Musicians need to constantly reinvent themselves, because music trends change and audiences expect their favorite artists to always come up with something new. There are many singers who started with a certain music genre and ended up switching to something completely different. Many times, this change turned out to be auspicious and bring those artists to international success. Here are some interesting examples of artists who used to sing or play something completely different from what they had embraced at the beginning of their career:
1. Taylor Swift – country pop
Taylor Swift has become immensely successful after giving up on country and switching to narrative songs about her personal life. At 14, she had begun to pursue a career in country music and even became the youngest artist ever to sign with the Sony/ATV Music publishing house. In 2014 she made the big change by releasing the album 1989, described as “sonically cohesive pop album”. Swift’s music currently contains elements of pop, pop rock, and country.
2. Bob Dylan – folk rock
One of the most famous American singers and songwriters, Bob Dylan is also a writer and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. Bob Dylan is one of the best-selling artists of all time and early songs like “Blowin’in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” belonged to the folk genre. Although he had immense success with folk songs, Dylan left the American folk music revival base and switched to rock in the late 60s.
3. Katy Perry – Christian pop
Katy Perry used to sing in church as a child and in her teenage years pursued a career in gospel music. She is a daughter of two pastors and had a strict Christian upbringing. Her debut studio album still belonged in the Christian genre and was unsuccessful (2001), so the next year she rebranded herself and ventured into secular music. She also changed her stage name into Katy Perry and became famous in 2008 after releasing the single “I Kissed a Girl”, controversial for its homosexual theme. Throughout her career, Katy Perry has sold 100 million records all over the world.
4. Michael Bolton – hard rock and heavy metal pop rock ballads
Who would have thought that Bolton’s soft voice used to appear in hard rock and heavy metal songs in the 70s and 80s? Another less known fact about Bolton is that all his grandparents were Russian immigrants and his actual name is Bolotin. After opening for Ozzy Osbourne on tour but failing to obtain the lead vocalist position for Black Sabbath, Michael Bolton hit the music world with the famous “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” and from that moment on, he decided to stick to the pop rock ballads he is best known-for.
5. Pink – R&B pop and pop rock
Pink’s first record label with the girl group Choice was in the R&B genre and it was signed in 1995. Three years later, the group dismantled and Pink obtained a solo deal, releasing the pop album Can’t Take Me Home in 2000. The album still had R&B influences, like Pink’s music even at the present day, but it was a definite stylistic change from what the artist used to sing before. In her second album, Missundaztood, released the next year, Pink opted for pop rock and became famous with songs like “Get the Party Started”, “Don’t Let Me Get Me”, and “Just Like a Pill”. One of the most prestigious awards received by Alecia Beth Moore (Pink) is the BMI President’s Award for “her outstanding achievement in songwriting and global impact on pop culture and the entertainment industry”.
6. Alanis Morissette – alternative rock electronica and dance pop
The Canadian-American artist started her career in Canada in the early 190s, with a grungy and aggressive alternative rock style. The switch to a dance-pop style suited best her emotive, mezzosoprano voice, but Alanis has also maintained some rock influences in her music. Less-known facts about Alanis Morissette: she has a twin brother who is also a musician, her parents were teachers, she had a Catholic upbringing but now practices Buddhism, and started to practice Iyengar Yoga to balance after her stressful tours in late 90s. Her signature song is considered “Ironic” (1996), which was nominated for two Grammy Awards. Her last album is Havoc and Bright Lights, and she released a collector’s edition of Jagged Little Pill in 2015, for the album’s twentieth anniversary.
For these artists, changing musical genres turned out to be a good move, and the switch either helped them to reach stardom, or enabled them to maintain their popularity. Music fans loved these major shifts and bought these artists’ albums in large numbers. What other artists who made similar moves do you have in mind?