Were Pop-Metal bands more to blame for their own demise, then Grunge?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Captain Leo, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Queens, New York
    The popular narrative has it that there was an overnight sea-change and no one wanted to listen to Pop-Metal after January of 1992. But is that so true?

    I mean let's look at two of the biggest Pop-Metal bands: Guns N' Roses and Skid Row. GN'R had the biggest selling single of 1992 with November Rain and were still selling out arenas in North America in 1993; Creative conflicts with Axl Rose drove them apart. They also experienced a massive fall-off in sales from Appetite for Destruction to the Illusion double set, before grunge hit. How much of GN'R's decline can be traced more to Axl Rose's antics (3 hour latenesses and riots) than Grunge?

    Skid Row had a successful album in 1991 but sat on their hands and didn't release their next record until 1995 (and 4 years was forever back then) and creative issues with Sebastian Bach broke them up.

    Other bands such as Motley Crue or White Lion were either broken up or in sharp decline even BEFORE Nirvana hit #1. So how can you blame their decline on Grunge when they were already in freefall? White Lion's Pride went 2x Platinum upon release in 1987, but their next album, Big Game, in 1989, only went gold. Another case of a band just losing the public's interest before Grunge.

    Great White experienced a severe drop in popularity between the release of Twice Shy in 1989 and Hooked in 1991. Twice Shy had went multi-platinum, but Hooked (released in February 1991, almost a year before Grunge hit) only went Gold. They were already falling apart as such.

    Now, let's look at some 80s Metal groups that were popular in or after 1992. Def Leppard's Adrenalize sold over 4 million copies in the US in 1992. They then waited 4 years, until 1996 (another lifetime in music) until their next record, which went platinum.

    Pantera released Vulgar Display of Power in February 1992 and it was their biggest selling album of their career, selling 2 million copies in the US. Their next album, Far Beyond Driven, released in 1994, sold a million copies in the US; their next album after that in 1996 sold the same amount.

    Aerosmith had their biggest selling record of their career with Get a Grip, which embraced Pop-Metal structures and gimmicks fully, released in April 1993. They continued to release successful Pop-Metal singles in 1994. Note also that out of all the Pop-Metal groups of their time, they were, in the 90s, the most "drama free." They didn't experience the internal turmoil, creative differences, or ego-trips that their younger peers in the 90s suffered from. They didn't become prima donnas - and they retained their popularity.

    Van Halen continued to be successful as well, with For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, released in June 1991, selling over 3 million copies. Its followup, Balance, sold the same despite being released in 1995.

    Bon Jovi's Keep the Faith, released in November 1992, sold 2 million copies in the US; It's followup, These Days, released in '95, sold a million.

    The point being that, it is my belief the death of Pop Metal was largely self-inflicted. Many of the younger bands were flashes in the pan and were failing before Teen Spirit was released. The older bands still continued to be successful even during the height of the 'Grunge era.' It is my contention that these bands imploded due to ego issues. The established or less drama ridden bands kept their success and their audience and were able to remain competitive.

    I am curious to hear what you think.
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  2. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Please label the photos you post

    Austin, TX
    Most of the album sales drops you mentioned were because the albums mostly sucked IMO. Those were just a handful of examples though.
  3. mikedifr0923

    mikedifr0923 Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    Most of those bands you mention I wouldn't consider pop metal, especially GnR, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Crue and Skid Row. And please tell me you aren't calling Pantera pop metal???

    Most of what they called hair metal or pop metal in those days I think were mostly hard rock bands and had more in common with classic rock than they did metal.

    But I do agree with your point for the most part. I think they share the blame with grunge as there were a bunch of copy cats and there became way too many of them that were mediocre that the sheer volume overshadowed the quality of the handful that were good and they collapsed.
  4. BDC

    BDC Forum Resident

    Not much interested me when the rock/metal got too contrived and poppy..
    When I heard "Hunger strike"/ "Say hello to heaven"/"Alive" it got me buying music again.
    About all else I bought in that time frame was Coverdale/Page.

    Nirvana I had to process more, (Took a year or so)but since it is far and away my favorite of the era .
    now. I liked Soundgarden more when I heard the non MTV/radio cuts.... Didn't embrace AIC until "Dirt"....and later came to love "Facelift". I liked "The Posies" a lot as a Seattle band in the early 90s....Played the crap out of "Frosting on the beater"
  5. Captain Leo

    Captain Leo Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Queens, New York
    Not that Pantera themselves were Pop-Metal, but in my experience the same sort of people that liked Pantera were also Pop-Metal Metal listeners.

    I feel the biggest factor in the genre's demise was, as Mike said, too many boring copy-cats, and also, waaaaay too much overexposure of bands who had little to nothing of worth to say.
  6. mikedifr0923

    mikedifr0923 Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    Most of the people I know that listened to pantera were anti pop metal.

    But yeah, overexposure was a big part....MTV really helped that
  7. driverdrummer

    driverdrummer Forum Resident

    Irmo, SC
    I think the Rage Against the Machine debut really signaled a change in the music landscape IMO.
  8. kaztor

    kaztor Forum Resident

    Bands like GnR and Def Leppard had the right image to keep up with the new wave of Grunge. Nothing corny about DL's image and GnR were still relevant, whether you can stomach Axl or not (I'm in the latter camp, fyi). GnR still had very healthy sales in Europe, so I don't understand why they're brought up as Grunge victims. I view Metallica as a similar case, and they probably had the best selling album of the first half of the 90's, period.

    Pantera hasn't got anything to do with all of this. A major reinvention by a band with a most unlikely success story.
    A sad, sad ending too, may I add.
  9. Morton LaBongo

    Morton LaBongo Forum Resident

    Manchester NH
    As I recall, pop-metal started to go downhill around the time of Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet. Not that I am saying that's a pop-metal album, but I think the decline started around that time with bands that were essentially identical copies of each other. Winger is probably a great example of that kind of band. There were dozens of bands like this wearing women's poofy hairstyles and long droning guitar solos that went on and on. With just a few years, or at least by 1990, mainstream radio had seemed to shift away from this and emphasized groups like REM and Depeche Mode and there was a lot lot less pop-metal on the airwaves. Also Aerosmith had a kind of third resurgence around this time with What it Takes and a number of other songs that got incredibly massive airplay and it kind of kicked the focus back to heavy rock and away from pop-metal.
    WilliamWes and mikedifr0923 like this.
  10. RudolphS

    RudolphS Forum Resident

    Rio de Janeiro
    I think it's combination of both, at the dawn of the nineties hair metal basically had run its course, which collided with the ascent of grunge and alt.rock. So yes, there's a grain of truth in the narrative that after the success of Nevermind pop metal suddenly seemed distinctly unfashionable. Granted, some acts continued selling for a while because, contrary to believe, not one music genre disappears overnight. But the Bon Jovi albums you mentioned sold significantly less than BJ's 80s blockbusters Slippery When Wet and New Jersey.

    Not sure if I would lump Pantera and Guns N' Roses in with "pop metal" groups. Those two were on a different level and had plenty of street-cred, and my experience is that many people who bought Nirvana around the same time also bought the GNR and Pantera albums (I was one of them).
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  11. kaztor

    kaztor Forum Resident

    I'm pretty sure those particular bands were actually thriving because of Grunge.
    Both bands already had the wind in their sales by 1990 and they perfectly fitted into the post-1991 musical climate.
    I also see The Cure as a band that wasn't particularly hurt by Grunge.
    bleachershane likes this.
  12. SurrealCereal

    SurrealCereal Forum Resident

    I think the music of the 80’s in general was at least partially to blame for its demise in the 90’s. I imagine people had gotten really sick of every artist having the same production styles and were ready for something rawer. I’m sure the “Nirvana killed the 80’s” narrative is at least somewhat creative journalism, similar to the “punk killed prog” narrative, but by the late 80’s it really was time for the synths and hair metal guitars to go.
  13. Morton LaBongo

    Morton LaBongo Forum Resident

    Manchester NH
    Yes, I'd say they thrived through the grunge era and actually started getting significant attention a little bit before grunge became a mainstream thing that got talked about a lot. By the time Nevermind hit it big you could still hear Violator getting played in a lot of clubs (it had come out maybe 1 1/2 - 2 years earlier) and REM was still getting major airtime on the radio and MTV.
    driverdrummer likes this.
  14. YMC4

    YMC4 Forum Resident

    SF Valley, CA.
    hmm...didn't the whole pop-metal genre actually started with Slippery ?

    in any case, whatever music that becomes too formulatic/manufactured (power ballads, etc.) will have its day numbered sooner than later.
    if it wasn't for grunge then something else would've killed it eventually.
    Old Rusty likes this.
  15. Dodoz

    Dodoz Forum Resident

    Things are never cut and dry and so simplistic...Poison, Cinderella and bands like them had run their course. Times always change, fads fade away.

    There was a time pre-"Nevermind" when you still had this type of band in the charts as well as Jane's Addiction, Faith No More or even Red Hot Chili Peppers that were an "alternative" before "alternative" was the new mainstream and before "Nevermind" hit big.

    One thing the narrative always forgets is that Guns n' Roses were totally gigantenormous in Europe in 91-93 and that many people listened to both Nirvana and Guns (even Kurt said so in an interview). :)
    Old Rusty, ianuaditis and WilliamWes like this.
  16. Morton LaBongo

    Morton LaBongo Forum Resident

    Manchester NH
    I would say Twisted Sister started it, or that it started about the same time TS got well-known, but that's just my opinion. Maybe 1-2 years before Slippery?
  17. kaztor

    kaztor Forum Resident

    Unfortunately, yes.
    Despite the fact that RATM were an awesome band themselves.
    Zoot Marimba and driverdrummer like this.
  18. Django

    Django Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    Every genre has its expiry date.
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  19. Olias of Sunhill

    Olias of Sunhill Forum Resident

    Jim Creek, CO, USA
    I think you're onto something here and it goes back much earlier than '92, as you suggest later in your post.

    When one looks at the big glam/hair metal bands, I think 1988 was the point at which MTV-driven style overtook musical substance. Ratt's Reach for the Sky was a bitter disappointment for me upon release. Motley's Dr. Feelgood dramatically extended the downward trajectory the band had begun with Girls. And so on. These bands were never interested in writing the next "Eleanor Rigby" to begin with, but the post-'88 albums show songwriting and craft completely gone. The c*ock-rock elements had taken over for good.

    By 1992, the public had caught on and the genre was crashing on its own.
  20. WilliamWes

    WilliamWes Forum Resident

    New York
    I think everybody has some great points that it's not cut and dry that every single last 80's metal band was wiped off the map. Grunge was already around with hair metal in the late 80's but it took Nirvana's great commercial songwriting and production to knock off most of them.

    Guns N' Roses were in their own league above just about every metal band once 'Appetite of Destruction' came out and continued with 'Lies' and the 'Use Your Illusion' albums. But know this- Guns N' Roses has always been one of the very very few metal bands accepted by the grunge and alt rock community and radio and were constantly mixed into playlists with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, etc. Every hit they had was played everyday on grunge and alt rock radio for years after their demise. To this day, if you turn on K-Rock which was from NY and now is on Radio.com, you'll still hear some Guns N' Roses with the rest.

    But even Guns N' Roses had grunge in mind when you hear those final recordings on 'The Spaghetti Incident' and their last song, their cover of "Sympathy For the Devil". If you hear, there's a lot more distortion turned up on those final records so they were not quite cutting edge themselves leaning on grunge to continue until they could no longer.
  21. kaztor

    kaztor Forum Resident

    Let's not forget that big anomaly: U2.

    A band, completely in a league of their own.

    Since the early 80's they were accepted by the alternative scene and also became a pop/rock-phenomenon. Then, exactly at the right time, Achtung Baby got released right before Nevermind. An album with a cutting edge, tailor-made for the 90's.
    It gave them a lease of life that's still running.
    Talk about a band with lucky tickets!!
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  22. Morton LaBongo

    Morton LaBongo Forum Resident

    Manchester NH
    Yep. Not to derail the thread, but I never saw U2's rep diminish much through the 1983 or so early MTV era through Duran Duran all the way past pop-metal and into Nirvana and beyond. That was a good run.
    driverdrummer likes this.
  23. dmiller458

    dmiller458 Forum Resident

    Midland, Michigan
    Some seem to be confusing pop and popular. Pantera was a popular metal band. They had a number one album. But to refer to them as pop metal is mixing metaphors.
    Dodoz and shirleyujest like this.
  24. BadJack

    BadJack Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    MTV's shift from the poppier metal to grunge was deliberate, and the same bands they overexposed couldn't buy an airing a year later. It's also important to note that Nirvana in particular had several champions within the network and they got one enormous push.

    It's worth reading the "I Want My MTV" book for some insight on this, and it's a hilarious book anyway.

    Finally, for all the "it changed music forever!", why do I hear a freaking Bon Jovi oldie every time I turn a radio on?
  25. Instant Dharma

    Instant Dharma Elliptical Envelopment

    East Bay, Ca
    Nelson killed it. Killed it. Dead.

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