Top 10 Albums That Popularized a Genre



Top 10 Albums That Popularized a Genre

VOICE OVER: Matt Campbell
Script written by Courtney Baird-Lew

Whether you're into smooth-talking soul or soul-shattering electro, there's a genre for every taste and mood. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Albums that Popularized a Genre. For this list, we're choosing musical albums that brought a specific genre from the underground to the masses.

Special thanks to our user jackhammer for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Courtney Baird-Lew

Top 10 Albums That Popularized A Genre

Whether you're into smooth-talking soul or soul-shattering electro, there's a genre for every taste and mood. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Albums that Popularized a Genre.

For this list, we’re choosing musical albums that brought a specific genre from the underground to the masses. They don’t necessarily have to be the biggest selling or most influential records of their time, nor do they have to be an artist’s debut record, but they do have to have been released within the latter half of the 20th century to today.

#10: “Unknown Pleasures” (1979)
Joy Division

Atmospheric and brooding, Joy Division’s debut album “Unknown Pleasures” quickly became the keystone of the post-punk movement thanks to its heavy, stripped down sound. Taking 1970’s punk ideals, and channeling them through dark, haunting lyrics, “Unknown Pleasures” turned lead singer Ian Curtis and co. into anti-heroes of their generation. While Curtis’ untimely death at the height of Joy Division’s fame broke up the band indefinitely, his passing at the age of 23 only added to their cult stardom. Sparking an intense following, countless cover bands, think-pieces, and movies, the album’s legacy lives on – the cover art almost being as iconic as the music itself.

#9: “Kill ‘Em All” (1983)

Fast, aggressive, and completely mesmerizing , Metallica’s debut album “Kill ‘Em All” thrust the subgenre of thrash metal into the limelight. One of the biggest-selling bands in the world, Metallica helped to introduce fast-paced percussion, low register chords and intense shredding to the genre of heavy metal with this record. With influences from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Metallica infused a punk sensibility into their music that counteracted the popular—and more digestible—glam metal sounds of the time. While the album didn’t chart as well as their later studio albums, “Kill ‘Em All’ nonetheless transformed the lives of metal heads everywhere.

#8: “Dookie” (1994)
Green Day

Panic attacks, boredom, and masturbation were the main focus of Green Day’s critically acclaimed third album. Producing singles like “Longview”, “Basket Case,” and “When I Come Around,” “Dookie” saw Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool become the poster children for ‘90s punk rock; their hard-hitting tracks bringing out the angst in virtually every teenager the world over. While other punk bands were making headway at the time of “Dookie”’s release, the album’s pop-infused melodies sent the trio to the top of the modern rock charts, surpassing the competitors and gathering a multitude of devoted fans along the way.

#7: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972)
David Bowie

Chronicling the trials and tribulations of David Bowie's alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” was an album that checked off every box: Conceptual record about an androgynous alien rock star? Check. Flamboyant costumes, heavy makeup, and miming? Check. Throw that into the mix with David Bowie’s sheer talent and you get the album that sent glam rock into the stratosphere - and which inspired every makeup-wearing rockstar since.

#6: “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973)
Pink Floyd

Filled with sprawling and complex psychedelic tracks, Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece became the keystone of the prog rock movement—catapulting the genre, and the band, into the mainstream spotlight. One of the best-selling albums in music history, “The Dark Side of the Moon” included groundbreaking tracks like “Time,” “Money,” and “Us & Them,” which took themes like conflict, greed, and the passage of time, and sent them through that iconic, mind-melding prism. Taking each listener on a trip through his or her multi-faceted world, “The Dark Side of the Moon” was more enlightening than anyone could have imagined.

#5: “Ramones” (1976)

While The Clash were slowly getting things started on the other side of the pond, it was the Ramones who really introduced the mainstream kids to the transgressive world of punk rock. Clad in leather jackets, sunglasses, and matching last names, the Ramones took the world by storm with their badass self-titled debut; their single “Bliztkrieg Bop” serving as the anthem of every punk and skater kid the world over. Fast, loud, and unforgiving, the Ramones’ well-constructed, catchy tracks oozed a self-confidence that trumped all other punk acts of the era.

#4: “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)

Armed with street knowledge, big attitudes, and raw, unapologetic energy, NWA quickly took over the hip hop scene, essentially forming the genre of gangsta rap as we know it today. While many albums of the time were veering towards a much harder hitting sound, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and the rest of the posse beat everyone to the punch with anthems like “Fuck tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton”— tracks that pushed just the right amount of buttons, and that catapulted them into the mainstream with honest, brutal lyrics and high energy live performances that both excited and infuriated.

#3: “Black Sabbath” (1970)
Black Sabbath

Influenced heavily by the blues and roots rock of the late-60s, Black Sabbath’s debut studio album launched the genre of heavy metal as we know it. Infused with dark, macabre images and heavy chord progressions, Ozzy Osbourne-led Black Sabbath were the first band to really differentiate “rock” from “metal”—morphing blues rock into something uglier and more sinister. While their sophomore album Paranoid was released the same year, it was their eponymous debut that launched the band’s dark look and deliberately sacrilegious performances into the limelight.

#2: “Nevermind” (1991)

Ushering in the alt-rock movement of the early ‘90s with reckless abandon, this rock band led by the late Kurt Cobain brought the Seattle grunge movement to the forefront of the mainstream. An aggressive response to the age of excess that was the mid-to-late-80s, anthems like “In Bloom,” “Come As You Are,” and of course, “Smells like Teen Spirit” ignited a movement and a very serious fan following - not only of kids in tattered sweaters, but fed-up adults the world over. And while the baby on the album’s cover is not nearly as ubiquitous as Cobain’s own face, it still stands as a symbol of just how transformative one record can be.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are some honorable mentions:

“Loveless” (1991)
My Bloody Valentine

“Led Zeppelin” (1969)
Led Zeppelin

“The Velvet Underground & Nico” (1967)
The Velvet Underground and Nico

“Homework” (1997)
Daft Punk

#1: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band” (1967)
The Beatles

One of the biggest concept albums in pop music history, “Sgt. Pepper” fused elements of vaudeville and Indian classical music with traditional guitar rock, resulting in the most sprawling, and most popular psychedelic rock album ever recorded. While “Are You Experienced” from the Jimi Hendrix Experience is a psychedelic rock staple, it’s this 8th effort by the Fab Four that really brought those psych-rock sounds to living rooms around the globe. While some songs on the album are more psychedelic than others, “Sgt. Pepper” as whole transformed what the public considered as “pop”—and introduced the world to a different side of the Beatles as well.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favourite genre-defining album? For more memorable top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to
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