From Rap to Rock and Punk to Pop: 4 of the Most Influential Musicians Ever on Their Genre

Story posted March 29, 2021 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by A&E Staff

There have been many fantastic musicians across the past few decades, providing fans and critics alike with hours of music to indulge in. But some of these musical artists stand out more than others; they changed the dynamic, their music proving a massive influence on the industry as a whole. Today, the CommRadio arts and entertainment department takes a look at some of the most influential musicians of modern music.

The Velvet Underground

Most would take a gander at the painting of the banana above and immediately tie it to Andy Warhol, one of the most iconic artists to come out of New York’s 1960s East Village art scene, known for his portrayal of themes including anti-consumerism and pop culture.

But this bright, yellow-colored fruit is also synonymous with of one of the most influential rock bands to take hold, the Velvet Underground.

The band was formed in New York City in 1964 and founded by legendary musicians Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Angus MacLise.

Known for its distinct style, the Velvet Underground was a trailblazer group in taboo. No other band at the time was singing about themes such as S&M, drug addiction and prostitution.

Their debut album, “The Velvet Underground and Nico” is seen as one of their greatest works by both fans and musicians. Their fourth LP “Loaded” is also another amazing record that has gained a lot of critical acclaim.

The group would have a massive impact on the development of the early punk movement and alternative rock scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s. 

The Sex Pistols, Sonic Youth, Joy Division and Talking Heads are just a handful of groups that acknowledge the Velvet Underground as one of their greatest influences.  —Jon Mead

Kanye West

If Kanye West did not exist, something would be missing from hip-hop and rap. West is to thank for the direction that current popular music has taken. 

In 2008, West released “808s & Heartbreak.” It was revolutionary, combining pop music with R&B, hip-hop music and themes of electronic. At the time, no one had really done that before.

West took samples from older songs from a variety of genres, sped them up or slowed them down, added a catchy beat, and rapped over the whole thing. It was revolutionary, also employing the new-at-the-time autotune.

West made it obvious that he autotuned his voice on most of the tracks on purpose. Then and now, autotune is sometimes considered shameful; if singer has a good voice, they have a good voice. There should be no need for autotune, which only serves to mask vocal blemishes. But West’s favorite instrument is his voice and he only used autotune to experiment with it more, stretching the boundaries of his music. After all, acapella-based music is his specialty. 

Other hip-hop and rap artists that have been heavily influenced by West, including Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, Logic and more. There may be no name more important to the rap, hip-hop and R&B genres than Kanye West.  —Emily McGlynn

The Beatles

It’s impossible to discuss the most influential bands of all time without mentioning the Beatles.

While the Beatles are primarily known for their work in the rock genre, they’ve influenced music in all facets. In the 1960s, the Beatles innovated, and every band around them followed suit. The Rolling Stones found mass popularity after covering the Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man,” mirroring the songwriting skills of the timeless Lennon-McCartney duo.

Additionally, the Beatles began experimenting with instruments unfamiliar to the pop sound. On their 1965 album “Rubber Soul,” the Beatles introduced a sitar sound that soon made its way across radio waves. Things didn’t have to be popular before — if the Beatles decided things were popular, that’s what they became.

Their impact is still felt today in music. Through cultural callbacks, instrumental experimentation and style of songwriting, the Beatles’ influence is omnipresent whether recording artists consciously realize it or not. Musicians across generations have been influenced by the mop-top sound that so many people once believed would just be a fad.  —Jade Campos

Led Zeppelin

There are a lot of bands that can claim to have influenced a genre, but few can say they led to the creation of one. Led Zeppelin, with its aggressive and heavy sound, took hard rock to new levels and created the blueprint for metal to emerge in the 1980s.

Robert Plant’s screaming vocals, John Paul Jones’ earth-shaking bass, Jimmy Page's immaculate guitar-playing, and the raw fury of John Bonham’s drums—together, these four elements took rock music and kicked it in the face, showing that this raw, aggressive sound was here to stay.

Each of the four members are considered to be some of the greatest musicians of all time, and each stands out in their own way. “Immigrant Song” showcases all their talents in a song that is not even three minutes long.

Yet Zeppelin could show a softer side too, as “Over the Hills and Far Away” demonstrates with its opening acoustic guitar before Bonham’s drums launch into that distinctive Zeppelin fury.

It was so rare for a band with this much individual talent to come together and in many ways, it has not been seen since. Songs like “Heartbreaker,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” changed the music industry, and those landmark achievements just scratch the surface of what this band accomplished together.  —David Fortunato


Jon Mead is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

Emily McGlynn is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email

Jade Campos is a junior majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact her, email

David Fortunato is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

About the Contributors

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Jade Campos

Junior / Print/Digital Journalism

Jade Campos is a junior from Caroline, Virginia. She is a director of the arts and entertainment department of CommRadio and a co-host on the talk show The Nittany Record Club alongside Colton Pleslusky and David Fortunato. Along with CommRadio, Jade is currently the assistant lifestyle editor for the Daily Collegian. In the past, she has interned with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. To contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

David Fortunato's photo

David Fortunato

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

David Fortunato is an aspiring broadcast journalist with a passion for both sports and the arts at Penn State. Along with being one of the directors for the CommRadio arts & entertainment department, he has written articles, participated in podcasts and even done a live show for the CommRadio sports department. In addition to his work for CommRadio, David is also involved in PSNTV’s Penn State Sports Night. David was also an intern for the Penn State men’s club hockey team, where he did player interviews, produced live streams, did camerawork and even did some play-by-play. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Emily McGlynn

Third-year / Broadcast Journalism

Emily McGlynn is a third-year from Birmingham, Michigan majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. She is the Co-General Manager alongside Alex Rocco and Dylan Price. She is involved in the news, arts and entertainment, sports and production department. In the news department, she is one of the news producers. She frequently writes reviews for the Arts Department as well. Listening to music, watching movies, and staying updated with news and pop culture are some of her favorite things to do. To contact her, email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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Jon Mead