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VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These artists know how to keep their fans guessing. For this list, we'll be looking at various musical artists who drastically altered their sound throughout their careers. Our countdown includes Childish Gambino, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Prince, Taylor Swift, and more!

#20: Childish Gambino

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Donald Glover is one of the most talented entertainers working today, shining bright as an actor, writer, showrunner, and musician. Under his stage name Childish Gambino, Glover has released four studio albums and fourteen mixtapes. His studio albums are a particular point of fascination owing to their eclectic musical styles. His first two, Camp and Because the Internet, were straightforward hip hop albums. He went in a drastically different direction with “Awaken, My Love!”, introducing elements of swooning R&B, funk, soul, and even some psychedelia. Finally, 3.15.20 once again changed things up with some alternative musical elements and experimental sounds - not to mention a collaboration with Ariana Grande.

#19: Linkin Park

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Not all musical diversions are successful. Linkin Park found incredible success in the early 2000s and carved themselves out a great chunk of the flourishing rap rock/nu metal scene. Their first three albums - Hybrid Theory, Meteora, and Minutes to Midnight - were all very successful, multi-platinum-selling alt rock and nu metal classics. However, things started to get a bit more experimental and electronic with A Thousand Suns, and longtime fans started to jump ship. That didn’t stop the band from branching out, however, and they went on to release a straightforward pop album in 2017 titled One More Light. The album - their last with Chester Bennington before his passing - divided fans and critics alike.

#18: Katy Perry

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Perry wasn’t always the pop icon we know today. Her parents were evangelical pastors, and in 2001 at age 16 she released a self-titled Christian album under her real name, Katy Hudson. It only sold about 200 copies. Katy decided to switch tracks and move to LA - and the rest of course is pop history. In 2008, her album “One of the Boys” announced a very different Katy to the world. We’re assuming that her parents weren’t too happy with the lyrical themes … Either way, the switch in genres was a rousing success, earning her instant fame.

#17: Bring Me the Horizon

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British rock band Bring Me the Horizon found success and a couple gold-selling records with their pop punk and nu metal music. 2015’s That’s the Spirit proved particularly successful, going platinum in Australia, gold in four other countries, and generating a string of UK Rock #1 singles. The band would have never found this level of mainstream popularity, however, if they had continued with their original sound. Their debut album, Count Your Blessings, was a deathcore album through and through. While the band steadily added more elements of pop and electronica to their sound with each new album, That’s the Spirit and 2019’s Amo were a clear departure from their roots.

#16: Skrillex

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Skrillex took the world by storm in the 2010s with his unique computerized sound, which brought dubstep into the mainstream. Before he shaved half his head and adopted the "Skrillex" moniker however, he performed as Sonny Moore, the vocalist for a post-hardcore band called From First to Last. After leaving the band due to vocal issues, he embarked on a solo career, and of course now headlines as one of the world's biggest EDM performers. Bringing things back full circle, in 2017 he rejoined From First to Last!

#15: Pantera

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One of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, Pantera enjoyed a successful career, thanks in particular to Dimebag Darrell's influential guitar playing and songwriting. However, their sound wasn't always so heavy. They released three albums throughout the 80s as a glam rock band. Yes, that Pantera, was a glam rock band. After looking for a heavier sound, they replaced vocalist Terry Glaze with the famous Phil Anselmo, started playing their instruments with a little more gusto, and the rest is rock history.

#14: Gwen Stefani

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How do YOU know Gwen Stefani? Is it as the lead singer of the ska punk band No Doubt? Or from her ultra-successful pop career singing about Hollaback Girls? Back in the 90s, Gwen was an icon of the ska genre and one hell of a frontwoman. She wrote many of the band’s songs, and transitioned into a solo artist in 2004 with her album “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.”, where she explored a diverse range of different sounds. She did reunite with No Doubt however for the 2012 album “Push and Shove”

#13: Linda Ronstadt

An inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and the recipient of ten Grammy awards, Linda Ronstadt enjoyed a long career that encompassed diverse musical genres. She began her career in country rock and remained within the genre throughout much of the ‘70s. She eventually ventured into more straightforward rock in the late ‘70s, however, and later dabbled in genres like new wave and pop. Things got really different in the late ‘80s, as Ronstadt began exploring other genres. These included jazz, big band, and even Latin and mariachi music on albums like Mas Canciones and Canciones de Mi Padre. The latter actually earned the one-time -country and rock artist a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Performance.

#12: Alanis Morissette

Alanis is one of Canada's most beloved musical icons, having sold over 75 million albums. She was dubbed the "queen of alt-rock angst" by Rolling Stone. This same Alanis Morissette released two albums as a teenager in Canada performing dance-pop - 1991’s “Alanis” and 1992’s “Now Is the Time”. Isn't that adorable? She was basically a real life Robin Sparkles. After dropping the dancing, she picked up a guitar, released the enormously successful album Jagged Little Pill, and has mostly erased her pop career from memory.

#11: Beck

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This musician broke onto the scene in the mid ‘90s with his wildly successful single “Loser” and the alt rock albums Mellow Gold and Odelay. Despite being successful, these albums would certainly not herald Beck’s future career in music. He began to experiment in the late ‘90s, introducing elements of country, R&B, and funk rock into his repertoire, and 2002’s Sea Change proved a straightforward folk rock album that featured a more introspective Beck. However, this reserved musical style didn’t last long, and Beck was soon back to experimenting with ‘60s psychedelia, dance, synth pop, and even hip hop. Put simply, Beck never stays in one genre for long, and it makes for a wildly unpredictable and exciting listening experience.

#10: Taylor Swift

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She went from playing the guitar and singing about boys to singing about...well, still boys, but with drum machines and synths! Just compare the country tones of her 2006 debut single “Tim McGraw” with the dubstep-influenced electropop of 2012’s “I Knew You Were Trouble. During her career, she’s practically sneezed out #1 hits, making a constant loop of Swift on the radio, so it’s pretty clear that this shift worked out for her. Of course, she’s since changed gears again, going back to her roots with her 2020 albums “Folklore” and “Evermore”.

#9: Damon Albarn

This English musician rose to fame in the early ‘90s as the vocalist of Blur. While the band is primarily known in the United States for “Song 2”, they were massive in the United Kingdom and became one of the biggest Britpop acts of the time - often being compared to rival Britpop icons Oasis. Things started to change in the late ‘90s, as Blur began incorporating more electronic elements into their sound. It reflected Albarn’s growing interest in experimentation, and he started the virtual band Gorillaz as a creative output for said creativity. Gorillaz earned instant acclaim and recognition for their wide-ranging and unique blending of musical genres, including electronica, hip hop, and funk.

#8: Radiohead

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Speaking of massive Britpop acts, Radiohead rose to fame with their popular single “Creep” and second studio album The Bends. They became one of the hottest rock acts in Britain, and while The Bends was positively received, it didn’t really set Radiohead apart. Then came OK Computer. Often heralded as one of the greatest and most important albums ever made, OK Computer shattered expectations with its cryptic lyricism, foreboding atmosphere, and art rock eclecticism. It also ended the Britpop age and launched Radiohead into global superstardom. They became the leading name in mainstream experimental rock - a reputation that was further bolstered by the impossible-to-define masterpiece that is Kid A.

#7: Beastie Boys

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Before becoming the hip hop artists with party-inspired lyrics that everyone loves, the Beastie Boys were a group of a different kind. They originally played hardcore punk in underground clubs and bars before meeting DJ and producer Rick Rubin and experimenting in hip hop. Although the band would pick up their instruments occasionally throughout their career, it’s their critically acclaimed hip hop albums that have solidified the NYC trio as legends. We're sure your parents still don't like them, though.

#6: Bee Gees

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Everyone knows the Bee Gees, most likely from "Saturday Night Fever", which made them megastars in the disco era of the 70s. However, before the Australian group became influential musicians in the disco world, the brothers had a sound that was often compared to The Beatles. Their beautiful harmonies were as prominent as ever, but don’t expect to be able to dance to hits like “I Started a Joke”. At least their music is stayin' alive due to their new direction.

#5: Prince

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Like Beck, Prince never really stuck to one particular genre. In fact, his wide-ranging sound and ability to nail everything he tried was a major part of his appeal. Prince released a staggering 39 studio albums throughout his life, experimenting in genres as diverse as hip hop, Latin, classical, jazz, industrial, and straightforward pop. One second, Prince was showcasing his songwriting and instrumental mastery (particularly of the guitar and piano). The next, he was making the world dance with radio pop songs like “Little Red Corvette” and “1999”. Prince never stuck to one thing, and his diverse discography resulted in over 150 million records sold, making him one of the highest-selling musical artists of all time.

#4: Michael Jackson

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Often regarded as The King of Pop, Michael Jackson has earned that moniker with an incredible line-up of music. He was perhaps the most commanding figure in the pop landscape throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s thanks to massive albums like Thriller and Bad. The moniker, however, betrays his incredibly wide range. The Jackson 5 was rooted in Motown soul and R&B, and Jackson’s first solo record, Off the Wall, was a masterpiece of disco funk. It wasn’t until Thriller that he really leaned into mainstream pop. However, that didn’t stop Jackson from experimenting, and his 1991 album Dangerous was a highly unique experiment involving elements of hip hop, industrial, and gospel - all backed with a gritty and underground production.

#3: Bob Dylan

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This Minnesotan has been an active part of many musical scenes and moments. In the early ‘60s, his soothing yet scathing folk music made him a star and a cornerstone of the emerging counterculture. Things changed forever in 1965. Dylan went electric, and blues rock albums like Highway 61 Revisited (which contained the enormously influential “Like a Rolling Stone”) made Dylan a rock icon and helped influence a generation of musical artists. Dylan would continue to experiment throughout his long career, venturing into a wide range of genres. Over the course of his impressive discography, he’s incorporated elements of country music, reggae, and even gospel and Christian rock.

#2: David Bowie

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One of the most diverse musical artists of all time, David Bowie began his career with an eponymous album released in 1967. The Baroque pop music bears little resemblance to his later works, and both Bowie fans and music historians tend to ignore it. He shifted towards a harder blues rock sound for The Man Who Sold the World before experimenting with art pop for Hunky Dory. And then he released Ziggy Stardust, and his iconic glam rock persona was born. But that didn’t stop Bowie from experimenting, and his later musical output included “Fame’s” funk, “Let’s Dance’s” new wave disco, and “Young Americans’” soul. There was never one David Bowie. Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions. Miley Cyrus Country to Mainstream & Provocative Pop The Cure Fun New Wave to Dark Gothic Rock

#1: The Beatles

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Never before or since has a popular band been so successful or influential with a genre switch. The Beatles took the world by storm in the early ‘60s thanks to their incredibly well-written and catchy pop rock tunes. Things sounded a little darker on Rubber Soul before The Beatles completely re-invented themselves with 1966’s Revolver. Revolver contained a little bit of everything, including old school pop and rock tunes, but also elements of art rock, psychedelia, Hindustani classical music, and the avant-garde. The Beatles changed popular music forever through their adoption of eclectic musical styles and inventive production techniques. No one had heard anything like it before, and Paul McCartney continued this adventurous experimentation through his successful solo career.

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