When Your Genre Is Not Trendy, But You Still Make It Big

Sure, most commercially successful albums, follow the current music trends of each era. But there are always exceptions, and those albums below are such exceptions:

(In chronological order)

1) Breakfast In America by Supertramp (1979)

When Your Genre Is Not Trendy, But You Still Make It Big

By the time Breakfast In America was released, Pomp-Rock bands like Kansas and Styx, were considered outdated because of New Wave acts (such as The Police and Blondie) were on the top and Disco acts (such as Village People and Bee Gees) were still big, but Supertramp hit #1 in the US charts with this album.

2) Diana by Diana Ross (1980)

Well, with the beginning of the new decade, the Disco trend of the second half of the 70s suddenly died, and New Wave took over for good. Surprisingly, this was Diana Ross’ biggest selling album, even if it was considered passé by the time of its release.

3) Paradise Theatre by Styx (1981)

As I said in #1, Pomp-Rock was considered outdated in 1979. In 1981, it was even more outdated, and Synth-Pop started to rise. And surprisingly, it made the UK Top 10 as well, even though UK charts weren’t much into Pomp-Rock acts, especially in the early 80s.

4) Love Over Gold by Dire Straits (1982)

The most anti-synth band (perhaps), made it big in the most synthish year in music. Dire Straits were a special case indeed. They never followed current trends in music and they went their own way (maybe Brothers In Arms is more in-sync with the music trends of the time, compared with the other albums), but still they were massive, especially in the first half of the 80s.

5) Metal Health by Quiet Riot (1983)

In 1983 Heavy Metal wasn’t some unknown obscure genre. It existed, but if you wanted to write a hit, then you’d definitely not go for Heavy Metal. Despite their music was considered anti-mainstream by the time, Quiet Riot made it mainstream, by helping acts like Motley Crue and Ratt, make it big during the next years.

6) Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

The only song from the album that it’s an 80s tune, is Dancing In The Dark, which was the biggest hit of the album. Maybe My Hometown by some degree as well. The rest of the album sticks with the Heartland Rock style Bruce is known for. Still, Bruce dominated the charts with this album. Maybe was it because of its cover? Or because he gained airplay from MTV? Who knows?

7) The Dream Of The Blue Turtles by Sting (1985)

Once he went Solo, Sting followed a totally different direction, than the one from his years with The Police. He went into a jazzy anti-mainstream direction, but surprisingly he was always topping the charts around the world. His Solo debut is such an example. I believe this has to do with the fact that he was Sting, thanks to his fame with The Police. Perhaps if he was someone else, his albums would flop.

8. Fore! By Huey Lewis And The News (1986)

Huey Lewis And The News’ music, was always outside of the mainstream world, but still they managed to be on the top of the charts throughout of the 80s. Maybe it was because their music appeared in popular movies by the time? Well, personally that would be my guess!

9) E.S.P. by Bee Gees (1987)

Bee Gees weren’t big anymore in the 80s, but this album was more like a comeback album. It was big especially in continental Europe area. Not much in the UK or US, but again, like many 60s and 70s bands, when they tried to go 80s, they didn’t fully capture the spirit of the overall 80s music.

10) Watermark by Enya (1988)

Now this is the most extraordinary case among the list for sure. I am pretty sure, that nobody would have thought that a New Age act, would top the charts, and even make it to the American market. New Age was never a mainstream thing, but it has more like a cult following.

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11) Mystery Girl by Roy Orbison (1989)

Well this album is considered Pop-Rock more or less which is an all-time classic genre, but not “Pop-Rock made in ’89”. It has a retro (by the time) Pop-Rock sound. Roy Orbison was a forgotten artist during the 80s, till he made a comeback with the group Travelling Wilburys. Maybe the success of the album might be related with his death, and if he was still alive nobody knows whether the album would flop or continue the success he had with Travelling Wilburys.

12) Violator by Depeche Mode (1990)

By the turn of the decade, the Synth-Pop genre pretty much died. Although Depeche Mode managed to pull it through with the all-time classic singles Personal Jesus and Enjoy The Silence. I cannot tell why Depeche Mode, didn’t fade away from the spotlight, unlike most 80s Synth bands though.

13) Slave To The Grind by Skid Row (1991)

By 1991, the Rock scene changed drastically. Most 80s Rock bands were dropped by their labels, in favor of the Grunge genre. Guess Skid Row were lucky here and made it in time though. The Grunge bomb exploded in September of ’91, with Nevermind by Nirvana. If Slave To The Grind, was released a few months later, then perhaps they’d never see a #1 in the albums charts.

14) Adrenalize by Def Leppard (1992)

As I said in #13, once Grunge took over most Rock bands of the 80s were vanished. This album came out at a time where Def Leppard’s music was considered outdated, so it was pretty obvious that this album would possibly flop. Luckily it didn’t, despite remaining faithful to their Glam Metal style. Although after this album they changed their style, just in order to survive in the music business.

15) “The Spaghetti Incident?” by Guns ‘n Roses (1993)

By 1993 Grunge explosion has toned down, and it became Alternative Rock. Hard Rock was dead for years too. Still Guns ‘n Roses made it big once again sticking to the traditional Hard Rock sound of their debut, Appetite For Destruction. Although it didn’t sell as much as the debut or Use Your Illussion, it was still huge. A brave move to follow such a direction in 1993, indeed.


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Most Helpful Girl

  • Nice compilation!

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Most Helpful Guy

  • Yea, there are always bands that break the mold and do something different. On the other hand, there has never really been just one type of music that could be called THE popular music. Ever since I remember (since the early 60s) there has been a wide variety of popular music.

    For example you mentioned disco. Yes, the late 70s was the disco era. But that means the late 70s was the most popular time for disco, not that it was the most popular music of that time. It was a small segment. Punk was also a small segment. That was the time of heavy metal which was more dominant than either of those by quite a bit. Then there was basic mainstream rock that had become more studio and commercial, but was still quite popular. This was also the era of glam rock, which I suppose was a sub-genre of commercial rock from that era.

    You mentioned Diana Ross. Soul and Motown were popular throughout all of the above. It did change over the years, but it endured as a separate type of music, with a large overlapping audience.

    Of the ones on your list, I think Super Tramp most stood out as being different. Another band that comes to mind is Steely Dan. Both bands had a more sophisticated sound.

    Another band that comes to mind is Chicago. At the time I thought they seemed like a group of high school marching band nerds who tried to be cool by playing "rock". Take the brass, add to it some stronger percussion and an electric guitar and it's close enough to fit into the larger rock picture.

    Another band from that era that stands out was the Moody Blues. Right in the midst of the late 60s they came out with a fully orchestrated album, Days Of Future Passed. Much of this was more like old foggie music, even old showtime music. But there was enough of a spacey sound, that I always wondered just how much acid they dropped to come up with such music. They even went on to write the ultimate acid trip theme song Legend of a Mind.

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    • I think Punk was more a thing in the UK than in the US.

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    • I dunno, but I think America was Disco vs Hard Rock in the 70s. They didn't do Punk.

    • *late 70s

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