8 Artists You Won’t Believe Were Once Considered Heavy Metal

–By Mike McPadden (@McBeardo)

The parameters of the heavy metal music have been expanding and evolving ever since the very earliest days when Black Sabbath set the general boilerplate, Led Zeppelin broke open new possibilities, and late-’70s upstarts on the order of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest defined and codified the genre’s look, tone, and feel.
Since then, of course, we’ve seen (and heard) thrash, hardcore, power metal, speed metal, doom metal, death metal, black metal, and so on up to an including subgenres known as pornogrind, Djent, and Nintendocore.

What places the bands in these various categories under the metal umbrella has much to do with loud guitars, wailing vocals, thunderous drumbeats, and dark subject matter, but perhaps even more to do with style, approach, verve, and above all, attitude.

How else to explain some of the unexpected (to say the least) bands and solo artists that have, one way or another, been branded “heavy metal” at some point in their careers?

Here now are 8 artists you won’t believe were once considered heavy metal.

Bon Jovi

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Middle-of-the-road rock superstars Bon Jovi crossed over to Top 40 pop decades ago and in more recent years have successfully added a sizable country audience. However, upon the arrival of their self-titled debut in 1983, the Garden State’s best-selling non-Springsteen sons were only considered heavy metal.

It may have had more to do with the group’s spray-on spandex pants, sleeveless animal-print tops, and unholy heaps of hair-mousse than their actual sound, but Bon Jovi’s breakthrough hit “Runaway” certainly teeters far enough over to the hard side, as does the title of their follow-up LP, 7800° Fahrenheit (“The temperature at which vinyl melts,” claimed the ad campaign. Right).

Upon the smash 1986 release of Slippery When Wet, the L.A. Times even ran a feature titled, “Bon Jovi: A Messiah for Metal?” From there, Bon Jovi headlined England’s famously metal Monsters of Rock Festival in ’87 and, the following year, led the all-star hair-banger Moscow Concert for Peace, alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, Scorpions, and Skid Row.

So how, then, did Bon Jovi become so opposite-of-metal? Unlike other glam acts that donned flannels and grew goatees to keep up with grunge, the band took some time off, and returned in 1992 with Keep the Faith, a record that emphasized and built upon their pop-rock core.

After that, Bon Jovi just kept barreling forward, aging and mellowing at the same pace as their original devotees, right up to the point where numerous ’80s headbangers took to tuning in country radio in the early 2000s.

Watch: “Runaway”

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