An Unexpected Change in Sound

Have you noticed all of the bands or even artists changing their sound lately? I’m sure you’re implying that almost every band changes or at least experiments with their sound. This is a true statement, but I am mainly focusing on the fact that the changes are mostly being made to or involve a certain category of music. As an alternative enthusiast, I tend to listen to lots and lots of alternative rock, folk, and much more; but it seems that more and more of alternative rock artists are switching and influencing more of a popish sound. Now, you can call it indie or alternative pop, but what it’s exactly called isn’t quite the point other than it isn’t technically pop.

Lots of artists have begun their careers with an alternative rock feel and now seem to be more classified into alternative pop. James Bay is a great example of this recent trend. Bay came out of nowhere in 2014 when he released his debut record titled “Chaos And The Calm.” This 12 song LP spiraled into popularity in both the alternative world as well as the pop world. With a remix of “Let It Go,” Bay found himself topping several of the pop charts in the United States and then all over the world. No longer was James influencing the alternative rock scene alone. After this unexpected happening, it truly wasn’t all that unraveling when Bay’s sophomore record was released and was quite heavily influxed with this indie pop sound. Even despite the change, I became enamored with this incredible and elegant sound that Bay made. With the additions of gospel and R&B feels, James began toying with our minds. No longer were we expecting what each song might sound like while listening to the record for the first time, but rather the songs would expect us to click the play button. After listening to one tune, you had to listen to the next. Songs like “Wanderlust” and “Wild Love” become addictive and permanently implanted into your brain. It’s crazy to think that with the success of his first album, James Bay got even bigger with the release of his second.

Looking back at James Bay’s success with the sound transition, it kind of leaves you thinking if this could actually work. Obviously, the music has to be at a somewhat good level, but with more and more artists accepting and trying the change, will this become a constant phenomenon or even a plain trend for most bands that reach an unexpected amount of success in one genre then eventually transition into pop?

History says yes. Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson both started out as country artists and now they are, or were, pop icons for the time being. Can other artists do the same? Along with James Bay, you’ll find several artists and bands are changing their sound. It doesn’t necessarily have to be from alternative rock to pop or the other way around. Instead, it has to proven to be a variety of combinations. Leon Bridges started out with a firm soul and old school R&B sound. His second record was full of 90’s and modern R&B vibes. Shakey Graves went from folk rock to strict alternative rock and really shows his wild side in his latest album. Mumford & Sons has been known for years as a folk rock band and came out of nowhere with “Wilder Mind.” This LP featured stadium rock vibes and really showcased the band’s versatility. Houndmouth recently transitioned from a folk rock feel to an alternative rock/pop feel. They really experimented and toyed with the ideas of having unconventional rock, distorted sounds, electronic beats, and even a horn section.

So many artists are experimenting and showing fans and critics what they can or can’t do. This has always technically been a ‘thing’ because throughout our entire lives, we have listened to bands who have changed their sound. Although, I have never seen it at this rate nor the types of changes that have occured. Drastic is definitely a way to put them.

Will this trend continue? Will it dissolve or become even bigger? Will the genre transitioning become wacky and never before seen? All of these questions can be answered with a yes based on what we have seen so far. Most likely, the dissolving part will be a hard no though. Due to the effects and impacts that sound changing has had on musicians and even the fans, I cannot see this market ending anytime soon. With past and previous changes, I do expect there to be several crazy transitions over the next few years as bands not only want to increase their popularity, but also aim towards an overall perfect dynamic sound.

Bands and artists will always change their sound in some sort of way. What that sound is, is solely up to them. Popularity does seem to guide a musician to a certain sound whether it’s desired or not. If the pop nowadays continues to be the ‘genre’ listened to by the public, then keep expecting these artists to lead towards alternative/indie pop.

For some of the artists that have experimented with their sound, I must say that I am quite impressed. With the changes being made, it’s safe to say that versatility is becoming a necessity in the music industry. Can bands without it survive?