You Have To See These Pictures Of Pop Stars When Their Debut Album Came Out Vs. Now
These stars have come a long way since their debut album, but what did they look like before Hollywood sunk in its platinum blonde, perfectly manicured claws? Talk about a major glow up. Success certainly looks good when you can afford a stylist (or at least step away from whoever the heck is styling Disney Channel stars).
These stars have changed a lot since their debut album – and in some cases, they’re almost unrecognizable. Here’s what some of your favorite musicians looked like when they released their first albums vs. what they look like now as seasoned celebs.
Then: In 2006, Taylor Swift was a high school student who didn’t quite fit in when she released her debut, self-titled album. She wore her heart on her sleeve and wrote songs about passing her crush in the hallway. She even wrote on her Myspace page that she’d never dare straighten her curly hair to impress a dude.
Now: Taylor has filtered through a couple terrible ex-boyfriends (even worse than the dopey, teenaged Drew). She’s also filtered through even more awards shows. Swifty is one of the most successful pop stars on the planet. In an era where albums don’t sell physical copies, the singer sold a whopping 1.2 million copies of Reputation. The album was the best-selling of 2017.
Then: In 2008, Demi had just released her album Don’t Forget off the heels of her starring role in the iconic Disney Channel movie Camp Rock. The fresh-faced teen was dating a Jonas Brother and nothing but smiles.
Now: Two years after releasing her debut album, Demi had what she considers a nervous breakdown after assaulting a backup dancer during a tour with the Jonas Brothers. The artist has since gone to rehab and sought treatment for both bulimia and bipolar disorder. In 2018, she’s a force to be reckoned with and has come back bigger than ever. Her recent single, “Sorry Not Sorry,” dominated the Billboard Charts after peaking at number three. Her album Tell Me You Love Me was a career high at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.
From Ke$ha To Kesha
Then: In 2010, Ke$ha dominated pop radio with her party girl anthem “Tik Tok.” The singer landed a record contract with RCA shortly after wowing on Flo Rida’s 2009 hit “Right Round” even though she was unpaid and uncredited for her work. She was known for partying harder than Andrew W.K. with glitter-soaked music videos and nude photo leaks.
Now: Kesha ditched the dollar sign in her name along with her party girl image. After a four-year hiatus and a devastating legal battle with her producer Dr. Luke, stemming from alleged career-long verbal and sexual abuse, the singer finally has been able to release music. “Praying” landed Kesha a Grammy nomination.
Then: In 2006, Miley Cyrus wasn’t known for much more than being a Disney Channel star. The singer played Hannah Montana, a rock star at night and a normal teen attending public school during the day. Her debut album Hannah Montana was full of bubblegum pop hits that were showcased on her TV show.
Now: Cyrus has certainly grown up since her days wearing blonde wigs on set. The singer chopped off her locks, scandalized the country by twerking on Robin Thicke at the MTV VMAs and released a hip-hop-tinged album chock full of drug references. The young star has calmed down since Bangerz and went back to her pop-country roots on “Malibu.” She even wore a dress so elegant at the 2017 Grammy Awards that it had most of us doing a double take.
Then: In 2003, Beyoncé split from her Destiny’s Child sisters and released the solo album Dangerously in Love. It was undeniably a solid album, but no one could really tell just how far it would take her.
Now: Beyoncé is a queen. The singer famously dropped her visual album Lemonade without so much as a hint that she was working on new music. Then, Bey had the moment to end all moments – she played the Super Bowl and brought up her Destiny’s Child sisters for the mini-reunion performance. Bey has never forgotten her roots, even if she married Jay Z, the arguable king of New York rap and had three adorable children.
Then: In 1999, Pink released her debut album Can’t Take Me Home. The singer’s attitude and pink hair stood out among her fellow perfect pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Her debut went double platinum.
Now: Pink is still killing it, even if her hair is a little bit blonder. She’s got her trademark attitude and released Beautiful Trauma, which is arguably one of the most emotionally powerful records of 2017. The singer is already slaying 2018 with coveted performances on SNL, at the 2017 Grammy Awards and at the Super Bowl. She regularly preaches the message of individuality and still tries to smash impossible beauty standards. Oh, and her daughter is adorable!
Then: In 2005, Rihanna released her debut album Music of the Sun. The singer was 16 years old and had just signed a recording contract with Def Jam records. Music of the Sun went on to sell over two million copies worldwide.
Now: In 2018, Rihanna is a full-blown fashion icon and beauty guru. After releasing her eighth studio album, Anti, in 2016, the single “Work” became absolutely inescapable. Coincidentally, Ri-Ri’s been werking harder than ever.In 2017, she launched Fenty Beauty, a cosmetics line that caters to skin of all colors in an industry that often ignores darker skin tones. The line racked up $72 million in sales in the first month.
Then: Stefani Germanotta was slaving away in the New York City’s Lower East Side when she finally released her debut album as Lady Gaga in 2008. The single “Just Dance” was inescapable and the record became the seventh best-selling in history. Back then, Gaga was known for wearing wild outfits and it wasn’t unusual for her to show up to an award show inside of an egg or wearing a dress made out of meat.
Now: Lady Gaga outdid herself once again with Joanne, but not by topping a crazy costume. She actually stripped down and adopted a classic, glam look. Since her debut, Gaga has hit every career milestone – HBO specials, Super Bowl halftime shows and a Netflix documentary – but she’s been doing it all while battling chronic pain.
Then: After a stint on the Mickey Mouse Club, Britney Spears set her sights on becoming a pop star. Five years after the show was canceled, the teenaged star released …Baby One More Time which launched her into major, mainstream success.
Now: Britney dropped off the map for a couple of years following mental health issues and a highly-public divorce and custody battle. In 2018, she’s back on top. The singer released Glory and was honored with the Billboard Millennium Award for her lifetime of achievements. After landing a Las Vegas residency, she was named the eighth highest earning female musician of 2017.
Then: A year after NSYNC announced their (permanent) temporary hiatus, Justin Timberlake released his debut album Justified. Could Timberlake handle stardom without his brothers backing him up? It turns out, yes! Justified landed Timberlake his first two Grammy awards.
Now: Timberlake is a father and a husband (he married Jessica Biel in 2012), but he’s still generally killing it. The singer tried his hand at voice acting and voiced the lead in the DreamWorks flick Trolls. His chart-topping single “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” graced the soundtrack and basically defined the summer of 2016. In 2018, he played the Super Bowl halftime show and released his fifth studio album, Man of the Woods.
Then: By 2008, Nicki Minaj had already gained public recognition after releasing three mixtapes. In 2009 she was discovered by Lil Wayne and appeared on a number of albums that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 but had yet to release her own music. It wasn’t until 2010 that Nicki released her first album Pink Friday, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200.
Now: By 2018, Nicki has racked up the successes — she’s been nominated for 10 Grammys. Though she’s only released two albums (and a deluxe version of her debut), she’s found most of her success through guesting on other people’s songs, most recently with Ariana Grande on “Side to Side” and Katy Perry on “Swish Swish.”
Then: Sam Smith was an adorably chubby boy-next-door when he released In the Lonely Hour in 2014. He was the loveable underdog who got his heart irreparably broken (and we curse the man who did it, but also thank them for the good music).
Now: Talk about a glow up! 2018 was Sam Smith’s year. The singer went on tour in support of his brand new album The Thrill of it All, and can we just say he’s barely recognizable? Smith went from dorky boy-next-door to total heartthrob. He’s also got this air of cool around him that seemingly came out of thin air. We love both Sam Smiths, but this one makes us weak in the knees.
Then: In 2008, Katy Perry had just kissed a girl and headed out on the Vans Warped Tour promoting her debut album One of the Boys. Perry still had a knack for whimsical outfits, but she was way more influenced by vintage pinup style. At this point in her career, she even played guitar on stage.
Now: Perry is a full-blown pop princess. Fielding feuds with Taylor Swift and breakups from some of the dreamiest men in Hollywood, Perry released her 2017 album Witness to much success. Perry’s style has dramatically changed over the years and she sports a more sophisticated (but still playful) look. Recently, she shocked the world by cutting off her long locks and opting for a buzzed pixie.
Then: Madonna hit the scene in 1983 with her self-titled debut and instantly became a fashion icon. The 25-year-old’s bleach blond curls and punky ’80s style defined a generation. Her music wasn’t too shabby either. The singer’s debut album sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Now: As a 59-year-old woman, Madonna is regularly fighting ageism in the industry and made a heartbreaking, inspiring speech about Hollywood’s focus on youth at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music awards. That year, she was named Woman of the Year award. In 2018, her style is as bold as ever and she’s reinvented herself more times than most of us can count. Though we haven’t had an album from the songstress in a minute, she hinted at a 2018 release and tour.
Then: Harry Styles was a teenaged boy bander when One Direction released their debut album Up All Night in 2011. The singer instantly became a teen heartthrob and magazine cutouts of his face were taped up inside of middle school lockers all around America. Style’s fashion was mostly limited to t-shirts and jeans.
Now: 2017 was Harry Styles’ year. He released his highly anticipated, self-titled debut in May and ventured onto the silver screen. He chopped his long locks for a role in Dunkirk and has since graduated from that “long-haired, slicked back, white t-shirt” style ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift sang about in 1989.
Then: Lorde was 17 years old when she rose to fame with her iconic hit “Royals.” Pure Heroine was a game-changer when it came to female-fronted electronic music, and the New Zealander became known for her lion’s mane of curly locks and unique look.
Now: Lorde is a little bit older and a little bit wiser. She ditched her high-school sweetheart and has been absolutely thriving. When she was so sick that she needed an IV drip before her performance at the VMAs, she danced her heart out instead. The girl even attended the Met Gala with a broken arm (and had the most star-studded signatures in cast history). Nothing can stop her. Her newest album Melodrama was Grammy-nominated.
Then: In 1992, the world was graced with No Doubt’s self-titled debut. Though the record failed (only selling around 30,000 copies), Stefani later became the female voice of a generation. Good thing she stuck with it!
Now: We’re not sure what kind of witchcraft Gwen is up to, but the woman hasn’t aged a day in over 20 years. The mama three divorced Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale (who turned out to be cheating with the nanny) and shacked up with Blake Shelton, her co-star from The Voice. The singer couldn’t be happier and her album This Is What The Truth Feels Like is an emotionally heavy piece of pop perfection.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Then: Carly Rae Jepsen was a Canadian Idol. The singer placed third in the TV singing competition in 2007. In 2008, she released her folk-tinged debut Tug of War, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the world was rocked by “Call Me Maybe.”
Now: Carly Rae is still doing her thing. She traded her bangs for a bleach blonde crop and picked up a pretty sweet gig as a Target spokesperson. She’s performed everywhere from Broadway to the small screen (she was in Grease: Live), landed numerous awards nominations including Grammys, Emmys and MTV VMAs. Her album Emotion topped a number of end-of-year lists for publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.
Then: Joe Jonas performed alongside his brothers in the Jonas Brothers. The band dropped their debut album It’s About Time in 2006, and graced the small screen in 2008 with the Disney Channel Original Movie Camp Rock.
Now: Joe Jonas has come a long way from his Disney star styling. He no longer has swoopy straightened hair, but he did opt for a statement mustache for a good period of time. Jonas now fronts DNCE, whose debut single “Cake by the Ocean” topped charts worldwide in 2015. It was the second most played song in Canada in 2016, only falling short to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”
Then: The teenage YouTube personality was recently discovered by Usher, who signed him to Island Def Jam. He released his debut album My World 2.0 in 2010, and the world has never been the same. Never has swoopy hair looked so good (and it was definitely enough to woo fellow child star Selena Gomez).
Now: Bieber went through a rough period, where he was causing a ton of controversy by drag racing around his neighborhood and generally acting like a privileged young adult (because duh, he was one). He’s since reined it in along with a zillion new tattoos and a bleach blond haircut. It appears the singer learned a lot during his massive Purpose world tour, and eventually won back the heart of Selena, who broke up with him years prior. Yup, in 2018, Jalena is still a thing.