to Sevendust's later work and then listen to their debut, it's going to sound a little weird. Their self-titled first album had rawer production and was heavier and much rougher than the polished radio-friendly heavy metal sound they are known for.
Shadows Fall's first two albums, Somber Eyes to the Sky and Of One Blood, feature a rather generic, though not bad, Melodic Death Metal sound. It wasn't until their third album that they would develop the thrashy metalcore sound they are famous for. Even the band themselves were sick of getting their early work compared to Swedish melodeath bands, which is why they changed their sound in the first place.
Tim McGraw was a lot more mainstream on his early albums, which relied heavily on novelty numbers like "Indian Outlaw" (his Breakthrough Hit) and "I Like It, I Love It", along with mainstream mid-90s country songs like "Not a Moment Too Soon" or "She Never Lets It Go to Her Heart" that could've been done by just about anyone in a cowboy hat. Starting around 1997, he started to move into a mature and more pop-oriented sound as seen by the crossover successes of "It's Your Love" and "Please Remember Me", respectively the lead-off singles from Everywhere (1997) and follow-up A Place in the Sun (1999). Even on these songs, though, his voice was still fairly high and whiny. He didn't settle into his slightly lower register until around the next album, 2001's Set This Circus Down. Oddly, despite the marked change in sound, "Indian Outlaw", "I Like It, I Love It", and "Not a Moment Too Soon" remain among his Signature Songs.
Even before that, he had an unsuccessful debut album in 1992 which showed more weirdness. For instance, he strums a guitar in the "Welcome to the Club" video, although as early as the second album he had established himself as one of the only male country artists who does not accompany himself on guitar.
Lady Antebellum didn't have the big, grandiose, orchestral sound (e.g. "Need You Now") that much on their first album. They instead had a bit more of a rock edge, as evidenced on "Love Don't Live Here" and especially "Lookin' for a Good Time".
"We Will Fall" from The Stooges' first album is a ten minute psychedelic drone that didn't inform anything they wrote afterwards.
The first two Mercury Rev albums bear the influence of Pink Floyd filtered through punk and noise bands, with some elements of world music and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. In other words, nothing like the Lighter and Softer (but fucking awesome) band's breakthrough fourth album Deserter's Songs. The aptly named third album See You on the Other Side sounds closer, but is more of a palette cleanser than a bridge between the two eras.
Demon Hunter's first album featured heavy Nu Metal influence, and Ryan uses a much different harsh vocal style than he does on all albums succeeding it.
The music of Hannah Montana star Emily Osment might count. Her earlier songs like "Hero In Me" and "I Don't Think About It" are straightforward late-Oughties teen pop, enjoyable, but relatively unremarkable. She hadn't quite found her feet vocally, and the songs were written by outside writers. Her EP, All The Right Wrongs, was more personal and much better sung, and musically more Adult Alternative-influenced and harder-edged. Her full-length debut, Fight Or Flight, is well-crafted, catchy Synth Pop with more poetic lyrics, and Emily's vocals are are very strong. She's taken a jazzy/acoustic bent with the "Ramshackle" music she's released on YouTube.
It wasn't until Sunshowers or Phantoms that Ume gained some attention, so it would understandingly be jarring for newer fans to go back into 2005's Urgent Sea. The production is more raw with their Hard Rock influences more upfront than their usual Shoegazing, and contrasting with Lauren's later dreamier style, she had a heavier edge (you could even tell she's from Texas in this one). And oh yeah, there's also screaming involved.
The first album by country vocal group Little Big Town was a lot more slick and polished, making them sound more like a generic country vocal group than the earthy sound they had on subsequent albums.
My Chemical Romance tries new things on every album, but compare I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love to Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. The difference is astounding, every member had improved and it gave the band the sound they're best known for.
Project Pitchfork's early works, especially the demo album Embryonal Thoughts they produced under the name Demoniac Puppets, were avant garde-type industrial in the vein of The Art of Noise, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. rather then the borderline darkwave/EBM they are better known for.
Country Music band Lonestar was radically different on their first two albums. Besides the fact that John Rich (who was fired from the band in 1998 and became one-half of Big & Rich in 2004) sang lead a few times on said albums, their debut has honky-tonk and country-rock influences not far removed from Brooks & Dunn or Shenandoah; unsurprising, since those two acts and Lonestar were all produced by Don Cook. The second, 1998's Crazy Nights, is more breezy and somewhat Eagles influenced. From 1999's Lonely Grill (the first album without Rich) onward, they switched to producer Dann Huff (see Rascal Flatts, above) and dove headfirst into slick country-pop that only got more bombastic and theatrical over time, and Richie McDonald became the sole lead vocalist. They also became a lot Lighter and Softer, with more songs about family, domestic bliss, and love. It's just hard to believe that their first #1 was the edgy, humorous "No News"; their third was the Power Ballad "Amazed"; and their last two were the soccer mom-friendly, Tastes Like Diabetes "My Front Porch Looking In" and "Mr. Mom". According to band members, their Lighter and Softer sound from "Amazed" onward was the result of Executive Meddling, which ultimately led to McDonald leaving the group from 2007 to 2011.
Today, the Gaither Vocal Band is primarily known as the face of gospel impresario Bill Gaither's Homecoming tours, which are strongly southern gospel oriented. The band itself has a strange history. They were formed because of Gaither's love of southern gospel quartet music, but their first album contained only a few songs one might classify as "southern gospel". By the mid-80's, there was practically no southern influence on the group's albums at all (though they held to the four-part structure). By the early 90's, they could easily be thought of as adult contemporary. Then came Homecoming, intended to be the band's last album, wherein Gaither did what he always wanted to do; gathered a number of his southern gospel heroes in one room to record a song together. After that he re-invented the group as a southern gospel quartet, and hasn't looked back since. True, their sound is still very progressive for southern gospel, and Gaither claims that he doesn't limit the sound of the group to a single genre, but he's not fooling anyone; the GVB is a southern gospel quartet (and as of 2009, a quintet).
Florence + the Machine's "Kiss with a Fist" is more rock-esque than the rest of Lungs, due to being an earlier recording. Even earlier tracks that have more indie rock vibes.
Jamey Johnson's first album, The Dollar, was by far his most mainstream. He had only a short, neatly trimmed beard, his delivery was more upbeat, and his songs ranged from early 90s-esque neo-trad (the title track) to slick modern "hot girl" country ("Rebelicious") in the same vein as Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk", which he co-wrote. After a management change at BNA cut the album short and caused its second single to miss the charts entirely, Johnson's life spiraled out of control, even though a few other artists had cut his songs. He got cleaned up, then grew his hair out much longer, and took on a more "outlaw" image, recording somewhat darker albums that are widely praised for recapturing the spirit of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. The cute, heartwarming When You Coming Home, Dad? story of "The Dollar" is certainly a far cry from him singing about "cocaine and a whore" on "High Cost of Living" (most certainly an autobiographical cut) only one album later, or even the nostalgic "In Color", his only big hit.
Elton John's first album, Empty Sky, had many psychedelic overtones and Purple Prose lyrics (courtesy of his lyricist Bernie Taupin). The album was relatively lo-fi (on four-track tape) and featured session musicians. Elton's use of session musicians continued until 1972, along with the heavy use of dramatic orchestral accompaniment. The earlier albums were very much in the "singer-songwriter" mold, and had considerably less of a rock feel or band sound as he'd be known for, as he was on a limited budget and his songs contained strict arrangements to the note to conserve money and time. By 1972, Elton decided to use his live backing band (Davey Johnstone on guitar, Dee Murray on bass, and Nigel Olsson on drums) full-time, recorded in France instead of England, and developed more of a rock feel than previously, making less blatant use of orchestration (though he still used it). The resulting release, Honky Chateau, featuring the hit "Rocket Man", established the sound he'd be known for, and helped make Elton a superstar.
The Meat Puppets are primarily associated with indie and Alternative Rock, but got their start as an abrasively noisy Hardcore Punk band. The only hints at their future direction on their self-titled album were a pair of country covers, "Walkin' Boss" and "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds", which hinted at the country-punk style they'd develop on Meat Puppets II. Especially odd is Curt Kirkwood's Vocal Evolution - he spent much of the first album yowling and shrieking unintelligibly, as opposed to the more sleepy-sounding, monotone vocals he'd start using later on.
The second Kiss album, Hotter Than Hell (1974), never became a huge hit with anyone other than die-hard Kiss fans, even in the wake of their later mega-stardom, and it's not hard to understand why: the record hardly fits the Kiss stereotype at all. Although the band had their "kabuki/dungeon porn" look by this time (as opposed to their appearance in the original version, Wicked Lester, where they were simply in street clothes and plain whiteface), only about two or three of the songs were similar to "Rock and Roll All Nite" or other classic Kiss hits. "Parasite" was more of a "stoner metal" song (seriously, you can just picture Beavis and Butthead rocking out to it, especially the Anthrax cover version), while "Goin' Blind" has a very low-key, almost '90s alternative sound to it. Quite a few of these songs were written by guitarist Ace Frehley, who had much less of a "pop" sensibility than the other band members.
Ronnie James Dio is best known for his work with Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio, but he initially started out in the late 1950s... as a teeny bopper doo-wop musician. His work with Ronnie & The Red Caps and Ronnie Dio & The Prophets is vastly different from anything he would spend the majority of his career on- not that one could blame him, he started out before heavy metal even existed. One has to wonder how his career would have gone if he'd not switched musical genres. Don't believe me? This is sung by the man who would later record Holy Diver!
Kenny Rogers began his recording career as a member of a pop band called First Edition, whose songs sounded very much like early '70s pop. In fact, Rogers's first chart successes with First Edition aired on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 and didn't sound at all out of place with the other pop songs on the chart countdown.
Speaking of early chart hits that aired on AT40, Rick Springfield had a couple of them way back in 1973, long before he was a chart-smashing phenom who also starred on "General Hospital". Not only do these songs not fit under the "power pop" category that most people associate with Springfield's music, they also feature very different vocal stylings from Rick that sound nothing like the crooning he became known for in later songs such as "Jesse's Girl".
The Dixie Chicks were originally a bluegrass quartet consisting of Martie Maguire, Emily Irwin Robison, and lead vocalists Robin Lynn Macy and Laura Lynch, the former of whom left in 1993. Natalie Maines replaced Lynch, and the band shifted from straight-up bluegrass to country-pop with a bluegrass influence, which kept them as A-listers until a creator-killing remark from Maines in 2003.
Sugarland's first album, Twice the Speed of Life, was more mainstream than their subsequent releases. It was their only album produced by someone other than Byron Gallimore (specifically, Garth Fundis), and the only album on which Kristen Hall was a member. After she left the group, the other two members (lead singer Jennifer Nettles and guitarist/mandolinist Kristian Bush) decided to pursue a more dynamic, acoustic pop-influenced sound, often with lighter lyrics than Hall contributed.
Keith Urban's first solo American albumnote he had a solo album in his native Australia in 1991, and an American album as one-third of The Ranch in 1997 is rife with this. He spelled his name in all lowercase letters; Matt Rollings produced instead of Dann Huff; his sound was more mainstream and less rock-influenced (especially "Your Everything" and "But for the Grace of God"); and his hair was shorter.
Early on, Hank Williams, Jr. was a teenager covering his daddy's songs, starting with "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" in 1964. For the next several years, he followed the "countrypolitan" sound of the day. After a break enforced by his fall off a mountain (which damaged his face and required a great deal of surgery, in addition to requiring that he re-learn how to sing), he finally forged his edgier, Southern rock and outlaw country influenced sound with Family Tradition at the end of the 70s. Even though his Early-Installment Weirdness era produced two #1 hits in "Eleven Roses" and "All for the Love of Sunshine", those songs are at total odds with his most famous style, and all but forgotten today.
In the 1980s, Sawyer Brown was a very bubblegummy country-pop band, noted for their dance moves, pink tennis shoes, and near-total lack of substance. They changed things up with The Dirt Road in 1991, changing to a more mature image and sound, helped in part by lead singer Mark Miller co-writing with Mac McAnally. The change in sound from the lightweight, repetitive romps like "Step That Step" or "Betty's Bein' Bad" to the spare, acoustic ballad "All These Years" or the thoughtful "Cafe on the Corner" is staggering.
If you're only familiar with Michael Jackson through the scandals of the decade before he died, even the cover of Thriller is a little jarring. But going back even further, his first actual solo album was 1972's Got To Be There which was released when Michael was 13 going on 14. It kicks off with a more-than-respectable cover of "Ain't No Sunshine," but from that point forward is incredibly ballad-heavy and even the more well-known stuff ("Rockin' Robin" and the title song) don't even hint at any aspect of the post-disco dance pop of the '80s. His next three albums are more of the same, and even Off The Wall was far more disco/quiet storm than one might expect from his later work. No rock crossovers or anthemic ballads about saving the world.
If you know Jackson mostly as the singer of paranoid songs where he screams in anger and lets out many of his trademarked high yells you'll be surprised that most of his output before "Thriller" is rather happy and cheerful without any "a-hi-hi"'s thrown in for good measure.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's debut album was the only one where he played accordion on every song. Also, he hadn't quite figured out yet how to make his parodies sound just like the originals, and only one of the original songs is a style parody.
Ludwig van Beethoven's early period (particularly the years while he lived in Bonn) is both heavily influenced by Mozart and Haydn, and radically different to the later pieces such as the 5th Symphony and Moonlight Sonata when he had developed his own style.
Def Leppard's first two albums On Through the Night and High and Dry have a much more straightforward heavy metal (for the time) sound. Not until Pyromania with a new guitarist and "Mutt" Lange on production duty did their signature melodic hard rock sound coalesce.
Bob Marley: During most of the 1960s he sounded more like a smooth Motown soul singer. Marley was inspired by The Impressions and he almost sounds like an exact copy. The topics of his early songs are often childlike and banal: "Mr. Chatterbox" is about the irritating aspects of radio, for instance! Also, he only became a Rastafari after 1965.
The studio version of "No Woman, No Cry" (1974) sounds almost comedic, compared to the much slower, dramatic and famous live version found on the album "Live" (1975).
Iron Maiden, under original vocalist Paul DiAnno, had a patently punk vibe that lasted for the two original albums. Then (in order from each album following the second), guitarist Adrian Smith, vocalist Bruce Dickinson and drummer Nicko McBrain joined the band and they started showing their more familiar sound. If one compares the songs from the album The Final Frontier with Killers or The Number Of The Beast, one might think of three completely different bands (and that's not counting the period when Blaze Bayley was the singer).
Stratovarius was an incredibly different band than what it is today. Consider this , versus this ; it's important to understand that the band does not feature any of their original members anymore.
Late band Sentenced began as this with Taneli Jarva on vocals , and ended like this with Ville Laihiala as his replacement . Consider that the guitarists and drummer are the same in both songs.
Aerosmith's first album is different mostly because Steven Tyler doesn't use his trademark singing voice often, frequently using a lower, bluesier vocal tone instead ("Dream On" can be recognized only when he starts a Metal ScreamTitle Drop).
Progression Towards Evil, the debut album of Brutal Death Metal band Skinless, was almost entirely focused on Toilet Humor and Gorn. Their sophomore album, Foreshadowing Our Demise, still contained a few songs of this nature, but by and large shifted to the Humans Are Bastards and politically-oriented themes that took up the entirety of their last two albums.
Melvins are known for slow, heavy songs and Epic Rocking, but started as a Hardcore Punk band with fast tempos and songs that were generally under two minutes long.
Kraftwerk started as a fairly conventional Kraut Rock band, with guitar, drums, bass and flute, before switching to its trademark all-synthesizer sound.
Kelly Clarkson's first album Thankful is quite different from her later albums, as it's considerably softer and more R&B influenced, only occasionally showcasing the hard rock influences that would permeate subsequent albums. Clarkson's voice is also different, sounding more like a Mariah Carey knock-off than the gruff Southern belle she would become on Breakaway.
The Cocteau Twins trademark sound didn't really emerge until their second full-length album, Head over Heels. The Peppermint Pig EP, their recording debut, sounds more pop, sometimes like a weak imitation of The Police. Garlands, their debut album, has all the instrumentation in place but a Darker and Edgier, more Goth-like sound.