General consensus in ABBA fandom (if such a thing is possible) places this moment somewhere around the third and fourth albums, ABBA (1975) and Arrival (1976). The band members themselves pin this more firmly on ABBA and the release of "S.O.S." as a single, when the public stopped dismissing them as one-hit wonders and they settled on a pop style. (Waterloo, their second album, is a mix of attempts at different styles as they tried to find their place. Ring Ring is just... um... yeahhh.)
When Abiotic released Symbiosis in 2012, the general consensus was that while they were a technically gifted young bunch, the album itself was breakdown after breakdown strung together with run-of-the-mill tech riffs and a few decent leads, and Ray Jimenez's vocal performance was the subject of particularly harsh criticism. 2015's Casuistry, on the other hand, was widely held as an album that, while not perfect, addressed all the criticisms levied at Symbiosis with more substantial and thoughtful songwriting, fewer breakdowns, and a far better vocal performance from newcomer Travis Bartosek. Unfortunately, this was short-lived, as they broke up a year later due to the realization that their career had plateaued and they were probably going to be stuck as a low-level support forever.
By the end of 1980, attempts by heavy metal band Accept at a commercial sound fell flat. As guitarist Wolf Hoffmann put it, "Maybe we knew that the old approach from the record before didn't work very well. So we were saying 'fuck it, let's just do what we think is right. Let's not try to be somebody else, let's not try to have a radio hit anymore.'" The gambit paid off, and the result was their breakthrough album, appropriately titled Breaker, setting the stage for their success for the next five years.
Alice Cooper was a psychedelic garage based group that didn't gain much success until hooking up with Bob Ezrin for Love It to Death, dropping the psychedelic vibe of their earlier works and began focusing on hard rock like "Caught in a Dream", "I'm Eighteen," and "Is It My Body" and theatrical pieces like "Black Juju" and "The Ballad of Dwight Frye". The album was a success and launched the Coop's golden age.
Alanis Morissette was generally a lollipop pop artist prior to Jagged Little Pill. At the time, she had become embarrassed enough by her previous work that she had her previous two albums recalled from stores just prior to the release of Jagged Little Pill.
Atomic Kitten's early music was in the typical bubblegum style of the Spice Girls and 90s pop scene and their record sales were not good. On the verge of being dropped by their record label, they released one more single "Whole Again", a hugely successful pop-ballad which was their first number 1 and their style changed for the better after that. Also, Kerry Katona left the band and was replaced by Jenny Frost. The group's most famous songs "It's OK", "The Tide Is High (Get the Feeling)", "Be With You" and "If You Come to Me" were all released after Kerry left the band.
Most fans agree that his second album The Adventure is when he stepped out of trying to imitate such artists as Makkon and The Living Tombstone and started to find his own niche in music, citing the presence of his two best-known songs, Breakthrough Hits "One Last Letter" and Friendship.
Others point to his debut album Reflections of a Dream (which Tyler himself calls an Old Shame) as when he stepped out of the dullness of Never Say Forever (His first EP).
Some fans point to his later EP The Fear of Flight as when he grew it, pointing to such hits as the EP's title track as the definitive moment.
Yet other fans claim that the album Aeterno is when he hit his stride, especially pointing out its only vocal track, "The Path Home".
Even more fans cite From All Sides as when he grew the beard, pointing out songs like "Constellations", "Shadows", the title track, "Voices of the Crowd", and other such songs as definitive moments.
Tyler himself says that he did it with the first song from the album Mirrors, "Open Your Eyes".
While both of the Backstreet Boys' first two albums were big hits, they really hit their stride with their third album Millennium, which was released in 1999. This album included "I Want It That Way", and "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely", two of their most successful songs both critically and commercially.
The Beach Boys had this with The Beach Boys Today!, particularly the second side. The upward trend culminated with the incomplete Smile and Brian Wilson's breakdown. Depending on how you look at it, they either subsequently went through a Dork Age, or the other members grew their own beards (figuratively and literally. Though Bruce Johnston only grew a mustache).
The Beatles had the most iconic, both literal and figurative, beard-growing in rock history, arguably beginning with their move towards more esoteric and impressionistic songwriting on the album Rubber Soul.
George Harrison had one by himself. While not, strictly speaking, actually bad, his early works tended to lean a bit to the saccharine side of things, and most of his best performances were on songs written by John and/or Paul. However, he eventually became an accomplished songwriter in his own right, even managing to hold his own in a solo career after the band broke up. (Like Riker, he also grew an actual beard in the interim).
Arguably, Ringo Starr joining the band could be a signature event, as this marked their break into the mainstream. Unlike the others, Ringo (the oldest of the Beatles) was already a well-established musician and along with manager Brian Epstein introduced a note of maturity to the band. Ringo also not only grew the beard, but has kept it to this day.
Polish Black Metal/Death Metal band Behemoth has undergone two points which could be called growing the beard. Their first two albums were well written, but not particularly innovative pure black metal, but with the release of Pandemonic Incantations, drummer Inferno joined the band, and they began to experiment with death metal influences. The next album, Satanica, continued to show improvements, but the beard was fully grown with the release of the acclaimed album Demigod, which featured some of the most intense Harsh Vocals in death metal. With the release of their latest album, Evangelion, it's obvious that it's here to stay.
Although progressive death metal band Between the Buried and Me never had a truly hated album, it's commonly stated that they really start to reach greatness with the album Colors. It's where they started some of the genre mixing that is one of their trademarks at this point. The Great Misdirect, which is the follow-up album, is also considered about on par with Colors.
The underrated Big Brother & The Holding Company was destined for obscurity, until they hired blues singer Janis Joplin. Of course, when Joplin left for a solo career at the end of 1968, their career went with it.
While Paranoid (1970) is Black Sabbath's greatest commercial success, hardcore fans see Master of Reality (1971) as where they hit their stride, in-part due to the band achieving a heaviness the likes of which had never been seen at the time, influencing many metal bands in the process. The band would continue their artistic and commercial success, reaching a peak with Sabotage (1975), and then a Dork Age followed by a second Beard in 1980 with the arrival of Ronnie James Dio and Heaven and Hell.
German power metal band Blind Guardian goes through a sort of extended beard growing process starting on their third album, Tales from the Twilight World. While their debut and sophomore albums were fairly typical speed metal fare, Tales from the Twilight World saw the introduction of a number of new trends in their otherwise straightforward blend of fantasy lyrics and fast guitars.
As far as beards go, "Tales" was but a thin goatee compared to the long and bushy beard Blind Guardian would grow with their 1998 album "Nightfall in Middle Earth". Though the two albums following "Tales" saw further evolution in Blind Guardian's musical style, it was "Nightfall" which took their carefully written fantasy lyrics and studio wizardry to new heights and set the stage for their brilliant later material.
Blondie always had many influences but their third album, Parallel Lines, showed they could make radio friendly rock songs, ballads, and genre experiment songs in equal measure, whilst attaining popularity for their singer Debbie Harry's good looks.
Blue Cheer's first album, Vincebus Eruptum, was a heavy, and sometimes silly, take on Jimi Hendrix's blues style. However, their second album, Outsideinside, began showing the band injecting their own personality into their music while retaining their heavy edge, resulting in what is probably their best album. Sadly, further beard growth ended when original guitarist Leigh Stephens left and the band became an average hard rock group.
Bob Dylan grew a mustache with "Blowin' in the Wind", where he finally learned that he didn't need to cover the same folk songs as everyone else; he could write originals and make more timely statements. Then he finished out the rest of the beard three years later with "Like a Rolling Stone", where he figured out how to combine his main influences (folk, rock, blues, Beat poetry) into a single unified whole. Then after his motorcycle accident he literally grew a beard.
The band Brand New can be said to have done this with their album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Where before they sounded like another blink-182 clone, with The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me you can see a definite attempt at doing something personal and original, as well as Darker and Edgier.
Others could argue for Deja Entendu being the point where they grew the beard, as it was much more well-received by critics than their first and more typically Pop Punk album as well as being Darker and Edgier (though not so much so as The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me).
Bruce Springsteen released two critically acclaimed albums in 1973; the former was called Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and is to date considered good, but not great. The second was The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, which is now regarded as one of his best, but at the time, popular success still eluded him. His third studio album was essentially his last chance - it had to do well, or he was out of the music business. That album? 1975's Born to Run, one of the greatest albums of all time, which also signified a shift into more down-to-earth songs about relatable experiences. The rest is history.
It could be argued that The Byrds grew one wih the release of their 1966 album Fifth Dimension. Although the band showed some promise on their previous albums, they were mostly known for covering various artists, including Bob Dylan, and filtering their work with the jangle sound that made them famous with "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn". Album three showcased the band focusing their songwriting abilities and incorporating various styles such as folk ("John Riley"), country ("Mr. Spaceman"), and jazz-raga ("Eight Miles High").
Britney Spears really took control of her music with her third self titled album!
Cat Stevens was a talented but not too exceptional teen idol singer in the 1960s. Then, after almost dying of tuberculosis, he literally grew a beard and made the album Tea for the Tillerman, which first showed him to be a brilliant, mature musician.
Mona Bone Jakon predates Tillerman by a few months. With it he ditched his old sound for the more acoustic music he was known for.
Connie Talbot was only seven when her debut album came out. She didn't reach her full potential until she was twelve and released the album Beautiful World, which featured the self-composed title track.
Canadian death metal band Cryptopsy started out as a fairly standard death metal band with traditional song structure and some progressive elements. By their second album, they had become one of the most innovative and technical bands on the death metal scene.
Florida metal band Cynic started out as a pretty straightforward death metal band. They eventually began incorporating jazz and prog elements into their music, culminating in their debut full-length album Focus, which was a prog metal masterpiece.
Unfortunately, the band broke up soon after. Until they reunited and released Traced in Air in 2008, which was a more than worthy comeback in the eyes of fans.
David Bowie was in the music business for five years before "Space Oddity". Even then, his most iconic "early" (glam) songs (most of them actually Vindicated by History after "Ziggy Stardust" brought him back into the public eye) didn't come until his partnership with Mick Ronson. It is Bowie's fourth album, Hunky Dory, that is usually regarded as his first great one. The Man Who Sold the World is also a case of this, as it's usually considered a step above his earlier work, but a step below Hunky Dory (and some people still consider it a classic).
Dave Grohl. In his first band, Scream, he was just a regular drummer. This was the case with his first album with his next band (Nirvana's Nevermind), but his songwriting contributions increased by In Utero. Upon Kurt Cobain's death, Grohl started his own band, Foo Fighters, who became better over the years, culminating with the critical and commercial smash Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace. Oh, and he also literally grew a beard.
One may wonder if Foo Fighters had a period of beard-shaving during the movie soundtracks and There Is Nothing Left to Lose period, due to too much soft-rock poppishness, began to accumulate stubble during the harder One by One, and then returned to beardy goodness by the time Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace was released.
The consensus is that they really hit their stride once Taylor Hawkins joined the band, as he was the first drummer who not only could play as well as Grohl, but stood out as a charismatic musician in his own right. These days he is considered the second Face of the Band.
Depending on who you ask, Deep Purple grew the beard either with their self-titled third album, which perfected their brand of psychedelia, or with Deep Purple in Rock, which shifted the band into hard rock territory and brought vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover into the band.
While Def Leppard's first two albums were moderate hits and they were popular with the metal crowd, their third album Pyromania was when their formula gelled with the combination of a new guitarist, Robert John "Mutt" Lange's production, a slick MTV friendly image and a more accessible sound launching them into the stratosphere of the 1980's rock scene which they rode until the rise of grunge in the early 1990s shaved the band somewhat.
Even though Depeche Mode was steadily growing a thicker beard with each album, their beard fully matured when they released their seventh album, Violator. The album contained memorable hits such as "Enjoy the Silence", "Personal Jesus", and "Policy of Truth".
Disturbed's debut album The Sickness, despite making waves thanks to the popular hit "Down with the Sickness", didn't go far beyond the simple drum-lines and repetitive riffs present in most Nu Metal of the time. A short two years later after an extensive touring cycle the band recorded Believe, a significant leap both lyrically and musically, currently the band's best critically received work to date. Ten years after their debut, the melodic focus remains and the band is still going strong.
If you had to pinpoint the exact moment where Ronnie James Dio became the metal legend that he is, it would have to be when he sings "Man on the Silver Mountain" on Rainbow's debut album.
Donovan grew one with he went from penning Bob Dylan-styled numbers to finding his own voice within the psychedelic movement with Sunshine Superman.
Dream Theater reached their breakthrough with their sophomore album Images and Words, with the arrival of James LaBrie as singer to replace Charlie Dominici, a more epic, progressive songwriting style, and vastly improved production.
With Blackout, Dropkick Murphys moved toward a more melodic, folk-influenced sound, more distinct from the rest of the Boston hardcore scene. This is the album that cracked the American market at large, after years of local fame.
Their real popularity started when the mainstream heard Dropkick Murphys later on because of "I'm Shipping Up to Boston", featured in The Departed and now a trope in itself in Boston sports. This popularity had nothing to do with the musicianship beard they had started with Blackout.
On the Third Day saw Electric Light Orchestra shift from a side project to an actual band. Eldorado grew a larger beard, but A New World Record made them famous in their homeland and established them as a pioneer in symphonic rock.
Elton John grew his beard with his Self-Titled Album, which was actually his second album. It featured the hit "Your Song" and made him one of the quintessential singers/pianists of The '70s. But Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", a song showing that he was not just a singer-songwriter and had heavier material to write.
Faith No More really picked up in terms of quality and popularity when Mike Patton took over as the singer and primary songwriter.
The Flaming Lips' In a Priest Driven Ambulance: Though they'd begun gradually growing into their signature sound for the previous three full lengths (after a psychedelic garage rock EP with Wayne Coyne's brother Mark on vocals), it's generally considered their first cohesive album. It's also the first time long time producer Dave Fridmann worked with the band, and when Wayne Coyne started using his trademark higher pitched vocal style much more.
It took 9 more years until they've released the widely acclaimed The Soft Bulletin. Their NINTH album.
Dutch Goth Metal band The Gathering started out as a fairly generic Death Metal band, with bog-standard music, uninspired lyrics, and stereotypical growling vocals. Their second album did change things up a bit, but was inconsistent, lacking focus and direction. With the addition of incomparable vocalist and lyricist Anneke van Giersbergen came a major change in tone; and their third album, Mandylion, became a landmark of Goth Metal, practically defining the genre and achieving substantial critical and popular acclaim.
While none of the member of Genesis are well known for their beards, it's generally agreed that the introduction of Steve Hackett and Phil Collins boosted the band from a largely forgettable pop and folk group to being one of the giants of prog rock. If there are any literal examples, then Phil's beard during the Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering tours would have to count, given that Seconds Out (recorded during those tours) is generally considered to be their best live album. And after he shaved it off, the band really began to change direction and lost a lot of their progressive rock prestige.
Their second album, Trespass (before Collins and Hackett joined), is also considered to be a huge step above their first, From Genesis to Revelation, which falls under Canon Discontinuity.
Gogol Bordello's third album Gypsy Punks was where the band really amped up the punk element, the album features far rockier songs than their previous albums. It set the stage for the follow up Super Taranta which brought them even more success.
Green Day's Dookie, the third album. The first two records are respectable but very lo-fi. They even re-recorded "Welcome to Paradise" for Dookie to make it sound a bit less tinny.
Quite a few people also agree that they grew the beard again with American Idiot, where they got more thoughtful, deviated a bit from the pop punk formula and started taking themselves seriously. This beard-growing process probably started with its two predecessors, Nimrod and Warning.
Billie Joe has said that he thinks their second EP, Slappy, is where the band began to find its sound.
Hank Williams, Jr. figuratively and literally grew the beard (the literal growth was done intentionally, to hide facial disfigurement that resulted from him falling off a mountain) around the time that he started moving from being an expy of his dad to forging his own sound by combining the best of Southern rock and the then-prevalent "outlaw country" movement of the 1970s. He continued to maintain his peak until the late 80s, by which point outlaw was pretty much passé.
Iced Earth is said to have grown the beard with the album Burnt Offerings, which introduced the band's unique singer Matt Barlow. The previous two albums are excellent, however.
At the start of their recording career, Iron Maiden released twoalbums with Paul Di'Anno on vocals. While the opinion of these varies wildly among fans, it was the release of The Number of the Beast, combined with the introduction of Bruce Dickinson to form their most well-known lineup, that really propelled them into notoriety.
It can be said that they have done this twice. When Bruce and guitarist Adrian Smith returned in 2000, many fans considered the accompanying album "Brave New World" to be a return to form for the band.
Jaga Jazzist, according drummer Martin Hornthveth's statements in an interview, were basically messing around and still trying to find themselves when they recorded Grete Stitz and Magazine EP. It was on the album A Livingroom Hush that they hit upon the jazz-rock-electronic sound that their subsequent albums would expand on; they now consider A Livingroom Hush to be their true debut.
Country music artist Jamey Johnson's first album, The Dollar, was fairly well-received among critics, never mind that he wrote the reviled Trace Adkins song "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk". Due to Executive Meddling, The Dollar had only one chart single before he got kicked from the label. Although George Strait and Joe Nichols recorded his songs, and Trace went back to the well for another, Jamey's life unraveled and he briefly lapsed into Reclusive Artist territory. After he cleaned up, he released his next album, That Lonesome Song, independently before Mercury Records picked it up. That Lonesome Song got him a Top 10 hit with "In Color", a Grammy nomination, and high praise from critics. His next two albums, The Guitar Song and Living for a Song, have been just as lauded as That Lonesome Song, maintaining decent sales and extremely high critical acclaim despite not producing any other major hits. Keeping the theme in its literal sense, Jamey went from a neatly-trimmed beard no different than any other modern country male to a much longer and more scraggly one.
Happened with Jefferson Airplane with the release of their second album, Surrealistic Pillow, which included the hit singles "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit", a more solid set of songs and the inclusion of singer Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden.
After original guitarist Mick Abrahams was replaced with Martin Barre (and before Barre, Tony Iommi), the band moved away from the British blues exhibited on their debut, This Was, for a more eclectic, prog based sound. Further beard growth occurred when John Evan was brought in to provide piano and organ, giving the band more flexibility.
As for Mick Abrahams, he was growing his own beard when he formed Blodwyn Pig, improving on the blues formula from his previous group. Sadly, as with Blue Cheer, this wouldn't last, as Abrahams left after just two years.
Job for a Cowboy helped codify a lot of the tropes of deathcore (they were one of the earliest acts in the genre, but they weren't the first; Antagony, The Red Chord, Despised Icon, Animosity, All Shall Perish, and Deadwater Drowning were all around before them) with their first demo and the Doom EP; the former has been all but forgotten, while the latter is still one of the most famous deathcore releases of all time and made a massive splash when it was released, enough so that they got offered a contract with Metal Blade Records. They could have easily continued in that style but instead chose to completely change their sound to death metal, and the result was Genesis, which, while flawed, showed a desire to grow and mature rather than stick with a guaranteed easy hit formula. Sun Eater has proven to be another one; while Demonocracy had hints of what they would turn into, no one expected them to make another full change of sound. It was a shift to Quebec-style progressive death with some minor doom metal elements, and even their most steadfast detractors seem to have been won over.
Judas Priest's first album, Rocka Rolla, was a victim of Executive Meddling, and while they had more say, to much artistic success, with their second outing, Sad Wings of Destiny, their then label, Gull Records, did almost nothing to help promote it. When they signed with Columbia for their third album, Sin After Sin, the band was finally able to gain a foothold with their music, with some tracks ("Sinner", "Starbreaker", "Call for the Priest" and "Dissident Aggressor") pointing the way to their later, better known works.
Justin Timberlake's Futuresex/Lovesounds gave him his mainstream presence back, and extended his appeal to an older audience. The album helped him drop his image as "that guy from *NSYNC" and even was on Rolling Stone's "Best Albums of the 2000s" list.
Prog-power-something band Kamelot started off in the interesting experimental genre of abominable in the middle of the 90s, after which the departure of (I have to use this word in its loosest possible sense) "singer" Mark Vanderbilt and his replacement with Roy Khan signaled the start of their evolution into a mature power metal sound. Whether this happened on their fourth or fifth album is debatable, but with each release leaning more and more away from power metal it's possible that they're still growing a very big beard that will be complete at some point in the future. (Relatedly, said new vocalist Roy Khan appears to sport a slightly stupider beard each time an album's released. Could this be a coincidence?)
The brutal death band Katalepsy started out as just another unremarkable Russian slam act that sounded like every single other band in the scene and did absolutely nothing to stand out aside from maybe a serious over-reliance on bad movie samples. They then got an entirely new lineup, released a very well-received promo that featured a complete change of sound, and then got signed to Unique Leader Records and released Autopsychosis, which finished what that promo had started and re-established them as an incredibly unique and interesting experimental brutal death metal group.
Kelly Clarkson's first album, Thankful, was a paint-by-numbers pop album. Clarkson, determined to break free from her American Idol roots, went in a more rock-ish direction on her second album, the appropriately-titled Breakaway. While her career had plenty of ups and downs afterwards, most agree that Breakaway was the album that established her as a superstar rather than just an Idol-bred flash in the pan, and she is one of the very few Idol winners to actually become a star.
Even Kenny Chesney has admitted that he didn't really find himself artistically until he stopped copying the thousands of other "hat acts" out there; early on, he was just another clean-cut guy in a cowboy hat, dress shirt and tight jeans, and he sang in a heavy twang. He then dropped the twang and started recording more substantial songs, and gradually grew to A-list status. Since then, he's also dabbled in beachy tunes, arena rock and more introspective ballads (in that order), many of which have been marked as career evolutions in their own right.
After King Crimson's first line-up collapsed, Robert Fripp struggled to keep a new one afloat while trying to top the success of their first album, In the Court of the Crimson King. Four albums and three lineups later, Fripp finally hit pay-dirt with the heavy jazz fusion of Larks' Tongues in Aspic.
While there's no denying the quality of The Kinks' early singles such as "You Really Got Me", "All Day and All of the Night", and "A Well Respected Man", a lot of critics feel that their albums were more or less mixed bags until Ray Davies found his songwriting niche with 1966's Face to Face.
Finnish folk-metal band Korpiklaani broke out of relative obscurity as the synthesizer-heavy, predominantly folk-sounding Shaman; when frontman Jonne Järvelä's work with similar folk-metal band Finntroll inspired him to change the name, drop the synthesizers in favour of more standard Metal-style guitar work and traditional instruments such as the jouhikko, accordion, fiddle, and bodhran; while replacing the Saami-language lyrics with more accessible English and Finnish. Not only did this result in a larger audience for the band itself; but also made them instrumental, along with fellow Finns Ensiferum, Finntroll, and Moonsorrow, in the rapidly-growing popularity of the folk-metal genre as a whole.
Kraftwerk has frequently referred to their earlier work as "archaeology" and didn't find their true voice until they started work on Autobahn. By that point, they had a better idea on how to implement their trademark electronic sound and managed to score a minor hit with a heavily-edited single version of the title track.
Kylie Minogue was viewed as a stereotypical vapid pop singer until her duet with Nick Cave, "Where the Wild Roses Grow".
Led Zeppelin around the time of Led Zeppelin III. It was this point where the band scaled back a bit on plagiarizing various blues and folk artists and while that habit wouldn't go away entirely, it at least showed that they were capable of writing the majority of their own material from here on out. The album also served as a launching point for their more adventurous material that would be shown on their next three albums.
Ludwig van Beethoven did this twice. Musical historians divide his career into three profoundly different periods: Early, middle and late. Transition from early to middle coincided with the death of his teacher, Haydn (whose shadow he had been trying to escape) as well as the discovery of the deterioration of his hearing, and middle-to-late transition came about after he learned to deal with the complete loss of his hearing.
Musical historians note a similar effect in Haydn's music as when he entered his "Sturm und Drang" phase. The compositions become a lot more expressive, and minor keys are a lot more prominent.
"Live to Tell", aside of a huge Tear Jerker, is generally considered the turning point in Madonna's career as it was the song that had her go from the mall rat teenybopper critics loathed to a young adult who was capable of singing soulful ballads about serious issues of human survival and courage.
Experimental rock group Man Man specialize in music that combines off-kilter and wacky-sounding arrangements, masking intensely dark fare. (Though some songs were tilted a little more heavily towards each sound.) While their first several albums were acclaimed among both critics and fans, most agree that their 2011 album "Life Fantastic" was the time the group finally managed to find a perfect balance between bizarre arrangements and mature fare.
When Mandy Moore's career started in 1999, she was lumped in with the pop princess craze, her first couple of CDs full of bubblegum hits such as "Candy". After a few years of nearly exclusively acting, Moore leapt back into the music scene with her 2007 album "Wild Hope", a vastly different album from her earlier work and one that received a good deal of critical praise. "Amanda Leigh", released in 2009, has received even more favorable acclaim, and even Moore's acting career seems to be improving with films such as Tangled on her resume.
Matthew Sweet had a pair of little-remembered, currently out-of-print major label albums in the 80's, Inside and Earth. Both albums have their defenders, but even among them the general consensus is that the glossy, overly synthesized production just wasn't a good fit and made the albums sound dated. His third album Girlfriend is where he developed more of the Power Pop sound he's known for, and remains his most critically and commercially successful album.
The Megas' Get Equipped album, although still amazing, had a sort of amateurish feel to it. Their later songs are noticeably better made although Megatainment could be chalked up to Entertainment System collaborating with them on it
Just compare any Get Equipped song to the acoustic album or any song on the Sparked a War single.
The first two Metallica albums showed a growing musical identity almost track by track (Compare "Hit the Lights" on Kill 'Em All to "Fade to Black" on Ride the Lightning), but most fans agree that Master of Puppets solidified Metallica's legendary status.
For their first two albums The Monkees simply provided vocals to songs written by outside writers, with music by session musicians (except Michael Nesmith, who was allowed to write and produce his own songs). Then, after music coordinator Don Kirshner was fired, they got to record the albums Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd., where they played their own instruments, wrote a good portion of the songs, and demonstrated that they really had some talent. And if you look on the back cover of Headquarters, they literally grew beards as well (though they shaved them off in time for the second season of the TV show).
The Moody Blues: what the heck happened between The Magnificent Moodies and Days of Future Passed?
Denny Laine and Clint Warwick quit, and Justin Hayward and John Lodge replaced them.
Russell Morris is best known for his psychedelic 1969 hit "The Real Thing", with its "ooh mow mow mow mow" chorus, and many people won't accept him doing anything else. His 2013 album Sharkmouth is a laid back blues affair that couldn't be further from "The Real Thing". It was rejected by every Australian major label and received no commercial airplay, yet ultimately went platinum, reached number 6 on the albums chart and received overwhelmingly positive reviews from anyone who actually reviewed it.
While all The Move's output is quite good, Shazam could be seen as this, with the band going from late sixties pop to a heavier, more ambitious direction; one notable example being the successful transformation of "Cherry Blossom Clinic" from a three minute pop tune to a seven and a half minue epic with an extended acoustic coda.
My Bloody Valentine grew the beard when their second album, Loveless, propelled them from an influential shoegaze band to the influential shoegaze band.
Finnish power metal band Nightwish started off with generic power metal fantasy lyrics (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but by the album Century Child, their lyrics had shifted more towards themes of tragic romance, sin and temptation, betrayal, and personal growth and struggles, generally considered more mature than their previous work.
The beard literally being that of then new bass player and part-time vocalist Marco Hietala.
This trope can also apply to Nirvana itself. The band's first album, Bleach, was far grungier and less cohesive than their later, more critically and commercially successful albums. Bleach was rather boilerplate Grunge, much to the chagrin of Cobain himself, who struggled with his love of pop music in the face of the unforgiving and critical grunge scene. Only The Beatles inspired song, "About a Girl" provided hints towards Cobain's predilection for combining a heavy riffs and poppy songwriting.
The Offspring's first 2 albums (their self-titled and Ignition) were such generic punk rock albums that most non-fans don't even know they exist. Smash on the other hand was just that- a smash-hit success with iconic tracks such as 'Come Out and Play' and 'Self Esteem' taking them to the top of the punk scene. The band arguably did it again when their concept album Americana let them break into the mainstream, especially the phenomenally popular (and Trope-naming) "Pretty Fly for a White Guy".
Of Montreal started life as folky, hippie pop rock kind of band and kept up the style for numerous albums. It wasn't until Aldhils Arboretum that their music started to become the more danceable, funky synthpop that people know the band for today, with each album up to the present getting better and better.
Their live shows are also Growing the Beard. Around the time Sunlandtic Twins was released the most ridiculous part of the show was Kevin Barnes opening the concert wearing a wedding dress. After Skeletal Lamping came out, their show has expanded to include costumed performers, light displays, and video displays more or less on par with The Flaming Lips.
Pantera was originally a glam metal band during the 80s. Then came their 1990 album Cowboys From Hell, where they started becoming much heavier and screaming the lyrics. The four albums they made in the 1980s have largely been erased from history, never reissued and rarely mentioned. This trope is applied literally in that prior to Cowboys from Hell, the entire band except for drummer Vinnie Paul were more or less clean shaven. Around its release in 1990, the rest of the band began to sport beards, with guitarist Dimebag Darrell having his famous pink-dyed goatee by 1992.
Pearl Jam's first two albums, Ten and Vs, were popular with critics and fans, but their third album, Vitalogy, is seen as this, as it's when they started to get more experimental and cerebral.
P!nk's 2000 debut Can't Take Me Home was moderately successful but met with lukewarm reviews; critics labelled her an R&B knockoff of Fiona Apple. She got the hint, and her second album Missundaztood combined her tough-girl appeal with a more appropriate rock flavoring. This new style took off and cemented her as a superstar.
Pink Floyd admit that they spent most of their (Post-Syd) early career not knowing what they were doing. They started off covering songs, experimented with psychedelia, then Syd Barrett started fronting the group and write singles, then left, and they had to go back to doing "long stuff", as they put it. Then, during production of Meddle, they managed to get their heads around the whole process of having ideas and turning them into albums. The next album, The Dark Side of the Moon, stayed in the charts for 741 weeks, and subsequent releases and tours were correspondingly bigger. Of course, this change was not universally popular with the fans - some preferring the older, lighter psychedelic stuff - and Roger Waters soon developed mixed feelings about the larger, mainstream audiences.
Though many believe that Queen were awesome from the very beginning, it is widely accepted that their moment of glory that started them on their track to becoming legendary was their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, the album that gave us the immortal song "Bohemian Rhapsody".
It's also fairly well accepted amongst fans that the beard growing process began with the previous album Sheer Heart Attack, moving from a heavier and proggier sound to a more commercial and varied output. (And it had both "Killer Queen" and "Now I'm Here", fan favourites). Queen II is also considered a step above their début album and is a Cult Classic among fans of Progressive Rock (it's actually their highest rated studio album on Prog Archives, even above A Night at the Opera).
Radiohead definitely grew the beard when they put out their second album, The Bends. They went from a generic rock act to a promising one and, from there, one of the biggest bands in rock.
One could argue that Radiohead finally merged their years of experimentation with their old pop savvy, creating a lean, mean, music machine in In Rainbows, resulting in much beard growth.
Filipino rock band Razorback was, for the most part, an Expy of the legendary Juan Dela Cruz Band in their 1995 debut album Hebigat Sounds Vol. 1, thanks to their classic rock-influenced sound. While that was a critical and commercial success, the band would start growing some musical stubble in the second album Beggar's Moon, before growing a full-blown Beard in the third album Star, where the '70s-style backbone were still there, albeit complemented with more contemporary musical influences.
Arguably, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have grown the beard three times in their career. The first time was with The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, their first solid album after two previous ones struggled with inter-band tensions that often verged on Executive Meddling. The second time was on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, where they first united with producer Rick Rubin and broke into the mainstream. The third was 1999's Californication, which started a revival of their career after half a decade of stagnation.
Well, except for the fact that there is a pretty large contingent of fans who think Californication was the beginning of the end for the band. These fans typically believe that 2006's Stadium Arcadium was the band's final hurrah, for that was John Frusciante's last record with the band. These fans also like to ignore ''I'm with You'', released in 2011.
R.E.M.'s fourth full-length album, Lifes Rich Pageant. As music writer Garry Mulholland puts it in This is Uncool: "the moment Michael Stipe stopped mumbling gibberish into his fringe over tinny old Byrds riffs". A bit harsh perhaps, but undoubtedly the record that made them mainstream.
The Rolling Stones were writing songs as early as their first album, though it wasn't until the release of their 1965 single "The Last Time", that the Jagger/Richards songwriting machine went into full swing, gradually shifting their material from covers to originals.
And they grew a second beard in the late 60s. They did this after the polarizing Their Satanic Majesties Request. With Beggars Banquet they returned more to their roots and the beard really grew out when Mick Taylor joined the band for their next album, Let It Bleed, which had a heavier and bluesier sound and really took away the label as "Beatles-ripoffs". Together with the popular follow up Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St. these four albums are generally regarded as their high point in their discography.
The Runaways, despite the success of their single "Cherry Bomb", were commonly derided as merely a gimmick band, and their amateurish early performances did little to help their image. Internal tensions and Kim Fowley's poor management prevented them from ever really growing their metaphorical beard. However, members Joan Jett and Lita Ford went on to grow their own beards with highly successful solo careers. Also of note, vocalist Micki Steele was briefly a member before going on to major mainstream success with The Bangles.
The three founding members of Rush were Jeff Jones, Alex Lifeson and John Rutsey. Jones was quickly replaced by Geddy Lee. They were a decent if generic rock band with some definite promise. Then Rutsey left the band because he could not handle the rigors of the touring schedule. The next album, Fly by Night introduced the new drummer Neil Peart. Not only is he pretty much the consummate rock drummer, but he wrote the band's lyrics. Goodbye cutesy songs like "I Need Some Love", hello prog rock history. Rush became famous for their concept albums, evolutionary style and incredibly deep lyrics. They continued the beard-growing process with the next few albums after Peart joined, with 2112 often being considered their first true classic.
Sawyer Brown is largely thought to have improved in sound around the release of Cafe on the Corner in 1992. The album was their first to feature songs written and produced by Mac McAnally, who provided them with tight production, stellar songwriting (including such signature songs as the tender ballad "All These Years" and the thoughtful "Cafe on the Corner"), and overall improved them from the pink tennis shoe-wearing pop-rock wannabes they were in The '80s.
Sevendust's first album featured raw production, more simple melodies, more aggressive vocals, and an overall much different sound. With Home, they experimented with more melodies, but still maintained the simple aggression of their debut. It wasn't until the band's third album, Animosity, when they found their signature melodic sound.
Silverchair, with "Diorama", once they grew up, stopped whining, and brought in Van Dyke Parks.
Silverchair's problem was that the band's musical and lyrical content had become hijacked by the skeletons in its lead singer's closet. The CD booklet for "Neon Ballroom" had an upbeat front cover which concealed some extremely disturbing imagery, and the themes in the songs (and some of the filmclips) were worse.
Simple Minds did this with Empires and Dance, where the band's music became more Kraftwerk influenced and Jim Kerr took on a more militant vocal style. The band also replaced the arpeggiated organ sound featured on their first two albums with more sparse synths, and focused more on the interplay between bass and drums. The previous album's Premonition shows an early example of this. The band got more progressive for Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call and slightly poppier for New Gold Dream.
Most fans of the band Skillet would like to forget that their first few albums existed, given their garage-quality recording and general lack of creativity. After the band underwent some substantial lineup changes (only one original member is still in the band), experimented with new styles and sounds, and signed to a bigger label, fans generally consider the album Comatose to be when they grew the beard. Some stubble may have been visible on their previous album Collide, and some would say the beard hadn't fully grown in until their next album, Comatose, which is when they started touring with the likes of Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin and getting significant radio airtime. Still other fans feel that the band grew its beard with Collide, and that the changes that came with Comatose signified the band beginning to Jump the Shark.
Others believe their earlier material to be artistically superior, with more idiosyncratic sounds and songwriting, whereas Comatose and, to a greater extent, Awake being more formulaic and commercialized represent a Dork Age for the band (touring with critically derided acts such as Papa Roach and aforementioned Three Days Grace doesn't help a band's image much, either). As a general rule, fans will most likely consider Invincible to be their official Beard-Growing album, with it, Alien Youth and/or Collide encompassing the pinnacle of the band's career.
Metal band Slipknot's first two albums were well-received by critics, but they were widely criticized by heavy metal fans for their generic sound and almost complete lack of creativity. Even today, the band is one of the most hated in their genre. It seems that the band heard this, because it took them four long years to make their next album, Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses), which featured much better songwriting, a heavier sound, and more polished production. If you pay no attention to the distinct voice of Corey Taylor, you would probably question if it was the same band. The album was essentially raw modern heavy metal that changed the way critics looked at the band forever. Even some of the people that hated the band began to give them a chance. Their next album, All Hope Is Gone, continued the trend, and .5: The Gray Chapter, despite being made without any involvement from original members Paul Gray and Joey Jordison note The former having died a few years prior, and the latter leaving due to a debilitating spinal disease that rendered him unable to play, has also received praise.
Slint's debut album, Tweez, was regarded as an okay if forgettable Post-Hardcore output. They then followed this up with Spiderland, considered one of the greatest albums of all time.
While they were always good, many fans agree Steely Dan grew the beard with The Royal Scam, when their music became less commercial and more experimental, not to mention a lot more sardonic. Pretzel Logic is also a popular choice.
Katy Lied is considered this by many fans because it has a notably laid back sound to it that the band would make their trademark later on.
Stevie Wonder around the time of Music of My Mind. While he was already a critically hailed artist in the late 1960s, he felt constrained by the business aspects of Motown. When it came time to renew his contract, Wonder refused unless he was given free artistic control. Eventually, Motown gave in and Wonder released a series of albums in the mid 1970s that rank among the best the soul genre has to offer.
While Stone Temple Pilots were never critical darlings, it was generally accepted that their second album, Purple, showed a more mature and experimental sound than their debut album Core, which was blasted as a derivative ripoff of grunge bands such as Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam.
UK teenage girl group The Sugababes found some critical acclaim but no massive commercial success with their 2000 debut album, and swiftly lost one of their three members to intra-band conflicts before being dropped by their record label. Regrouping with a new third singer and some cast-iron pop tunes, their Tubeway Army-sampling 2002 cover of Freak Like Me was very well received by critics and fans — they would become a byword for classy, slightly edgy pop for the next few years — and gave them the first of what was to total six Number One singles. Alas the beard would gradually fall out after they sequentially replaced both the other two original singers as well by 2010, leaving the final incarnation of the act without any of its founding members.
Sugarland's first album, Twice the Speed of Life, was fairly well-received by music critics, if nothing groundbreaking, and it produced three Top 10 hits. After Kristen Hall left over Creative Differences, the group was reduced to a duo composed of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. Their first release as a duo, "Want To," became their first #1 hit, and their two duo albums (Enjoy the Ride and Love on the Inside) have been met with even stronger critical acclaim, including a Grammy and several Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association awards. These albums found them taking a comparatively more stripped-down approach, with some tracks being more experimental than most mainstream country music. However, 2010's The Incredible Machine proved to be a Broken Base; critics either loved it as much as the last two for its continued experimentation, or thought it was an incoherent mess.
Supertramp had some growing pains when their first two albums hadn't sold very well, and members that were not Rick Davies or Roger Hodgson left the band during the early-70's between albums. It wouldn't be until their third album, Crime of the Century to become a major critical and commercial success for the band that led to their success for the '70s and '80s.
Early-'90s UK manufactured boy band par excellence Take That are actually better now that they have reformed in their thirties after a decade's absence than they ever were before their 1996 split. Lead singer/songwriter Gary Barlow's post-reformation Perma-Stubble is probably no coincidence.
Talk Talk started out as a typical cheesy, New Wave-y'80sSynth-Pop band shamelessly ripping off Duran Duran. They grew dramatically over their careers, getting more experimental, culminating in their fantastic final album Laughing Stock, which pioneered the genre of post-rock and really showed off what they could do. Unfortunately, they broke up immediately afterwards...
Tears for Fears' first album, The Hurting, was well-received, but their second album, Songs from the Big Chair, received lots of favorable reviews, is their best-selling album to date, and features three of their most popular songs, those being "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Shout", and "Head Over Heels", with the former two songs being their most well-known and their signature songs.
Thin Lizzy were always a cut above their Irish rock contemporaries, but even with the presence of a hit single (1972's "Whiskey in the Jar") and a solid album (1973's Vagabonds of the Western World) the band never found its feet until its fifth album (1975's Fighting), by which time it had exchanged its single guitar player Eric Bell and its wishy-washy folk-rock quality for dual lead guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham and a hard rock ethos. Their very next album was Jailbreak, best known for the title track and "The Boys Are Back in Town", beginning a streak of five (or possibly eight, depending on whether you like the Snowy White/John Sykes era) high quality albums that brought them fame and fortune.
TNT started off as a generic Hard Rock outfit with 1st singer Dag Ingebrigtsen but grew into a Hair Metal outfit with Progressive Rock tinges around the time Tell No Tales was released with 2nd singer Tony Harnell.
Rick Trevino, who started off in the mid-90s as an average purveyor of generic honky-tonk country, distinguished only by his Mexican heritage. But by Learning as You Go in 1996, he started to move onto slightly more challenging material. The growth is witnessed by reviews of his singles in Billboard: his first Top 40 hit, "Honky Tonk Crowd", and his Top 10 hits "She Can't Say I Didn't Cry" and "Bobbie Ann Mason", were all panned, but the first three singles from Learning as You Go all got positive reviews. The growth only furthered by 2003's In My Dreams, which had Trevino working with Raul Malo of The Mavericks (who is Cuban) and using both men's Latin music influences to create what was considered Trevino's best record to date. Also by this point, Trevino had gone from clean-shaven to sporting a goatee.
Tom Waits was always pretty good, but Small Change was the album that convinced him that he would be doing this professionally for the rest of his life.
Arguably so. However, it was Swordfishtrombones, his first album after marrying Kathleen Brennan, that began his massive shift from classy crooner to the legendary rambling, storytelling, weirdo king he is now. And all the better for it.
Tool had always had a distinct sound. Their first official release was the EP Opiate in 1992. It was a heavy, rhythm-oriented hard-rock album that gave us the first taste of Tool's heavy-bass sound. Their second album (and first full-length), Undertow, was released in 1996. It was still bass-heavy hard rock, but not quite as heavy, and with a more melody-oriented tone with longer songs on average. By Ænima, they shifted full-blown in to a very distinct, melody-oriented hard rock band. They became more progressive rock oriented with longer songs. Their next three releases (Salival, Lateralus and 10,000 Days) were an even further shift, and those three albums sound most similar to each other. While the post-Ænima albums represent their current sound, the album itself is probably where the band had fully grown their beard out.
Many UFO fans consider their shift from space rock to hard rock in their third album, Phenomenon, to be their beard-growing moment, thanks in part to the addition of guitarist Michael Schenker and the presence of their first major concert staples, "Doctor Doctor" and "Rock Bottom".
Van Der Graaf Generator's first album, The Aerosol Grey Machine, was more or less a Peter Hammill solo album that was later given the band moniker to get out of their contract with Mercury Records. When they signed to Charisma for The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, it gave the band more room to breathe, expanding upon the darker concepts in their songs. It also introduced saxophonist/flautist David Jackson, giving the band a jazzier flavor. The band continued the beard-growing process with their next two releases, culminating in their two best-regarded albums, Pawn Hearts and Godbluff.
Belgian indie band Vive la Fête released three or so albums which mostly consisted of swing music and mellow electronica. Then came their 2003 album Nuit Blanche, which managed to be not only Darker and Edgier but all the more fun because of it.
Beginning as an R&B "Mod" band, then doing Power Pop, The Who grew the beard with the recording and release of Tommy. This isn't to say that they didn't have great moments before, but that's when things really started to click and they became popular in the States.
Some would argue this began with their previous album, The Who Sell Out.
Willie Nelson was a clean-shaven, family-friendly country singer for his first decade and a half in Nashville. He both literally and figuratively grew his beard when he switched to the "outlaw country" that most people know him for, approximately around the time he recorded "Shotgun Willie".
The Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation started out with epic-sounding music, a great singer, and unremarkable fantasy-themed lyrics, but after their album Mother Earth, which had two noteworthy songs but was otherwise forgotten, their next albums The Silent Force and The Heart of Everything show a remarkable jump in quality of lyrics and a much more deep and mature sound in general.
Most people consider Yeasayer's album Odd Blood to be a notable jump in quality and production compared to All Hour Cymbals. The band experimented a lot more with the former to diverge from the latter's more rock-esque sound.
Yes began growing one when guitarist Steve Howe joined in time for their third album (The Yes Album), where his presence led the band to delve further into longer compositions such as "Yours Is No Disgrace" and "Starship Trooper". It continued into sessions for the fourth album (Fragile), with Hammond organ addict Tony Kaye being replaced by classically-trained synthesizer wizard Rick Wakeman, who was also experienced in longer compositions. It was then topped off by a change of image directed by their record company, abandoning off-the-wall graphics and gurning mug shots in favour of a more chilled and mature presentation, including gatefold sleeves, printed lyrics, and pictures of their homes, families and instrument collections. The band's original sleeve concept for Fragile (a broken china plate with the title on) was rejected, and they were introduced to artist/designer Roger Dean, who designed the iconic "fragile planet" sleeve along with their logo and many of their subsequent album sleeves and stage sets. The album after Fragile, Close to the Edge, is the highest rated album on Prog Archives, and has been for years).
ZZ Top in the 80's, who also had grown literal beards by then. Except for their drummer... Frank Beard.