Music is the heartbeat of our lives. It is the fabric of our social relationships and emotional life. We used to go crazy over music before the days of music streaming. It was an adventure searching out new artists and music in record stores in the past. We even got the thrill of illegal music downloads from sites like Napster. Music was like a treasure waiting to be discovered and then downloaded or shared. With the ease of sampling music on streaming platforms, we no longer appreciate music as we did before. We take a trip down memory lane to look at 9 musicians who helped change the music landscape during their time.
9. Daft Punk
French duo Daft Punk was a futuristic hurricane that blew away the tacky Eurodance scene in the 90s rampant in clubs. Their hook-heavy dance beats and the use of vocoder elevated disco-tinged influences and reprogrammed pop music with game-changing albums such as 2001’s Discovery and 2013’s Random Access Memories. The best Daft Punk music attracted both club-goers, rock fans, and hip-hop heads inspiring a whole generation to fall in love with house music all over again.
Björk is an enigmatic, pure music-wonder of an unparalleled music artist. She has never constricted or restrained her creativity by keeping herself to any genres or categorisation. Her music is haunting and ethereal tugging lightly at our heartstrings with grace. She has never failed to bring a level of whimsical foreboding to her songs through mutated pop rhythms or orchestral pomp few musicians could mimic.
7. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is regarded as the Shakespeare of music. He sold tens of millions of albums and set the standard for lyric writing. His lyrics are poetic and addressed social issues, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. His first major composition Blowin’ in the Wind established him as a rebel with a cause in the burgeoning counterculture of the 1960s. Dylan defied convention at every turn in his music career. Though he started with folk, he was unapologetic in brandishing electric instruments in his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home.
Nirvana turned heads and changed the music landscape of the 1990s with their mix of dirgey, down-turned rock’n’roll, punk rock spirit, and abstract lyrics. It captured the attention and imagination of the disaffected Generation X youth and continues to influence and shape rock music in modern times. Spearheading the alternative rock explosion of the 90s, Nirvana kicked open the door to grunge, as well as to pop-punk, third-wave ska, and even nu-metal. Their legacy continues today.
5. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was the ultimate pop icon. He emerged from his childhood and fame as part of the Jackson 5 into one of the most influential solo musicians of all time. He saw success with his debut solo album Off The Wall, but his star rose exponentially with 1982’s album Thriller. It was a global bestseller consisting of instant classic hits that saw him cross genres and redefine the pop template for a whole new generation. Jackson inspired many musicians who tried to imitate him but they could not surpass this rare talent.
Madonna is considered the female counterpart of Michael Jackson. While he is the King of Pop, she is the Queen of Pop. Madonna’s flexibility with hits ranging from dance-pop Into the Groove to the gospel-tinged Like A Prayer displays her ability to constantly reinvent herself. She was always able to keep up with and lead new styles and trends and consolidated the importance of fashion in defining mainstream pop. She has influenced the work of the likes of Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa today.
Prince is a genre-defying talent who has the claim of being one of the most influential musicians in almost any genre. The Minneapolis native fused everything from rock’n’roll, soul, gospel, R&B, synth-funk, and New Wave to flamboyant extremes. Along the way, he redefined attitudes to fashion and sexuality. Before his death in 2016, Prince influenced everyone from rock fans and aspiring MCs to the neo-soul sisters of the 90s.
2. David Bowie
David Bowie was an art-rock chameleon who confronted sexual conformity with his embrace of androgynous fashion and look. His music and his ingenious personas (from the glam rock alien Ziggy Stardust to the steely nobility of Thin White Duke) inspired many to meld fashion, performance art, and theatre with popular music. Bowie even composed his own elegy with his final album immortalising him as the world’s definitive artist.
The Beatles were a phenomenon in the 1960s and today, they remain the Fabulous Four who composed timeless music that inspired many musicians. The iconic songwriting duo of Lennon and McCartney were a lethal force in music creativity, combined with the impeccable musicianship of George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The foursome explored multiple genres and was one with cultural relevance with their works. They moved beyond Western rock'n'roll and imbued Indian music and psychedelia, opening the way to pop music which has since then, never been closed. Their artistic daring and fearless studio experimentation made them an awe-inspiring band that ever existed in music history.