1. Fiona Apple
With such a sultry voice and immediate impact with the groovy first single "Criminal" Fiona Apple had what appeared to be a bundle of promise in 1997. She always had a knack of rubbing people the wrong way in the public eye though and her on stage meltdown in 1999 should have been expected. She released her second album the same year with a title that is typically shortened to When The Pawn..., mainly because the actual title is over 80 words long(!) to mixed reviews and it was in support of this album that the concert in question took place. She reportedly stormed off a stage in New York due to technical problems and both threatened and apologized to the audience and critics whom might have been in attendance when she came back to salvage the set. After that she slinked away from the spotlight and only released songs sporadically in the years following. Though she considered retiring from music, she's one of the only inclusions on this list who is making a successful comeback. Her 2012 album (which thankfully only has a 23 word long title) was praised by critics and fans alike.
2. Sinead O'Connor
This could be one of the most public and befuddling career suicides in music history. Religion and popular music have rarely got along, but for the most part they leave each other alone. Sinead O'Connor was having a great start to the 90's. Her song "Nothing Compares 2 U" was a number one hit in multiple countries and the album it was off of earned her several Grammy nominations and she even clinched one award (though she boycotted the show). In October of 1992 she was invited to be the musical act on Saturday Night Live, her first song of the night went off without a hitch, but during the second song there was shall we say, an incident. She covered Bob Marley's "War" in a solo a capella style. The song is an anti-racism protest song, but she changed some of the lyrics to bend it to a sexual abuse protest song and even tore up a picture of then Pope Jean Paul II and said "Fight the real enemy" into the camera. I remember watching at the time and even though I was a little too young to get the message I could tell by the deafening silence that she would have some explaining to do. Now I actually applaud her for standing up for something she believes in, but maybe her platform was ill chosen...I guess it reached an audience bigger than she felt she could gain elsewhere who knows. Unsurprisingly the next day and following weeks, the American media and public unleashed unholy hell on Sinead. Celebrities and media authorities alike openly criticized her actions. During a show at Madison Square Gardens 2 weeks later she was booed off stage, and SNL mogul Lorne Michaels vowed to never let that footage air in syndication. Though O'Connor continued to make music and release albums she all but faded from the public stage. In an interesting twist she has since become an ordained priest.
3. Milli Vanilli
Milli Vanilli were the brunt of many jokes in the late 80's. Many, many jokes. Perhaps they were deserving but who's to say? It's an often told light hearted tale, that not many know ends in tragedy. Milli Vanilli were Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, at least they were the faces of the group. Rob and Fab were actually models and dancers recruited to be the marketable image of the real voices of several studio musicians. The man behind the group was Frank Farian who offered Rob and Fab a chance at stardom. Realizing this was a good as shot as they were gonna get they jumped at the offer, though not fully realizing what they were getting into. They lip synched. Plain and simple. Dance around in videos and on stage to someone else's voice. They got the fame, money, women...whatever they wanted. They even won a Grammy, 1990's Best New Artist Award. Some within the music scene were suspicious that these 2 kids had such meteoric success with little to no musical backgrounds. Their suspicions were confirmed when an incident that happened in 1989 where the backing tape skipped during a live performance became globally known (hey, information didn't travel as fast back then) and one of the actual singers of the group came forward. Rob and Fab were crucified. They gave back their Grammy award, they were dropped from their record label and were even hit with several lawsuits by parties that bought the album and attended their concerts. In a last ditch effort Rob and Fab actually released an album with them singing on it, but it was a colossal failure, selling a depressing 2,000 copies. Fabrice Morvan has since become a session musician and radio DJ and has also released a few solo albums to moderate success. Rob Pilatus didn't take the whole fallout quite as well and after spending time in prison for drug abuse, robbery and assault was found dead in a hotel room of an apparent drug overdose in 1998.
4. Billy Squier
Billy Squier was a rock musician in the 70's and 80's best known for his high energy, arena-rock style of songs. "The Stroke" and "Lonely Is The Night" were two of his biggest hits and the anticipation was amped up for the release of his next album Signs Of Life in 1984. The album was well received but it was released at a time where the music video was just as important as the release of the first single. It could make or break an album...in Squier's case it broke his career. Though not overly offensive or disturbing in any manner his video for "Rock Me Tonite" was confusing. Rock stars at the time (hell, even now) are known to be sex symbols...pillars of cool and swelling with attitude. Maybe I should just let the video speak for itself. The blame for it's inception and execution was an ongoing debate between Squier, his manager and the director of the video for many years to follow, and though Billy continued making music, his career never reached the same level of popularity since "Rock Me Tonite" was first played on MTV in 1984.
5. Ashlee Simpson
Ok, I may stretching the "career" aspect of the list with this one, but it combines two subjects we already touched on. Saturday Night Live and Lip synching. It was 2004 and Ashlee was begging her manager daddy to make her a star like her sister Jessica, so she was booked as the musical guest on SNL. Her first song when off as normal, but during her second performance the song she sang the first time started playing over the speakers while her band was obviously not playing along. Everyone kind of looked at each other stupidly and then Ashlee did an awkward dance off the stage as the show faded to commercial. In the following days the excuses piled up...she had laryngitis, her band played the wrong song or she had acid reflux. It didn't matter, the incident gave her naysayers an opening and she was mercilessly mocked in the media and she was even booed loudly when she performed at the Orange Bowl in 2005. In an interview her father claimed he didn't understand why there was such backlash "It was just a little lip synching, it's not like she hurt anybody, it's not that big of a sin" Well Mr. Simpson it is in the eyes of a musician. For such a chance like performing on SNL, an opportunity that any struggling musician or artist would kill for to have, to see that shot be given to someone who clearly wasn't ready for it is a sin. Thankfully, she paid dearly for it.
6. Ashley MacIsaac
Another Ashley featured on the list and another on-stage meltdown! MacIsaac was a bright, shining star for Canadians in the 90's. A truly unique talent brought East Coast fiddle music to the contemporary music scene with his album Hi, How Are You Today? His follow-up to that, though not a pop success (it wasn't intended as one) was critically acclaimed for it's classical music roots. Then the cracks started to show. He had been apparently struggling with a cocaine addiction in the late 90's and at a Y2K New Years rave he shouted obscenities during his show for what some have reported as a duration of 20 minutes. The performance began a downward spiral leading to further tour-date cancellations, a split with his record company and filing for bankruptcy. In a bizarre moment MacIsaac once called in the request show on Much Music and requested his single "I'm Movin' On" from his new album Helter's Celtic in an attempt to boost sales. In my opinion it is one of the worst songs ever released....Last time I saw Ashley he performed during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
7. Dixie Chicks
Winners of countless Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards and earning the respect of critics and fans of all genres around the world, here we have The Dixie Chicks.
Who were once America's Sweethearts. That all changed one night in 2003 at a concert in London, lead singer Natalie Maines publicly decried the US' War on Terror and famously said "we're ashamed that [George W. Bush] is from Texas". Again, i'm all for standing up for what you believe in and actually applaud her courage to speak out against war. Sadly many Americans don't share my views on the matter, especially those who are from Texas and support military action to the death. The backlash was instant and devastating. Although her bandmates stood beside her, and she would apologize for the comment, the damage was done. Fans boycotted their music, fellow Country Music artists blasted them in the public and their next album which featured the timely named song "Not Ready To Make Nice" was largely ignored. The band has since been on a hiatus and most of the drama following the incident can be seen in the 2007 documentary Shut Up and Sing which is actually quite an enjoyable watch whether you're a fan or not.
8. As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying are a hardcore, metal band from San Diego, California who claim to be guided by Christian morals and therefore fall under the Christian rock moniker. That's why it was sort of a surprise when lead singer Tim Lambesis was arrested on May 7, 2013 for allegedly trying to hire an undercover police officer to kill his ex wife. Now I know the jury is still out on this one and perhaps it's too soon that their career is over...nah i'm calling it...though you might never of heard of the group...it's likely you won't hear from them again.
9. Garth Brooks
Remember Garth Brooks? Perhaps the biggest name in Country Music in the 90's. Winner of dozens of awards, selling out venues all over the world and seemingly able to capture lightning in a bottle time and time again. That is until Chris Gaines came around. Oh right....THAT. Sometime in the late 90's Garth was to star in a movie about a dejected rock musician named Chris Gaines and he thought it would be a good idea to act out the moniker in interviews and performances before the movie was even in production. He even released an album as Chris Gaines which promptly bombed and was featured in a VH1 Behind The Music episode. Huh? Audiences were confused. The songs were mediocre at best and everyone kind of wondered if Brooks had gone off the deep end taking this Chris Gaines things too seriously. The movie was never made, the songs were forgettable and in the end Garth decided to call it quits from music all together. Unless your name is David Bowie these alter-ego concept albums never work. Stick to what you know and what you're good at.
10. Axel Rose
Okay ending on a big one and though this isn't really one moment pin pointed on a map, this career died a long, slow, drawn out death...fading in and out of consciousness and eventually that last thread of life support trickled away. Guns N' Roses ruled the rock world in the 80's and early 90's Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 were textbook albums that showcased their raw energy and genuine talent. The first cracks began to show during the Use Your Illusion world tour. Axl's tempermental behaviour on and off stage caused tension within the group. During a show in St. Louis in 1991 he attacked a fan for filming the concert then stormed off stage. When the crowd realized the show was cut short they rioted. It almost happened again in Germany later that year which caused guitarist Izzy Stradlin to quit mid-tour. Another riot took place in Montreal when Guns N Roses played a show with Metallica. After Metallica front man James Hetfield was burned on stage by pyrotechnics, Axl cut the Guns N Roses set short after claiming his throat was sore (though he was frustrated by the poor sound monitoring). The tour ended in 1993 and it would be the last time the popular line up of Axl, Slash, Duff, Mat and Gilby or Izzy would be together. Sadly, it doesn't end there. The following year Axl would release the confusing album known as The Spaghetti Incident? which fans bought up as a new GnR record, however it was simply a collection of glam and punk covers which included a song written by Charles Manson. After taking a break through most of the late 90's Guns N Roses appeared again in 1999 with a song on the End Of Days soundtrack and Axl would announce his plans for a new album entitled Chinese Democracy. It would be ten long years before the album would be officially released. The recording/producing sessions would be described as a nightmare by many of the musicians who contributed and were at one point a part of the revolving door known as Guns N Roses. Some of those artists were Dave Navarro, Buckethead, Sebastian Bach, Josh Freese and many others. So much time had elapsed with Axl continuously promising the album "this year" that it became a joke. The Offspring announced that their next album would be called Chinese Democrazy (You Snooze You Lose) and Dr Pepper held a promotion in 2008 that they would provide a free drink to everyone in America if the album was released that year (it was, and Dr Pepper upheld it's offer...sort of). After all that when the album was finally released no one really cared. It just kind of arrived and went away....the thing is....it wasn't terrible. It's a good album, not great, but good. It would just never live up to the hype and expectation...Axl should've just left it on the shelf. Making it an ideal....a legend. Which Axl himself has kind of become, but not in a good way. People don't want to work with him, fans have given up on the band. Who knows if Guns N Roses will pop up again in the future...but I feel whatever the circumstances are, the destruction has already been done.
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