Katy Perry Used To Be A Gospel Singer? 10 Artists Who Completely Changed Their Look And Sound

April 15, 2014  |  
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Whether they were changing their sound to get put on, or they were changing their sound to do the music they actually wanted to (and not what the record company wanted), change is inevitable from artists in the music industry. However, the 10 different musicians on this list made some major, if not drastic, changes to their sound and their image. For the most part, it all worked out in their favor–even if it left fans confused as hell.

P!nk

When Can’t Take Me Home dropped in 2000, P!nk was a hybrid of pop and R&B–more of the latter. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that most of the songs on her first album were written by or with the help of black folks: Babyface, Kandi Burruss, Tricky Stewart, etc. But by the time her second album, Missundaztood, came out a year later, P!nk was more on the pop and rock side, and she never looked back.

Lionel Richie

While a member of The Commodores, Lionel Richie was the saxophonist and singer. To hear him on songs like “Zoom” and “Three Times A Lady” and then to hear him talking about “Dancing On The Ceiling” and “All Night Long,” and THEN to hear him do country from time to time these days blows my mind. It’s quite amazing how much Richie’s sound has changed. But I guess you could call it being versatile…?

Trey Songz

I’m not mad at Trey. While I know a few people who appreciated his sound on I Gotta Make It, and his rugged look, it wasn’t getting most people’s attention. It wasn’t until he cut his hair, started letting people know that he invented sex and just stuck to singing about intercourse, as opposed to struggle, that female fans really took notice.

Whitney Houston

While Whitney Houston is one of the most loved artists to ever pick up a microphone now, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, some people, including disc jockeys (according to Ebony magazine) thought her sound and look was “too white.” She was even booed at the Soul Train Awards after her name was called for an award. This bothered her:

“And don’t say I don’t have soul or what you consider to be ‘blackness.’ I know what my color is. I was raised in a black community with black people, so that has never been a thing with me. Yet I’ve gotten flak about being a pop success, but that doesn’t mean that I’m white. … Pop music has never been all-white.”

But that pop sound took a backseat as time went on, with Houston’s sound focusing more on R&B and ballads than “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”-like jams. By the time her fourth album came out, she was not only doing R&B, but a little reggae here, a little hip-hop there and more.

Rihanna

If someone would have told me in 2005 that the pretty girl from Barbados talking about “Pon de Replay” would be the raunchy pop princess people imitate style-wise and play nonstop on Spotify, I would have laughed. But it worked. Ri Ri hooked up with the right writers and producers, changed up her look (and continues to), and completely stopped giving a you know what. Success!

Jewel

When Jewel first stepped on the scene in 1995, she was going more for the pop rock/folk sound, asking us who would save our souls and keeping her look and sound very toned down. But for some reason, when 2001 rolled around, she dropped the album 0304 and went completely pop. Remember “Intuition”? Her look, from the album cover to the video for “Intuition,” was completely different, and she even had to explain herself in the liner notes for fans, saying, “This album may seem different to you.” Uh, hell yeah.

Katy Perry

In 2001, Katy Perry was Katy Hudson, and she released her debut album, a Christian music album, under that exact name. Perry grew up only listening to gospel music because both of her parents are Pentecostal pastors. The album didn’t do well, and trying her hand at getting another record deal at the age of 17, Perry left home for Los Angeles and before we knew it, she was singing “I Kissed A Girl,” dressing raunchy, and going by her stage name, Katy Perry (she didn’t want to be confused for actress Kate Hudson).

Nelly Furtado

Nelly Furtado started off as an artist who mixed pop with folk and was often mentioned with the likes of Alicia Keys and India Arie, as all three artists blew up around the same time. But by 2006, she was Loose, singing the hit song “Promiscuous Girl” and labeling herself a “Maneater.” That album had some hot tracks too, but the change in sound was quite surprising–if not startling.

Maroon 5

Like Nelly Furtado, Maroon 5 stepped on the scene with an indie sound that many people could appreciate. Songs About Jane is still heavy in people’s rotations for classics like “Sunday Morning,” “Harder To Breathe,” “She Will Be Loved” and more. And lead singer, Adam Levine, was known more for his unique voice than for his abs. But fast forward to the last few years, and they’re doing more pop than anything, dominating radio with super pop and dance songs like “Moves Like Jagger” and “One More Night.” As for Levine, outside of being a judge on The Voice, he was recently picked as People’s Sexiest Man Alive.  I did forsee all this…

Kanye West

But of course. I never expected Kanye West to sound exactly like he did on College Dropout as his career evolved. I actually preferred Late Registration to his debut, and find My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to be his best work. But the recent Kanye work, and the Kanye we see today, is quite different and goes way over my head. He talks different (vocally and subject-wise) for goodness sake! Much respect to Kanye for making some of the biggest hip-hop music for himself and others, but I wouldn’t mind having that old thing back.

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