Music Artists That Completely Changed Their Genres

Idolator Staff | July 27, 2018 4:04 pm

Just as music evolves, so do the artists that make it. You can’t expect a band or musician to stick with the same style forever, they’re artists after all. They need to experiment, try new things, and work on what they are most passionate about. Change is healthy for a musician so they’re not stuck playing the same thing for ten years in a row. For some artists, change means switching genres entirely. Whether it’s from rap to reggae or rock to pop, the music industry has seen it all. Here are some of the most notable musicians that changed up their genre.

The genre Katy Perry was in before switching to pop is surprising, to say the least. And she used a different name!

Lana Del Ray Rebranded Herself For Success

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Photo Credits: Francesco Prandoni\Archivio Francesco Prandoni\Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Lana Del Ray wasn’t always the iconic singer-songwriter that she is today. When she first tried to break into the music scene, she went by her birth name Lizzy Grant. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much success branding herself as Lizzy Grant with her casual clothes and acoustic guitar. After realizing that something needed to change, she reinvented herself in 2011 and became Lana Del Ray.

She traded in her street clothes for her 1950s and ’60s Americana style and her acoustic guitar for new melancholia musical themes. Since her transition, she exploded in popularity and has become one of the biggest pop culture stars today.

Queen Latifah Began Using Her Voice In A Different Way

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Photo Credits: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

In the 1990s, Queen Latifah was known as being a sassy rap and hip-hop performer. However, by the mid-2000s, she released The Dana Owens Album which was her first all singing album. In 2007, she went on to release Travelin’ Light, which was mostly comprised of soul and blues track.

From the album, the song “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist and was nominated for the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, a clear difference from her earlier hip-hop works. While most people prefer one version of Queen Latifah to the other, it’s apparent that she was successful and impactful in both of her styles.

Snoop Dogg Changed To Snoop Lion

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Photo Credits: Leon Bennett/WireImage

Snoop Dogg is one of the most iconic rappers of the 1990s and 2000s. Discovered by rapper Dr. Dre in 1992, he has since sold over 23 million albums in the US and 35 million albums worldwide. In 2012, the weed-smoking rapper superstar took a trip to Jamaica where he then announced that he was converting to Rastafarian and was establishing a new image known as Snoop Lion.

As Snoop Lion, he put rap and hip-hop aside and came out with a reggae album titled Reincarnated, as well as a documentary of the same name. However, it didn’t take long for him to give up on his reggae career and return to what he knows best.

Taylor Swift’s Old And New Sounds Are Like Night And Day

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Photo Credits: Gareth Cattermole/TAS18/Getty Images

It’s quite clear that Taylor Swift made a major jump in genre throughout her music career. Just starting out, she was just a little girl from Nashville with her guitar. She sang about pickup trucks, first loves, and everything else country. This formula did quite well for her for quite some time.

However, as she got older, her style evolved as well. She made the noticeable switch to pop music in her 2015 album, 1989 and has been a classified pop star ever since. With each album, she has gone deeper and deeper into the genre while adding new elements as well.

Whatever happened to Hanna Montana?

Darius Rucker Is Doing What Feels Best To Him

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Photo Credits: John Shearer/WireImage

Darius Rucker got his start in the music industry as the lead singer for the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish. Their debut album Cracked Rear View in 1994, is the 14th-best-selling album in the United States. Despite having a successful career as a member of Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker discovered that rock music wasn’t his true calling.

He found out that his real passion was playing country music. He commented that “That’s what I need to be doing, going country more than anything else. I’m happiest when I’m doing that.” He knows what he’s doing, considering that he’s been at the top of the charts numerous times.

Dave Grohl Quit Grunge And Paved His Own Path

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Photo Credits: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Dave Grohl made a name for himself as the longest-serving drummer for the iconic grunge band Nirvana. At that point in his career, he was entirely into the grunge scene with no signs of changing his style anytime soon. However, after Kurt Cobain’s death, Grohl was left wondering what was next for his life and started recording music, playing all of the instruments himself.

Not wanting to start a solo project, he hired other musicians, and his recordings were released as the Foo Fighter’s debut album in 1995. Today, Grohl is the frontman for the internationally famous band Foo Fighters that is more pop than it is grunge, however, for fans, Grohl can do no wrong and respect the direction he’s gone in.

Miley Cyrus Did A Total 180

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In her youth, Miley Cyrus was a Disney Channel star and topped the charts with her “Hannah Montana” personae and hits such as “The Climb” and “7 Things I Hate About You.” Then, when she began to grow up, she completely changed her image and became a boundary-pushing bad girl, just going by Miley Cyrus.

Her music changed as well and she leaned more towards electronic and hip hop music which is most evident in her 2013 album Bangerz. Her records after Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Pets even began to transition into psychedelic rock, showing that she isn’t content with staying in one area of music.

Gwen Stefani’s sound was a lot different when she first hit the music scene.

The Beastie Boys Turned To Hip-Hop

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Photo Credits: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

The Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore punk band featuring Michael Diamond on vocals, John Berry on guitar, Adam Yauch on bass, and Kate Schellenback on drums. The New Yorkers came out with their first EP, Polly Wog Stew, in 1982.

Berry was then replaced by Adam Horovitz and after Schellenback dropped out of the band, the remaining three members made the full transition into hip-hop. In 1986, they released their debut rap-rock album, Licensed to Ill and have since released albums that have achieved platinum status or better.

Katy Perry Used To Be In A Christian Rock Band

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Photo Credits: Joseph Okpako/WireImage

Few people know that before Katy Perry became one of the biggest pop stars in the entire world, her talents were used in a Christian rock band. During that time, in 2001, she went by her real name, Katy Hudson, and sported her natural blonde hair color.

Then in 2002, she moved to Los Angeles and spent the better part of five years adjusting herself and transitioning into a more pop-oriented artist. In 2007, the new Katy unveiled herself as Katy Perry and took the world by storm with her debut single “I Kissed A Girl.”

Gwen Stefani Went From Punk Rock Girl To Pop Goddess

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Photo Credits: Darren Arthur/Getty Images for Renaissance Hotels

When Gwen Stefani first started making music in the late 1980s, she was the lead singer for the ska/punk band No Doubt. After some pitfalls, they began to receive serious recognition and became widely successful during the mid-1990s.

However, in 2002, Stefani changed up her style and began making pop music and released her first pop solo album Love Angel Music Baby. Her pop music was also widely well-received which she continues to work on today. Now, Stefani jumps between her solo pop projects as well as collaborating with her old band No Doubt.

Fleetwood Mac Had To Ditch Their Blues

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Photo Credits: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fleetwood Mac became a huge success, especially since the release of 1977’s Rumours, which featured mainstream classics such as “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” and “Don’t Stop.” It’s worth mentioning that they couldn’t have done it without the addition of folk-duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

But before Buckingham and Nicks joined the band, Fleetwood Mac originally started out as a British blues band. Their “bluesy” sound however only brought the band lukewarm success. It wasn’t until they integrated pop sounds into their music that they were able to make it in the mainstream.

P!nk Used To Be An R&B Singer

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Photo Credits: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Pink, whose real name is Alecia Moore, penetrated the pop-rock scene of the early 2000’s when her second album, Missundaztood, featured songs such as “Get the Party Started,” “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” and “Just Like a Pill.”

But did you know that Pink originally started out as an R&B artist? Her debut album, 2000’s Can’t Take Me Home, was a dance and R&B record that went double-platinum. Before that, Pink founded the short-lived R&B girl group Choice in 1995 but she had so much talent on her own that she was offered a solo recording contract.

Jewel Infused Her Folk Music With Pop

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Photo Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

As a young girl, Jewel’s first experiences as a performer was part of a yodeling act with her father. But in the beginnings of her career, Jewel’s main genre was folk, releasing Pieces of You in 1995 that featured somber songs such as “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “Foolish Games.”

It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that Jewel’s music took on elements of dance-pop, most evidenced by “Intuition,” the lead single off her fifth studio album, 0304. Then in 2008, Jewel went full country when she released Perfectly Clear, which debuted on Billboard’s Top Country Albums.

Garth Brooks Tried To Get Out Of Country

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Photo Credits: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CRS

Garth Brooks is undeniably one of the best-selling country artists in modern musical history, but there was a brief moment in his career when he tried to break free of his roots. He’s never been shy about his appreciation for rock and in 1999 he attempted to rebrand himself as a rock star.

Brooks created the alter-ego Chris Gaines, who was supposed to be a character in a film that was never made. People couldn’t quite get with Chris Gaines, despite how dedicated Brooks was to the act. Still, Brooks (as Chris Gaines) managed to score his only Top 40 single on the pop charts, “Lost in You.”

Coming up, did you know that this popular DJ used to be the lead singer of a screamo band?

Nelly Can’t Deny The Power Of Country

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Photo Credits: Johnny Louis/FilmMagic

Nelly came onto the hip-hop scene with his debut album, 2000’s Country Grammar, which is his best-selling album to date. His follow-up album, Nellyville, solidified his presence in the hip-hop and R&B scene with hits like “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma.”

But after all his continued success, Nelly decided to throw his fans for a loop by collaborating with country star Tim McGraw in 2004. Featuring elements from both rap and country, “Over and Over” became a cross-over success. Nelly reminded fans he wasn’t afraid to do country in 2013 when he was featured on a remix of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.”

Alanis Morissette Couldn’t Make You Dance

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Photo Credits: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

When Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill in 1995, she established herself in the alternative-rock scene as an angry, jaded singer with an immense vocal range. But way before we found out that “You Oughta Know” was (allegedly) about Full House’s Dave Coulier, Morisette tried to make dance-pop hits.

The Canadian singer’s debut album, Alanis, came out in 1991 and featured hits like “Too Hot,” “Walk Away,” and “Feel Your Love.” The album was actually pretty successful and went platinum. However, Morisette’s inability to sell records after that is what prompted her to go in another direction.

David Bowie Before He Was Ziggy Stardust

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Photo Credits: CA/Redferns

Before he introduced glam rock to the world as Ziggy Stardust and released the 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, David Bowie’s music was not exactly on the same level.

Though the folk-rock song “Space Oddity” foreshadowed what was to come with Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s musical acts were considered rather quaint. Early in his career, Bowie was a part of many different bands performing everything from folk, to rock and roll, and even pop. But even after bursting into the mainstream as Ziggy Stardust, Bowie would continue to tweak his sound throughout his career.

Childish Gambino Ditches Rap For Soul

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Photo Credits: Matthew Eisman/WireImage

Donald Glover is a television writer and actor, but he is also a rapper known as Childish Gambino. At least, that’s how his music career started out. Already known for his role on NBC’s Community, Glover debuted as Childish Gambino with mixtapes and EP, which came out in 2011.

In 2013, Because the Internet was a more comprehensive R&B and hip-hop album. His next album as Childish Gambino wouldn’t drop for another three years. 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!” notably featured no rapping and instead featured Glover singing on psychedelic soul, funk, and R&B tracks.

Skrillex Used To Be In A Screamo Band

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Photo Credits: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Before he was popular dubstep DJ Skrillex, he was Sonny Moore. Early in his career, Moore was the lead singer of a post-hardcore band called From First to Last. The band was pretty successful throughout the early 2000’s seeing high record sales and going on several successful tours.

Eventually, Moore left the band to pursue a solo career. In 2008, he began producing tracks under the name Skrillex and began performing in clubs throughout Los Angeles. Since then he’s become known for his EDM tracks that feature elements of dubstep, track, and electro-house.

Coming up is another guy who left his band, surprisingly going from alt-rock to soul.

Justin Timberlake Used To Be A Pop Star

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Photo Credits: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Justin Timberlake started out in music as the youngest and most prominent member of NSYNC. This era of his career was defined by pop music and Timberlake even dated pop princess Briney Spears. But as soon as that relationship was over, so was his time in NSYNC and Timberlake decided to go solo.

His debut album, 2002’s Justified, was a successful foray into R&B that featured “Cry Me a River” and “Rock Your Body.” In 2006, FutureSex/LoveSounds impressed critics for utilizing multiple musical genres. Hits like “SexyBack,” “My Love,” and “What Goes Around… Comes Around” nearly made us forget about his bubble-gum pop roots.

Nick Jonas Does Just Fine Without His Brothers

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Photo Credits: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Booking.com

Nick Jonas started out as the youngest member of the pop-rock band known as the Jonas Brothers, alongside older brothers Joe and Kevin. The Jonas Brothers successfully toured with many other Disney-bred pop acts, but this only lasted so long.

Jonas and his brothers grew up and the band eventually disbanded. But Nick Jonas wasn’t done with music and started his solo career. His most successful solo track to date is 2014’s “Jealous,” an R&B influenced track that set the youngest Jonas apart from his brothers and the pop tunes of his past.

Madonna Is Always Switching Things Up

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Photo Credits: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Madonna is known for reinventing herself. Every time a new version of Madonna is unleashed, you can expect a whole new set of sounds from the diva. The most notable example of this was at the turn of the century.

Since her big break in the ’80s, Madonna came to be known as the “Queen of Pop.” Throughout the years, she continually changed up her look, but her music generally stayed within the pop genre. That is, until the early 2000’s. At that point, Madonna’s albums took on an undeniable electro-dance sound. 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor even won a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album.

Nelly Furtado Wasn’t Always “Promiscuous”

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Photo Credits: GV Cruz/WireImage

In 2006, Nelly Furtado released her third album, Loose, which featured No. 1 singles such as “Promiscuous,” “Maneater,” and “Say It Right.” These R&B and dance tracks were so popular in those days, we pretty much forgot about the music that put Furtado on the map.

Her debut album, 2000’s Whoa, Nelly!, was definitely more demure than the Nelly Furtado of recent years. Songs like “I’m Like a Bird” and “Turn Off the Light” made put Furtado on the airwaves in the first place but featured more pop and folk-rock sounds.

Patrick Stump Created A Soul Album

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Photo Credits: Bob Levey/Getty Images

Fall Out Boy ruled the alternative-punk-pop-rock scene of the early 2000’s. But after Fall Out Boy fell out of touch with the changing trends of the music industry, Patrick Stump briefly left the band to focus on his solo career.

In 2011, he released Soul Punk which was completely different from the compositions he wrote for Fall Out Boy. Stump cited Michael Jackson as a huge influence on the album, which featured elements of soul, R&B, and funk. Despite positive reviews from critics, the album failed in terms of sales. After releasing more solo albums, Stump eventually returned to Fall Out Boy in 2013.

Keep reading to see which country-rock star started out as a hip-hop artist!

Lil Wayne Tried To Do Rock

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Photo Credits: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET

Lil Wayne dominated became one of the biggest rappers in the game after releasing Tha Block Is Hot, Lights Out, 500 Degreez, and all three Tha Carter albums throughout the early 2000s.

But in 2010, he decided to take a page out of Nelly’s book and try his hand at rap-rock. That year, he released Rebirth without had heavy rock influences, but unfortunately, no one was on board for it. Despite the fact that it was certified gold, people were Lil Wayne couldn’t convince people that he knew the first thing about a good rock track.

Jessica Simpson Might Have Made It In Country

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Photo Credits: Michael Stewart/Getty Images

Before reality television, Jessica Simpson was a successful pop singer. Her 1999 debut single “I Wanna Love You Forever” peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Her “anti-sex appeal” approach to pop music made her quite successful, that is, until reality television turned her career downwards.

Though she continued to release music throughout the 2000s, her career found itself in critical decline. By 2007, Simpson attempted to change her sound by taking on country, but wasn’t able to get herself back into the mainstream. By then, she was more or less a television personality than a singer.

The Go-Go’s Had To Embrace Pop

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Photo Credits: Kerstin Rodgers/Redferns

The Go-Go’s made a killing in the early ’80s as an all-female outfit that could both sing and play their own instruments. They originally formed as a punk band that approached the new wave scene of the era with reckless abandon.

However, after signing a record deal, their debut album Beauty and the Beat was surprisingly pop-rock oriented. Their hit singles such as “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat” are notably not very punk, but without those songs, the Go-Go’s wouldn’t have seen the success that they have.

Cyndi Lauper Used To Do Rockabilly

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Photo Credits: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

At the beginning of her career, Cyndi Lauper sang in cover bands, dabbling in everything from Janis Joplin to disco. Unhappy with singing covers all the time, she joined Blue Angel, a retro-rockabilly band that failed to see any mainstream success.

Lauper, of course, was talented enough to get offers for solo record deals and eventually released her debut, She’s So Unusual, in 1983. Songs like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time” made Lauper a pop-rock sensation, but it’s crazy to think that before that, she tried to make it in a rockabilly band.

Eddie Vedder Calmed It Down

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Best known as the lead singer and one of three guitarists for the grunge band Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder is the essence of the genre. He and Kurt Cobain are both credited with defining the genre of grunge, moving it forward, and exposing it to the world. His voice and demeanor is best suited for the genre and is part of what made Pearl Jam so successful throughout the years.

Then, in 2011, Vedder confused fans when he came out with a solo record called Ukelele Songs, a compilation of folk songs performed and sang by Vedder. Although the album wasn’t bad, it wasn’t the Vedder everyone thought they knew.

Kid Rock Surprisingly Started Out In Hip Hop

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Photo Credits: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

These days Kid Rock is primarily associated with country-rock music. His 2010 album Born Free was Kid Rock’s entrance into the country music scene and followed up with Rock N Roll Jesus and Sweet Southern Sugar.

But at the beginning of his career, Kid Rock was a self-taught DJ and rapper out of Detroit. His debut album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast was perhaps his most straightforward hip-hop album. It was released in 1990 and at the time, Kid Rock even went on tour with Ice Cube. He only released a few more rap-oriented albums before making the full transition to country-rock and has never looked back since.