Changing your genre of music isn’t always an easy task and with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at how five artists fared at it.
Let’s be honest, we’re slowly moving into a post-genre musical landscape. Huge artists like Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa jump from one genre to another within albums. A group such as 100gecs attempt what sounds like 100 different genres in one song.
It used to be that an artist picked a genre and stuck at it though, and it’s why a change of genre has often been met with shock and surprise by the public (people take their music seriously, didn’t you know).
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at five artists who’ve changed genres, from a monumental example all the way back in the 60’s to two successful changes in 2020. Judge for yourselves how well they fared! In every case, the first video is the artist in their old genre and the second one is them in their new genre.
*Disclaimer: ratings out of 10 are not an exact science and shouldn’t be met with feelings of anger.
Machine Gun Kelly: Rap to Pop-Punk (7/10)
A very recent one, MGK made the jump from rap to pop-punk on his fifth album, Tickets To My Downfall. Although he had certainly dabbled in the sound in the past, this was his first record that fully transitioned away from his established rap rep.
It certainly helped having none other than blink-182’s Travis Barker on the production side, true pop-punk royalty. Some cheekily claimed that MGK was fleeing rap because of his spat with Eminem (including, wonderfully, the fast food chain Wendy’s) but we doubt MGK cared when Tickets To My Downfall debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200.
Miley Cyrus: Pop to Rock (7.5/10)
If you had said in 2006 that Hannah freakin’ Montana would have grown a mullet and be killing rock classics like Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’, you’d have been laughed at. In 2020, this was the beautiful reality though. Since her days of Disney stardom, Cyrus has forged a, shall we say, unique path: country to pop to weird indie, and now to perhaps her truest incarnation, classic rock.
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She’s certainly all grown up now. Cyrus released the rock album Plastic Hearts last November. Rock royalty Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks lended credibility to proceedings but Cyrus was capable of holding her own. She possesses the growl and the confidence to make proper rock. Long may it continue.
Katy Perry: Christian Music to Not-So-Christian-Music (9/10)
If ever there was a more overt discarding of one’s own past than when Katy Perry released ‘I Kissed A Girl’, we’ve yet to find it. The daughter of two pastors, Katy Hudson was raised in a strict Christian household. She released a self-titled debut album in 2001, full of Christian rock.
7 years later, Perry was reborn but probably not as God intended. Her first pop album One of the Boys spawned several huge hits, propelling Perry to superstardom. She’d never look back, becoming one of the biggest popstars of the 21st century.
Bob Dylan: Folk to Electric Rock (8/10)
Who knew that plugging in a guitar could be so controversial? In the early 60’s, Dylan was the biggest name in folk music. Albums like 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and 1964’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ led the media to call the singer-songwriter the “spokesman of a generation.”
The following year though, Dylan had the temerity to experiment away from his trusty acoustic guitar. His following albums explored electric rock territory, leading to derision from his peers in the folk community. Fans on tour regularly booed his performances. Dylan has been proven right though: his electronic decision helped in the development of the folk rock style and he became a chameleonic musician through 39(!) studio albums. Always push yourself as an artist.
Taylor Swift: Country to Pop (and beyond) (9.5/10)
The biggest star on the planet’s career started when she moved to the home of country music, Nashville, to pursue her dreams at the age of 14. Becoming the youngest artist to sign with Big Machine Records, her self-titled 2006 debut album made her a burgeoning success in the genre. Swift had larger ambitions though, and the following album, 2008’s Fearless, begun her crossover into pop. With each new record, her pop sensibilities increased, as did her mainstream appeal, culminating in the acclaimed 2014 album 1989.
In 2020, of course, Swift changed it up again, surprisingly releasing two revelatory indie-folk albums, folklore and evermore. That year also saw the sweet moment where she returned to the Academy of Country Music Awards stage for the first time in seven years, an acknowledgement of her roots.