10 Artists Who Changed Their Sound Completely... Part One
The Kooks return next week with a brand new record titled Listen, an album that it’s fair to say is going to divide opinion. Back in 2006, the band arrived clad in battered winklepickers and drainpipe jeans with a clutch of jangly pop hits, their debut album Inside In/Inside Out, which featured hits like ‘Naïve’ and ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’, was a massive success, selling over two million copies.
After touring that album into the ground, the band followed it with the altogether more sedate Konk in 2008 and the delicate Junk Of The Heart in 2011, both of which didn’t come close to matching the success of their predecessor.
So this time around with Listen, the band are shaking things up a bit. They’ve called in somewhat underground hip-hop producer Inflo and replaced the jangly guitar lines with jagged guitar stabs and bombastic beats, with groove right at the heart this time.
All this overhaul got us thinking about change, and which other artists had gone through radical changes in sound, ditching what they'd done before for something completely new. So here are our top 10 artists who changed their sound completely...
10. Plan B
When Ben Drew arrived back in 2006, he was billed as the UK’s answer to Eminem, armed with an acoustic guitar and an industrial vat full of piss and vinegar, his debut album Who Needs Actions When You’ve Got Words didn’t fly off the shelves, but with tracks like ‘No More Eatin’ and ‘No Good’, it more than earned him the right to make a second album…
….which he did in 2010 with The Defamation Of Strickland Banks. Not so much a left turn as a completely U-ey, Strickland Banks was a soulful album with more in common with Smokey Robinson than Slim Shady.
Did It Work?
And how. While Drew’s debut album shifted a respectable 60,000 copies, Strickland Banks sold well over one million copies and took the singer from academies and into arenas.
It might feel like Robyn’s been a fixture in the charts for the best part of 20 years, but that’s because she started so damn young, beginning her recording career at 16. Sold as the Swedish Britney Spears, she spent the first decade of her career producing sugary pop songs, like ‘Show Me Love’ and ‘You’ve Got That Somethin’. However, when she returned in 2004 with a bunch of new tracks to play her label, things began to change…
…Ditching the sugary, R’N’B influenced pop in favour of icy electro and lyrics with more power and vulnerability, Robyn’s label BMG weren’t keen, so she left, releasing 2005’s self-titled album on her own Konichiwa Records.
Did It Work?
Commercially, nothing has ever matched up to her 1995 debut Robyn Is Here, which sold over one and a half million copies. Artistically, undoubtedly, she’s become one of the finest pop writers and has released some of the finest songs of the last decade, including the flawless ‘Dancing On My Own’ and the stirring ‘Be Mine’.
8. The Horrors
The Horrors homed into view on a tidal wave of hype back in 2006 with a scratchy, post-punk drenched sound, wonky haircuts and an even wonkier dress sense. Gifted the cover of NME when they had less than 20 minutes of recorded music, the band were written off by most as style over substance, something their 2007 hit and miss debut album Strange House did nothing to dispel.
After they finished touring that album, the band disappeared off into the ether, with most suspecting that this was the last they’d seen of them….
…But no. When the band returned in 2009 with second album Primary Colours, fans and critics were staggered, gone were the blasts of post-punk noise and the frenzied vocals, in their place came psychedelic grooves, driving bass lines and soundscape electronics. Turns out the band were worthy every last bit of hype…
Did It Work?
Undoubtedly, it took the band from written-off wasters to indie trailblazers. They’re now viewed as one of the UK’s coolest bands, which was unthinkable after their debut album.
It’s not like the Oxford fivesome were ever a straightforward indie outfit. In the years between the 1993’s Pablo Honey and 1997’s OK Computer, the band’s lyrics got ever more paranoid, the arrangements more complex and the ideas bolder and grander, but what happened next…
...was not something any fan could have called. When it arrived in 2000, Kid A was unlike anything the band had done before. The guys were pretty much gone, replaced by clicky beats, epic soundscapes and even more paranoid lyrical musings.
Did It Work?
Commercially, no, but that was never going to happen. As an album in its own right, Kid A is completely fascinating, it’s weird, wonderful, full of guile and invention and just as brilliant as OK Computer, just in a completely different way.
6. Kanye West
Kanye has always been hard to sonically pin down and has in fact gone through a few radical departures in his decade at the top. He followed 2007’s brash Graduation with the lovelorn, delicate 808s & Heartbreaks in 2008, but most famously he followed-up 2010’s theatrical, extravagant, almost operatic concept record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with…
…Yeezus, an album that felt like it had been chiselled out of sandpaper. Far away from the opulence and ornate structure of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus is a harsh, brazen and uncompromising listen, with hammering beats and jacked up samples. It’s got some bangers, but it also burns with anger and intensity.
Did It Work?
Commercially it’s about on par with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and it’s certainly kept him in the headlines…
Check back tomorrow for part two of the countdown...