Breaking guitars (or any other instrument). In the 1960's, breaking your instruments on stage was seen as the epitome of badassness, rebellion, and edginess. Today, breaking guitars is so overdone it's a rock n roll cliche, not to mention very expensive and a great way to piss off your endorsers.
There is an exception for Yoshiki Hayashi and his drum breaks, both because his actions actually weren't cliche in Japan when he first started doing it, and because he managed to successfully invoke the Rule of Cool enough that it's actually a part of his show.
The "shock" factor in older music tends to suffer from this a lot as time goes on. For instance, Screamin Jay Hawkins (who would be one of the biggest sources of inspiration for Alice Cooper, who in turn was the source of inspiration for just about everyone else) terrified people with his stage performances and the tone of his music. Nowadays, the most likely reaction from footage of Jay strutting around in a witch doctor get-up is laughter. This is largely from an audience that has been so "shocked" over the years that many musicians say that the only way anyone these days could be genuinely shocked is if the authorities let someone commit suicide on-stage.
Ludwig van Beethoven: The Mark Steel Lectures profile of Beethoven focused on this effect since his work is so old that it can't help but be merely another part of the classical repertoire. Beethoven was one of the first composers to write autobiographical tunes, one of the first to be independent of royal patronage, was unprecedentedly loud, and in behavior was the spiritual ancestor of the moody modern rock star. Mark imagined the same thing happening to today's pop music: (In an affected very posh BBC Radio 3 accent) "It's fascinating to note how the composer Mr. 50 Cent, blends the pianoforte with lyrics as they begin: "I'm a cop killa, gonna shoot you up the ass." And also notes how quickly the effect takes hold. Even now the kids can't really understand what was so different about punk rockers saying they were pretty 'vacant'.
People still find Beethoven's music earth-shattering, mind you; it's just that later stuff went even farther in some of the directions he started.
This trope turns up all over classical music. Even in the above paragraph it's taken for granted that the classical repertoire is a fixed thing, but there was a time when there wasn't a 'classical repertoire'. These days we assume that classical music is all symphonies and string quartets and piano sonatas but they haven't been there forever: for example, Joseph Haydn took a largely unpopular musical form called the sinfonia and turned it into the symphony as we know it. He ended up writing 104 of them, all of which are in the repertoire and some of which are amazingly inventive, entertaining and moving. As if that weren't enough, he did the same thing to the string quartet. Before Haydn: scattered pieces of music written for ensembles of string players. After Haydn: every composer has to at least attempt a string quartet in order to get taken seriously. The freshness and inventiveness of Haydn's music is only obvious when you listen to what people were writing immediately before him.
And it doesn`t stop there. When listening to the Kyrie movement from the D minor requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, have in mind he snatched the main theme from Händel`s "Messiah", and the musical style from Antonio Vivaldi. To make it worse, Bach made a fugue on the same theme. Vivaldi was reckoned quite innovative in his day, but he stole a chunk of musical tropes from Giovanni Gabrieli, present in Venice even hundred years before his time. And so on...
Slightly odd example with Henry Purcell's chamber music for strings. His trio sonatas are in the most up-to-date style of his time (the tonal, Italian style of Corelli), but since that style became SO universal soon after his death, modern listeners will hear them as 'conventional'. His viol fantasias, on the other hand, are in the spicy, contrapuntal style popular in England a generation earlier (think Gibbons, Lawes and such), and since it's a style with which modern audience are less familiar, they sound shockingly innovative. Completely the reverse of how Purcell's contemporaries would have reacted to the music.
Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss were loathed in their lifetime. Many reviews and newspaper cartoons depict them als makers of cacophonic noise that nobody would ever listen to. If you hear their music today you don't get why it sounds that much different from other easy listening classical music.
Richard Wagner is one of the best examples of this in classical music/opera. There was nothing like what he was doing at the time. He pushed at the boundaries of tonality in a way no composer had done before; he invented the leitmotif (basically, a "theme song" for a character, object or concept), the staple of just about every film score ever; his writings about the Gesamtkunstwerk (the "total art work" that combined music and drama) had a huge influence on the development of not only opera but also musical theater. But these days, with over a century of increasingly weirder and more boundary-pushing work inbetween, Wagner's work sounds increasingly hackneyed and overwraught. Plus, pretty much every stereotype of opera in general - from fat ladies in horned helmets (though they were winged in the original), to the idea of opera as super-complex and daunting (previously, opera was divided into either lighthearted rom-coms or hammy melodrama) - comes largely from his work.
Opera: During the 18th, 19th and early 20th century opera music was extremely popular with people of all ages and all layers of the population. Even regular people went to visit their local opera house and enjoyed the stories and music. Today opera is mostly associated with the elite and many people think its either too posh or too ridiculous to enjoy. In fact, whenever opera singers like the Three Tenors try to bring opera back to the common people they are criticized for being "commercial" and relying too much on the well known overtures, choruses and arias that everybody knows.
When opera was first emerging in the early 17th century, at the beginning of the Baroque period, recitative was revolutionary for being able translate human speech (and human emotion) naturally into music. By the end of the Baroque period, recitative was mainly used to quickly cover large blocks of dialogue between arias. Operas like Monteverdi's L'Orfeo can sound odd to the modern ear because they're from the brief period before recitative became so common it was relegated to getting the boring stuff out of the way.
While accounts about how Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring caused riots at its premiere are probably exaggerated, it was still a very bold composition for its time. Today, it may be a little hard for some to understand why it was once considered so controversial, as it influenced the score of countless action/thriller movies, not to mention we've been used to much more aggressive music since. It says a lot that only twenty years after its recording it was already seen as one of the most groundbreaking pieces of music in history and even a Standard Snippet added to the Voyager Golden Record sent in space in 1977.
Jazz: At the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th jazz was seen as sleazy music played in nightclubs, brothels and bars to amuse people you wouldn't want to be associated with. It was considered radical and subversive and many of the pioneers of the genre managed to push the limits of what their instruments could do farther than it was thought possible. Now, the genre as a whole is often overlooked as "old people's music," and the once-groundbreaking work of the likes of Louis Armstrong is basic stuff that every jazz student learns. (Student? They'd never teach this stuff, as recently as The '70s!)
Louis Armstrong in particular is an interesting example because his early work with the "Hot Five" and "Hot Seven" groups is even seen by some serious jazz fans as cliché, old-fashioned, cheesy, when in fact it completely revolutionized the way jazz musicians played. All his techniques have been copied by later players, and so you can't really appreciate what is so great about his solos until you compare them to those of other trumpet and cornet players of the '20s.
To be fair, some time between the 1940s and the 1950s, jazz fans and musicians started disagreeing about what kinds of jazz were acceptable and what kinds weren't, and by the late 50s the music had splintered into people who like traditional jazz, people who like swing, people who like bop, people who like free jazz, etc. In the 60s and 70s people developed a method for teaching jazz which concentrated on the advanced jazz of the late 50s and 60s, paying lipservice to what had gone before but pretty much ignoring anything that came later. In short, jazz started to behave like classical music, which hasn't helped its reputation for freshness and innovation. Nowadays jazz is seen as classy, elegant and artistic music taught in schools and universities. It may amaze people that this music was once considered "daring".
Jaco Pastorius' signature fretless bass sound, imbued with warmth and charisma, was profoundly provocative when it emerged in the 70s, fuelling Weather Report's classic period and Joni Mitchell's sound in the latter half of that decade. It soon became imitated by the smooth jazz scene and is considered trite, out of his hands.
Later on, Steve DiGiorgio and Sean Malone popularized its use within a Progressive Metal context, but the same thing is beginning to happen there, with fretless bass gaining more and more of a reputation for indulgent, aimless noodling with the same recycled tone. The original adopters and a few other high-profile players (Dominic Lapointe and Jeroen Paul Thesseling, in particular) are still widely respected, but newer listeners used to the work of their many imitators will probably have no idea that, like in jazz, fretless bass in a metal context was once fresh and exciting.
Similarly to Jaco's fretless bass sound, guitarist Wes Montgomery's then-radical use of octaves on an L5 archtop, becoming a trademark with him and an influence on Jimi Hendrix, became something of a cliche in jazz guitar playing and arguably wore itself out as well in the smooth jazz scene.
Rock 'n' Roll
Rock 'n' Roll: During the 1950s artists and bands like Bill Haley and His Comets, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry were considered dangerous music that would corrupt the youth. Today, when you listen to most of this 1950s rock 'n' roll stuff it all sounds very innocent and sometimes not that much wilder than a regular jazz big band. Take for instance Bill Haley's music: you can hear friggin' trumpets playing!
1950's Rock'n'roll sounds quite weird today, as it's at the same time too fast and upbeat to be soft rock (or blues), but too clean and subdued to be hard rock. Also, it may be difficult to realize what was so controversial about it.
Elvis Presley: During the 1950s he was considered to be the coolest, sexiest and baddest rock star in existence. The sideburns, the sneer, and especially the swiveling hips were so fresh and provocative that one Ed Sullivan Show appearance only showed him from the waist up because his leg movements were considered to be too risqué for network TV. Parents feared he would corrupt the youth of America! Flash forward a few decades and Elvis has become nothing more than a national American icon, one too square to be hip. His once sexy dancing now looks innocent when compared to what music video-era artists get away with, and his music comes off as tame love ballads or corny easy listening sing-a-long songs compared to the aggressive electric guitar gods of later decades. As well, younger audiences associate Elvis mostly with the obese and campy Las Vegas clown who looked like a caricature of himself, so it's hard for them to imagine how suave and cool he once was.
The Beatles: Back in the early 1960s, their haircuts were actually seen as subversive. Men with long hair were simply seen as rebellious. Looking back on it now the hair length doesn't even seem that outrageously long.
The Beatles pioneered and popularized so many of the recording and musical techniques commonly heard in rock and pop music today that it can be hard for newcomers to truly appreciate how ground-breaking they actually were. In particular, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band can suffer from this. (It was particularly impressive for being recorded with only 4 tracks. In today's digital world, where everything can be done on a computer, it doesn't seem as impressive to most people.)
The Beatles do, for the most part, avert this trope - while people may not always recognize today how groundbreaking they are, they continue to be one of the most popular and beloved bands of all time; their albums continue to sell 50+ years after they were originally released. Every generation of teenagers seems to re-discover The Beatles (the 1Greatest Hits Album, Across the Universe, the Beatles edition of Rock Band, etc.). And it's rare to find anyone who actually denies The Beatles' influence — a lot of the Hype Backlash will still admit The Beatles were innovative, just that they weren't the only ones pioneering those things and don't like how they're often discussed as though they were.
Their films A Hard Day's Night, Help!, and (to a lesser degree) Magical Mystery Tour went a long way towards codifying a lot of the visual techniques and tropes of Music Videos that dominated The '80s. (They and the director of the first two films, Richard Lester, were jointly given one of the first MTV Video Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Awards for this reason, way back in 1984.)
The Rolling Stones: In the 1960s the Beatles won the charm and trust of parents, because they had a lovable image. But The Stones frightened them! They were basically the first band with a "bad boy" image. Riots broke out during their concerts, they wore their hair longer than the Beatles, and they were the first to be arrested for offenses like marijuana possession. For people who basically know them as a bunch of wrinkled faced seniors, this may be hard to imagine.
The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds used groundbreaking techniques that are so common now listeners unfamiliar with their history might not recognize how revolutionary the album is.
The Fugs pretty much invented Alternative Rock by openly singing about subjects that were considered very risqué or taboo back in the 1960s: sex, drugs and politics. The F.B.I. even spied upon them because they thought they were some kind of revolutionaries planning to overthrow the government. When one listens to their music today one may find their songs nothing special at all. A song like "Boobs A Lot", from The Fugs First Album, sounds like something any teenage rock band nowadays would write. And openly glorifying drugs is so common in rock music that people hardly pay attention to it anymore. What still remains powerful are their political songs, though a lot of is dated because it was very direct in its targets. Compared to all the alternative rock bands they would inspire they have become somewhat obscure.
The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat got terrible reviews at the time. People felt the music was too noisy and experimental, and the outrageous lyrics about heroin, male prostitution, transvestism, and S&M didn't help. Nowadays they actually sound quite pleasant; even the lyrics aren't that explicit (devoid of expletives as they are).
The Who. At the time, the "sloppy" drumming by Keith Moon was revolutionary. Now it's a standard part of the rock landscape.
Fans of The Who think Keith Moon invented the stereotype of the "wild and crazy drummer," when in reality it started much earlier with jazz drummers, particularly Gene Krupa. It was, however, certainly a new thing in rock and pop music of the time, to approach the drum kit with ferocity and athleticism, and to use double-bass drums and more than five or six-piece drum kits and multiple cymbals on a pop or rock record. Even a drummer with the same energy like John Bonham shows more clear control and finesse.
The Kinks. Known in America mostly for "You Really Got Me" and "Lola", at the time they were huge in the UK, pioneering not only guitar hooks, but intelligent songwriting that would eventually lead to Britpop. (Not to mention their riff for "Picture Book" getting ripped-off by Green Day.) But the fact that they were banned from the Americas for most of the 1960's obscured this.
Jimi Hendrix. He's been copied by almost every rock guitar player who followed ("There are two kinds of guitar players: those who'll admit to be influenced by Hendrix, and liars").
Eric Clapton. Although he was never as experimental as his contemporary Jimi Hendrix, Clapton was a major influence on all rock after 1966. He almost single-handedly resurrected the Gibson Les Paul, which remains one of the most ubiquitous guitar designs today. Not only that, he created (or popularized) rock guitar as we know it. His playing during this era inspired the "Clapton is God" graffiti. Hendrix himself was an admirer. Today, although he's still a skilled guitarist, Clapton is mostly known for the light pop he recorded from The '70s onward. His watered-down acoustic version of "Layla" is arguably more familiar to younger generations than the original (and with some justice, as it was presented in a much more pop-friendly and thus memorable format). He influenced just as many guitarists as Hendrix (usually both are cited), so his playing is often considered tired and clichéd. But he used to be kind of cool.
Similarly, Eddie Van Halen. In his day, he was the rock guitarist. Every rock guitarist wanted to be him, both in playing style and in tone; the "brown sound" (a common colloquialism for his guitar tone) was the tone that everyone wanted, and his playing style set the stage for shred guitar (which was later expanded upon by the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen and his peers). His technique wasn't actually new; tapping had been around since at least the 1950s, while a lot of the foundations for shred guitar had been established by the likes of Uli Jon Roth, Ritchie Blackmore, Alex Lifeson, Steve Hackett, Jan Akkerman, Al Di Meola, and various others, he was the first to take what they were doing and create what could be called "guitar pyrotechnics" out of it. While he has probably shaped rock guitar more than anyone not named Jimi Hendrix, there have been so many other guitarists who have outdone him technically and creatively since then that newer listeners will probably wonder just what about him is such a big deal.
"Funk" effects in rock music (the "wah-wah" pedal, etc.). When these first appeared in the late '60s in works by bands like Cream, they sounded dangerous and even diabolical. But then, in the '70s, so many TV shows began to use mild funk flourishes in their theme songs that today a style that once offended so many people just sounds ridiculous. This was partially fixed in the early '80s, when (if only in that one instance) Michael Jackson's Thriller managed to make funk sound badass again.
Sixties music in general is a real mixed bag. It's so often spoken of as the decade of rebellious music, shifting the focus of pop music permanently to hard rock and scandalizing parents who had been able to at least tolerate '50s rock, but were thoroughly repulsed by the hippie stuff. Truth be told, though, the transformative power of that decade's music has been somewhat exaggerated. So many '60s rock bands now sound positively quaint, especially compared to similarly paradigm-shifting bands of the '70s and '80s. Buffalo Springfield and Creedence Clearwater Revival are now practically "good-old-boy" music, and it's hard to appreciate how iconoclastic "country-rock" was considered at the time; even Ricky Nelson was abandoned by many of his fans when he started playing country-style. Jefferson Airplane, meanwhile, no longer sounds quite so out there: songs like "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love", ostensibly considered the epitome of "psychedelic" music, sound like nothing more than really weird, distorted rockabilly. There are some exceptions: The Doors will always sound groundbreaking and (to a certain extent) timeless.
Progressive Rock: A lot of it today sounds pretentious, overly long and even corny. But back in the 1970s it was actually praised for doing something more artistic and daring with often shallow and simplistic rock songs.
Memphis power pop band Big Star's debut album #1 Record drew inspiration from The Beatles and The Kinks. It now sounds incredibly conventional but was astonishing around its 1972 release.
Averted by David Bowie. Part of it is that he changed both his sound and his visual approach to performances of same so often that by the time a given approach was being imitated, he'd usually already moved on. Moreover, way too many of the artists he's influenced tend to copy his flash but not his substance — not to mention lack the unique charisma and strong Creator Thumbprint that ground his body of work. His 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) was hyped with the Tagline "Often copied — never equalled" for this reason.
Oasis . Today they might seem like just another mainstream British rock band, but were fairly revolutionary when they first came out. They drew their influence from the North's indie scene and stood out amongst their edgier contemporaries like Suede. People today have heard so much droning, anthemic pop-rock from bands like Coldplay that they've lost perspective on the originality of Oasis.
Radiohead. Their albums The Bends and OK Computer (along with their breakout hit "Creep") were so innovative that the band's combination of introspective darkness and falsetto vocals were promptly ripped off by massive numbers of alternative rock musicians, most of which went on to massive mainstream success greater than Radiohead had ever had at the time. Frustration with this led to the band's Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly album, Kid A The genre switch worked, and they've been quite successful and critically acclaimed since.
Dire Straits' music video for "Money for Nothing" from Brothers in Arms featured some of the first ever CGI animation. It seems incredibly primitive today, but it was considered groundbreaking in 1985.
Gang of Four's trademark sound to some extent: Starting around the Turn of the Millennium, a lot of post-punk/New Wave-influenced bands like Franz Ferdinand and Maxïmo Park started using minimalist, choppy guitar riffs and stiff but funk-influenced rhythms in a similar manner. This actually led to a resurgence of interest in Gang Of Four (and eventually, a partial reunion), but it also can make their debut album Entertainment! seem less innovative than it was at the time. The key thing that still sets Gang Of Four apart is that these newer bands usually lack their overtly political lyrics and occasionally really harsh guitar feedback.
U2 When they first arrived, they were praised not only for being the first Irish band to hit it very big abroad, but also for the pure defiance in their lyrics. To have a group from Dublin speak so convincingly about issues that affected them was unheard of. Their music was like nothing else around. Years later They have become better known for Bono's preacherman antics while their political lyrics seem tame compared to bands like Rage Against the Machine.
The sound of U2, and in particular the guitar work of The Edge, eschewing solos and rock guitar conventions for an atmospheric/rhythmic, textural, chiming approach relying heaving on delay and effects was equally influential, but it's hard not to find an Edge-infuenced guitarist in a rock band (or generally U2-inspired group) since at least The '90s.
The 2001 album Is This It by The Strokes. In an era where popular music was dominated mostly by Teen Pop and Nu Metal, the album was seen as a major breath of fresh air: an authentic indie rock record with enough pop sensibilities for mainstream viability. In its wake, there was a gradual shift in the popular music landscape, with indie bands like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and The Killers achieving at-the-time unheard of levels of success. Today, with low-fi/indie being the norm in rock, it might be hard for new listeners to understand what was so special about Is This It.
Barbra Streisand, Cher, Madonna, ...three leading ladies of the music industry, almost all possessing huge gay followings, who also spent a fair bit of time doing things in the movie biz. Hard to believe they're some of the most innovative girls around, considering (at least in Madonna's case) every blonde pop singer from the nineties onward is compared to them or called their successor.
On that note, Lady Gaga appears to have fallen victim to this trope. When her debut album The Fame was released in 2008, she was seen as a renaissance for dance music, taking the blueprint established by Madonna and updating it for the new millennium while still having her own unique style. Today, with so many dance pop artists having risen to (pun not intended) fame in the wake of its success, Lady Gaga has become a bit of punch line among music fans. Her stage antics and constant media controversy certainly don't help matters.
Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" has come to be associated so much with American pride that it's easy to forget that, at the time it was written, it was essentially a Protest Song. Guthrie originally wrote it as a Take That! to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" note The revised version of "God Bless America" was released just two years before "This Land is Your Land" was, responding to the song's nationalist undertones by singing about the importance of America's diversity and sense of inclusiveness. Hell, some early versions of the song are overtly political in nature—and a few of them even mention Guthrie's support of the Communist Party.
Bob Dylan. In the documentary No Direction Home, Dave Van Ronk tells a story about "House of the Rising Sun," which Dylan recorded on his (self-titled) debut album. The version he recorded was arranged by Van Ronk and Dylan had learned it from hearing him perform it live. After Dylan recorded it, so many people accused Van Ronk of ripping it off from him that he finally stopped performing it. Later, when the Animals covered Dylan's version the song, the same thing happened to him.
And Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Roy Acuff had recorded the song back in the 1940s.
Conway Twitty. Now seen as a linchpin of classic country, he was never part of the Grand Ole Opry in part due to his "rock and roll sound".
Billy Ray Cyrus became popular in 1992, at a time when there was a trend toward "traditional country", and his very rock- and pop-influenced "crossover country" style (complete with the ubiquitous novelty hit "Achy Breaky Heart") and mulleted, musclebound, hip-wiggling pretty-boy stage presence was both very uncommon in the genre, and polarized many country purists who saw him as a Scrappy. His success, however, brought a younger, hipper, more rock-influenced audience to country music, and helped to give the genre more mainstream attention and airplay. You can see more exaggerated influences in stars like Blake Shelton or Kenny Chesney topping the charts, but Billy is still not acknowledged, and his daughter is now more well-known than he is.
Faith Hill. When she hit it big in late 1999-early 2000 with the massive crossover hit "Breathe", every single female act in the genre was cutting Power Ballads with a similar sound and similar incentive to cross over. These attempts usually were met with failure (except for Martina McBride getting a few huge crossover hits — albeit in 2004, after the craze died down), and what's more, Faith ended up hoist by her own petard when country radio shunned her very heavily pop-influenced Cry album.
George Strait. When he first hit the charts in 1981, he was markedly more country than his peers, most of whom were following the pop crossovers of acts such as Alabama, Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers. The rise of similarly "neotraditionalist" acts like Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and Clint Black in the late 1980s-early 1990s followed in George's footsteps. While many of his contemporaries have faded, George has somehow managed to keep his A-list status with minimal change to his sound, sometimes making it quite hard to remember just how much of a pioneer he is. There was also Strait's Fountain of Expies nature, leading to the "hat act" boom of the 90s — a bunch of young up-and-comers looking for a hit dressed in jeans, pressed shirts, and cowboy hats just like him, and sang safe, radio-friendly honky-tonk in a slight twang, all trying to be just like Strait. Over time, "hat act" became a derogatory term in Nashville, and the tide of "hat acts" stopped. Even Kenny Chesney was a "hat act" early in his career before evolving into his own sound.
Gretchen Wilson seemed to spark not one, but two examples of this: besides being a rock-influenced creation of John Rich (one half of the gonzo, rock-influenced Big & Rich), her Signature Song "Redneck Woman" sparked a wave of spunky women-with-attitude types and anthemic songs about southern pride. The former trope has died down considerably thanks in part to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood's death grip on the genre, but the latter is still prevalent — albeit moreso with male artists.
Johnny Cash and other acoustic music in general gets this treatment these days. Most teenagers think singers like Johnny Cash are boring. In his day, Cash was shocking to the Moral Guardians. These days, the acoustic guitar seen as a starting point for learning the guitar. It's hard to imagine what music would be like today without the instrument.
R&B, Soul, Funk
Ray Charles' fusion of R&B and Gospel vocal stylings in the 1950s (at a time when most R&B singers had more of a smoother show tunes vibe, a la Nat King Cole) was revolutionary and ground-breaking — and even controversial, as many black people saw such music as blasphemous. The album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music was a huge commercial risk because it combined soul and country; many thought it would fail. But it actually managed to reach both audiences and become a huge seller. Sixty years later... Charles' sound sounds bog standard, if catchy.
The song "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by The Shirelles. Today, the song's simplistic and rather sappy lyrics don't seem like anything special. However, in 1960, both the song and group were actually very controversial. The reason why is because, until then, the idea of an all female singing group was almost unheard of in popular music (usually, musical groups were fronted by males, with women generally just brought in for singing duties on some songs). Thus, if not for the success of this song and group, we may have never had The Supremes, TLC, The Pussycat Dolls, etc.
The subject matter of the song, which essentially boiled down to a woman asking a man if he will respect her in the morning, if he truly loves her and cares for her as a person and will stay true to her and hope she isn't just another sexual conquest of his ("Am I lasting treasure/Or just a moment's pleasure"), couched in terms which would allow the song to be played on the radio in 1961, was similarly groundbreaking. The quaintness and subtlety of the imagery might be lost on younger listeners. And it was co-written by a then-fifteen-year oldCarole King!
James Brown. The beats and breaks of many of his songs have been sampled or imitated so many times that his music would sound very cliché now, if it wasn't, you know, James Brown.
Larry Graham. When he first came out, his bass style of slapping and popping was new and refreshing. Now people (bass players excluded) complain it's boring and flashy.
It may be lost with newer listeners to appreciate how revolutionarySly and the Family Stone were in the late Sixties, to have a band performing a very raw, Afrocentric, psychedelic, rock-infused style of funk music, with a very radical and countercultural style of clothing and hairstyles, a multi-racial, multi-gender lineup, and very countercultural/socially conscious lyrics for the time period they were popular in. They helped set the direction for much of what black music, and music in general, would follow from The '70s onward. The 1971 album, There's A Riot Going On, in fact, was one of the first funk albums to use a (very crude and early) drum/rhythm machine.
Michael Jackson. In the U.S. those who grew up after the first round of child molestation charges leveled against him in 1993 knew him only as a far too easy target for comedians with his eccentric, increasingly creepy lifestyle, as his post-1980s music wasn't successful enough to overcome his personal baggage. After his death in 2009, and hearing his Glory Days music played over and over on the radio and seeing his videos re-run on MTV, they fail to see anything unique about his style, as the best aspects of it have been standard pop music fare for the past 30+ years. His big-budget music videos often look cheesy and/or low-budget by today's standards — sure, that works for "Thriller" since it's a B-movie horror pastiche, but "Black or White" and the Moonwalker version of "Smooth Criminal" don't have that excuse (and are weighed down by ridiculous storylines and spectacle-for-spectacle's sake). Between that, the datedness of the fashions, and the synthetic sound, well, they could be forgiven for saying "Why was he ever famous to begin with?"
Even the Moon Walk Dance(which Jackson didn't invent, but rather perfected) looks dated and cheesy compared to all the dance innovations that have come since; so much so that it's easy to forget that almost every one of those newer dance moves was created by someone who started dancing precisely because of how well and truly blown their minds were by Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk.
His live performances, be they concerts, award shows, or the Super Bowl halftime show in 1993, were once among the most Spectacle-filled in popular music, but pale next to the glittering spectaculars mounted by his successors (or even peers like David Bowie) and/or events such as the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony or any given MTV Video Music Awards.
Kraftwerk. In the 70's, they were mind-blowing, because few people had heard pure electronic music before. These days, the band's early work sounds primitive, simple, and just plain dated compared to the legions of bands it inspired.
Dance music. Most of it falls victim to this eventually. Not so long ago nobody had heard of acid house, rave, big beat, gabba, trip-hop, drum'n'bass, jungle... Anything that's new is so easily taken up and copied by imitators that it soon sounds totally conventional and often technologically primitive. (Think of MARRS "Pump Up the Volume", "Out of Space" by the Prodigy, or anything by Fatboy Slim for example). Very few people nowadays might hear Suicide or Silver Apples, the two bands that arguably spawned electronic music, and guess that their origins are pre-disco.
Eiffel 65 sounds a lot less fresh today after thousands of rappers ran the Autotune gimmick into the ground. Not to mention that their signature song "I'm Blue" has now become a frequent source for jokes and memes on the internet.
"Sandstorm" by Darude seems to have suffered from this the most. Back in its day, it was THE most popular and awesome song to listen to at dance clubs. Nowadays, after being overplayed and exposed to so much Memetic Mutation on the internet, many modern EDM artists and enthusiasts just don't see the song as anything special or spectacular anymore.
"Animals" by Martin Garrix also partly suffers from this. When it was first released, its use of heavy bass was seen as something original and revolutionary and its popularity basically catapulted the popularity of Big Room house. But now, since everyone in the EDM scene tried their hand in Big Room, it is now seen as an unoriginal and simplistic track.
By the time Pearl Jam released Riot Act, quite a few younger music fans accused the band of being a Creed ripoff. (helps that Creed singer Scott Stapp has a voice which sounds exactly like Eddie Vedder's)
Even Nirvana, and a number of other popular alt-rock/grunge groups, were highly influenced by The Pixies. Kurt Cobain even admitted that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was his attempt at ripping-off of a Pixies song, specifically "Debaser" from Doolittle.
Black Sabbath is often considered the first metal band. Take a moment and consider how weird that sounds.
That title is often given to King Crimson, which just sounds all the weirder.
It's kind of weird to hear that in the late '70s/early '80s, metal bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica were mistaken for punk. This was because "heavy metal" in the late '70s was seen as the slow or midtempo fare of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and it was punk bands that were known for playing at fast tempos. Thus, the early '80s genre of "speed metal" doesn't seem that fast compared to later shred-metal, power-metal and extreme metal bands, but in its day, metal played at the speed of punk rock was a novelty.
A serious casualty of this trope was NWOBHM pioneer Diamond Head. They were barely famous, in comparison to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon, but their influence on Metallica was profound. Metallica's earliest recordings were covers of Am I Evil and Blitzkrieg and much later on in the late 1990s, It's Electric. However, Diamond Head never became as famous as the band they influenced, and ended up opening for them at the National Bowl event in 1993, and opened and ended their set with songs covered by Metallica to get accepted by the crowd. However, a relatively subdued performance and Diamond Head not being so famous made them look and sound like a band covering Metallica. They split up shortly afterwards.
Pantera is probably the biggest offender of them all. In the midst of their numerous copycats (really, just about every metalcore and nu-metal band in existence), it's hard to believe that, at one time, their style of metal was both unique and interesting.
In fact, Pantera are often accused to be a rip-off of Exhorder who already began to developp that sound on their demos while Pantera was still making glamish album.
Judas Priest can get this themselves. Their music can sound like a Cliché Storm these days, but one has to consider that they themselves invented nearly all of those clichés. It's not their fault their music has been so widely imitated since then (or maybe it is, for being so good).
Helmet virtually invented the start-stop metal riff that dominated the late 90's. You'd never know it to hear their successors (e.g. Korn, Deftones, etc.) but the idea came from jazz.
Isis and their blend of post-rock and Sludge Metal. One mixed review of their album In The Absence of Truth remarked "it's not Isis' fault that they sound unoriginal these days. All you have to do is pick up a copy of Decibel, open it to any page, and you'll find someone counting the group as an influence..."
Gorn lyrics in Death Metal, or even in general. Once upon a time, it was controversial. Nowadays, arguments against the sub-genre are more towards the music itself rather than the lyrics.
Suffocation. They were among the (if not the) first bands to pioneer the brutal death metal subgenre, and consequently all of its variations, like slam death and so on. Their sound has been so endlessly copied that a lot of people who listen to Suffocation for the first time after already being exposed to other BDM acts, will likely find them generic.
For that matter, Mike Smith's drumming (along with that of Pete Sandoval and Flo Mounier) is likely to inspire this as well. At the time, all three were revolutionary. Mike and Pete essentially created almost all of the tropes of death metal drumming (exceedingly fast blastbeats, rapid-fire double bass rolls, extensive usage of double strokes, etc.) and proved that you could play in a way designed to batter the listener into submission with speed beyond what any of the thrash drummers could pull off without sacrificing technique, clarity, or precision, while Flo took what they were doing and increased the speed and precision even further, in addition to helping lay the groundwork for what would become gravity blasts (he didn't use proper gravity blasts until Once Was Not, but he did use the rim of the snare like a fulcrum to allow for blastbeat speeds that were well beyond what anyone was pulling at the time). To a current listener used to the work of players like George Kollias, John Longstreth, Derek Roddy, and Tim Yeung, however, they will sound outdated.
Speaking of death metal drumming, gravity blasts have become this. While not particularly new (one-handed rolls using the rim of the snare as a fulcrum were being used by jazz drummers since at least the 1950s), the usage of the gravity roll within a death metal context (where steady kick and cymbal rhythms were added in to make it a blastbeat) was once an innovative technique used to create a sense of chaos or explosively release built-up tension within the song, but gratuitous overuse by slam, deathcore, and tech death drummers gradually gave the technique a reputation for being something that lazy drummers who had no grasp of dynamics abused, and the frequency with which they were quantized and sound-replaced in studio recordings due to sloppy technique only furthered this stigma. While the original purveyors (John Longstreth, Alex Pelletier, Flo Mounier, and Marco Pitruzzella) are held in high regard, the technique is now generally viewed as just another thing that most fast death metal drummers should know, and the widespread misuse of the technique means that users have to be a lot more selective about when they employ it to avoid the "lazy drummer who couldn't think of anything better to fill the space" stigma.
Darkthrone (specifically, their early black metal albums) have spawned so many clones that some confused people think Darkthrone themselves sound "generic".
Ironically, Darkthrone themselves wanted to reproduce the music of their own influences. For example, they deliberately poorly produce their first Black Metal albums to capture the atmosphere of undeliberatley poorly produced Thrash Metal demos, EP and albums.
"Black Diamond" by Kiss sounds like really primitive Hair Metal, but it wasn't so primitive in 1974. It was unprecedented at the time for a rock song to not only be loud and angry, but to have a "symphonic" sound evocative of opera or classical music. It could be argued that Alice Cooper pioneered this sound first, but he was never quite able to equal the Olympian grandeur of Kiss.
Led Zeppelin suffers heavily from this. In particular are John Bonham's drum beats. (Especially on "When The Levee Breaks" from Led Zeppelin IV) His influence is so pervasive in modern rock that many younger listeners are legitimately baffled as to what's the big deal about him.
Jimmy Page, aside from influencing many guitarists of the era, also is credited with changing the way producers would record in the studio. His technique of using multiple microphones and different distances created an "ambient sound" with more dimension than was conventional at the time.
Just about everything associated with Zeppelin suffers from this. They practically created rock music as we recognize it today, and - without context - it's hard to imagine how revolutionary their entire style was in the late '60s and early '70s. While many British (and even some American) rock bands had dabbled a bit in Celtic folk music before, none of them had ever fused that style with hard rock, which is done on "Stairway to Heaven," "Over the Hills and Far Away," etc. Zeppelin also more or less invented the "Jesus hair" fashion aesthetic for rock bands, which was pretty standard from the 1970s to the '90s; previous rock musicians may have had long hair, but it had not been as flamboyantly styled. The "poodle hair" of '80s Hair Metal certainly could not have existed without Led Zeppelin.
In particular, Led Zeppelin are considered progenitors of hard rock and even heavy metal - not only that, but they were one of the heaviest bands of their time, Black Sabbath aside. This sounds almost laughable now, given how easy it became to find songs that are heavier than anything they ever released.
Yngwie Malmsteen, while still respected by a lot of shred players, is generally viewed as an irritating, tuneless, masturbatory showoff who never grew out of the "cram in as many notes as possible" phase that most shredders go through and whose obnoxious, repellent behavior is probably even more famous than his music. That being said, he created almost all of the tropes of shred guitar; while he definitely wasn't the one who laid the groundwork for it (and he'll admit as much), he was the one who took what his influences were doing and brought it all Up to Eleven. With plenty of more focused, song-oriented peers like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Tony MacAlpine, and Vinnie Moore, however, his proclivity for gratuitous overplaying began to grow tiresome, and with a new wave of modern guitar icons like Jeff Loomis, Christian Muenzner, Per Nilsson, Dave Davidson, and Tosin Abasi, younger listeners will probably wonder why he's still seen as a big deal.
Manowar is sometimes criticized for using "cliché"sword-and-sorcery themes in their lyrics, despite the fact that their usage goes all the way back to 1983 on their Into Glory Ride album, which predates the Power Metal genre by a couple of years, and that they were likely the first North American metal band to dare embrace these tropes.
In the four years since Meshuggah released their breakout album Obzen, an entire genre - progressive groove metal, or "djent" - has come to the forefront of the metal world, based almost entirely on expanding the Meshuggah sound (the word "djent", the colloquial name for the entire genre, started as onomatopoeia for Meshuggah's guitar tone). Some, including major metal blog Metal Sucks, speculate that, in the wake of what bands like Periphery, Tesseract and Vildhjarta have been creating, the now-upcoming new Meshuggah album Koloss is going to come off as very uninteresting and behind-the-times.
The Sepultura album Roots. Upon release, it was one of the most critically-acclaimed and commercially successful metal albums of the mid-90's. However, the legions of nu-metal bands that copied its sound have led this album to gradually become far less acclaimed and celebrated as the years went by.
Chaos A.D also suffers from this to some extent.
At the Gates's riffing style has been copied so much that their album Slaughter of the Soul might seem predictable to a first time listener who's already acquainted with the knockoffs.
Marilyn Manson, like Alice Cooper before him, doesn't seem quite as shocking nowadays, with fifty thousand bands from so many different genres trying to be him. At the time, though, the idea of a mostly naked man wearing makeup, a male bassist in kinderwhore getup and a stage show that incorporated everything from the bassist sucking his dick or the guitarist giving him a rimjob to Bibles being ripped up and thrown into the crowd was absolutely horrifying to the religious right. Metal that really was straight-up supported by Anton LaVey, a frontman who was a reverend in the Church of Satan, drugs, sex and androgyny were all shocking to people. Luckily, there was also a terrifyingly complex foundation it was built on, with lyrics and albums that have prompted more writing than one could imagine. Coupled with some inspiration from David Bowie to change sound from album to album (although leading to plenty of fandom infighting), the band is still going strong and the latest album, The Pale Emperor is a huge hit.
Korn suffers pretty heavily from this. Their debut Self-Titled AlbumKorn was considered original at the time of its 1994 release. It was an earnest, raw, and commercial unfriendly take on Alternative Metal. Being a mix of alt metal, grunge, groove metal, funk metal, prog metal, and hip-hop, there was nothing like it before at the time. However, when it became a sleeper success, it spawned one of the most controversial genres in metal: Nu Metal. The countless nu metal bands (and even alt metal bands that weren't part of the genre) that were influenced by them and saturated the market led to them not seeming all that original to someone who hears their music later. In fact, many metal purists will deny how massively influential they were, or if they did, they would say was a negative influence. This is despite the fact that they were more-or-less responsible for salvaging heavy metal music out of underground purgatory.
Back in the 1970s wearing a colorful punk mohawk, leather jackets, safety pins, make-up and eyeliner scared off most people, even older rock fans. Praising "anarchy" and rebelling against the system were very audacious things to say too. Nowadays, with so many Pop Punk bands imitating the dress code and the style, while actually playing mellowed down pop tunes it may be hard to realize how revolutionary the punk movement once was.
The Sex Pistols were considered shocking in 1977 for releasing a song criticizing the British Royal Family ("God Save The Queen", found on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols). Many people saw them as dangerous and the British intelligence service even spied on them. A rock band! Nowadays you'd be hardpressed to find any band able to get such an overwhelming mainstream outrage as they did.
The Ramones and the The Sex Pistols were a reaction to the largely overproduced and masturbatory progressive rock genre, and decided to do the exact opposite by never really learning to play their instruments. The punk scene exploded into the mainstream in 1977, and to modern day listeners, both of the aforementioned bands sound either sloppy or overly melodic, depending on what you listen to.
Audiences raised on modern-day Punk Rock bands like Bad Religion and NOFX will sometimes hear about how "fast" and "heavy" the Ramones' music was back in the day, only to find it sounding like a string of Power Ballads in comparison.
The ubiquitous Ramones t-shirt on every wannabe "edgy" C-list celeb is borderline example in its own right. Some Guardian music journalist claimed that "the kids" were turning to wearing previously shunned Nirvana/Grunge-era logos as a kind of backlash against '70s rock t-shirts.
As mentioned above, the original punk rock was a rebellion against the traditional rock 'n' roll sound. But after hardcore punk came with its extremely short songs, simple music and aggressive lyrics, the original punk rock sounds a lot like 1950s rock 'n' roll (which, to be frank, was partly the point). Early punk music is now viable radio material, which it absolutely wasn't when it was current, and which it was never meant to be.
In photos from before he retired from music, Richard Hell could be seen dressed in a very typical punk rock style, with spiked hair and ripped-up, drawn-on shirts held together with safety pins. For this reason, it can be sort of surprising to hear his band Richard Hell & The Voidoids, since they didn't really play conventional punk rock. The thing is, Hell is actually credited with inspiring much of the early punk rock look - Malcolm McLaren has cited him as the main influence on how The Sex Pistols were dressed for instance.
Conversely, most of the punk bands before the Sex Pistols had '70s Hair and dressed in perfectly ordinary street clothes. One member of one of the first punk bands, the Dictators, even had an Afro!
Another factor is that punk — especially in its formative years — has always had an undercurrent of sociopolitical outrage, and many of the issues they sang about are no longer current. It was also part of a backlash against the Wide-Eyed Idealism of the Sixties and early Seventies, when such biting cynicism was genuinely shocking; in the modern climate of jaded acceptance that the world is a horrible place and constant exposure to Deadpan Snark, modern listeners tend to wonder why they took things so seriously.
The Black Flag album Damaged was groundbreaking when it came out in 1981, as it popularized the snarky-yet-socially-conscious attitude of many later-day punk bands. Now that its style has been not only frequently copied but also seriously cleaned up by other bands - including bands that are not and never were even in the punk genre - the album just sounds like an underproduced mess with seriously dated lyrical content to modern ears. (Or the later bands sound like Lighter and Softer versions of Black Flag.)
The Misfits, a 1980s punk band that was considered edgy for their lyrics inspired by horror films and other horror related imagery. Now this, and their pop punk sound, would be considered mainstream emo.
It's not even sure whether Die Ärzte actually fit in this category (some of their music clearly is punk rock, but most isn't); however, their early work included some (at the time) "provocative" lyrics. So provocative that they were banned in 1980s Germany. Comparing those lyrics to today's rap (where "Isch ficke deine Muttah" is the equivalent of "Hello") this seems ridiculous. So ridiculous that all but one of those songs are now un-banned after a re-evaluation in The New Milennium.
The first is the split of subgenres. At the beginning, Visual KeiwasHard Rock and Heavy Metal with a huge dose of inspiration from Hair Metal. Something similar happened with the mid-90s Goth influence. Now, while some HR/HM VK bands still exist (in the Kote Kei subgenre and the Eroguro Kei subgenre for the most part, with still-active or reunited Visual Shock or Veteran Kei making up the rest), and some Gothic/Industrial bands do still exist (these are mostly those influenced by or connected to Moi Dix Mois and Mana), the largest portion of active Visual Kei bands are generally Oshare Kei or Host Kei, and Oshare dance-pop and similar is often more common than harder rock or metal. That said, this is cyclical - as of 2013, a harder rock/metal influence seems to be returning as many of the Oshare bands fell into the same trap. Still, equatingVisual Kei with HR/HM after around 2000 is almost laughable.
Ho Yay fanservice. In The '80s and until the middle of The '90s, the Yaoi Fangirl was not seen as a target market for Visual Kei (much less as specifically existing), and quite a few of the artists engaging in most of the Ho Yaywere actual bisexual or gay men using the stage as a way to express themselves and their sexuality in a culture and world that rejected it. The idea caught on as a bandwagon trend for fanservice directed at the fangirls only once some straight bandmen noticed how much the fangirls liked it and with it becoming somewhat socially acceptable (at least within the subculture) to be a Yaoi Fangirl. Unfortunately this led to straight men using it as fanservice, and once some other fans found out about the Kayfabe, some fans insisting that no VK artist could actually be gay or bi for real.
'80s Hair and the Improbable Hairstyle fell out of style around the mid 90s. When even X Japan except for hide toned down their hairstyles, it pretty much called an end to the era of OTT Visual Kei hair, which was, at the time it was done, something entirely new and awesome. While exotic hairstyles are still common, and this trend may well swing around too, doing an Improbable Hairstyle beyond the "medusa" cut or a typical host cut is often seen as a marker of a bygone time or a parody.
ANYTHING that is almost exclusively tied to a specific artist will be, unless it is used as a direct tribute or Shout-Out, seen as this and derisively dismissed as a cheap attention grab or bad cosplay. Good examples were eyeliner swirls for much of the 2000s (anyone doing them was seen as a cheap Mana knockoff/wannabe), nosebands (Reita of the Gazette, and anyone wearing a noseband is seen as that), and almost anything connected to hide (if you go onstage with that yellow heart Fernandes and it's not a hide tribute and/or you're not a member of X Japan, Luna Sea, or an ex-member of Spread Beaver, you will get odd looks, and probably start a Flame War)
Oshare Kei developed one of its own: the Generic Sparkle Loop. By the time it made it to Maria Cross's PV, it was considered such an Oshare cliche that any band using it seriously was just asking to be mocked not only by fans of other genres but by Oshare fans as well.
In an era where nearly anyone with a halfway decent singing voice and a copy of Garage Band can put up a comedic parody of popular music on YouTube, the appeal of "Weird Al" Yankovic and similar musicians who were parodists by trade can be lost on a younger generation.
Hiphop & Rap
Much of the old school rap of the late 1970s and 1980s sounds quite corny nowadays. "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugar Hill Gang is almost a children's nursery rhyme and uses all the tropes that are now clichés in rap music: bragging about your sex life, about the cars you own and partying. Equally Run–D.M.C.'s albums Run DMC, King of Rock and Raising Hell sound very clean, safe and inoffensive.
To be fair, they were pretty inoffensive even in the mid-80's. A lot of the initial backlash against rap was due to its African-American roots (in fact, MTV was very hesitant to play rap videos, out of fear of alienating its predominantly white audience - hence the creation of "Yo! MTV Raps" in 1988). It wouldn't be until Gangsta Rap took off a couple years later that the genre would become controversial for its lyrical content.
Rapper Rakim of famed duo Eric B. & Rakim completely changed the way people rapped by incorporating internal rhymes and complicated wordplay. If you compare his rhymes to those of any earlier artist, such as Run–D.M.C., they're worlds apart. However, many modern hip hop fans just hear his music as boring '80s hip hop.
The Beastie Boys' sampling, particularly on Paul's Boutique - was a huge influence on rap producers and helped create the slicker, jazz-sampling style of rap music that would evolve into G-Funk. However, most new listeners will notice their high pitched rapping styles and the fact they are white, and not really see what has made them so popular.
Likewise, Hello Nasty was considered a remarkable achievement upon release in 1998 as, until then, nobody had ever heard a hip hop album with so much variety. The album seemed destined to become a classic along the lines of Paul's Boutique and Licensed to Ill. Over time, however, its critical standing has significantly diminished, thanks to the work of rappers like Kanye West (whose music has the same kind of variety but with more focus). It's now considered by most to be one of the band's weaker albums.
Trap rapper Ace Hood's once-distinctive flow (popular around 2010, when he had a single out with Rick Ross and Lil Wayne called "Hustle Hard"), has since had a legion of imitators, most of whom have had considerably more successful careers than Ace himself.
Boyd Rice. Play an old record by him to someone today and they might think that it's someone trying to learn to make a loop. They might not realize that Boyd was one of the earliest pioneers of sampling and record scratching.
Dr Dre's "Nothin' But a 'G' Thang". At the time, a hip-hip video with low riders, backyard parties and lots of posing in front of the camera was something new and different. Needless to say, it was certainly influential.
T.I.. suffers from this today. Hailing from Atlanta and representing the south at a time when any rapper that wasn't from the east coast or west coast was considered a novelty, he pioneered southern hip-hop in the mainstream. He was literally declared "King of the South"! Naturally, with the southern hip-hop explosion that happened in the mid-'00s, it's become very difficult for people to see what the big deal was about him today due to the countless amount of rappers from his area.
Speaking of southern hip-hop, OutKast pretty much invented the sound that is still prevalent in hip-hop scene of the South today (heavily eschewing the electro-based party elements of then-popular Miami Bass in favor of far more substantial funk, soul, and gospel-based compositions), with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ATLiens and Aquemini often being considered some of the best and most important albums of rap's second decade. Nowadays, this funk/soul/gospel-based sound is so overused in mainstream hip-hop and pop music that many younger listeners may have some difficulty seeing how revolutionary the band was at the time.
Ice-T was one of the pioneers of Gangsta Rap in the West Coast, influencing N.W.A. and many rap artist and groups afterwards. His lyrics about gang life (since he was a gang member back then), selling drugs, pimping (did some of this as well), and violence were eye opening during the 80s. One of his most famous rap songs was Colors, which was a track used for a 1988 film of the same name and was about the war between the Bloods and the Crips. He also started in some successful films. And created a controversial rock band. However, Ice-T is mostly known today for being the black cop on Law & Order: SVU and his rap roots aren't seen as anything special and he's often forgotten in place of other rap artist of his time.
Adina Howard's 1995 hit "Freak Like Me" seems rather tame by today's standards, but at the time it seemed very risque for an R&B song (as opposed to hip-hop, which at that time was already pretty sexual). At the time it came out, most R&B songs were fairly tame ballads. These days, "Freak Like Me" is barely as raunchy as your average Rihanna song.
Stereo sound. Up until the mid-to-late 1960s, AM radio was the go-to format for listening to popular music, FM was strictly for news, information and well, to find out what to do should the nukes drop, and hi-fi stereo sound was the province of the wealthy. Stereo records were manufactured, and pop songs mixed to stereo, but monaural (mono) sound was the default format of most systems. Bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys in fact were only involved in the mono mixes of their records, and pop songs were mixed and mastered mainly to sound good on cheap single-speaker transistor radios or car radios. The rise of underground rock and jazz radio, "head music" and music labels determined to demonstrate their new multi-track and stereo technology led to the popularity of stereo recordings (and headphones), and mono eventually was phased out.
It should be noted that the early style of stereo was usually the vocal track and instrumental placed in the left and right channel respectively, rather than mixed together - so was effectively made from two mono tracks. Actual stereo recording didn't really come about till the late 60s, where the two tracks were similar sounding but with slight differences in the instruments or panning. Thus, the mono of the early 60s usually sounds more natural to headphone listeners today than the stereo does, as it is more similar to today's stereo.
Synthesizer and sampling technology, particularly from The '80s can count. With modern, increasingly realistic and expressive all-in-one-box digital workstations now the norm, it can be jarring to know that many of the features now taken for granted in newer instruments were once the exclusive property of $5,000 to $100,000+ instruments like the Fairlight CMI, the E-mu Emulators I and II, the New England Digital Synclavier and the Kurzweil 250 thirty or so years ago. Even with the Yamaha DX-7, Roland D-50 and Korg M1 (and samplers like the Akai S900 and Ensoniq Mirage), it was relatively crude technology. Computer software has often taken over for hardware, and things like the $50 Peter Vogel CMI Pro app (based on Fairlight CMI technology, and designed by the Fairlight's co-inventor) are derided as slow and crude, if not amusing for its retro qualities.
The Compact Disc, introduced in 1982, was a revolutionary breakthrough in The '80s, offering a cleaner, clearer way of listening to music than the vinyl formats of the previous sixty or seventy years. It brought, even in its 16-bit sound, more intimacy and detail, and captured the whole of the record, uninterrupted by record sides or weird formatting like the eight-tracks of The '70s. It may have influenced the way new music is recorded, mixed, mastered and produced, as well, as music grew in complexity and digital precision to cater to CD listeners. The 78-minute storage capabilities might have led to longer albums. Nowadays, it (and the mp3) are the industry standard, and the novelty of it seems lost to newer generations.
In a hilariously ironic twist, vinyl has now become the "professional" "ideal" "hip new" "audiophile format", thanks to its lack of digital sampling and recording level limitations (the latter of which has been infamously abused since the dawn of the 21st century)
On a similar note, digital recording has fallen victim to this trope. When Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, one of the first pop albums to be recorded digitally, was released in 1985, it was praised for it's amazingly clean sound quality, which was at the time thought to be un-achievable on analog tape. This is what lead to other artists recording their albums digitally and thus phasing out analog recording (and vinyl along with it). These days, the sonic clarity of digital recording has long lost its impact, and in its place has garnered a nasty reputation as sounding "overproduced", "lifeless", and just flat-out bad (in no small part due to the aforementioned Loudness War), with the general perception being that analog recordings sound better than digital (a complete inversion of how it was in the 80s and 90s). Nowadays, an increasing amount of independent artists are choosing to record their albums on analog equipment and releasing them on vinyl due to the supposed sonic benefits of recording on analog tape and the increasingly negative stigma against recording digitally.
The Fender Stratocaster. When it came out in 1954, it was an extremely revolutionary guitar for its day. It was the first guitar to have three pickups (electric guitars from that era either had only one or two), a spring tremolo system (during a period when Bigsby tremolo systems were the industry standard), and a rounded-edge contoured body (when other guitars from the period had hard edges and were not contoured to fit the player's body and were thus uncomfortable to play at times). While it remains one of the most popular and recognizable electric guitars of all time, there have been many guitars since then that took design cues (when not outright copying it) from the Strat, and today it can be hard to see what made it so revolutionary in the first place.