The music industry changes so rapidly that artists far and wide frequently have to go through some sort of reinvention to keep up with trends, but a handful of musicians truly stand out through their drastic changes and new personas.
From Lady Gaga’s meat-dress-wearing transformation to David Bowie’s many personas, some artists decide to create a new musician entirely through this process. Check out our list of some of the artists that have switched up their style in the most drastic ways below.
Daughter is a trio band from the streets of London, England that started up back in 2011. When the band first started making music, they honed a soft indie rock sound, and they have dominated that genre with several of their EPs and albums. Back in 2017, they changed up their usual musical technique and actually produced and released an album they had written for a video game soundtrack.
The video game is called Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, and the album primarily consisted of instrumental tracks. After that release, the band broke up, but frontwoman Elena Tonra has since released a solo album under the moniker Ex:Re.
Bon Iver’s 2008 album For Emma, Forever Ago, which had the hit track “Skinny Love,” was completely performed and produced by frontman Justin Vernon in a cabin. The band begun as a soft indie folk band, with most of the tunes revolving around strong vocals and the raw strumming of a guitar. They started to get a lot of attention and worked hard towards releasing their next album Bon Iver, Bon Iver in 2011, which is where you are able to hear their sound become more polished and layered with new instrumental additions and synthetic sounds in the background, but the record definitely still hits close to home.
Their style changed heavily after they took a break from 2012 to 2016, with the release of 22, A Million. This album was full of electronic and synthesized sounds, paired with dark and rough bass, which is almost nothing like what people remembered to be Bon Iver. Some of the song titles are scattered and just give off a very unfamiliar feeling, setting the record apart while still keeping fans close with Vernon’s familiar vocal tones.
The Australian band made their debut in 2002 with their EP, Dirty Sweet, which was later re-released in 2003 when they got signed to Elektra Records. The EP included four tracks that were put onto their debut album Get Born in 2003. This album showed their style and flair with classic rock instrumentals and powerhouse vocal lines. They continued this sound into their next album, with a bit more change in terms of texture.
As they continued on with their career, there was evidence of a change of style that was influenced by the times and the demand. Around 2009, the songs got more bouncy and a bit more synthesized. The group was a hit and their songs were everywhere in pop culture: shows, movies, commercials, and more. When 2012 came along, the band decided to disband, even though they said that they were so thankful for their fans and everyone who let them play.
Oh, Taylor. We met her back in 2006 in her cowboy boots with an acoustic guitar in hand when she released “Tim McGraw”. She stayed true to her country roots for years and her first three albums were full of banjos and twangy vocals, keeping her on top of the charts. About 6 years later, she released her album Red and it was the end of an era, as Swift began her move into the pop scene. Don’t get me wrong, her songs still had a bit of a country twang, but she was shifting into the pop light with songs like “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
Swift was incredibly successful, taking over the radio with bouncy pop hits. The infamous artist continued with the pop music route and has come out with more albums, such as 1989 and Reputation. She has officially transitioned from the innocent, bouncy blonde curls girl who stepped onto the scene to a powerhouse pop queen who’s sure to demand your attention.
Radiohead started off with a bang when they entered the scene in 1993, releasing their album Pablo Honey, which holds one of their most famous songs, “Creep.” They were established as a grunge rock group at the time, but when their second album came out it was definitely a sound that no one expected. The songs are much darker and there was a deep sense of layering that hadn’t been heard before.
As time went on, Radiohead began to form an electronic sound, adding in layers of synthesizers and becoming more alternative than rock. By the time the band got around to their album Amnesiac, they had added in more of their original sound and were coming around full circle until the release of In Rainbows, which threw everyone a loop because they came out with a new sound that was entirely their own. It was a combination of electronic and grunge music that can only be described as Radiohead.
Mumford and Sons
British folk band Mumford and Sons first came on the scene back in 2007, bringing their gorgeous acoustic sound to the world. Their deep vocals were addicting and made the band stand out for their unique style. Their first album brought such success, with Grammy nominations and all, that their second album followed the same sound, delivering the hit 2012 tune “I Will Wait.”
Now, the surprise came in 2018 with their fourth album, Delta. This album still had their folk sound and authentic vibes, but randomly came with a couple of hip hop tracks that used some slick electronic nuggets. If you were to hear a song like “Darkness Visible” or “Picture You” two years ago, you never would have guessed it was Mumford and Sons!
This Toronto-based band is where it’s at. Coming together about 10 years ago, this band came onto the scene with the release of their first album, Endless Water. Their next album is what they identify as their true first release, and that is their self-titled debut album, which saw the band hit the scene with very grunge-like layered tracks that hit you right in the chest. When they released their next album, Warring, they continued the story they wanted to tell through their music, as they came along with the 22-minute epilogue, Hymn for a Missing Girl.
Their revolutionary change came in 2014 when the group went from five members to two. Their latest album was released later in 2016, and it felt like something completely unrecognizable. Gone was the grunge and rock, as they brought in the pop beats, synthesizers and bright tunes. Centerfold brought an incredibly pop album that no one expected from them, and we’ve gotten a couple of genre-bending singles from them since, such as “Chasing the Fall” and “Just Here With My Friends (feat. Leah Fay).”
Florence + the Machine
This band is fronted by incredible vocalist, Florence Welch, who uses her throaty, powerhouse voice to push forward the dark and gloomy themes of her tracks. Back in 2009, they released their first album, Lungs, which featured Florence’s beautiful voice and lots of strings. After that album went platinum, they came back with Ceremonials only two years later. This album, of course, features Welch’s distinctive vocals, but with a bit more of a dark pop vibe. The more we go on, the grander and more orchestral they went, which is exactly what we get in How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
Their latest album, High As Hope, is the most stripped back release yet. Although it still has the distinctively grand Florence + The Machine twist, the album definitely sees Welch go more lowkey with a mixture of pop, soft indie and sweet instrumentals. High as Hope is a gorgeous album that brings together all the styles that Florence + the Machine has cycled through over their career into one 10-track-long record.
St. Vincent has blown up the music world with outstanding artistic visions that continue to push the boundaries of the rock genre. When she first started, she was playing soft and delicate songs on her first album, Marry Me, but as she moved into her second album, Actor, the change was palpable, with a new sense of confidence that only grew from there on out.
As we move toward the St. Vincent we know and love today, we get deeper beats, more rhythm and distorted voices in the next couple of albums. Her music has grown to have such attitude and emotion, and her self-titled album, smacks you in the face with unapologetic lyrics and beats that just make you want to dance around the room! Her latest album Masseduction completely takes over your senses in every way, with powerful, gut-punching lyrics and experimental layered instrumentals that can’t be competed with.
Before Lady Gaga was the meat-dress-wearing artist we all know and love, she performed under her real name, Stefani Germanotta. In the early stages of her career, Germanotta formed a band with friends from NYU called SGBand, when she eventually started working with music producer Rob Fusari. Germanotta and Fusari created a series of electropop tracks, and even got signed to Def Jam Recordings in 2006 until she was dropped only three months later.
After writing songs for big names like Britney Spears, New Kids on the Block, Fergie, and The Pussycat Dolls, she revamped her persona and began performing under the moniker Lady Gaga, moulding her music into an avant-garde style of glam pop dance music. After the release of The Fame, featuring hit singles “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” Gaga exploded, eventually moving from her stunt-heavy, drag-based persona to the more stripped back artist we see on her latest album, Joanne.
David Bowie was the king of personas and artist reinventions, from Aladdin Sane to The Blind Prophet. A standout persona of Bowie’s was the creation of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s bisexual alien alter ego who only had five years left before the end of the earth. Most of Bowie’s songs from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars revolve around politics, drugs, and sexual orientation. After the world fell in love with Ziggy Stardust, Bowie killed him onstage in London and created a new persona, Aladdin Sane, who was allegedly inspired by Bowie’s half-brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
As Bowie moved toward his Thin White Duke persona, we got a glimpse into the legendary artist’s dark years when he was struggling with drug addiction throughout the Station to Station record. The Thin White Duke is a troubled man who can’t get in touch with his feelings, despite having an obsession with romance.
Toward the end of Bowie’s career, he introduced The Blind Prophet on his last album, Blackstar, where he shows the real him. Bowie’s character of the blind prophet shows him foreshadowing his very own demise, and days after the release of the album, Bowie passed away.