"Actually, when we arrived in London, it was a truly depressing thing for us for a couple of years, two or three years. By that stage, the London music scene had died, and there was nothing going on, or the stuff that was going on was so lame and weak and insipid and insulated that it was hardly there at all."
— Nick Cave, Long Way to the Top: Stories of Australian Rock & Roll, "INXS, In Exile 1976-88"
The "urban cowboy era" of the early '80s is a deeply polarizing one for fans. Named for the 1980 film Urban Cowboy, which gave country a moment in the spotlight beyond just its roots in the rural South, this era saw many people embrace country as a down-home, blue-collar alternative to disco... but with this mainstream attention came an increasingly pop-oriented sound and a growing focus on fashion (the Pasadena, Texas honky-tonk Gilley's was a merchandising empire during this time), ironically making it no different from the disco that many fans were rebelling against. The fallout from this led to the rise of the neotraditional movement in country in the mid-late '80s as a backlash, with the tipping point coming with the "Class of '89", a group of highly successful, neotraditional-influenced artists led by Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and Alan Jackson who, upon their breakthroughs in 1989, overturned the '80s pop-country order as thoroughly as the Seattlegrunge scene did the world of rock two years later.
History seemed to repeat in the early-mid 2010s with the rise of "bro-country", a genre characterized by crossovers with Hip-Hop and Electronic Dance Music (one of its biggest hits, "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line, even had Nelly as a guest artist) not just in the production, but also in the lyrics, which tended towards imitating the worst of 2000s Glam Rap with subject matter dominated by spring break, big trucks, plentiful liquor, and beautiful women in tiny shorts. These songs were also extremely samey in tone and sound, to the point where one guy was able to create an almost completely coherent song out of random parts of six different bro-country songs, complete with a Frankenstein's monster of a solo that you can only tell is a hodgepodge because the guitars sound slightly different. By mid-decade, it became a bitter dividing line within country music, its critics seeing it as celebrating loutish behavior, pandering to fratbro fantasies of life in the rural South, and marginalizing female country musicians, and late in the decade the pendulum swung back towards more traditional sounds and subject matter.
John Anderson hit one that lasted most of The '80s. After spending the first half of the decade garnering hits such as "Swingin'", "Black Sheep", and "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)", his career began a slow decline. His 1985 album Tokyo, Oklahoma fared poorly thanks to bad choices of singles: a cover of "It's All Over Now", and the very un-PC title track, packed with Asian clichés that were tacky even in the 1980s. Another single, "You Can't Keep a Good Memory Down", never made it onto an album, and Warner (Bros.) Records dropped him once his next album Countrified also bombed. He signed to MCA Nashville for two discs, Blue Skies Again and 10, which were equally unsuccessful. The next album, Too Tough to Tame, was supposed to have been released on the then-new Universal imprint (not to be confused with Universal Music Group) in 1989, only to be delayed thanks to that label getting acquired by Capitol Records Nashville after less than a year in business. One of the few publications that even noticed the album's release was Entertainment Weekly, whose review of it noted that Anderson spent most of the eighties battling mismanagement and "formulaic records". He had a brief Career Resurrection which lasted from 1992-1995 on BNA Records, where he had his most commercially successful albums Seminole Wind and Solid Ground.
Dierks Bentley had a minor one in 2009 and 2010. His fourth album Feel That Fire, despite selling gold and containing two #1 hits, was met with largely negative critical reception. Many fans and critics alike thought that the album sounded tired and dull, lacking the hooks or country feel of his earlier albums. He then decided to switch things up with the New Sound AlbumUp on the Ridge, a bluegrass project produced by country and bluegrass artist Jon Randall. Despite considerably better reviews, the album was a total dud, becoming his first not to go gold or produce a top-20 country hit. Thankfully he got back on track with Home, and has largely stayed on top ever since.
Garth Brooks' In the Life of Chris Gaines, an experimental alt-rock album and pre-release soundtrack for a movie that never was, did not go over well with his fandom. Not only was the Out-of-Genre Experience unwelcome to his country fans, but taking on a new look and the identity of the title character just made it worse. Even still, while the album bombed, failure is relative. The album itself peaked at #2 on the U.S. charts, went double platinum, and most bizarrely of all, produced Garth's only trip to the Top 40 of the Hot 100.note This is because Garth rarely issued physical singles, and during his peak in The '90s, this made his songs ineligible for the Hot 100.
Brooks & Dunn have their 1999 Tight Rope album. Their last album, If You See Her, had ended with a whimper thanks to its last single "South of Santa Fe" being withdrawn after only a few weeks, supposedly because radio programmers were expressing disdain toward a single sung by Kix Brooks instead of Ronnie Dunn (Kix had sung lead on five previous singles, but every single afterwards was sung by Ronnie, despite the albums retaining a nearly-equal split). They led off Tight Rope with a lukewarm cover of John Waite's "Missing You" (obviously trying to re-capture the magic of their extremely successful cover of B. W. Stevenson's "My Maria"), which barely squeaked into the Top 20 before plummeting. The same fate befell the next single "Beer Thirty", while third and final single "You'll Always Be Loved by Me" crawled into the Top 5 by the end of 2000. The album was their worst-selling, and was critically panned for sounding tired and weak overall. It was their last album under original producer Don Cook (and one of his last production gigs period), although he only produced half of it; the other half, including all three singles, was produced by Tim McGraw's producer Byron Gallimore, with whom the duo never worked again. The fall was so great that Montgomery Gentry snagged the Duo of the Year awards in 1999 (breaking an eight-year streak where B & D won that award) despite being only two singles into their career at the time. Even the members themselves admitted they were close to breaking up because they felt they had run their course. Fortunately, they bounced back in a big way with Steers & Stripes, whose lead single "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You" became their biggest hit, and maintained success until voluntarily retirement in 2011. Tight Rope quickly became Canon Discontinuity, as none of its singles were put on their second Greatest Hits Album in 2004 — even though that album did include "South of Santa Fe"!
Johnny Cash went through one in The '80s, with a series of mostly unmemorable albums and diminishing returns on the country music charts. There was at least one Missing Episode (Out Among the Stars, not released until 2014), and several poorly received singles such as "Chicken in Black". His only #1 hit in the entire decade was as one fourth of the supergroup The Highwaymen. He was also battling addiction around this point, further hampering his music career. The decline culminated in a short stint with Mercury Records, led off by a cheap and haphazard album with re-recordings of his biggest hits. He finally underwent Career Resurrection starting in 1994 with the Rick Rubin-produced "American Recordings" series of albums, which largely consisted of sparse acoustic covers of rock and pop songs, netting him sales successes even beyond his own 2003 death and introducing him to a new generation of fans despite minimal radio support.
Bob Dylan grew tired of being viewed as "the spokesman of a generation", and decided to record the country music album Nashville Skyline specifically to alienate people who viewed him as such. This continued with Self Portrait and Dylan, which were popular with critics but sold very poorly. Then Dylan recorded some albums that his original audience liked (including Blood on the Tracks), and then he converted to Christianity and changed his style again, losing most of his original fans over a quarter of a century (and gaining a few back after 1997's Time Out of Mind.)
Faith Hill's Cry album was a zig-zagged example. While the title track was a #1 hit on the AC charts and won her a Grammy, the album's three singles all completely bombed at country radio. The album was also met with largely negative reception for its bombastic pop production and style, leading to accusations that she had sold out. She spent the entirety of 2004 off the charts before returning with 2005's Fireflies, a somewhat better-accepted return to form that included the #1 hit "Mississippi Girl".
The Kentucky Headhunters went through this in most of The '90s. Although their second album Electric Barnyard was fairly well-received by critics, its singles underperformed (probably not helped by the fact that the lead single was a cover of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett"). After this album's cycle, brothers Ricky Lee and Doug Phelps (then the lead singer and bassist, respectively) quit over Creative Differences and formed the Lighter and Softer duo Brother Phelps. Taking their places were new lead singer Mark S. Orr and bassist Anthony Kenney (who had played in a prior incarnation of the band in The '70s). The first album with Orr, Rave On!!, was trashed by critics and fans alike due to Orr's style not fitting the band at all. After the band cut a collaboration with blues pianist Jimmie Johnson, Orr quit and Doug rejoined to take his brother's former role as lead singer. The first album with him on lead vocals, Stompin' Grounds in 1997, was also panned for its strangely subdued and mainstream sound relative to their more boisterous prior albums. However, they finally got back on track stylistically with Songs from the Grass String Ranch in 2000 and, despite radio having long since left them behind, they've continued to record well into The New '10s.
Lady Antebellum went through this with their third album Own the Night. It started off strong due to the buzz of lead single "Just a Kiss", but that buzz failed to last — the album was largely seen as sleepy and monotone. The next two albums were better received from a critical standpoint due in part to a change of producers, but single reception was more mixed and sales were far below the norm (747, their fifth, didn't even get halfway to gold). After this, the band went on hiatus, and lead singers Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott released Solo Side Projects. They reunited in 2017 for a new album titled Heart Break, which also saw another new producer, but its two singles were seen as So Okay, It's Average and sales topped off at a pitiful 166,000. This culminated with the band exiting Capitol Records in September 2018 and signing to Big Machine Records. Their first album for the label, Ocean, seemed poised to get them back into good graces. Then came summer 2020, when in the wake of the George Floyd protests, they officially shortened their name to Lady A. This caught the attention of a Seattle-based African American blues singer who also performs under the name "Lady A"; she accused the band of social privilege, and while they initially seemed to be working toward a compromise, the band's lawyers instead chose to file a lawsuit against the singer.
Lonestar went into one around the first decade of the 21st century. After their 1999 smash hit "Amazed" became the first song since 1983 to top both the country and Hot 100 charts, the label pushed for more bombastic pop ballads of its ilk, and added more sentimental fare to the mix after 2001's "I'm Already There" was almost as big a hit. This resulted in what had formerly been a hot honky-tonk influenced country band getting pushed into a combination of Tastes Like Diabetes "soccer mom" fare and bombastic, poppy, string-drenched power ballads, codifying Record Producer Dann Huff's affinity for the Loudness War. The dork age is widely considered to have started anywhere between the release of "Amazed" and the release of their 2003 Greatest Hits Album, after which their singles started to perform worse and worse on the charts. They left their label in 2006 and lead singer Richie McDonald quit soon afterward. The nadir was Party Heard Around the World, an independently released album which found the band doing the same mushy fare as before, only with the much weaker-voiced Cody Collins taking Richie's place. Although Richie came back in 2011, the next two albums were quietly released on small independent labels and made absolutely no noise at radio.
Rascal Flatts entered one lasting from about 2005 to 2010, covering the albums Me and My Gang, Still Feels Good, and Unstoppable. While Me and My Gang lead single "What Hurts the Most" is one of their most famous and beloved songs, most of the other singles off these albums were heavily panned as either bombastic and hideously overproducedpower ballads (a sound forced on them by Dann Huff, the same producer who had previously done likewise with Lonestar), or extremely forced up-tempos like "Me and My Gang", "Summer Nights", or "Bob That Head" (their first single not to hit top 10, and widely considered their worst overall due to both Accidental Innuendo and an ear-splitting Careful with That Axe intro). Making matters worse was the fact that the bloated production forced lead singer Gary LeVox to undergo a particularly nasty Vocal Evolution into a ridiculously high-pitched nasal screech with excessive amounts of melisma. After Lyric Street closed in 2010, they moved to Big Machine Records, where an interesting pattern started to form. Nothing Like This and Changed were seen as generally stronger albums despite Huff staying behind the boards, and they finally abandoned him in favor of self-production on Rewind and Back to Us. While the Big Machine albums are generally seen as stronger overall, the band has seen diminishing returns at radio due to newer acts overtaking them in popularity (ironically including Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band, both of whom are on this page as well). This culminated in the second single from Back to Us being their first song to miss the country Top 40 entirely.
Sawyer Brown seemed to go through this at the end of the 1980s during their tenure on Capitol Records. After scoring a few country hits with the likes of "Step That Step", "Betty's Bein' Bad", and "This Missin' You Heart of Mine", their momentum tapered off around the release of Wide Open in 1988. The next few albums they put out were largely derided by critics and fans for containing lightweight fluffy songs with dated production, with only a couple exceptions (most prominently a cover of George Jones' "The Race Is On" and the Christmas single "It Wasn't His Child"). The nadir was 1991's Buick, their first album not to contain a top 40 hit on the country charts. Some critics completely tore the album apart for being slick pop-rock with no country influence, and shallow lyrics about cars and girls. Their contract with Capitol ended one disc later with The Dirt Road, which signaled a shift to stronger and more traditional country material, as exemplified by "The Walk" (a carryover from Buick). Only seven months later, they moved to Curb Records and began working with songwriter/producer Mac McAnally, who continued to refine them with much stronger, more mature songs and impeccable production work that not only brought them out of their Dork Age, but also produced some of the most popular and enduring songs of their career such as "All These Years" and "Cafe on the Corner".
Randy Travis had a couple minor examples. First was his 1990 disc Heroes & Friends, an album composed almost entirely of duets with a wide variety of artists, ranging from country stalwarts like Dolly Parton and George Jones, to some very oddball picks like B.B. King and Clint Eastwood. The album was largely panned for weak performances and songwriting, and while it sold platinum, it became his first album not to have a #1 country single. After getting back to form with High Lonesome and three new songs off a pair of greatest hits albums, he did Wind in the Wire in 1993. This album was a Western-themed one-off for a short lived TV series of the same name, and his first album not to be produced by Kyle Lehning. The singles completely bombed at radio (at least in the US "Cowboy Boogie" went to #10 on the Canadian country music charts), and reviews were generally worse than of the duets album. A label exec at Warner (Bros.) Records even referred to that particular album as an "angst period". While his commercial success dwindled throughout the decade, he did at least return to form stylistically with subsequent albums.
Keith Urban seems to have been in a minor one that's lasted most of The New '10s. Starting with 2009's Defying Gravity, it seemed that he was letting his 2006 marriage to Nicole Kidman inform his material, as both that album and Get Closer a year later were dominated by Lighter and SofterSilly Love Songs such as "Kiss a Girl" and the Cliché Storm "Without You"; Get Closer was also derided by some for only having eight average-length songs on it. He seemed to get a free pass with Fuse which, despite being a New Sound Album with a heavier pop influence, curried favor with most thanks to strong songs such as "Raise 'em Up" and "Cop Car". While critical reception was more split on followup Ripcord due to the continued use of pop-styled production, all five singles performed fantastically on the country charts and sold gold or higher (in particular, "Blue Ain't Your Color" became his longest-lasting #1 hit and best-selling single to date), creating a degree of Critical Dissonance. Then came 2018's Graffiti U, which started off completely on the wrong foot with lead single "Female". While the zeitgeist certainly called for a country song in support of women, the execution left something to be desired. "Female" was instantly savaged by nearly everyone for its awkward, clumsy laundry-list lyrics that felt more like "mansplaining" than actually respecting women, to the point that several publications and even The Late Show with Stephen Colbert mocked it. As a result, the song ended a streak of 37 straight Top 10 hits for Urban. The project's second single, "Coming Home", was met with equal derision for its Cliché Storm lyrics of escaping the city to move back to the country; its overbearingly synthpop production style that makes Ripcord sound downright traditional in comparison; a poorly-executed sample of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" which in no way fits the song's context. The song has also been savaged for a highly unnecessary duet vocal from obscure pop singer Julia Michaels — not helped by the fact that the genre had become inundated with forced duets from obscure female pop vocalists, instead of showing support to up-and-coming females who actually perform within the genre.
Neil Young's early-mid '80s output, especially the album Trans. He was fed up with David Geffen and wanted out of his contract. Geffen in return sued for those albums being "not commercial" and "musically uncharacteristic of previous recordings."
Zac Brown Band seemed to fall into one starting in 2016. While their Jekyll + Hyde album started off successfully — lead singles "Homegrown" and "Loving You Easy" were both #1 hits on the Country Airplay charts, and they also topped the Mainstream Rock charts with the Chris Cornell collab "Heavy Is the Head" — the album was somewhat divisive among critics and fans due to its Genre Roulette nature. The catalyst was "Beautiful Drug", which was met with initial resistance at country radio due to its electronica-influenced sound, to the point that the band sent out a more country-sounding remix. While the song eventually got to #1 anyway, it seemed to kill the band's momentum and increase ire over the markedly non-country influences, particularly since Zac Brown was featured on an Avicii song around the same time and had announced plans to start an electronica side project called Sir Rosevelt. The final single from Jekyll + Hyde was "Castaway", which was also polarizing as many felt that it was an overdone rehash of their Once an Episode "beachy" songs with annoying background vocals. But the Dork Age really set in with Welcome Home, for which they enlisted producer Dave Cobb (best known for producing alternative-country acts such as Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Stapleton). The lead single "My Old Man", while generally well-received by fans and critics for its heartfelt lyrics, met resistance with radio programmers due to its slow, somber nature. Although Welcome Home topped the Country Albums chart, sales were overall anemic and tapered off quickly. Fans and critics generally panned the album as sleepy and monotonous, with some even calling it a backhanded apology for those who hated the previous album — not only in the more muted sound but also in the lyrics, which seemed to go out of their way to emphasize that the ZBB is still the same bunch of good ol' boys they've always been. Even worse, the second single "Roots" inexplicably had nearly half the lyrics gutted from the radio edit (which wasn't even an issue of length, as the uncut song is a perfectly reasonable 3:51), stripping the song of most of its meaning. As a result, it became their worst-performing single to date on Country Airplay, stalling out at #36. In addition, the Sir Rosevelt album was released in late 2017 to very poor commercial sales and negative reception from both critics and fans. The same reception carried over to ZBB's 2019 album The Owl, which continued in the electronic-influenced sound of Sir Rosevelt while also dragging in unexpected and ill-fitting R&B and hip-hop influences (not helped by collaborations with Skrillex, Ryan Tedder, and Justin Bieber collaborator Poo Bear).
Hoo boy. On the whole, exactly what constitutes a Dork Age for Heavy Metal as a genre is the subject of some of the most bitter flame wars in music fandom. While it's generally agreed that metal from The '70s and the early '80s is near-untouchable, after that one is wading into dangerous territory, with each period of metal having both its diehard fans and its furious haters.
Even metal from the '70s isn't quite untouchable. The general consensus on the mid-'70s is that the genre grew stagnant, as Black Sabbath crumbled due to its members' drug use while the market was saturated with mediocre Follow the Leader acts who seemed to just be playing contemporary rock music at a louder volume. Punk Rock seemed to offer everything that metal used to... and so, in the late '70s, a number of British metal artists decided to combine metal with punk. The rest is history.
For a long time, the mid-late '80s Hair Metal boom was seen as this. Remembered as the time when metal "went pop", bands from this era were seen as sacrificing depth and complexity for empty hedonism and radio/MTV-friendly power ballads. Backlash against the excesses of hair metal fueled the rise of the far more gritty and subdued grunge bands in the early '90s. More recently, however, the '80s nostalgia wave has caused a reappraisal of the genre, with numerous rock stars from the era recognized as better musicians than many people gave them credit for. It's still generally agreed that the fashions were ridiculous, though, even if they have developed some camp appeal since then.
Hair Metal has its own Dork Age between 1995 and 1999. Many of the bands from that genre (Warrant and Dokken were probably the most blatant) attempted to fit in to the Grunge scene by writing Darker and Edgier lyrics and Grunge-inspired music (though some bands like Motley Crue (see below) and W.A.S.P. attempted an industrial sound). It didn't get them any more fans since the Grunge audience saw it as a blatant example of We're Still Relevant, Dammit! and it turned off the fans who still liked the bands since it was too drastic of a change. By the 2000s, most of them went back to their older sound.
The first half of the '90s is arguably the most generally agreed-upon Dork Age, at least in terms of metal's mainstream success, especially in the United States. The genre was neck-deep in the hangover from the collapse of Hair Metal, and many of the biggest bands from The '80s were either breaking up or falling into their own Dork Ages, several of which are described below. While there were still plenty of great metal bands if one knew where to look, not many actually broke through and had crossover hits, and most of those that did were Alternative Metal bands that were linked to the booming grunge scene. Thrash Metal bucked the trend and reached the peak of its popularity during this time, but at the cost of many fans feeling that the bands had sold out in order to do so, even paving the way for the below-mentioned Nu Metal. Otherwise, for much of the early-mid '90s the genre practically vanished from the attention of mainstream rock fans. It's a different story outside the US, however, with the early '90s remembered as a Golden Age for European (especially Scandinavian) Death Metal and Black Metal.
The late '90s and early '00s, meanwhile, saw the rise of Nu Metal. At the time, nu metal catapulted the genre back into the spotlight with a far more aggressive style than either grunge or hair metal had, but before long, it came to be seen as a mess of adolescent wangst, shock tactics, and phony machismo, to the point where even many musicians and bands that played in or were otherwise associated with the genre (an admittedly nebulous one) came to reject any association with it. It didn't help that many bands changed their style in order to jump onto the popular new sound, leading to many accusations of selling out. This article by Shane Mehling for Decibel goes into more detail on the genre's rise, peak/nadir, and fall, referring to the late '90s as a time when it seemed as though, no matter where one looked, quality in the metal genre was going to pot and the influence of nu metal was creeping everywhere. That said, some bands from this time have seen their reputations improve with age, though nu metal as a genre hasn't quite recovered the same way that hair metal has.
After that, you will find fans arguing for any subgenre, sound, or period of time as a Dork Age, from the rise of metalcore and deathcore to the widespread use of synthesizers. Get a group of metal fans in a room, and a third will tell you that the genre is in a Dork Age right now, another third will tell you that it's in a Golden Age, and the last third will tell everybody to just shut up and enjoy whatever they listen to.
Aborted went through a major one of these from 2005 to 2010. It started with The Archaic Abattoir, which, due to its prominent metalcore influences, was fairly polarizing overall; some fans saw it as a unique new twist on their established sound and applauded them for not trying to make Goremageddon 2.0, while others hated it and saw it as a sign of worse things to come. It was around this time that the band also started experiencing a truly jawdropping amount of lineup changes, and 2007's Slaughter & Apparatus: A Methodical Overture, which was even more polarizing, failed to win back the fans alienated by the previous album. 2008's Strychnine.213 wound up being the nadir of their career, with its deathcore overtones, anemic riffing, overblown and out-of-place Dimebag/Wylde-aping guitar solos, and Sven's bored-sounding and phoned-in vocal performances leading to a universally despised final product (the band hated it just as much). They didn't really emerge from this slump until Sven fired the entire band, hired back Dirk Verbeuren, welcomed in an all-new string section, and released the Coronary Reconstruction EP in 2010, and even then, lingering bits of the band's notorious proclivity towards unstable lineups remained when Ken Sorceron was fired in 2011 after a falling-out with Sven, followed by the firing of Eran Segal (the other new guitarist) and Mike Wilson (Sorceron's replacement) in 2012 for similar reasons.
Anthrax during the '90s. On the one hand, some of the band's most critically acclaimed material and mainstream success occurred during the period, including their famous collaborative version of "Bring The Noise" with Public Enemy, which is frequently credited for inventing Rap Metal. On the other hand, many fans still look poorly on the band's more grunge-influenced material, and on John Bush of Armored Saint, who replaced longtime singer Joey Belladonna during this period.
Black Sabbath went through a Dork Age in the last half of The '70s, with their two last albums with Ozzy being mediocre after a run of six mind-blowingly awesome albums. Ronnie James Dio saved them from that, but he left after two albums. Ian Gillan hopped onboard for a decent album, then various more lineups got assembled, that nobody can agree which one is good and which one's a dork age.
Alice Cooper has a few eras that could qualify, having played in many styles to many audiences, but none are as reviled as the transition he made in 1980: he completed his long transition from hard rock and switched to new wave. Worse, he abandoned his famous eye makeup, cut his hair, and developed a more androgynous image inspired by A Clockwork Orange. The new style alienated his remaining fanbase and the four albums he made in this period performed poorly. It took six years (three of them spent in retirement sobering up) before he went back to his hard rock roots and image to great success.
Many have come to regard Cold Lake, Celtic Frost's one-off shot at Hair Metal, to be synonymous with "total fucking disaster", though it does have its defenders.
Listening to Digimortal can be a very, very weird experience, especially to one familiar with Fear Factory's classic body of work. It's another thing when a band like Megadeth attempts to incorporate pop music into their sound; when a band that has built themselves purely on amelodically brutal Testosterone Poisoning tries it, well, "forced" doesn't even begin to describe the end result. Unsurprisingly, the band were thrown into a 10-Minute Retirement, and while their work since their reunion has been well received, many fans still feel that their best days are behind them.
For Helloween, it was the period between Kai Hansen's departure (after Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 2) and Andi Deris's arrival (before Master of the Rings). This period comprises the Michael Kiske-fronted albums Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon, which left the band near dissolution.
During the mid-late '90s, In Flames were seen as the definitive melodic death metal band, successfully mixing growled death metal vocals with melodic guitar riffs and even Middle Eastern-styled acoustic melodies. While the band was gradually moving away from their traditional melo-death style since 1999's Colony, it was 2002's Reroute To Remain that officially marked the beginning of their Dork Age, thanks to its Nu Metal influence, simplified songwriting, and greater reliance on clean singing. The album even went so far as to include a folksy country rock song that bore little resemblance to anything the band had ever done up to that point. The band was believed to have dropped the ultimate bomb, however, with 2004's The Soundtrack To Your Escape, an album that continued the nu-metal sound of Reroute to Remain, contained even more clean singing than the last, relied heavily on synth leads, and was notably devoid of guitar solos. Fortunately, the band regained a fair amount of credibility with 2006's harder and more traditional-sounding Come Clarity and remained pretty consistent until 2014's Siren Charms, which many consider to be an even worse album than Soundtrack to Your Escape.
Iron Maiden helmed by Blaze Bayley. The band continued to write good material during this time (some songs from those albums remained in the setlist after he left), and Blaze is a fine singer on his own. But, because of the difference in vocal range (Blaze is a baritone, whereas Bruce Dickinson is a tenor, which is more usual for metal vocalists), he had a hard time performing the band's earlier material live. A few fans add the two albums before as well, as they lacked guitarist Adrian Smith and had some subpar material and attempts on Darker and Edgier (such as raspier vocals) that didn't sit well with them.
Similarly, Judas Priest with Tim Owens on vocals. Their 1997 album Jugulator was largely panned by fans for having downtuned guitars and subpar vocals (although it did contain the Grammy-nominated song "Bullet Train"). 2001's Demolition, meanwhile, was criticized for pandering to the Nu Metal trend of the era. The band at least partially regained credibility in 2003 with the return of Rob Halford and the release of Angel Of Retribution two years later.
Who knew that KISS, the hottest band in the world, could be so plagued by a long history of bad career decisions?
By Love Gun, the band realized their merchandising potential and promptly became overexposed, with a comic book series, a pinball machine and a hilariously badTV movie, culminating in Dynasty, their own failed attempt at cashing in on the disco craze of the late 1970s.
In 1981, they tried, of all things, to make a Progressive RockConcept Album in Music from "The Elder", created as the soundtrack to a movie that never came to light. That album was forgotten soon enough.note However, "A World Without Heroes" is in their MTV Unplugged live album, and in 2004 they tried to perform "I" but had forgotten the lyrics.
KMFDM tried to break away from its long history by switching record labels and changing their name to MDFMK. While the "new" band's album was well received, fans were incensed that they refused to play any of their old songs in concert. The band relented, going back to their old name and playing selections from their entire catalog.
Their 2003 album Take a Look in the Mirror didn't fare well with fans and critics despite "Did My Time" being the band's highest charting single in their home country. Fans felt that the album was too rushed as it came out a year after the band's acclaimed Untouchables and didn't help that it came out around the same year as fellow Nu Metal band Limp Bizkit's Results May Vary, which derailed the popularity of the genre. The band themselves admitted it's their least favourite album in addition to being the last recorded by the band's original lineup as guitarist Brian "Head" Welch quit in 2005, as well as their last for Epic Records.
While the band's first album as a quartet, See You on the Other Side received a better reception than Mirror due to its Darker and Edgier sound, the following untitled eighth album, their only album as a trio due to drummer David Silveria's departure, received a lukewarm reception from critics and fans despite charting higher than Other Side.
The untitled album's followups Korn III: Remember Who You Are (the band's first with current drummer Ray Luzier) and The Path of Totality were criticised for being a failed Revisiting the Roots album, despite the return of Ross Robinson and for being an attempt in staying relevant by being a New Sound Album rooted in dubstep respectively, with the latter becoming the band's least performing album worldwide.
Fortunately, the dork age ended in 2013 with Head's return and The Paradigm Shift proved to be a Career Resurrection for them along with The Serenity of Suffering being the band's highest charting album since Untouchables.
In the late '00s, the band almost fully abandoned their use of rapping and turntables on the albums Minutes to Midnight in 2007, which incorporated more Arena Rock influences in the vein of U2, and A Thousand Suns in 2010, an electronic-infused Concept Album about nuclear war. To be fair, the band probably needed to change their style to stay in the spotlight after the collapse of Nu Metal in the mid-'00s, and their new sound helped them score a pair of soundtrack hits with "What I've Done" and "New Divide" for the first two Transformers films. However, these two albums proved highly polarizing with the experimental direction they took with their sound and themes; while some fans saw them as a welcome evolution, others derided it as a sellout. The band returned to familiar territory with Living Things in 2012 and The Hunting Party in 2014, which, despite their incorporation of mainstream EDM influences, helped Win Back the Crowd for many disillusioned fans...
...at least, until One More Light in 2017 saw the band jump fully into electronic pop-rock. Whereas Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns both had their supporters among critics, One More Light received a scathing reception right out of the gate, with many fans declaring it a new Dork Age from the moment they heard the lead-off single "Heavy" featuring pop singer Kiiara. Sadly, the negative response to One More Light, which frontman Chester Bennington did not take well, may have played a role in his suicide in July of that year. Ironically, said suicide has caused something of a reappraisal of the album, particularly its title track, which, despite not being about suicide (it was a tribute to a longtime friend of theirs at Warner (Bros.) Records who had died of cancer), was widely reinterpreted by both fans and the band itself due to its Harsher in Hindsight lyrics.
Loudness has accomplished the feat of having several of these, at least to some fans (other fans will see them as some of the best periods ever in the band's history), as a result of being a Long Runner, and while very successfully averting We're Still Relevant, Dammit!, at the same time being so in tune with the current trend in metal that people who hated that trend will hate that era. Pretty much the only era that no one considers a Dork Age is the 1991-1992 era, because it is solid Thrash Metal regardless of time or culture.
Poor, poor Machine Head. In the mid '90s, they were one of the pioneers of the "post-thrash" sound that defined underground American metal during the decade along with Pantera, Fear Factory, Sepultura, Biohazard, Life of Agony, and many others. While other bands were emphasizing influences such as Industrial, Funk, Hardcore, and Grunge, Machine Head's sound was planted firmly in Thrash, yet still sounding both modern and timeless. Until 1999's The Burning Red, which showcased a drastic shift into Nu Metal on both an aural and visual level, and the quality of songwiting suffered greatly from the creative dissonance involved. To make matters even worse, they/Rob Flynn put out a followup up called Supercharger that was even worse on these accounts. Thankfully, they/he dug themselves out of the hole by reintroducing their classic Thrash sound on subsequent albums Through the Ashes of Empires and The Blackening, though a bit too late as their particular Dork Age left a scorching black mark on their/Flynn's reputation that they/he have yet to fully recover from, especially as the band still looms in the shadows of both it and their classic album Burn My Eyes. Unfortunately, after delivering two more solid efforts with Unto the Locust and Bloodstone and Diamonds, the band lept right back into Nu Metal with Catharsis, undoing whatever good will they had gained with their previous four albums.
The real Dork Age would come with Eat Me, Drink Me in 2007. Recorded in the wake of Manson (the singer/frontman) divorcing Dita Von Teese, its more personal themes were seen by many fans as a wangstymid-life crisis that effectively destroyed his "most evil man in America" image. Furthermore, this was the band's first album to not feature John 5 and Madonna Wayne Gacy, both of whom left the band on bad terms with Manson after The Golden Age of Grotesque. Manson's planned directorial debut Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll also fell into Development Hell when its leaked trailer caused controversy due to its violent and sexual content, with Manson later stating that it will likely never be released. The band quickly course-corrected, returning to more familiar territory with The High End of Low in 2009 and Born Villain in 2012, but those albums were often seen as So Okay, It's Average and not comparing well to the albums from their Glory Days. A true comeback wouldn't come until the success of The Pale Emperor in 2015.
Both Risk (Lighter and Softer done horribly wrong; also one of the only non-country albums ever produced by Dann Huff) and The World Needs a Hero (Darker and Edgier done horribly wrong) are considered to be the nadir of Megadeth/Dave Mustaine's career. One could also throw the "Sell-Out" album Cryptic Writings in the mix as well, and go as far as declaring everything between Youthanasia and Endgame as this trope. You can argue the band are still stuck in a Dork Age, and go as far back as Countdown to Extinction for its beginning. Lastly, the disastrous Super Collider very strongly indicated that a Dork Age was on the horizon. Fortunately, it didn't happen as Dystopia proved to be a return to the band's mid-late 00's thrash style. Plus, in 2017, Megadeth finally won their first Grammy, for the title track of Dystopia.
The death of Cliff Burton/introduction ofJason Newsted is often cited as the cause of these problems. Whilst unfair on Newsted (his first album with Metallica, ...And Justice for All, is really good after all, even though it already shows said unfairness by having the bass buried very deep in the mix), since replacing him with Rob Trujillo, they have improved, though that may simply be coincidence.
The Napster suit in 2000 perpetuated this for many, as even the people Metallica was (supposedly) pandering to were disgusted with the band afterwards.
There's often a tendency among fans to want every album by that band to sound the same, and when somebody like Kirk Hammett has an adventurous streak and wants to experiment with sound, it alienates part of the fan base. This also happened to Motörhead when Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy joined them for Another Perfect Day. Robertson's insistence on wearing disco shorts and refusal to play older Motorhead songs didn't help his case any, but the songwriting on that album pretty much defines well-written metal of the early 1980s.
Mötley Crüe. Having to contend with the newfound popularity of grunge, which pushed glam and hair metal off the charts, as well as internal affairs with Vince Neil leaving the band, they signed a deal with Elektra Records and seemed to be coming out on top. Unfortunately, their first release, their 1994 Self-Titled Album, was underpromoted (their tour was scaled back from stadiums to smaller venues) and largely unknown due to MTV placing them on a blacklist because of interview mishaps, not to mention the loss of Vince Neil which led to fans disregarding the album (no one even knew who John Corabi was). Which is a damn shame, because it really deserves more praise. After this, they were able to bring back Vince Neil, but this led to 1997's Generation Swine, which was the result of a tumultuous struggle between the band and their producers, and ended up with a very different sound from their previous work, including the grunge-inspired '94 album. This album was far more experimental and spacey, which the fans couldn't really get behind, since they were expecting the original lineup to return to their sleazy, fast-paced metal roots. To make matters worse, shortly after the release of 2000's New Tattoo, their new drummer Randy Castillo died of cancer. From what's been said of 2008's Saints of Los Angeles, it seems they've left this period behind them.
Funnily, while a lot of metal bands and musicians were entering a Dork Age in the '90s, Ozzy Osbourne was slowly coming out of one. While his first two solo albums (Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman) were hugely successful, things took a major turn for the worse when famed lead guitarist Randy Rhoads was unexpectedly killed in a plane crash. His first replacement, Jake E. Lee, was actually a pretty capable guitarist. But the two albums made with him in the band, Bark At The Moon and The Ultimate Sin, were not as good. The latter album, especially, was criticized by some for pandering to the then-emerging glam metal scene (though it did contain one of Ozzy's most popular songs, "Shot In The Dark"). To make matters worse, Ozzy's problems with substance abuse were spiraling out of control, as was his relationship with wife Sharon Osbourne. Fortunately, Ozzy slowly began to pick himself back up in the late-80's, beginning by hiring guitarist Zakk Wylde for 1988's underrated No Rest For The Wicked. After that, he cleaned up most of his personal issues and released the album No More Tears in 1991, which was and still is widely regarded as one of his best ever solo albums.
In the mid-'00s, Powerman 5000 decided to abandon their Industrial Metal sound and their sci-fi fashion sense and image with the punk-influenced albums Transform in 2003 and Destroy What You Enjoy in 2006. While Transform has its fans, few will defend Destroy What You Enjoy, which, tellingly, is the only one of their albums that is not carried on iTunes or streaming services. That thankfully short-lived period ended with Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere in 2009.
Six Feet Under went through one of these in the early 2000s. Their first three albums are regarded as solid '90s death metal records, with their debut Haunted in particular being considered a classic by fans. In 2000, however, they released the phoned-in cover album Graveyard Classics, which polarized people; some fans liked it for their death metal take on classic rock songs, while others felt it was unnecessary and So Bad, It's Good at best. But the band's fourth original album True Carnage is when they started to go downhill. To date, it's their lowest-rated record, being trashed for its sludgy production values, experimentation with Nu Metal, sluggish performances, and a pretty clear lack of effort. As if that weren't bad enough, their very next record Bringer of Blood dialed up the nu-metal considerably, and featured even more vapid songwriting along with shallow lyrics that would make even Fred Durst cringe. Fans hoping for improvement ended up getting the final nail in the coffin; a second Graveyard Classics album that was a cover of AC/DC's entire Back in Black album, which is universally despised even by the band's most diehard fans, and the standalone song "Dead and Buried", which featured Chris Barnes' worst vocal performance of all time. They managed to win some people back with three solid records in a row, but it wasn't until 2012's Undead that they managed to get themselves out of their rut entirely.
2020's Nightmares of the Decomposed sent the group plummeting right back in a pit. On paper, the record was highly anticipated, as it was the first album to feature Jack Owen on guitar, reuniting him with Chris for the first time since The Bleeding. Instead, it ended up becoming the band's most reviled album yet. While it wasn't without potential, the production was thin, the songwriting trite ("Zodiac" in particular being considered the band's all-time worst song), and its ideas were brought down by Chris giving a lazy, tired, and phoned-in vocal performance that even the band's most adamant defenders struggled to find anything good about it. It's safe to say that unless their next effort is better and Barnes works on his voice again, it will take a miracle for them to get back on their feet.
When irreplaceable guitarist Michael Schenker left UFO in the 1970s, a sizable portion of the fan base considered them to have ceased existing, despite a resultant run of albums that were more consistent than the ones during Schenker's difficult tenure.
Sammy Hagar's tenure as lead singer (1986-1996) after David Lee Roth's departure is bitterly contentious among fans, some of whom refer to it as "Van Hagar" as though it were a different band entirely. While the band reached the peak of its popularity, with four #1 albums (their only chart-toppers ever) and seventeen hit singles, there's still a camp in Roth's favor claiming Hagar led the band to sell out with a watered-down sound, even though Eddie Van Halen was the one spearheading the shift to a more pop-oriented sound as far back as 1984 (their last studio album recorded with Dave until his return); Sammy's louder vocal delivery just happened to fit these pop sensibilities better.
Their 1998 album with Extreme's Gary Cherone on vocals, Van Halen III, is much less contentious. The album proved so unpopular that Cherone was fired a year after its release, none of its songs were featured in their 2004 two-disc compilation The Best of Both Worlds, and the band would rather say that none of it ever happened. Ironically, unlike Roth or Hagar, Cherone left the band on good terms.
For Hip-Hop as a whole, everything before the year 1997 is generally remembered pretty well, but much like with metal, bitter flame wars have erupted over the quality of the music that came after that pivotal year.
Mention the late '90s to a fan at your own risk. After the murder of Tupac Shakur in 1996 and The Notorious B.I.G. in 1997, Gangsta Rap found itself quickly displaced by the Lighter and Softer genre of Glam Rap, which reigned over the hip-hop world until the rise of crunknote Itself a polarizing genre, as noted below, but one that has its fans and Southern Rap in the early-mid '00s. While rap music rose to new heights of commercial success and mainstream respectability, shedding many of the associations with street violence that made it a media lightning rod at the height of the gangsta wave, for many fans this came at the expense of the grit, edge, and lyrical depth that characterized hip-hop up to that point, turning what had once been the hardest and most dangerous music in the world into vapid pop. While there were genuine talents (such as Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, and Eminem, among others) to emerge from this time period, by and large the "Jiggy Era", "Shiny Suit Era", or "Bling Era" is remembered as a cautionary tale, a time when mediocre MCs could become stars by rapping about being decadent millionaires while wearing flashy clothes in over-produced music videos.
Those who are less sympathetic to crunk and its offshoots will often argue that a second Dork Age occurred in the late '00s. The use of Auto-Tune to distort vocals into a robotic-sounding effect, one that quickly earned the ire of listeners for seemingly wiping away the personality of rappers and burying it under vocal effects, reached its peak during this time, as did "ringtone rap", songs aimed primarily at the then-booming ringtone market that had catchy, danceable choruses (perfect for turning into a fifteen-second ringtone) but were often seen as having little of value beyond that. The early '10s saw a definitive end to this period, as the rise of smartphones killed ringtone sales and the much-derided genre of snap music that thrived off of them, while backlash against Auto-Tune distortion saw a return to more naturalistic rapping styles. That being said, with the passage of time causing most of the flashes-in-the-pan to fade into history, some people have started to look back nostalgically on the age of crunk and even go so far as to call it a Golden Age for party rap and hip-hop dance music, especially in comparison to...
...the late '10s. The rise of SoundCloud, Vine, and TikTok as platforms for self-publishing, self-promotion, and memes set off a sea change in hip-hop, one whose effects are furiously debated among fans. To its detractors, the brand of Trap Music that emerged from these online scenes is a new Dork Age in the making, characterized by vocals slurred to the point of near-unintelligibility (leading to the derisive term "mumble rap"), vicious misogyny, the celebration of drug abuse (particularly prescription pills like Xanax), and the worst sort of emowangst, often performed by artists whose lyrics shine ugly mirrors onto their violent personal lives. Defenders, however, praise it for its authentic emotions, energy, and anger, often comparing it to early Punk Rock in both its attitude and its Three Chords and the Truth-style simplicity. Needless to say, "SoundCloud rap" marks one of the greatest fault lines in modern hip-hop, and opinions on it one way or the other can get very heated.
The 2004 album Encore, written and recorded as his drug problems began to overwhelm him, was his first real failure. It was widely seen as an utter misfire, filled with juvenile lyrics, shallow (and quickly dated) pop-culture references, and a Flanderization of his "Slim Shady" persona. His follow-up Relapse in 2009 was intended as a comeback, but most critics thought it was just dull, going too far in the opposite direction and losing the sense of humor that set his best material apart. Eminem's actual comeback would come with Recovery in 2010 and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 in 2013, which were seen as a return to form, even if not quite a return to his Glory Days.
However, the negative reception for the 2017 album Revival may indicate another Dork Age in the cards. The pop ballads that propelled him up the charts during his comeback were seen as increasingly formulaic, the humor was seen as having gotten stale, and the attempts at more political and socially conscious songs rang hypocritical for many critics given his own long history of problematic material. The general consensus was that he came across as a relic, one who was confounded by the changing cultural landscape and was unwilling or unable to confront his role in those changes. His 2018 follow-up Kamikaze did little to change that perception; while it got substantially better reviews than Revival, with his technical rapping skill especially being praised as having returned to form, it produced a Broken Base between those who embraced it as an album-length "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the state of hip-hop in the late '10s (and thus liked how willfully old-school he was) and those who felt that he was just shaking his fist at critics and modern rappers without any self-reflection on his own legacy. It's a subject of bitter debate whether Kamikaze pulled Eminem out of his Dork Age or just sank him further into it.
Jay-Z's output after 2003's The Black Album (initially promoted as his final release) was always commercially successful, but many fans and critics felt that, even on his better albums, he'd lost some of the fire that characterized his earlier material. 2006's Kingdom Come and 2013's Magna Carta... Holy Grail are often pointed to as low points for Jay in his "record mogul" era, written largely on autopilot by a man more concerned with his brand and his businesses than his music. Ironically, personal scandal wound up ending the Dork Age, as his 2017 album 4:44, written after he cheated on his wife Beyoncé and largely influenced by the affair and its aftermath, won widespread acclaim.
Likewise, Kanye West's post-Yeezus period has debatably been a dork age for him.
2016's The Life of Pablo was generally well received but criticized for its unusual release strategy (initially being released in an unfinished state on streaming platforms and gradually updated throughout the following months) and somewhat tasteless lyrics. And then came Kanye's Creator Breakdown, where he publicly made a number of controversial statements regarding everything from Donald Trump to race relations that seriously alienated many of his fans. The immediate aftermath of his attempted recovery became inconsistent — his production work on Pusha T's Daytona and collaborative project with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts, both earned widespread acclaim, but his actual follow-up album Ye received a mostly lukewarm reaction (much of the division came from its drastically more introspective and intentionally stripped-back sound, which is either its greatest strength or biggest weakness depending on who you ask), and notably broke his streak of broad critical favorability, earning less-than-solid reviews and lading many to wonder if the former critical darling had finally "lost it."
While he went on to significantly clean up his act since then and either walked back or clarified a number of his controversial statements and positions, this was quickly followed up by an embrace of born-again religion that struck many fans as a repeat of Bob Dylan's infamous Christian period (itself listed on this page). Kanye had always been known as a devout Christian going back to his early single "Jesus Walks", but in 2019, he fully dived into the faith, releasing not only the album Jesus Is King of explicitly Christian hip-hop (after missing two deadlines) but also Bowdlerised versions of his older songs that he himself called the "George Lucas versions". The former met a bitterly polarized reception, while the latter was roundly mocked. He also started Sunday Service, a mix of a pop-up church and a Gospel/hip-hop group that some critics have likened to a cult, or at least a vanity project from a man notorious for his ego, and launched a quixotic independent run for President of the United States in 2020 that was met with eye-rolls and mockery, seen as a publicity stunt that seemed designed to play a spoiler role in a bitterly contested election. However, with the long-awaited release of Donda in 2021 — while still being greatly divisive among critics, in part due to his then-recent publicity stuntsnote Most relevant to the album being the inclusion of DaBaby and Marilyn Manson on "Jail Pt. 2", two artists embroiled in massive controversy themselves — fans and general audiences have been more favorable, at the very least seen as a step up fromJesus is King, but whether that means Kanye will emerge from his rough patch still has yet to be seen.
MC Hammer's 1994 album The Funky Headhunter — with the possible exception of the single "Pumps and A Bump" (as long as you ignore the video). While the song was a platinum-selling success at the time, his attempt to jump on the Gangsta Rap bandwagon destroyed the clean-cut, churchgoing image he'd built in the early '90s. His fans turned against him, and fans of gangsta rap saw him as a poser.
Chance The Rapper fell into a major dork age in 2019, after his first proper studio album The Big Day flopped both critically and commercially. Before then, he was seen as one of the most promising new rappers in the game, standing out for both his positive/optimistic lyrics and championing of record label independence. He released three highly acclaimed mixtapes (10 Day, Acid Rap and Coloring Book), with Coloring Book actually managing to do the unthinkable for a self-released mixtape: win a Grammy for "Best Rap Album."
Unfortunately, throughout the next two years, the signs of an impending dork age were in place, with Chance (among other things) forcing MTV to pull a critical review of one of his concerts. However, his dork age truly started with the release of his first actual "studio album" The Big Day. An album that was savaged by the hip hop community. Criticisms included weak writing, poor singing in parts, a lack of musical focus, and (perhaps most critically) corny and overly sentimental lyrics about his marriage to Kirsten Corley. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 but quickly dropped down the charts after word of mouth spread about its badnessnote The Needle Drop even gave the album a rare 0/10 in his review for it. Meanwhile, his upcoming tour wound up being cancelled due to historically low ticket sales. To make matters even worse, Chance took the album's harsh criticism very poorly. Getting into fights with complaining fans on Twitter, making bizarre statements about people "wanting him to kill himself", and developing a massive God complex that lead many to perceive him as an entitled narcissist. And then, in 2020, he was not only sued by his former manager for unpaid royalties but publicly badmouthed by that same manager for showing a lack of dedication and work ethic when making The Big Day. In just one year, Chance has gone from being one of the most sought after young emcees to a pariah within the rap community, and it's unclear whether or not his career will be able to recover from this.
Pop music as a whole has gone through a few points when the "pop" part of the name (as in "popular") seemed like an Artifact Title.
While The '70s were undoubtedly a Golden Age for many American music genres (Hard Rock, funk, dance music, Country Music), the sorry state of mainstream pop during that time almost seems like karmic balance in comparison. '70s pop was dominated by Variety Show acts, novelty songs, and schmaltzy ballads, many of which were defined by saccharine cheesiness and edgelessness. Looking at the first half of the decade, it's no wonder that disco exploded as it did in the latter half, given the competition — and when disco infamously went out of fashion in The '80s, many music fans were inclined to write off the entire decade as a pop music wasteland. The fact that pop enjoyed a renaissance in The '80s (albeit one that, as noted below, was only truly appreciated in hindsight) only made the comparisons that much less flattering. Not even '70s nostalgia has resurrected the reputation of the decade's pop music, aside from a reevaluation of the disco scene. Todd in the Shadows, in the One Hit Wonderlandepisode covering the 1974 hit "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace, referred to 1974 specifically as "the worst year in pop music history", a time when virtually nothing on the pop charts was any good and people had to go looking in other genres to find music worth listening to.
Pop music from The '80s had this reputation in the '90s and the first half of the '00s, due to the ubiquity of the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer and its cheesy-sounding presets being nearly inescapable in all forms of rock and pop music during the decade, as well as the goofy fashion trends seen in music videos. Many I Love The '80s-style nostalgia shows featured artists openly cringing at the way they looked in the videos. The only electronic acts from the era that got a pass were typically cool Alternative Dance bands like Depeche Mode and New Order. However, as with hair metal around the same time, '80s nostalgia made Synth-Pop cool again in the late '00s and '10s, with many contemporary pop acts adopting retro-sounding synths in their songs and the entire synthwave genre hearkening back to the electronic film soundtracks of the era. That said, while analog synthesizers like the Minimoog and the Prophet-5 have made a comeback, FM synths like the DX7 are still remembered as cheesy relics, with used examples selling for considerably less than their analog counterparts.
Pop in the US spent the early-mid 1990s reeling from the disgrace and downfall of Milli Vanilli, at the time one of the biggest and most influential pop acts in the country. Grunge, Hip-Hop, and adult alternative won the hearts of listeners who saw the dance-pop and adult contemporary of the late '80s as overly artificial, sanitized, and soulless, and artists within those latter genres struggled to break through or maintain the success that they did have. This Dork Age is actually the reason why the US is the one market that global pop sensation Kylie Minogue was unable to crack: her peak hitmaking years coincided with the time when her brand of pop music was anathema to American listeners. Alanis Morissette also had to undergo a significant Genre Shift for her American breakthrough Jagged Little Pill after her first two pop-oriented albums fell completely flat with critics and audiences. Only in the late '90s, with the rise of boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC and pop princesses like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, did Americans embrace pop once more. The only pop artists who managed to escape the carnage comparatively unscathed were '80s icons Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince, all three of whom benefited from reorienting their sounds to fit within the aforementioned adult alternative format.
Many pop fans will argue that the genre fell into another one in the mid-2000s thanks to the rise of Auto-Tune and pre-programmed instrumentals, resulting in music that was widely perceived as soulless, artificial, and monotonous, while subject matter came to be dominated by nightclub party anthems. It also didn't help that hip-hop, R&B, and post-grunge took over much of pop's placement on the charts and many of the genre's superstars were facing heaps of media backlash around the time, either.
While the late '00s and early '10s saw a burst of creativity that many at the time heralded as an end to the Dork Age (even as the trends from before also reached their apex with the "club boom"), the pendulum swung back hard in the mid-'10s with the disgrace of Record Producer Dr. Luke, instrumental in crafting the defining pop sounds of the 21st century, in his sexual assault scandal. Not only did this seem to deal a body blow to the output of many of his most frequent collaborators, who were among the biggest music stars in the world at the time, but the gap left by his absence and that of his proteges was soon filled by Electronic Dance Music and Trap Music, two highly polarizing genres that came to dominate the charts and especially streaming platforms. Additionally, much of the pop that did breakthrough in the mainstream split fans (especially from those who were kinder to the "club boom") over perception of being too bleak for its own good. It's been noted that many of the most interesting artists in pop music today are either working outside the mainstream or come from outside the US, most notably from the alternative pop and K-pop scenes.
Many argue Tori Amos fell into one of these during the '00s with her post-Scarlet's Walk (her wildly popular 2002 album) output, though mainly due to the structuring and runtime compared to the content itself.
The Beekeeper arguably started it off according to some critics and even a sizable number of fans with, especially with the release of the Lighter and Softer lead single "Sleeps With Butterflies". It has since gotten a bit more appreciation, if only from fans, for how the songs delve into some complex and unlikely themes, including Gnostic Christianity.
American Doll Posse was an ambitious, 79 minute long Concept Album where Amos assumed five separate female personalities to tell a story of living in the USA. A downplayed example in that critics were more appreciative of the musical content compared to The Beekeeper and even Scarlet's Walk itself, only reserving the criticism for the Audience-Alienating Premise that was the structure.
Abnormally Attracted to Sin also copped flak for its overly long runtime, though was counterbalanced by the album drawing from her personal life compared to the external influences such as politics, feminism, and the Iraq War.
Jack Antonoff became the Breakup Breakout of fun. after that band went on hiatus, emerging as one of the most in-demand pop music record producers of the mid-late 2010s, especially after Dr. Luke's career was derailed by personal scandal. By the early '20s, however, his style had begun to wear thin on critics and listeners, as his work on albums like Lana Del Rey's Chemtrails Over the Country Club and Lorde's Solar Power was criticized as samey and bland to the point where some songs sounded like Self-Plagiarism of older tracks he'd recorded with other artists. While Taylor Swift's Antonoff-produced 2020 albums folklore and evermore were acclaimed, many attributed that less to Antonoff than to co-producer Aaron Dessner.
B2ST was considered to have gone through this after their megahit "Fiction". Neither of their next two mini albums did well in comparison, and the single "Shadow" was particularly underwhelming. They turned this around with the release of "Good Luck", which was composed by rapper Junhyung and fit the group much better, resulting in a return to popularity.
Pat Boone, icon of whitebread, mocked this trope once by appearing at an event with Ozzy Osbourne's family in leather and with pierced nipples and temporary tattoos. He even released an album of metal covers, called In a Metal Mood: No More Mister Nice Guy, performed in his signature whitebread style. His take of "Crazy Train" was used as the theme for The Osbournes (He and Ozzy were next door neighbors for many years until Ozzy and company moved shortly before the series' run). He's since claimed that his fanbase views that album as not just a Dork Age, but a Devil Age, and it actually resulted in him getting kicked out of his church for a while.
Justin Bieber had this from 2013 to 2015 to the point that his career seemed effectively over during that time. These included: Bieber hitting adulthood and many of his oldest fans starting to grow out of him, the explosive breakout of boy band One Direction, taking away almost all of Bieber's youngest fans and quite a chunk of the older ones as well, his attempt to retool himself as a "bad boy" to try and stay relevant and his hatedom continuing to grow rapidly and them doing everything in their power to wipe Bieber Fever off the face of the Earth in addition to being tabloid fodder, with even mainstream media joining in on the fight against him. However, this ended in 2015 as Bieber staged a massive comeback with his album Purpose, which was well received by critics and fans and won back many of his former fans, in addition to three consecutive #1 singles and ended One Direction's streak of #1 albums.
Mariah Carey had this from 2001 to 2005, which also doubles as a Creator Breakdown. In 2000, she left Columbia on bad terms after her acrimonious divorce with Tommy Mottola and signed with Virgin to work on her pet project Glitter. After production of Glitter wrapped, her three-year relationship with Luis Miguel ended. Due to the pressure of losing her relationship, being on a new record label, filming a movie, and recording an album, Carey began to suffer a nervous breakdown and began a series of disturbing messages on her official website, and displayed erratic behaviour while on several promotional outings including her infamous TRL appearance and as a result of her being checked into a hospital, Glitter's release date was postponed from August to September 2001. Unfortunately, the Glitter soundtrack was released on September 11 and became a critical and commercial dud and the film was also a Box Office Bomb, though the former has since been Vindicated by History thanks to the #justiceforglitter fan campaign that reached the soundtrack to the iTunes Top 10 18 years later. The failure resulted in Virgin releasing her contract and then she began writing songs for her next album, which became Charmbracelet. The album was intended to be her Career Resurrection but unfortunately, it wasn't well-received by critics (though most critics felt it was better than Glitter) and didn't do well at the charts (despite being a Top 10 album in the United States, Switzerland and Japan and "I Know What You Want", her duet with Busta Rhymes, became her sole Top 5 hit worldwide during that time and was later included in the re-release of Charmbracelet). The failure of Charmbracelet led to Carey questioning about her future and then began recording The Emancipation of Mimi, which ultimately became her Career Resurrection and was lauded by fans and critics alike.
Their 1999 "reunion" album, Don't Mind If I Do, qualifies as well. (Tellingly, it wasn't released outside of Europe.) The attempt at crafting modern pop songs just didn't work with a band considered one of the very best, if not the best, of the New Wave era. It had no hit singles and vanished without a trace. At least George's vocal chords weren't broken yet...
2018's Life comeback album, on the other hand, appears to be the end of the dork age. The tracks are far catchier than anything they've done since 1985; a delectable blend of retro stylings with irresistible hooks. This is what we should've got in 1986. George's voice is sadly damaged, but it's certainly listenable and he's clearly trying his hardest.
Daft Punk fell into this with their third album Human After All. After two commercially successful albums that brought French dance music into the mainstream, the dance pop duo opted for a more rock-oriented sound with their follow up and unfortunately, it polarised critics and fans alike due to the new sound and the duo's decision to record the album with a six-week production time, along with the album having mediocre sales when compared to Homework and Discovery. While "Robot Rock" was a hit, it wasn't as successful as their bigger hits "Around the World" and "One More Time", barely reaching the Top 40 in nine countries and charted below the Top 40 in their native France. Fortunately, the band bounced back in 2007 with a well-regarded live album Alive 2007, which many fans considered it a huge improvement along with their TRON: Legacy soundtrack coming out in 2010 and after leaving Virgin Records to join Columbia Records, the duo had a Career Resurrection with their disco-influenced Random Access Memories in 2013, which performed well and had the successful hit "Get Lucky", which became their first UK number one single and their first US Top 40 hit.
Duran Duran had "Notorious"; many fans thought they'd overstayed their welcome when they heard it. Others believe that "Seven And The Ragged Tiger" was the start of their downfall, due to it being produced by the divisive Nile Rodgers.
A few hardcore New Wave elitists think everything after their debut album was a dork age.
Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman era was widely considered to be far less successful than My Everything was. This was often seen as a result of her bad behavior getting the best of her, most infamously the donut shop incident. For years, none of her songs came close to the massive success that "Problem" had. In 2017, the Manchester Arena bombing and her reaction to it helped her regain many of her lost fans. Her Dork Age was over by the Thank U, Next era, where she got her first #1 single and followed it up with another #1.
Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004 marked the beginning of one that lasted for the rest of the '00s. While Justin Timberlake, her co-performer at the show, walked away with minimal career damage and soon came back in 2006 with the album FutureSex/LoveSounds, Janet was all but blacklisted from radio afterwards, which affected the reception of her album Damita Jo a few months later. While it still went platinum in a month, it only debuted at #2, breaking a 20-year streak of chart-topping albums that went back to Control in 1986, and more importantly, it received only mixed reviews, many of which were colored by the controversy. Janet's follow-ups 20 Y.O. in 2006 and Discipline in 2008 were seen as similar disappointments, and afterwards, she took a seven-year break from recording music to focus on acting. A return to form finally came with her comeback album Unbreakable in 2015.
Michael Jackson's post-Dangerous period from 1995 to his death in 2009 was not kind to him as his public drama started overwhelming his music, starting with a large number of bitter and vindictive rants against the mainstream media on HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book I (which became the best-selling double album ever and was his last album to score a number one hit in his native United States, but was still much less successful than previous solo efforts), which even calls out the California district attorney who led the first child molestation investigation against him by name and baselessly suggests he might be "brother with the KKK". His final album Invincible featured not only those, but a rather generic sound that didn't feature any of the energy or personality of his best work. The quality of his music videos likewise plummeted, largely alternating between self-pitying visualizations of such rants and retreads of his '80s hits.
For a thankfully brief period with the 2003 album 0304, Jewel abandoned her trademark sensitive, folksy, Lilith Fair poet persona in order to become... a clone of every sexy pop princess of the early '00s. She claimed that her violently-impossible-to-like lead-off single "Intuition" was meant as a satire of interchangeable, pretty, blonde pop singers, but fans had trouble believing that, considering that she made a bunch of money off that song being used to launch a women's razor line called "Intuition". She very quickly went back to her folk-pop sound, with her departures into Country Music on Perfectly Clear in 2008 and Sweet and Wild in 2010 raising far fewer eyebrows given that they weren't far removed from her usual style.
Jewelry was this ever since Seo In Young's departure from the group, with releases few and far between and lacklustre.
The period in between 1986's The Bridge and his 1993 pop music swan song River Of Dreams is not often considered an artistic high point in the career of Billy Joel, at least compared with his previous albums. The Bridge was somewhat marred by an overabundance of '80s synthesizers (only slightly tempered on 1989's Storm Front) and an overall cynical flavor to many of his lyrics (written during his Creator Breakdown due to financial litigation and the breakup of his marriage to Christie Brinkley), while there's a general dropoff in songwriting quality. While this era produced many good songs ("River Of Dreams", "Leningrad"; "The Downeaster 'Alexa'", "I Go To Extremes", "A Matter Of Trust", "Shameless", "This Is The Time"), and the polarizing "We Didn't Start The Fire", Joel's last number one single, the post-An Innocent Man studio albums received mixed reviews by the Joel-faithful critics (and sites like the AllMusic Guide).
The first is 1977-1982, when his lyricist Bernie Taupin had little or no influence on the albums of that period, his sales slowed, he dabbled in disco for an album just as the style fell from popularity in spectacular fashion, and his albums in general were of an inconsistent quality.
The second is 1985-1990, where Taupin was more involved, but Elton's music became overly produced and synth-heavy, much of the classic '70s Elton John Band who backed him in his 1983-84 period were fired and replaced by session musicians, and Elton's drug and alcohol habits, bulimia, and reckless love life were taking a toll on him.
Lady Gaga's 2013 album Artpop was criticized as her coasting on her success. With the Synth-Pop sound she pioneered having blown up into the mainstream since her debut, sticking to her old formula and resting on the tropes of The Fame and Born This Way was seen as a case of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny at best and a creative rut at worst, one that was less groundbreaking than it was just weird for its own sake. Its critical and commercial failure (her label reportedly lost up to $25 million on the album, a charge that she denied) caused Gaga to fade from the limelight in the mid-'10s, working on smaller projects such as a collaboration with Tony Bennett and stabs at an acting career, before making a comeback in 2016-17 with her New Sound AlbumJoanne and a well-received Super Bowl halftime performance. Despite all this, however, Artpop has become a Cult Classic among Gaga's diehard fans.
Her 2003 album American Life ended the streak of success she had with Bedtime Stories, 1998's Ray of Light, and 2000's Music. The title track got her blacklisted from US radio stations during that time, especially with it being released during the US invasion of Iraq, while the video for it was so controversial that it was banned at her own request a day after its network premiere and replaced with a different one. The rest of the songs weren't much better, filled with Clueless Aesops that did less to satirize modern America than they did to make Madonna look like an out-of-touch celebrity complaining about First World Problems. The theme song she released for Die Another Day was also widely criticized as one of the worst James Bond themes ever made. Overall, the album divided critics and fans for its anvilicious message and failed forays into rapping and folktronica, and unlike Erotica, it hasn't been Vindicated by History, generally being regarded as her worst album. Another course correction was in order, and this Dork Age soon ended with the well-received 2005 disco-influenced album Confessions on a Dance Floor, whose reputation would only grow as its sound influenced the revival of dance-pop in the late '00s. Todd in the Shadows goes into more detail in this episode of Trainwreckords, arguing that, while American Life wasn't a full-blown Creator Killer, it still marked the point at which Madonna went from the most daring woman in pop music to a nostalgia act who played it safe.
Her 2008 and 2012 albums Hard Candy and MDNA were regarded as better than American Life, but a step down from Confessions on a Dance Floor, with many fans and critics seeing her as trying and failing to keep up with contemporary pop music trends (Contemporary R&B on Hard Candy, Electronic Dance Music on MDNA). While 2015's Rebel Heart didn't light the charts on fire (it was her first album since Ray of Light to not debut atop the charts), its return to the dance-pop of Confessions started to Win Back the Crowd, earning it more praise from most critics and fans compared to her previous efforts. Her 2019 follow-up Madame X was even more warmly received, on account of the artist incorporating more Latino-pop influences in addition to being considered just plain bizarre in a good way, suggesting that the Dork Age has ended.
Motown Records, the legendary pop hit factory of The '60s, never really adjusted well to The '70s. Most people cite Berry Gordy's move of the label from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972 as the tipping point; not only was the label leaving the Motor City it was named for, but the move, despite not really being a surprise to anybody who'd paid attention to Gordy's interest in LA since the late '60s, still came as a shock to many employees who now had to pack their bags and move west. Furthermore, the move coincided with most of Motown's biggest acts from the '60s and early '70s either leaving the label or breaking up, many of them due to financial disputes with Gordy. Gordy's attempts to get Motown into the film industry proved less successful than he'd hoped, and the label's association with manufactured pop music brought with it a backlash from the ascendant rock and funk musicians of the new decade, earning the derisive nickname "Toytown". The label was fortunate enough to jump on the disco bandwagon early, but the moment "Disco Sucks!" became a Memetic Mutation, it got hit hard by the genre's fall from grace. The quality improved in The '80s as Motown started notching hits and selling records again, but it was fatally slow to catch on to both Hip-Hop and the music video era. By 1988, when Gordy sold the label to MCA, it was hemorrhaging money and a shell of its former self.
Katy Perry's fourthnote Not counting her 2001 Self-Titled Album recorded under her birth name Katy Hudson, an album of Christian pop that, while not usually counted as part of her career, is a cult item among her fans. album Witness in 2017 snapped her mainstream success, being roundly criticized for overproduction, scattershot writing, lacking the catchiness of her best work (which many blamed on the lack of her longtime collaborator, the disgraced Record Producer Dr. Luke), and sounding like everything else on the radio in the mid-late '10s. Perry's promise that the album would be taking a more political direction towards "purposeful pop" also left her open to criticism of her own problematic career choices, while a four-day YouTube live stream to promote the album was filled with all manner of bizarre non-sequiturs that had people buzzing for all the wrong reasons. Her new haircut was also incredibly polarizing, on top of it. While Witness debuted at #1, it crashed hard with an 89% dropoff in sales during its second week, while the accompanying concert tour struggled to sell out the arenas that she was able to pack during her Teenage Dream and Prism days. It's because of this along with suffering a Creator Breakdown that Perry opted to release five standalone singles along with her inclusion as a featured artist for Daddy Yankee's English remix of "Con Calma", his collaboration with Canadian rapper Snow, whose song "Informer" served as the basis of Yankee's hit, instead of a straightfoward album during late 2019 and early 2020 to varying chart success though having a better critical reception than Witness with "Con Calma (Remix)" and "Never Really Over" being the only ones to become major Top 40 hits due to her current focus as a judge on American Idol, but she would eventually confirm in May 2020 that her next album would come out in August of that year. The eventual album Smile pretty much ended said age as while critics were divided on it along with not being a huge seller, many found it to be a major improvement over Witness.
Prince's phase of replacing his name with a symbol and insistence on being called "the artist formerly known as Prince" resulted in his being labeled as a Cloudcuckoolander. The era following his split from long-time record label Warner Bros. (1996-2003) definitely counts. To recap, Prince started to release his album on his own "NPG Records" imprint with various distributors, his tours mainly catered to a small but dedicated hardcore crowd, and he started to experiment with different styles of music, mainly Jazz in the latter half. To top it all off, Prince converted to Jehovah's Witnesses near the end of the 90s and decided to stray away from the vulgar, sexual image he initially became known for. The age ended in 2004, first with a high profile appearance Opening the 2004 Grammys with Beyoncé, and second with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His 2004 album Musicology and its corresponding tour marked his return to the main stream and becoming an in-demand live act.
Kenji Sawada has had two. First, his 1969 debut album Julie has been essentially disowned by him, having come out during a brief lineup hiatus for his band The Tigers and sounding vaguely easy-listening, with a simple studio orchestra and little to no live potential. Second, there was his second "self produced" period of 1995-1999 due to taking on increasingly avant garde musical direction (1995's Sur<- was stated to be Indie Pop by Sawada himself) and frequently changing membership in his live band JAZZMASTER.
SNSD's "I got a Boy" is best described as an erratic song without focus, and their subsequent song "Galaxy Supernova" was considered underwhelming at best.
Britney Spears' infamous Creator Breakdown period in the mid-'00s counts as a personal Dork Age, if not a creative one. Her 2007 album Blackout received mixed reviews from critics but good ones from her fans (something that was never unusual for her), and has since been Vindicated by History for the influence that its Synth-Pop sound had on late '00s/early '10s pop music. However, it was her first album to not go to #1 on the charts, as by that point in time, Britney was better known for her tabloid antics than for her music, which culminated in her losing custody of her children and being placed under the conservatorship of her father. This seemed to have done the trick in getting her life back on track; her following albums Circus and Femme Fatale were both smash hits that put her name back in the spotlight for the right reasons.
Taylor Swift is one of the most notoriously enigmatic musicians of the 21st century, and as such, fans and critics alike have furiously debated which of her eras are Dork Ages, whether she's in one now, whether she's pulled herself out of one, or whether she's falling into one.
A fair number of older fans from her Country Music days believe that she fell into this with her Genre Shift to straight pop music, though the first two albums to come out of this shift, 2012's Red and 2014's 1989, were both warmly received by fans and critics alike and helped her massively expand her fanbase.
A more commonly-cited Dork Age came with the breaking of her squeaky-clean image in the mid-2010s. A big part of Taylor's brand was that her music and lyrics spoke to a generation of teenage girls dealing with real-world issues, and her feuds with the likes of Katy Perry, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian, as well as her surrounding herself with a Girl Posse of attractive models, singers, and actresses known as her "squad", made her look like a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Taylor was fully aware that her public image had taken a serious blow, to the point where she has said that this was a big part of why she chose not to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for President in 2016 despite supporting her privately, as she felt that associating herself with Clinton's campaign would reflect badly on Clinton — a move that instead led to rumors that she was secretly a Donald Trump supporter or even a white nationalist (with attendant ironic fandom from the alt-right).
Taylor's response was to fully lean into her growing "bad girl" image on her 2017 album reputation, and opinions are divided on whether this pulled her out of her Dork Age or sank her further into it. Defenders welcomed it as her response to the criticism she'd withered over the prior few years, while for detractors, it was the point where she took off the sheep's clothing (in more ways than one) and just became an Alpha Bitch. It was still a sales success, but a disappointment by Taylor's standards, selling a million copies in the US in its first week but taking seventeen weeks to reach two million albums sold, longer than her prior three albums combined.
That said, "a disappointment by Taylor's standards" is still a big hit, as reputation was the biggest album of both 2017 and 2018 in the US. The accompanying concert tour was also very successful, with the release of a well-received 2019 concert documentary on Netflix seeming to cause many detractors to reevaluate the album. The revelation that one of the main points many of her critics used against her, a leaked July 2016 phone call with Kanye West in which she seemingly gave her approval for a vulgar lyric about her on the song "Famous" even though she publicly excoriated him for it, turned out to have been a case of Manipulative Editing on the part of Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian also shifted public opinion in her favor (and against them). Her 2019 album Lover, which mixed Lighter and Softer with Older and Wiser (including some exploration of religion and politics, topics that she'd typically avoided in the past), won widespread praise from both critics and fans, marking a definitive end to the Dork Age.
Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake's 2018 comeback album, attempted to incorporate influences from Country Music into his sound, and backfired badly. A backlash had been growing throughout the 2010s over what was seen as inauthentic posturing in his R&B style, as well as a perception, one that Timberlake himself seemed to agree with, that he got off easy after the "Nipplegate" scandal in 2004 even as Janet Jackson's career (see above) went down in flames, and for many, him trying to go country was The Last Straw. Man of the Woods met mixed to negative reviews, with only the song "Say Something" with Chris Stapleton having any real success. A mediocre Super Bowl halftime performance to promote the album did him no favors, between it reminding people of his infamous prior Super Bowl halftime show (the one with Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction) and the massive backlash it received from Prince fans for using a Pepper's Ghost of the late musician's likeness (Prince had stated in interviews near the end of his life that he strongly objected to the use of Pepper's Ghosts to produce simulated performances from deceased artists).
Scott Walker entered into such a phase in the early '70s. After the entirely self-penned Scott 4 failed to chart, his following five albums consisted almost entirely of covers and outside compositions. These days, most fans just pretend that Walker's solo career stopped entirely until Climate of Hunter in 1984.
The genre as a whole has faced this more than once.
By the end of The '50s, Rock & Roll in general had all but died. The genre's stars all saw their careers come to a halt in one way or another, with Elvis Presley getting drafted into the army, popular performers like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran dying in accidents, Little Richard becoming born-again and abandoning the genre, Jerry Lee Lewis being ostracized for marrying a teenage cousin, Bill Haley moving to middle-of-the-road instrumental and country music, and Chuck Berry going to prison for violating the Mann Act. Furthermore, the payola scandals had created the unfair impression that the entire genre was driven more by record industry hype than an organic fanbase, with prominent rock DJ Alan Freed seeing his career destroyed by revelations that he took money to play singles that labels were promoting (including some that he had writing credits on), Dick Clark only avoiding the same fate because he cooperated with the authorities and sold off his ownership stake in a record company, and DJs in general being stripped of their authority to make programming decisions at many radio stations. In the early '60s, Elvis was entering his own Dork Age (see below), the rest of rock 'n' roll had been reduced to one novelty tune after another (such as The Twist), and the genre seemed to be well on its way to being remembered only as a relic of '50s pop culture. It took the Brits, previously alien towards rock but inspired by Elvis, Berry, Haley, and the others, to revive it and refine its form. One of these bands, rather obviously, was The Beatles.
Critics like to paint the early-mid '70s as one for rock music with the rise of Progressive Rock. While the genre was popular, many critics saw it as overblown and pretentious, spurning the populism that had characterized '50s and '60s rock music in favor of aspirations towards True Art, an ethos that many critics felt went against everything that rock stood for. The genre was so pervasive, especially in the U.K., that it influenced many non-prog rock acts like Led Zeppelin and Elton John, among others. Later in the decade, economic malaise made the genre seem like a relic of a simpler time, with many prog bands' idealism, fantasy lyrics, and expensive instruments like synthesizers coming across as frivolous and out of touch to the point of elitism. Many of the critics cheered when Punk Rock came along later in the '70s and heralded a return to Three Chords and the Truth, and when Post-Punk and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal took the musicianship of prog and swapped out the snobbery for punk-style aggression and rebellion, with the former also inheriting prog's sonic experimentation.
From the breakthrough of Grunge in the '90s through the mid-'00s, critics saw The '80s as rock's dork age. A lot of it was the perception that music videos were causing artists to focus on image instead of the music. The other was the prevalence of cheesy Yamaha DX7 synth sounds, as mentioned under the pop music section. A lot of established acts fell under this, as the wave of '60s and '70s rock stars entered middle age, making the decade seem in retrospect like a bad mid-life crisis. '80s rock only started to fall under the Nostalgia Filter with the revival of interest in the '80s in the '00s.
Mainstream rock, which was dominated by acts who originally broke out in rock's '60s/'70s heyday like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones among other groups, encountered backlash throughout the '90s due to the genre's pandering to mainstream pop audiences, which audiences by then were rebelling against and thus cost them many potential young fans. A high-profile victim of this Dork Age was Phil Collins, whose two albums during this period failed to crack the top 10 on the Billboard 200 for the first time in his solo career and saw his already fragile Broken Base completely breach, becoming a pop culture punching bag for the entire decadenote It didn't help that he sent Genesis to complete irrelevance by this point, as mentioned below. To this day, mainstream rock has never recovered from its '90s rut, as most of the aforementioned artists' music have been stuck on classic rock radio, with their newer hits being all but ignored by rock stations.
For many fans of rock music, the entire 21st century has been one long Dork Age that saw rock music slowly recede from the public eye. During the 2000s, the American genre mainstream was dominated by Post-Grunge, which, like Hair Metal before it, became The Scrappy of rock subgenres for its Strictly Formula sound and increasingly hedonistic lyrics, with its stranglehold on rock radio being seen as having smothered creativity within the genre. On the edges of the mainstream, Emo Music was bitterly polarizing, bands in the Post-Punk revival scene were critical darlings whose success often amounted to "that band your hipster friend won't shut up about", and while metal was still thriving and had its own passionate fans and scenes, it grew increasingly separate from the rest of the rock world. In the UK, meanwhile, the post-punk revival swept through the stagnant post-Britpop rock world and became the dominant strain of rock — and earned a reputation near-identical to that of Post-Grunge in the US, with derisive terms like "landfill indie" used to describe the many copycat bands that emerged. By the 2010s, the stagnation of rock music on both sides of The Pond reached a tipping point, causing the collapse of many of the genre's biggest bands, with pop, Hip-Hop, Electronic Music, and even (in the US) Country Music rushing in to fill the resulting vacuum. By that point, rock and their respective scenes became more fragmented than ever before, to the point that any overlap within them is often met with culture clash. The mood among music critics and journalists, and even some rock musicians, has been one of deep pessimism about the future of rock, with many of its biggest acts now being either older (or otherwise) bands playing the Classic Rock nostalgia circuit or newer ones (especially in indie rock) that often embrace so many influences from other genres that some have questioned their status as rock music.
As for one of rock's most famous offshoots, Punk Rock, saying that "punk is dead" has been a meme within the culture almost from the moment punk got big. The 2000s, however, are usually not remembered fondly by punk enthusiasts. Much like with metal in the late '80s, the '00s are remembered as when punk went pop, trading rebellion and social consciousness for catchy hooks and lyrics designed to pander to teenagers. Fans of Emo Music in particular remember the decade as that genre's Sell-Out period. In hindsight, the music from this era also caught flak for misogynistic lyrics that seemed rooted in a Dogged Nice Guy view of women and relationships, especially in comparison to previous punk and Alternative Rock subgenres like grunge and Riot Grrrl. For many, the end of punk's mainstream success late in the decade was the best thing to ever happen to it, at least from a creative standpoint. That said, the "Warped Tour era" of punk is also liable to invoke nostalgia from 2000s kids who grew up with it (another similarity with late '80s Hair Metal), particularly from those who saw its rebellion as more personal than political, chiefly in its rejection of the standards of masculinity prevalent in contemporary pop culture. 2000s emo especially has come in for nostalgic reappraisal on these grounds, and its tropes and styles wound up making a comeback in a big way through Hip-Hop, of all genres, in the late '10s.
After becoming one of America's most successful bands in the '70s, Aerosmith went through one of music's most famous examples in the 80's, following Joe Perry and Brad Whitford's departures in 1979 and 1981, respectively. Their two albums released during this period, Night In The Ruts and Rock In A Hard Place, don't exist in any greatest hits compilations. When Joe and Brad returned, they had fallen so far it took a hip-hop collaboration with RunD.M.C. and 1987's Permanent Vacation to return them back to the spotlight. Their success since then has managed to be greater than their 70's heyday, and is considered the greatest comeback story in popular music history.
Their stuff post Nine Lives is looked upon by many (even the band themselves) as a second Dork Age which continues today, depending on how you feel about "Legendary Child".
In a way, the early '80s were a personal Dork Age for Joe Perry himself, as he tried going at it solo and went nowhere until rejoining Aerosmith.
There's argument over whether AFI entered this or left it by switching their sound from hardcore punk to new wave glam rock.
By 1973, Carl and Dennis' leadership diminished due to substance abuse and Dennis' struggling battle with his own inner demons, and in 1976, an attempt was made to bring Brian back to the band's forefront, which included making him tour with the Beach Boys again (he previously quit touring with them in 1965 due to mental health issues) and produce several more albums. The result was the underwhelming 15 Big Ones and the love-it-or-hate-itThe Beach Boys Love You. Brian quickly receded back into the background as it quickly became clear that he was in no shape to continue touring or produce anymore Beach Boys albums, and spent the remainder of the 70s and most of the 80s undergoing therapy by the infamousEugene Landy.
At this point, Mike Love has taken role of the leader, and many fans agree that the band quickly went downhill under his leadership. Throughout this period, the Boys released a series of increasingly hated and poorly selling albums (including a thinly-veiled attempt at catering to the disco crowd during the disco backlash), while their 1960s chart-toppers (in addition to "Heroes and Villains" and songs from Pet Sounds) dominated their live set to attract the nostalgic crowd. The death of Dennis Wilson in 1983 also served to be a serious blow to the band. Their reputation rapidly declined further, and by the end of the 70s, the Beach Boys were looked down upon by the mainstream as a washed-up oldies band.
However, in the mid-to-late-80s, the band managed to briefly propel themselves back into relevancy with their 1988 hit single "Kokomo", which was famously featured in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, although these days it's considered to be one of their worst songs. Mike Love, in an attempt to make lightning strike twice, spearheaded production for their 1992 album Summer in Paradise (their first and only album without any involvement from Brian Wilson whatsoever), intended by Love to be "the quintessential soundtrack of summer". It was promoted with the band guest-appearing on the popular sitcom Full House (with one of the actors from the show, John Stamos, singing a reworked version of "Forever" on the album) and performing the album's lead single, "Summer of Love", on the action drama series Baywatch. Despite the band's best efforts, the album bombed spectacularly (selling only around 10,000 copies ever) and is considered to be the band's absolute worst album.
The band attempted to follow up with a cover album of old Beach Boys songs sung by country singers, this time with Brian Wilson's (who was recently separated from Landy and administered proper treatment for his mental illnesses) involvement, albeit with little input from him. The result was Stars and Stripes Vol. 1, which was a critical and commercial failure, failing to break the Billboard 200. Any further Beach Boys projects were shelved indefinitely, and Carl Wilson died two years after the release of the album. The band limped through the 2000s as a live band while Brian Wilson distanced himself from the Beach Boys and went on to have a successful solo career (including the completion and release of the long awaitedSMiLE.)
In short, the Beach Boys slowly went from one of the most critically acclaimed rock acts of all time to the industry laughing stock and back, and is presumed to be the reason why so many Beach Boys fans deeply resent Mike Love. While the albums that came after Pet Sounds and before 15 Big Ones went on to become cult classics (again, YMMV onLove You), people prefer to forget about anything they did after that. However, they finally climbed out of the dork age with the well-recieved 2012 reunion album That's Why God Made the Radio.
2010's Neighborhoods, the first album that blink-182 recorded after ending their hiatus, endured a Troubled Production, with all of the band's members choosing to record their parts separately due to both their schedules and lingering friction between them, communicating primarily through emails and their managers and only rarely recording together. It shows, with many fans deriding the album as stale, bland, too similar-sounding to Tom DeLonge's side project Angels & Airwaves, and feeling as though nobody involved was all that interested in making it, an accusation that Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus themselves later lodged at DeLonge. The album's failure led to blink-182 getting dropped from Interscope and DeLonge leaving the band, to be replaced by Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio. Their subsequent album with Skiba, 2016's California, produced a Broken Base; while many fans praised it as a return to form and felt that Skiba was a great replacement for DeLonge, others missed DeLonge's presence and thought that the band was just coasting on their old formula. Regardless, it was a commercial success, becoming their second number one album (after 2001's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket) and being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album (their first such nomination).
The Blue Öyster Cult's Mirrors album - a deliberate move into a softer more pop-rock and above all commercial style - is thought of as this by most fans. That it succeeded the hard-rocking Spectres, thought of as one of their greatest albums, only added to the dissappointment. The band were perceived as returning to form afterwards with Cultosaurus Erectus and Fire of Unkonwn Origin, but Mirrors remains pretty much their Dork Age. And the least said about the later Imaginos, the better.
The whole of David Bowie's fandom seems to consist of various factions who love and hate different phases of his decades-long career, due to his frequent sound/image makeovers.
His 1967 self-titled debut, which he has since disowned as Old Shame. His second album, now known as Space Oddity, was originally a self-titled reboot.
In his "canon" career, the huge success of 1983's mainstream-friendly, pop-rock Let's Dance made him more popular than ever before, even as it alienated longtime fans who regarded him as a sellout. That wouldn't have been so bad had he not acted against his better instincts and stayed with that sound for the next few years, with Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987). Even he admits that he just must not have cared when he made the latter, though "Time Will Crawl" is a great song (actually, most of the singles from this period rode high on the charts — they were just quickly forgotten). Side projects like the Live Aid "Dancing in the Street" video with Mick Jagger, Absolute Beginners, and Labyrinth yielded more mockery from the press. The accompanying Glass Spider concert tour for Never Let Me Down was a money-spinner but razzed as overblown (although the concert video of it has its fans), and Bowie was so miserable with it all that he considered giving up on music. Instead, getting out of this dork age led him into...
The Tin Machine years of 1989-1992. Initially, his choice to eschew pop for a Hard Rock group where he wasn't supposed to be the Face of the Band was welcomed by the British music press and listeners, but the bloom swiftly faded from that rose (however, his solo Sound+Vision tour during this period went over well, and as of The New '10s, Tin Machine has been quite thoroughly Vindicated by History for being able to predict the rise of 90's Alternative Rock and especially grunge).
After Tin Machine came to an end, his output is dotted with studio albums that small-but-vocal chunks of the fandom regard as Dork Ages. Black Tie White Noise (electronic lounge pop, some numbers doubling as dedications to his then-new wife Iman), Earthling (intelligent drum and bass just as it was falling out of favor), hours... (softer, more introspective fare that prompted Reeves Gabrels, the guitarist who collaborated with Bowie in Tin Machine and his other '90s works, to leave), and Reality (mainstream alt-rock) all have their haters. This leaves four mostly-loved albums — 1. Outside, Heathen, The Next Day and his swan song, Blackstar — and consistently well-received tours.
John Cale of the Velvet Underground was a drug-addled, overweight, mentally-unwell shell of his former self for a period in the early to mid-eighties. Fortunately, he cleaned himself up, but not before filming some very embarrassing live performances.
Fall Out Boy's fanbase is a notoriously broken one, but one thing that most of them can agree on is that the 2010s have not been kind to them. The general consensus is that the music they recorded after reuniting in 2012 got progressively worse with each new album, culminating in the downright negative reception to 2018's MANIA (especially the lead single "Young and Menace"), the point at which many fans felt that they had all but abandoned their Pop Punk and emo roots entirely in favor of jumping on the EDM and Indie Pop bandwagons. Their increasingly commercial nature post-reunion, particularly their heavy touring schedule and merchandising, also caused many fans to feel that they had sold out.
Fleetwood Mac has had two. The first one was the early-mid '70s period with Bob Welch and between Peter Green's departure and the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The second was the period between Buckingham's departure and the reformation of the Rumours-era lineup in 1997.
Those Gang of Four fans who preferred their rougher, harsher, punkier edge in albums such as Entertainment feel this way about their 1984 album Hard, which was funkier and poppier than anything they'd released before. Others see Hard as a catchy, logical extension of the musical themes explored in their previous album, Songs of the Free (which included their most famous song, "I Love a Man in a Uniform").
Depending on who you ask, Genesis's Dork Age began either after the release of their biggest hit album to date, Invisible Touch, or after Peter Gabriel left as lead vocalist and was replaced with drummer Phil Collins. They had begun moving away from their Progressive Rock roots by the time Collins took over in favor of a more mainstream pop sound, but things really started going south when Collins launched a solo career whilst still performing for Genesis, causing him to over-saturate the pop charts throughout the 1980's. The saturation reached its nadir with Invisible Touch, which, despite generally positive reception, was noted by critics and fans as being very similar to Collins' solo work, and loyal Genesis fans began accusing the band of being sellouts and gradually abandoning them, many of whom longing for the period of Gabriel as vocalist. 1991's We Can't Dance, while also generally well-received, only got one Top 10 single "I Can't Dance", and by this point Alternative Rock was gradually overtaking the rock charts and acts like Genesis were dismissed as too mainstream (not helped by Collins' presence). It came of no surprise, then, when Collins left the group five years later, leaving them without any driving force to handle what would ultimately be their last album, Calling All Stations, which flopped and was completely forgotten by the time Genesis announced their split.
Green Day, a band that's been going strong for well over twenty years, naturally has some albums that aren't as fondly remembered as others.
Their 2000 album Warning: was considered to be this at the time of its release, its Genre Shift into Folk, Ska Punk, and Surf Rock as opposed to the Pop Punk that made them famous leaving longtime fans polarized and the band fading from mainstream popularity. The sales disappointment of Warning exacerbated pre-existing tensions within the band, leading the trio to wonder if they should even keep going, especially after they released the Greatest Hits AlbumInternational Superhits! in 2001 — a move that they themselves outright called "an invitation to midlife crisis". However, Warning has since come to be Vindicated by History for its songwriting, with some critics even calling it one of their best albums in hindsight.
Nowadays, fans generally view the ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! trilogy of albums in 2012 as Green Day's creative low point. Coming off of their Career Resurrection in the mid-late '00s with American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, the three albums marked the band's most ambitious undertaking to date, with each album a Genre Throwback to a different style of classic rock (Power Pop, Garage Rock, and Arena Rock respectively) in addition to expanding the band from a trio to a quartet when touring guitarist Jason White became the fourth member of the band. However, critics and fans alike saw the project as a regression from the themes of their two prior concept albums back into juvenilia and adolescent angst, which came off as far less convincing when all of the band's members were pushing forty. The staggered release schedule of the three albums (they were all released separately within weeks of one another, rather than as one triple-album) also prevented singles from gaining traction on the radio before a new bunch of Green Day songs came to push them off. Even Billie Joe Armstrong sees ¡Uno! ¡Dos! ¡Tré! as an Old Shame, saying that the band was directionless and "prolific for the sake of it" and arguing that his drug abuse at the time affected the albums' quality. Their 2016 follow-up Revolution Radio wasn't particularly acclaimed, but it was still seen as a return to form, and they and their fans haven't looked back.
A lot of fans have considered their 2020 album Father of All... to be this as it was not well-received for its attempt at being a back-to-basics garage rock album as well as its lyrics and short runtime.
Heart went through one during the early 1980s. After an acrimonious split from Mushroom Records and the departure of Roger Fisher from the band's lineup, the Wilson sisters released three albums that were met with lukewarm reception and poor sales, especially 1982's Private Audition. Struggling to find stability, Heart appeared to be relics of the '70s by the time MTV started blowing up. Things sharply turned around, however, once they moved to Capitol Records and released their 1985 Self-Titled Album. Despite the band adopting a more commercial sound and image, the record was easily their biggest critical triumph since the '70s, in addition to becoming their most commercially successful album, with four top 10 hits and a 5x Platinum certification in the US. While their two subsequent albums, Bad Animals and Brigade, weren't as well received, they both continued the band's renewed commercial success (including a belated breakthrough in the UK) and are generally considered stronger albums than their early '80s output, which scarcely gets played at live shows anymore.
Billy Idol went through one of these in the early '90s. Faced with waning popularity and flagging album sales, he attempted to reinvent his image (and cash in on the emergent hacker/cyberpunk subculture) in 1993 by replacing his bleached-blonde spiky haircut with bleached-blonde dreadlocks and releasing the album Cyberpunk, a fusion of glam rock and electronic dance music. With the exception of the single "Shock to the System" (which was closer in style to his earlier work), the album's songs consisted of overwrought synthesizer riffs, pretentious monologues, and lines lifted directly from William Gibson novels. The album flopped hard: critics universally panned it, Billy's old fans were left feeling betrayed, and real cyberpunks saw him as a hopeless poser. Even though the album has managed to acquire a cult following in the following years, it's still universally agreed that the cover of the Velvet Underground's "Heroin" that appeared on this album is the absolute worst version of the song ever recorded.
Much of the Japan fan base is divided between those who preferred their glam rock era (Adolescent Sex, Obscure Alternatives, et. al.) and those who preferred their New Wave/New Romantic era (e.g. Gentlemen Take Polaroids and Tin Drum). David Sylvian himself considers the debut album (1977's Adolescent Sex) "old shame" and his whole solo career has been an extension of the musical themes first explored with Tin Drum, from the Eastern musical elements to the esoteric lyrics about such things as inner pain and loneliness.
Fans of the Dave Matthews Band generally hate the albums Stand Up and Everyday for leaning towards a mainstream pop sound.
In a rare case of by the band's own admission, Oasis had at least one of these. Noel Gallagher writes off much of the late '90s output, and also chunks of the mid '00s. On a greatest hits DVD, he even went so far as to ask why somebody didn't just to tell them to "stop".
Pearl Jam fans usually feel that the band had two of them.
The first one took place from 1998 to 2002 (known as the "black" era because of the album covers), give or take a couple years. For many longtime fans, Yield was rather structured and post-grungey, Binaural was spacey and samey, and Riot Act veered too far into strange genres (folk, punk, Middle Eastern music, et cetera), odd time signatures, and the overly confrontational and mean-spirited George W. Bush criticism piece "Bu$hleaguer". Their self-titled 2006 effort, which largely returned to the band's roots, was better received and spawned more hits.
Many fans consider the band to have been in a second one since 2012 or so, with their song "Olé!" considered uncharacteristically derivative and their following album Lightning Bolt (on which the song did not appear) bland and forgettable, though their 2020 album Gigaton was better received than Lightning Bolt.
Being a Long Runner band with several distinct career "phases," it's only inevitable that Pink Floyd would have several periods regarded as this by fans:
The period between frontman Syd Barrett's departure in 1968 and the band releasing either 1971's Meddle or 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon is sometimes considered one of these. Understandable, since Barrett was responsible for virtually all of the band's material before he left.
A more unanimous consensus among fans is that, like with many 60's and 70's acts, the 80's were not a good time for Pink Floyd, largely due to the escalating inter-band drama during that time that bled into their output, with the twoalbums of new material that decade being their most divisive. The dork age is generally considered to have ended with the release of The Division Bell in 1994, though the band's dissolution shortly after and the release of the similarly hair-splitting finale The Endless River in 2014 leaves most fans to regard The Division Bell as more a brief respite from a creative decline rather than a true age-ender.
There is also a vocal part of the fanbase that specifically considers the three albums from after Roger Waters left to be a Dork Age, though again, opinions differ considerably (generally, somewhat more bile is spewed at A Momentary Lapse of Reason than at The Division Bell). Waters himself described Momentary Lapse as a "pretty fair forgery." Then again, Waters accused pretty much anything Gilmour did with the Floyd post-1985 as a "forgery" (except The Division Bell, which was instead upgraded to "rubbish" and "nonsense from beginning to end"), given the band's in-fighting and power struggles. Waters' Radio KAOS from 1987 was equally '80s synth-driven, and later the production values became an Old Shame to him.
The peak of Elvis' career ended when he was drafted into the US Army in 1958, but when he completed his service in 1960, he seemed poised for a comeback. Unfortunately, his manager Colonel Tom Parker pushed him into a film career, which saw him star in a long string of Strictly Formula musical comedies that, while mostly successful at the box office, were almost universally panned by critics. Worse, the heavy production schedule (he was making two or three movies a year for the whole of The '60s) was cutting into his music career. Most of the hits he had in the '60s came from the soundtracks to his movies, which were met with diminishing returns starting mid-decade as The British Invasion caused his style of Rock & Roll, already quite sanitized by then compared to the edge of his Glory Days, to feel increasingly out-of-date. Until his televised comeback special in 1968, he did not perform live after 1961 and only recorded one album of non-soundtrack music after 1962. By the time his career bottomed out with the failure of the film Clambake and its soundtrack in 1967, music enthusiasts saw him as a joke and his former fans saw him as a has-been. His comeback special inspired a Career Resurrection, and while he never again enjoyed the mega-stardom he had in The '50s (John Lennon, upon Elvis' passing, remarked that Elvis "died when he went in the Army" and that the rest of his career was a "living death"), he still found success as a country and adult contemporary musician. By the time he died in 1977, he had regained his position as pop music royalty and the King of Rock & Roll.
That said, the last few years of his life, often derisively referred to as the "Fat Elvis" period (a term popularized by Lennon), are remembered as a pretty ignoble way for a legend to go out. Starting in 1973, Elvis' health went into decline due to both drug addiction and a very heavy touring and production schedule, and before long, he was stumbling out of limousines high on barbiturates; after Elvis' autopsy, his doctor saw his license to practice medicine suspended for three months due to all the sedatives, amphetamines, and narcotics he had prescribed the singer. His divorce from his wife Priscilla also took a steep toll on his finances, leaving him less able to afford his extravagant lifestyle. A 1976 show in Syracuse, New York went down in history for all the wrong reasons when the Syracuse Post-Dispatch published a scathing review calling him a "fat, puffy has-been" who seemed to be going through the motions, while numerous other shows were canceled outright due to Elvis not being in good enough health to perform. That same year, Elvis' father Vernon, by that point also his de facto manager, fired three bodyguards who had been members of Elvis' "Memphis Mafia" clique, leading them to co-write a tell-all book called Elvis: What Happened? that came out shortly before his death in 1977. As the final insult, when Elvis finally died on August 16, it was in one of the bathrooms at his Graceland estate, leading to a popular urban legend claiming that he had died while sitting on the toilet (and many jokes about "the King on his throne").
Many Queen fans hate the disco album Hot Space with a passion. Releasing a disco album in 1982 proved to be a very poor move, and indeed they fell out of favorin the US for quite some time. The only song from it that most people will defend is "Under Pressure", the famous duet with David Bowienote A few will also give "Body Language" a pass. Both John Deacon and Roger Taylor also expressed their dislike for it several times. On the other hand, Freddie virtually wrote its sequel for his debut solo project, and Briannote who also dislikes the album but argues that "Put Out The Fire" was a great song still claims that without it, there'd have been no "Thriller" (ridiculous as it sounds). Moreover, while most people tend to acknowledge "The Cosmos Rocks", some of the other activities May and Taylor have been involved with (e.g. recording with Britney Spears and Five) are treated as if they'd never happened.
Dee Dee Ramone's 1989 rap album Standing in the Spotlight, recorded as "Dee Dee King". The only thing of value to come from it was the song "The Crusher", which was revived for the Ramones' last studio album, Adios Amigos.
Though opinions on R.E.M.'s Warner (Bros.) Records output repeatedly shifted with time, the period after Bill Berry's departure is still regarded as a step down compared to earlier material. As the band were a democratic unit who had everyone contribute to the songwriting, losing a member was, in their own words, like cutting off a dog's leg. While the first "trio" album, Up, got Vindicated by History, Reveal remains somewhat divisive and Around the Sun is widely seen as R.E.M.'s nadir by fans, critics, and the band themselves. Fans tend to list Accelerate and Collapse into Now, the band's last two albums, as what broke them out of the dork age.
Some fans of Rush look at their mid '80s output as this, due to heavy reliance on sythesizers. There are, however, still some songs from this period that are considered classics.
Slade's Dork Age started with the 1976 album "Nobody's Fools", a calculated attempt to appeal to American tastes (inspired by soul, blues rock and folk rock) which completely backfired, not only failing to find an audience in the States, but also all but destroying their career in the UK and Europe. The next four years would see a succession of desperate and often bizarre attempts at re-engaging the mainstream audience— Elvis covers, a football record, even notoriously the "Okey Cokey"— before their set at the 1980 Reading Festival brought them to a new hard rock / metal audience and a career resurrection that lasted into the mid-80s.
Most fans of The Smashing Pumpkins, despite differences in opinion on the later material, would like to pretend that Zeitgeistnever happened. Teargarden by Kaleidyscope appeared to be shaping up to be one until it was canceled.
Fans tend to hold Talking Heads' latter-day albums in lower regard than their predecessors. In the case of True Stories, this is attributable to its relatively straightforward rock sound far-removed from their other, more eclectic albums (not to mention that it was solely the product of Executive Meddling). Naked meanwhile is better-regarded, but still divisive due to a belief that it's still aimless compared to the band's best works, with the single "(Nothing But) Flowers" being the only well-remembered song off of it (and even then it had to be Vindicated by History). Finally, No Talking, Just Head is even less popular than the above two with fans, critics, and the band themselves thanks to it being a The Band Minus the Face album with even less of a sense of direction.
Tears for Fears suffered a one-album Dork Age in the form of 1995's Raoul and the Kings of Spain. While Roland Orzabal managed to score a hit album minus Curt Smith with the preceding release, 1993's Elemental, and the 1995 album contained solidly good music, Raoul was a little bit too conceptual for some people and it basically flew under the radar. The band's next album (which featured the return of Smith), however, 2004's Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, was much better regarded.
Opinions differ on whether this applies to They Might Be Giants and their move away from their classic backing tape sound into a full band during the mid-90s. After the critical and commercial success of the albums Flood and Apollo 18 they recruited live backing musicians for the release of 94's John Henry and 96's Factory Showroom. Fan and critical opinions of the records were muted at the time of their release, and due to their label Elektra's inability to market the albums they were not commercial successes. (As time has gone by both albums have gained increased respect from TMBG's fanbase, with guitarist John Flansburgh going on record to state that Factory Showroom is his favorite band release.) By the early 00's the band had worked the kinks out of their new sound, and went on to new acclaim from critics and fans, culminating in their first Billboard Top 40-charting album, 2012's Join Us.
Tokio Hotel with the Humanoid Album. Arguably, that is. The band both lost and gained fans with this album, though it seems to be more on the lost side.
After the critical success of their 1979 debut EP Three and their 1980 debut album Boy along with the moderate success of October, followed by a threepeat of both critical and commercial success from War, The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree, the band followed it up with Rattle and Hum, a live/studio album that served as a tribute to Americana music and was accompanioned by the documentary of the same name. Unfortunately despite selling well, critics and fans ridiculed it as they felt the band had attempted to put out an album and documentary of this sort so early in their careers relative to the product's weight, were brashly attempting to put themselves among the ranks of the very legends they were paying tribute to, thus they became a laughingstock by being seen as vapid and egotistical. Fortunately, despite being a very Troubled Production to the point that they almost broke up, the following album Achtung Baby, a New Sound Album rooted in Alternative Dance, did much better with critics and fans and is widely considered one of their best (if not their best) albums, thus serving as their Career Resurrection.
Following the success of Achtung Baby as well as the moderate success of Zooropa, the band suffered another era with the releases of Original Soundtracks 1 (a collaboration album with longtime producer Brian Eno as Passengers, which was ignored by critics and fans due to being released under a pseudonym) and Pop, the latter suffering a huge Troubled Production. It was so troubled that it was delayed due to drummer Larry Mullen Jr.'s back problems and tour plans were booked by their manager just as the album was nearing completion, something the band called it their worst decision. The album divided critics even more and was seen as a disappointment along with that the lead single "Discotheque" was seen as a We're Still Relevant, Dammit! by critics. However, they managed to bounce back again with All That You Can't Leave Behind.
After another threepeat success of All That You Can't Leave Behind, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon, though the latter was considered a slight disappointment by the band themselves though it did spawn the very successful U2 360⁰ tour, the band released their thirteenth album Songs of Innocence, which unfortunately became their lowest selling album in years and it didn't help that it was made automatically available to all iTunes users for free which prompted a major backlash, forcing Apple to introduce a tool to remove the album for those who didn't want it and was met with a lukewarm reception from fans. The following album Songs of Experience was seen as a slight improvement, though not enough to end said age.
Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats was probably a deliberate attempt to create one.
Because of Weezer's notorious Broken Base (summed up in this sketch from Saturday Night Live), a proper Dork Age is hard to nail down and agree on. The only thing that all fans can agree on is that their first two albums, 1994's The Blue Album and 1996's Pinkerton, are near-untouchable and essential listening even for casual fans, but after that, things get sketchy.
Oddly enough, for the longest time Rivers Cuomo treated Pinkerton as the band's Dork Age. It was an extremely personal record for him, and while it's now recognized as one of the greatest emo albums ever made, at the time of its release it was rejected by both critics and fans, a humiliation that drove Cuomo into a Creator Breakdown. It would be years before Cuomo warmed up to it again.
The most vocal and famous part of the fanbase are those who write off everything from 2001's The Green Album until 2014's Everything Will Be Alright in the End, which won back even the most jaded fans. To them, Cuomo's Creator Breakdown after Pinkerton's initial failure scarred Weezer's subsequent albums, causing the band to retreat into a gutless pop-rock shell that it would take over a decade to break out of.
Others think that the band didn't really fly off the rails until 2005's Make Believe, arguing that The Green Album and 2002's Maladroit were both fun, well-made pop-rock records and that it wasn't until Make Believe that the band truly entered its trend-chasingSell-Out period.
There's another part of the fandom that believe that just The Green Album was a minor Dork Age for the band due to its incredibly generic, formulaic music (down to the guitar solos following the vocal melodies note for note) and that Maladroit put the band back on track because it was more willing to be experimental and unconventional.
There are also those who see The Green Album and Maladroit as a Dork Age but think that Make Believe actually ended it, arguing that leaning more in a pop direction was a welcome change from just trying to copy The Blue Album again. For what it's worth, Make Believe was a commercial success, handily outselling Maladroit and producing singles that still get regular radio airplay.
There's also another subset that see Raditude as the true Sell-Out period, and argue that Make Believe and The Red Album are actually underrated classics, save for some underwhelming songs from the period.
The band themselves seems to regard 2009's Raditude and 2010's Hurley, at the very least, as a Dork Age, directly apologizing for the dance-rock tracks on those albums in the single "Back to the Shack" off of Everything Will Be Alright in the End. To quote the lyrics:
"I'm sorry guys I didn't realize That I needed you so much I thought I'd get a new audience I forgot that Disco Sucks!."
Then some fans argued that they slipped into another Dork Age with Pacific Daydream, which gleefully and completely abandoned the crunchy guitars of past records in favor of a new keyboard-heavy pop sound not unlike many hits on the radio. To many fans, this was a complete betrayal of the themeing they've established on their past two albums and was seen as yet another attempt to fit with the mainstream. This sound carried over to The Black Album, The Teal Album, and to a lesser extent, OK Human, the latter of which ended the new Dork Age, and is cited as an example by fans on what the last three albums should've sounded like. While it does retain elements of the poppy sound established on their previous three albums, it eschewed keyboards and synthesizers in favor of a live orchestra, and it was the first Weezer album in over a decade where Rivers wrote the majority of the material with no outside co-writers (the exception being the lead single, "All My Favorite Songs"). It also contains some of Rivers' most emotional lyrics since Everything Will Be Alright in the End. Their follow-up, Van Weezer, promised a return to big guitar sounds with the lead single "The End of the Game", and was actually intended to come out first and may have been set to end the Dork Age instead. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the accompanying Hella Mega Tour, their label delayed the album for a year.
Many fans consider everything The Who did after Keith Moon's death to be an extended Dork Age. Even more will agree that it started with John Entwistle's death in 2002.
To most fans of the British post-punk outfit Wire, their early '90s output almost certainly qualifies.
The Drill, made up entirely of variations on the band's revolutionary 1985 track "Drill", is interesting in concept but tedious in execution, generally being regarded as a poor man's Slave to the Rhythm; Manscape, on the other hand, is a continuation of the band's explorations in MIDI technology and programmed rhythm. The latter is notable for being the album that prompted long-standing drummer Robert Gotobed to leave the group, thinking that he had been rendered obsolete, which led to the band changing their name and not releasing another album as Wire until 2000. Both LPs have their defenders, and few will say that Manscape is completely devoid of good material— "Torch It!", "Children Of Groceries", and "You Hung Your Lights In The Trees" are all fairly popular among fans of the band— but likewise even fewer will call them flawless or deny that they are extremely dated (a rare quality in Wire's output).
Depending upon who you ask, Wire's post-Gotobed tenure as Wir (roughly 1991-1996) may qualify, although most agree that The First Letter was a massive step up from Manscape. (It even got them a minor hit with "So and Slow It Grows".) More controversially, some fans of the band's earlier and later work will dismiss their entire '80s/'90s output as this, citing the excess of digital synths and slicker production.
X Japan has been in one since 2008 according to the part of the fandom that believes they stopped being good in 1992 or 1996. Other fans think they were in a short one that ended around the 2010 Yokohama show or Lollapalooza, and others don't think they were ever in one.
Whether "Weird Al" Yankovic has ever had one of these is up to the individual fan (many fans like to joke that his losing the glasses, growing out his hair, and shaving his mustache is the closest he's come), but there are a sizable number who are seriously willing to dismiss everything from between Poodle Hat to Mandatory Fun, when the parody songs became increasingly built around flash-in-the-pan singles ("Another Tattoo", for example, is a parody of the now-forgotten B.o.B/Bruno Mars song "Nothing on You"). Not that this wasn't a problem before, but by MFT, Al himself admitted he couldn't keep up with modern music on an album-recording schedule and abandoned albums entirely.
Beyond music and into award shows, there are the Grammy Awards in the 2010s. The voters for the Grammys, generally comprised of older music industry veterans, have long been joked about as being out of touch with the tastes of both mainstream listeners and critics, but in the 2010s, a time when the pop music world was in flux, it reached a crisis point that had many questioning whether the Grammys were even still relevant. Many of the biggest and most influential artists of the decade often found themselves consigned to the "genre" categories and locked out of the "Big Four" awards (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist), which often went instead to retro-tinged artists whose music could at times be defiant in its rejection of mainstream trends. The fact that these Grammy-winning artists were overwhelmingly white and male also led to accusations of pushing non-white and female musicians into the Minority Show Ghetto and the Girl-Show Ghetto, with the likes of Drake, Frank Ocean, Lorde, and Kanye West all criticizing them for such. The mounting criticism of the Grammys came to a head in 2020 when Deborah Dugan, the CEO of the Recording Academy, was put on administrative leave just ten days before the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, and proceeded to claim that the organization was institutionally corrupt and that the awards were rigged and plagued by conflicts of interest.