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Top 10 Artists Who Went Back to Their Roots

Script written by Michael Wynands These artists are all about experimentation, and of course as artists one needs to step outside their comfort zone to grow artistically. For this list, we’ll be looking at musical artists and groups that either returned to an earlier sound or went back to the sort of music they were raised on.

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Top 10 Artists Who Went Back to Their Roots

Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Artists Who Went Back to Their Roots.

For this list, we’ll be looking at musicians who went back to their original sound after years of deviating.

#10: Weezer
“Weezer” [aka “The White Album”] (2016)

Weezer knows how to write a hit song - no one’s trying to dispute that. But hits from the middle and later half of their career have felt very calculated (ie. tailored to modern pop sensibilities) and by extension, fleeting. 2014’s “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” was a step in the right direction, but the “White Album” was the true return to form diehard fans had been dreaming of. As guided by producer Jake Sinclair, who once actually led a Weezer cover band, they were able to craft this critically acclaimed album, with boasted songs that sounded new and inspired, but were perfectly steeped in the sound that first brought them success.

#9: Duran Duran
“All You Need Is Now” (2010)

From his great work with Queens of the Stone Age on the album “Villains,” to his megahit with Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson has proven himself to be a very effective and versatile producer. So who better to help revitalize 80s English synth-pop and new wave band Duran Duran? Considering their releases from the 2000s received modest to downright negative reviews, the group was clearly in need of some outside assistance. And with the guidance of Mark Ronson, who peeled back their musical layers and helped them rediscover the Duran Duran sound, the band was able to produce this critically-acclaimed 2010 release, which one reviewer called their best album 1982’s “Rio.”

#8: Miley Cyrus
“Younger Now” (2017)

This transition earned Miley Cyrus a lot of a flack. You can’t go from teen idol with a country twang to an aesthetic steeped in hip hop culture and then go BACK to country without inviting some fair criticism. Be that as it may, “Younger Now” comes across as an intimate and personal shift. Paired with her renewed romance with Liam Hemsworth, “Younger Now” sees Miley reconciling her past and present while forging ahead into new territory. “Younger Now” embraces her country roots, but it also goes back further beyond contemporary pop country, toying with elements rockabilly and folk. Though the album was met with mixed reviews, it was a welcome return for many listeners.

#7: Kesha
“Rainbow” (2017)

2017 was the year for rediscovering country roots - though in this popstar’s case, she had to go much further back. Kesha made a name for herself with her party anthems. However, after having her career put on hiatus as she pursued ex-producer Dr. Luke over accusations of sexual assault (among other things), Kesha understandably came out of it a new woman - one more interested in reconnecting with her roots. Her mother, Pebe Sebert, actually co-wrote Dolly Parton’s massive hit “Old Flames Can't Hold A Candle To You” and is an accomplished songwriter. With “Rainbow,” the country and rock music Kesha was raised on really shines through. The album was released to universal praise.

#6: The Cure
“Disintegration” (1989)

This English rock band produced some of its biggest hits when embracing pop, but they started off playing music best described as gothic rock. The sound heard on early albums like “Seventeen Seconds” and “Pornography” was moody, atmospheric, and dark. Though modestly successful, it wasn’t until their mid 80s shift towards a more eclectic and jovial sound that they found international attention. Towards the end of the decade, however, the band seemingly grew uncomfortable with their fame, prompting them to write a dark album, “Disintegration,” reminiscent of their earlier work. Ironically, it proved their greatest success to date. After this return to their roots, pop influence once again became increasingly prominent in their music.

#5: Bob Dylan
“Good as I Been to You” (1992)

Most musicians have felt the sting of an angry fanbase following a stylistic shift, but few have ever experienced the sort of backlash this cultural icon faced when he went electric. A hero of the folk movement, in 1964 he traded in the working class look for a more stylish aesthetic, before going electric and embracing a folk-rock sound. It enraged his fans, who reportedly booed him when he debuted the material. Of course, Bob Dylan has never been one to concern himself with the opinions of others, and he continued this progression for decades. Then, in 1992, he finally returned to his roots with an acoustic album of folk and blues favorites and standards.

#4: Black Sabbath
“13” (2013)

Honestly… this is the sort of return to form that few would have believed possible. After serving as pioneers of metal in the early 1970s, during which they released many now classic tracks, Black Sabbath began to fall apart in 1979 with the departure of singer Ozzy Osbourne. Though they would continue with various lineups and experiment with stylistic shifts for decades, nothing could recapture the magic of their first albums. Then, in 2011, something truly unbelievable happened... the band announced that they were reuniting to record a new album with Ozzie. Though fans had every reason to fear the worst... “13” impressed fans and critics alike. Black Sabbath had done it again.

#3: Metallica
“Death Magnetic” (2008)

No band wants to put out the same album over and over again, and so, as fans, we need to accept the fact that over the decades, long-running bands are inevitably going to experiment - for better or worse. For most fans, “Load,” “Reload,” and “St. Anger” are serious low points that saw Metallica move so far from their thrash metal roots that many purists gave them up for lost. Five years later, however, they returned with “Death Magnetic,” an album that forced people to pay attention again. Metallica was back and sounding like their much younger selves. With “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” following a similar sound, Metallica has certainly returned to form.

#2: Elton John
“Too Low for Zero” (1983) & “Songs from the West Coast” (2001)

An artist’s return to their roots isn’t a guarantee that they’ll stay there. For Sir Elton John, his roots appear to be a place he returns to whenever his career needs a boost after periods of experimentation - and sure enough, his classic style consistently pays off. After four albums that failed to make much of an impact, Elton John teamed up with long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin and his 70s backing band for the back to basics 1983 album, “Too Low for Zero.” It was a big hit. After another stretch of creative exploration, Elton John once again returned to striped down piano sound for 2001’s “Songs from the West Coast,” to similar effect.

#1: The Beatles
“Let It Be” (1970)

Unlike many artists on our list, The Beatles never “lost their way” - they just evolved. The band started off as an energetic and upbeat, catchy rock n’ roll band that borrowed from R&B in a unique way, before developing into an increasingly experimental pop rock group focused on layered production. Unfortunately, as has been well-documented, tensions grew in the band and they began recording separately. Their very last album, “Let It Be,” initially titled “Get Back,” was Paul McCartney’s attempt to bring them closer together by recording the old-fashioned way - as a true group. The results speak for themself, but sadly, it was a bookend, rather than the start of a new chapter.

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