Have you ever listened to a CD from a new group you'd never heard before, listened to the disk all the way through, and not even realized that you'd gone through twenty songs because, really, they all kind of sounded alike? That happens quite often when I choose at random CDs to listen to from the library, and it got me thinking about how there's a certain balance that must be struck when a musical group or artist works on becoming established. This balance is between the objectives of making each piece new and innovative, keeping it interesting, and being consistent enough so as to establish a certain sound by which they are recognized.
This is why I appreciate the merits of a mix CD. Each song is -hopefully- different from the one before it and very rarely does the ear get tired of listening to the same kind of sound again and again (not saying it doesn't happen, though -especially if the artists chosen subscribe to a certain musical genre). The experience is a far cry from, say, listening to an AC/DC album all the way through, where, when you've listened to one song, you've heard them all.
And yet, there's merit to the idea that the public should be able to hear a song and say to themselves, "Hey, isn't this so-and-so?" Wanting that recognition is totally understandable. It's a mark of style, the same way people can look at a painting and say, "Hey, isn't that a Van Gogh?" The important thing for the artist, no matter the medium, is to make sure that their audience doesn't get tired of it. Variety is nice. Then again, I'm sure the audience can get attached to an artist's style and expect that when they listen to their work. It serves as something reassuring to come back to, because they'll know what to expect.
Unless, of course, the artist initially chooses to be consistently inconsistent from the get-go...