In the mid-90s when the nu metal genre began to pick up steam, it spawned a sea of bands who rushed to the goldmine that Korn had tapped wide open.
One of those bands was Sugar Ray, who has experienced a fascinating journey in the music industry, particularly marked by their second studio album, “Floored,” released on June 24, 1997.
This album showcased a significant departure from the band’s earlier style, venturing into the realms of nu metal and funk metal, a stark contrast to their later, more radio-friendly pop-rock hits that they would of course become known for.
Initially, Sugar Ray’s sound was heavily influenced by heavier music genres. “Floored” is a testament to this phase, featuring a blend of alternative rock, funk metal, and nu metal elements. The band even toured with Korn and Deftones upon its release.
So how did an album largely comprised of punk, nu metal, and funk metal end up blowing up in the mainstream arena?
It’s all thanks to a little song called “Fly” from “Floored” that stands out as a unique anomaly in the album. Contrasting sharply with the rest of the album’s heavier sound, “Fly” incorporated a lighter, reggae-influenced vibe.
Interestingly, this track was not initially intended to be a major part of the album, let alone a single.
However, “Fly” unexpectedly became a massive hit after the record label serviced it to radio stations, reaching widespread audiences and significantly boosting the band’s popularity. This success marked a pivotal moment in Sugar Ray’s career, signaling a shift towards more mainstream, pop-oriented music in their future music.
Looking back on its success, frontman Mark McGrath recalls:
“It was funny; people would buy the record Floored expecting fifteen “Fly” and they got the hardest record we ever made. I never said we were smart, we were just certainly exercising artistic license and having fun. If you limit yourself to genres, you’re not a true music fan in my book.
I can’t even quantify what it meant [the success of “Fly”]. It’s still surreal. When I hear songs on the radio, it’s still phenomenal to me. Because “Fly” had so many firsts for us. We were on MTV. They got a platinum record out of it. We were touring the world. It was just phenomenal. It was surreal. I would look at these guys like, “Can you believe how this is happened?” Because it wasn’t premeditated.
We have five guys who started to play music because drawn to music. I’ve never claimed to be the best singer in the world. I never claimed to be the best band musicians in the world. But I’ll be damned if we can’t craft a pop song every now and then. People really responded to “Fly.” Actually, we said, “You know what? People are digging this. Let’s see if we can do some more of these.”
Based on the success of “Fly,” which spent 59 weeks on the radio charts, Floored would go on to sell 2 million copies in the U.S. Sugar Ray quickly pivoted to a pop-focused approach and proved that they weren’t a one-hit wonder, producing a few more big hits before they eventually faded out.