- Plenty of Progressive Rock supergroups of The '70s, faced with negative press over their "irrelevance" in the age of punk rock/new wave, sported '80s Hair, streamlined their images and musical styles, made hip music videos, and added high-tech synths to their sound in an attempt to keep up with the times. Some failed (Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Kansas), and some succeeded (Yes, Genesis, Rush, King Crimson). Either way, the bands' earlier fans tended to revolt against the new sounds and styles.
- In fairness to Rush, their movement away from prog and their incorporation of keyboards was more gradual and natural than most bands, and a number of fan-favorite songs were released during their '80s Synth period. There's no defending their cheesy '80s haircuts and clothes though.
- For the same reason, KISS ditched their trademark facepaint and costumes in the '80s for a glam look. They've since gone back to their classic style with the album Psycho Circus.
- Witness, also, Cheap Trick's attempts, at least since their late '70s heyday ended, to update their look, sound and style to fit the times. Heavy synths in the mid-'80s (which gave them their only #1 hit, "The Flame"), a more AOR/pop-metal sound by 1988-93, then more grunge- and alternative-influenced work in The '90s, while groups with a clear lineage to their early work gained success. They've been making inroads into their more influential, early, power-pop sound.
- This trope, in fact, was the entire reason The Police existed. Stewart Copeland, who had been a drummer for the popular prog-rock combo Curved Air, saw the success that punk groups like the Sex Pistols and The Clash were having, and recruited Sting (out of a small-time jazz combo called Last Exit) and Henri Padovani (who was soon ditched in favor of Andy Summers, himself a member of The Animals and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band from the '60s) to make reggae-tinged punk and hopefully catch some of the punk scene's success. The rest is history.
- The two major Pink Floyd-related releases of 1987, the official band's A Momentary Lapse Of Reason note and Roger Waters' Radio KAOS (along with David Gilmour's 1984 solo album, About Face) are awash in then-state-of-the-art synthesizers and drum machine programming, reverberant drums, late-1980s studio techniques, etc. in an attempt to modernize their sound. Though AMLOR and, to a minor degree, KAOS, gained radio airplay and Top 40 success, the sounds or both albums, Waters' effort especially, sound tied to their times.
- Christian Rock band Petra continuously changed their image and sound during The '80s based on what was popular, with varying results. Their most successful case was an entirely accidental one — the untimely departure of lead singer Greg Volz (who sounds a lot like Steve Walsh from Kansas) in the mid-'80s forced them to bring in John Schlitt (who sounds like every Hair Metal lead singer ever), which led to the peak of their career and their most famous material. The '90s, on the other hand, were their Dork Age, as they attempted to find footing in the age of grunge and alt-rock while still retaining Schlitt on lead and trying to garner airplay on contemporary Christian radio. Eventually, they released one last classic-rock album to appease the long-time fans and then folded. They have since reunited with their 40th anniversary album released in 2013.
- Metallica preemptively pulled this trope between the albums Load and St. Anger; during that time period, they tried to adapt to the rising Alternative Metal trends by changing their sound, hair and logo. After the... erm... "not so well-received" album St. Anger, they finally returned to their trademark thrash sound that we all know and love on Death Magnetic.
- Herbie Hancock spent most of the seventies and eighties jumping from genre to genre. He tried fusion, disco, funk and electronica, sometimes combining several of these.
- In 1981, Village People, those 1970s disco icons, tried to adapt to a new decade by discarding their macho gay look and adopting a New Romantic one. The result was less than convincing◊.
- Elton John has stayed (or tried to stay) contemporary for many decades, with mixed results. He dabbled with Philadelphia soul with "Philadelphia Freedom", disco on Victim Of Love, new wave and synth-pop on parts of The Fox and Jump Up!, experimented heavily with contemporary synthesizers and drum machines in The '80s and The '90s (especially 1985-1993), planned to record a Hip-Hop album with Eminem's producers before Proof's death, and returned to basics with Songs From The West Coast after hearing the Alternative Country of Ryan Adams in 2001. Part of the trend may have been aggravated by Elton's Signature Style of singer-songwriter Piano Pop, which was rarely fashionable in rock in the first place.
- More specifically, "I'm Still Standing" took on this trope head-on both lyrically and musically.
- Korn's announcement that their album The Path of Totality would consist of a blend of their traditional sound and brostep rather smacked of this trope.
- Carlos Santana has done this multiple times over the years, teaming up with the likes of Rob Thomas for "Smooth" in 1999 and Chad Kroeger for "Into the Night" in 2007. However, his timeless "psychedelic Latin jazz" sound has never gone away, either.
- U2's announcement that their next album(s) would be variously produced by Danger Mouse, will.i.am, and David Guetta sounds suspiciously like this trope. It wouldn't be the first time either, since they did record Achtung Baby, one of the most successful albums specifically designed to make a band relevant once again.
- Songs Of Innocence quite literally invoked this trope, as the album was self-downloaded onto nearly every iTunes account upon release. Bono later confessed that this was done out of fear that the band would lose relevance, especially after their prior album (No Line On The Horizon) "underperformed" commercially.
- R.E.M. spent most of their career trying to avert being part of any trend, but they still managed to have rappers on both 1991's "Radio Song" and 2004's "The Outsiders". On both occasions it does work with the music, but it was Out of Character for them. The former has dated because the rap style is in the '80s rap style, but the latter hasn't due to being more influenced by jazz rap. On the other hand, "The Outsiders" was on Around the Sun, from a period that even the band themselves consider a Dork Age.
- During The '80s, when disco was, well, Deader Than Disco, The Bee Gees tried to reinvent themselves (again) with pop ballads. But everyone associated them with disco, so the Retool didn't work. (It had a decade earlier, when they went from a band not unlike The Beatles to a disco group, but didn't work this time.) Only in the United States though. In England, their Eighties and Nineties output was well-received. (Even in America, international hits from their latter-year albums are featured heavily.)
- The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb tried a solo comeback in 2003 with Magnet, nearly 20 years after his last solo album. Unfortunately, Robin -- a mid-50s Englishman -- tried his hardest to sound as relevant as the young pop stars of the day, including attempts at hip hop and lyrics about getting his 'freak on.' The album was a massive flop, and ended up being one of the most embarrassing items in the history of the Bee Gees. (The fact that he followed it up with one of the worst live albums in history didn't help.)
- The Rolling Stones' 1978 album Some Girls was a very deliberate response to critics who had dismissed them as outdated in the face of Punk Rock and disco. It paid off big time, and the Stones pointed out that numerous punk rockers had grown up listening to them. It's also helped that they've absorbed many different music styles over the years, while still retaining their core blues-rock sound.
- David Bowie:
- Bowie determined his Let's Dance sound and persona based on what he expected would make him a huge amount of money, hopping on the New Wave Music trend with enthusiasm. The album is excellent stuff and sold more than anything else he did, as well as providing an accessible Gateway Persona to the rest of his catalogue, earning him tons of money from sales of his weirder older albums too. This commercial success and cultural relevance was absolutely unprecedented, and Bowie, who had been struggling under a nasty contract at his last label, decided to ignore his instincts and stick with the pop persona. This gave him writer's block, and it shows. Tonight and Never Let Me Down, his two succeeding '80s pop albums, are more of the same trend-riding without the level of quality and novelty of Let's Dance, leading to his core fanbase feeling like he'd sold out and the mainstream music public ignoring them (though both albums sold quite well regardless). Most of the music from this period which is still listened to are his movie soundtrack tie-in singles (which tended to reflect the tone and setting of the movies they were written for rather than ride trends obsessively) and the tracks "Loving the Alien" and "Time Will Crawl" (which were the only songs from Tonight and Never Let Me Down that retained the artistic, socially-conscious leanings of much of his earlier work).
- Bowie's "Tin Machine" era, considered another Dork Age right after his 80's Dork Age, is probably his most complete example. More so than any other Bowie era (save perhaps for his fumbling pre-fame records), it felt like an aesthetic decided by what he felt the prevailing trend for music was going to be, and he wasn't even wrong — the trouble was that he ended up going back to a strain of '70s rock he'd never played a lot of in the '70s instead of creating something genuinely new, and then didn't do that particularly well. It wasn't a fundamentally bad idea for Bowie to look to the American Alternative Rock scene and look at the guitar trend gathering momentum, or for him to start making raw rock music just at the point when the slick and synthy '80s R&B-pop that dominated the charts before then was really beginning to turn listeners' stomachs. Unfortunately, what he ended up with was a load of dated-sounding pub-rock with stupid lyrics, just going to show that even creators as savvy and inventive as Bowie can get burned by this trope. The Grunge movement would appear a couple of years later to do the same sort of thing Bowie had been expecting would happen, but also showing just how clueless Bowie's attempt at inventing it was. Interestingly, the Tin Machine era would become very much Vindicated by History, thanks to continuously emerging information regarding how influential the group actually was on 1990's Alternative Rock, particularly grunge. Among other things, Tim Palmer (who produced both of Tin Machine's albums) recalled how, while doing the mixing for Pearl Jam's Ten, he went into the studio and found the band listening to "Heaven in Here"; it seems that Bowie did end up thinking ahead in the long run.
- Despite his notorious penchant for the New Sound Album, Bowie largely stayed ahead of the curves that come along in music and avoided accusations of trend-jumping, owing in part to both his strong Creator Thumbprint as a lyricist and his compelling stage presence. Of course, that's not to say he wasn't completely immune outside of his 1984-1992 slump — he was mocked quite heavily in the British music press over 1997's Earthling: an intelligent drum 'n' bass-heavy album written by an artist who had just turned 50 years old screamed this trope (though it has since been partly Vindicated by History).
- Michael Jackson, according to producer Quincy Jones, didn't think rap music would catch on back in The '80s. He still tried to cultivate an edgier, tough "street image" with 1987's Bad, specifically with the title song's music video (in which he plays a reformed gang member), but while the album sold well and garnered five #1 singles, his look and attitude were roundly mocked. He struggled with this trope for the rest of his career. 1991's Dangerous tried to update his sound with new jack swing, hip-hop, and rap stylings via hiring big-name producers and featuring guest spots from Heavy D, Wreckx-n-Effect, and Slash, and the music videos featured trendy celebrities such as Macaulay Culkin, Iman, Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Michael Jordan, and even Bart and Homer Simpson (which also explains that Simpsons episode where Jackson — under the name John Jay Smith — plays a mental patient who thinks he's Michael Jackson). HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book I followed suit with a mountain of producers and collaborators, and after that David Browne commented in his Entertainment Weekly review of Invincible that Jackson "appears to be so lacking in confidence that he's top-loaded the album with every conceivable collaborator he could call, from Carlos Santana and Babyface for the oldsters to Rodney Jerkins and rapper Fats for the kids."
- Averted by Michael's sister Janet Jackson, who embraced hip-hop early in her career as part of reinventing herself away from her family. Her collaborations with rappers and hip-hop producers have always been better-received than Michael's because it's a more natural part of her music, rather than an attempt at appealing to young people. Janet being perceived as more down-to-earth than Michael and lacking his eccentricities doubtlessly helped preserve her career as well.
- Lampshaded in the 1980 Billy Joel song "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me". In keeping with the emerging punk and New Wave trends, the song and its album Glass Houses were noticeably more forceful than a lot of his other works, while the lyrics take a cynical view of a music executive urging a musician to change his image for a younger audience.
- Parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic with "It's Still Billy Joel To Me" which takes pot shots at Joel and other artists changing their styles to fit new trends.
- MC Hammer in the early '90s showed how fast this can happen. At the beginning of the decade, he was the face of rap. Perhaps boasting that "U Can't Touch This" stuck harder than he thought, because by the mid-'90s the Darker and Edgier Gangsta Rap was flourishing, and quite a few of its stars made no bones about how much they despised Hammer, his big bouncy pants and his dance- and party-oriented sound. After 2 years between albumsnote , he came back with The Funky Headhunter, exchanging the pants for a watch cap, cussing a little bit, rapping about tough times on the street and generally trying to show how gangsta he was, too. The new sound and image alienated some of his existing fans, and the gangsta fans weren't impressed. While the record still went platinum (compared to its predecessor's triple platinum), it began his slow slide, as chronicled on Behind The Music, toward losing the multimillion-dollar house he'd built in the Oakland hills and all the other money he'd made. One music critic went as far as uncharitably describing him as the "Grandfather of Rap".
Ironically, Hammer has a darker reputation behind the scenes according to other credible Rap stars (much to their horror), with many in the business being aware of his gang connections and tendency to threateningly confront and sometimes try to place hits on other rappers; reportedly, at least one attempt actually succeeded. It's also little-known that Hammer planted the seeds for the East/West beef by dissing L.L., Run (of Run-D.M.C.), & Dougie Fresh on Let's Get It Started. And dissed Run again on Turn This Mutha Out.
- A famous early example within the music industry isn't so much a performer as a labelCBS Records' infamous late 1960s "The Man Can't Bust Our Music" and "The Revolutionaries are on CBS" ad campaigns intended to show how different things were at CBS (later Columbia; now Sony) from the days when rock-hating Mitch Miller had passed on both the Beatles and Elvis.
- Slayer, for about a decade, was a major victim of this trope. To put it simply: the band tried to "modernize" their sound in 1998 with the Nu Metal-influenced "Diabolus In Musica." After that album's rather lukewarm critical and commercial success and (more importantly) numerous accusations of being unable to compete with the countless bands that they had influenced in terms of brutality, the band tried to Win BACK The Crowd with 2001's "God Hates Us All." An album with an unusual amount of swearing for a Slayer record and some other very obvious shock tactics (such as a picture of the Holy Bible with nails and the Slayer logo burned onto it). Unfortunately, the only thing people found even remotely shocking about the record was something completely unintended: it was released on September 11, 2001. Another controversial tactic was dissing their fellow act Machine Head and vocalist Robert Flynn for basically doing the same thing they were trying to do with Diabolus (Machine Head's albums The Burning Red and Superchanger leaned into rap-metal territory). Hypocrisy wasn't lost on them, and it resulted in a bitter feud between the two. After realizing they were trying way too hard to remain relevant in the extreme metal scene they ironically helped to create, the band slowly moved away from the Nu Metal influences and shock tactics of those two albums with 2006's Christ Illusion. And then, in 2009, they released World Painted Blood, an album many consider to be their best and most genuine since the early '90s. They still play material off of GHUA here and there, but Diabolus has been entirely disowned by the band and is viewed as an embarrassing footnote in their history and a particularly misguided attempt to keep up with the times.
- Five Iron Frenzy broke up in 2003, then reunited about a decade later to record a new album, Engine of a Million Plots. Rather than changing their style to fit the times (Engine still sounds like the last albums FIF put out pre-breakup) they wrote a song to joke about how out-of-touch they were. The song in question is "Battle Dancing Unicorns With Glitter", where they reference trends in the most awkward way possible ("12 o'clock! Party rock! We're hip hopping and we can't quite stop!"), aggressively insist that their awesomeness is beyond dispute, and admit in the bridge that "We're fighting just to stay relevant."
- To certain pop fans Christina Aguilera doing two consecutive electropop albums in 3 years. Very few people outside her most diehard fans backed it. Bionic got mass promo for 4 or 5 months straight and then was disowned, as was Lotus.
- Rush fell victim to this in the eyes of certain subsets of fans after Moving Pictures, which just also happened to be generally regarded as the peak of their career. Though their initial foray into popular '80s synth technology, Signals, was well-received, the drastically slicker and more melodramatic sounds they utilized on the following three releases gave a strong impression of the band conforming to the style of Top 40 pop music at the time. Even when they ditched the emphasis on synthesizers at the end of the decade, they placed a heavy emphasis on funk and other "urban" influences (most infamously the rap breakdown in "Roll the Bones") for their singlesat a time when many other popular acts were doing the same thing. And it definitely didn't help when they went for a Darker and Edgier sound rooted in heavy guitar distortion when that sort of thing became the popular music norm ("Stick it Out" and "Driven" are especially obvious genre emulation grabs). It would be the release of Vapor Trails that finally marked the end of the band's two decade-long trend-following focus.
- Madonna's post-90's output smacks of this trope. While she has always been known for reinventing her image, her last few albums (especially MDNA) have been heavily criticized for pandering to modern-day trends without really doing anything new or unique. It's also worth noting that for the first 20 years of her career, she rarely collaborated with other big-name artists and had either distance or rivalry with most of her peers like Cyndi Lauper, Janet Jackson, and Whitney Houston. Nowadays she still doesn't interact much with the artists of her era, but has been aggressively seeking to share the spotlight with younger pop stars like Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande, as well as trying to be Ms. Fanservice in her fifties and beyond.
Nothing hammers this trope home for Madonna more than her performance at the 2012 Super Bowl Halftime show. Most halftime shows have one headliner and one or two guest stars. Madonna had four: LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cee Lo Green. At least Nicki and MIA were featured in one of her songs; LMFAO and Cee-Lo were there for no reason other than the fact that they were hot at the time.
- Smash Mouth's 2012 album Magic has a song called "Justin Bieber". This is justified by the fact that the song is about the narrator pondering things that have went out or should go out of style, such as Glee covering "everything except a song of mine"—which becomes Hilarious in Hindsight with the show ending in 2015. On the other hand, it does not seem very timely to have J. Dash (maker of "Wop") appear twice as a guest. Also, their 2016 single "Love is a Soldier" reeks of this even more, as the band tries out EDM to...mixed results.
- Megadeth's 2001 album The World Needs a Hero is a textbook example of this trope. After unsuccessfully trying to appeal to pop/alternative music fans with 1999's Risk, TWNAH was hyped as a return to the thrash metal stylings the band became famous for. While it at least delivered on the promise of being heavier than Risk, it ended up sounding like a bland and tired version of their mid-'90s heavy metal rather than the amazing thrash metal of albums like Rust In Peace. The album's biggest indicator of the band's desperation, however, came from its inclusion of a vastly inferior sequel to their Signature Song "Hangar 18" called "Return To Hangar." Fortunately, the band more-or-less had their true Win Back the Crowd moment after frontman Dave Mustaine's 10-Minute Retirement with 2004's The System Has Failed.
- Rascal Flatts' 2015 album Rewind smacks of this: the title track contains a George Strait name-drop on the heels of his highly-publicized final tour; "Payback" has a hard-rock sound atypical of the band, with street slang in its lyrics and a mention of Instagram; and "I Like the Sound of That" was written by Meghan Trainor and name-drops Justin Timberlake.
- Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler made forays into Country Music in The New '10s. While his first country release, "Love Is Your Name", averted this, his second, "Red, White & You", falls firmly into this. The song is an absolutely awkward mishmash of "bro-country" tropes that Florida Georgia Line has already beaten to death (hot girls, trucks, America, name-drops of popular artists) while also shoehorning in some laughably jingoistic lyrics that even Toby Keith would shake his head at ("All the bad girls rockin' those cut off jeans, and good old boys driving Big Machines / And you can kiss my ass, can't help but say, it's good to be Born in the USA").
- Mark Chesnutt did this in his 2004 single "I'm a Saint", which contains the line "I know Justin sings lead for *NSYNC, so my kids think I'm cool", even though the band in question had been disbanded for a couple years at this point. It really sticks out in his discography, as other than a cover of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" that was apparently forced on him by his label, his music has been hardcore honky-tonk that practically went out of its way to be timeless.
- From "Turn On the Radio" by Reba McEntire: "Try to go Twitter me / Text until your fingers bleed". It particularly stands out as the song is about getting back at an ex by playing a song on the radio, which makes the whole song seem strangely anachronistic.
- Avril Lavigne's "Hello Kitty" definitely came off as this. It was released in 2013, right as Lavigne was being passed over in favor of pop stars like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kesha and Lady Gaga, and the Pop Punk style she played for was falling out of style in favor of electronic-influenced pop and rock. The song was both an attempt to capitalize on her fandom in Japan (with the music video being filmed in Tokyo and Gratuitous Japanese thrown in the lyrics) and the aforementioned EDM boom by having a dubstep beat playing (which by then was seeing its popularity wane in favor of other electronic genres). The song was a flop and only sped up the free-fall Lavigne's career was in, cementing the perception the public had of her as a relic of the 2000s.
- Heino, a German musician best known for his renditions of old-timey German folk music and various sentimental ballads during the 60s and 70s, seemed to have fallen into this during the first half of The New '10s, from covering metal songs by groups like Rammstein to releasing an album of hard rock/metal versions of songs like the Beer Barrel Polka. The cover of the latter album really says it all◊, especially when compared to his more typical albums.
Were Still Relevant Dammit / Music