The Top 10 Music Transformations

by Anne T. Donahue

July 16, 2010

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Musicians, unlike normal humans, are freely able to transform themselves without the public asking many questions. Lady Gaga can go from an Alanis Morissette double to a cross between Elton and Cher, seemingly overnight, Snoop Dogg can kick it with Martha and still walk away looking gangster and Iggy Pop can give up heroin and become even more badass.

Musicians, unlike normal humans, are freely able to transform themselves without the public asking many questions. Lady Gaga can go from an Alanis Morissette double to a cross between Elton and Cher, seemingly overnight, Snoop Dogg can kick it with Martha and still walk away looking gangster and Iggy Pop can give up heroin and become even more badass.

Sometimes the transformation isn’t positive. Gene Simmons has gone from somebody you don’t want around your daughter to a dude you don’t want near your mom. Here are the top 10 music transformations.

Eminem

Over a decade ago, the masses were introduced to the smack-talking, chauvinistic and lyrically-inclined darling of Dr. Dre who scandalized listeners with his edgy, violent and controversial prose.  Then, after a hiatus, divorce, memoir and a slew of other personal hurdles in the mid-2000s, Eminem returned with Relapse, an album that seemed to cement his irrelevance after the formulaic approach to his music grew tired.  However, a more mature and aware Mathers has emerged with Recovery, the 2010 album that maintains his former intensity, but without the caricature-esque nature that his previous albums (and his persona) seemed to exude.  Here’s hoping we really have escaped the bathroom humour once and for all.

Eric Clapton

Once so overtaken by drugs and alcohol that he could barely function day-to-day, Eric Clapton has conquered his demons to live in relative normalcy.  After overcoming his decades-long addiction, the guitar god was still forced to overcome serious life obstacles (such as the death of his son, Conor), but after re-marrying in the early 2000s and seeking refuge in a stable family life, Clapton’s work now eclipses the rock ‘n roll lifestyle that once defined his early years, continuing to record and play shows around the world, but without the turbulence of the mid-20th century.

Gene Simmons

Before there were The Family Jewels and millions of dollars in endorsements, there was Gene Simmons: rock star, the tongue-lashing KISS bassist who bedded thousands of women and wanted nothing more than to rock and roll all night.  However, unlike the hard-partying musicians that defined the 70s and 80s with their careless excess, Simmons differs in the sense that he has never been drunk or high, though with his lady-loving ways, one could argue that his former womanizing habits were excessive enough.  Now settled into domestic bliss with his longtime partner and their two children, Simmons has gone from being the idol of teens everywhere to a commercially-aware businessman who’s likely still idolized by those kids all grown up.

Courtney Love

Consistently infamous for her drug use and in-your-face (read: badass) demeanour, during the 80s and 90s, Courtney Love still had musical credibility to her name.  However, after years of substance abuse and genuinely questionable behaviour, the relevance of Hole has begun to subside, and the rocker is now known more for her incoherent ramblings and personal drama than she is for any musical notoriety.  While some still question the influence of Hole altogether, its presence at least overshadowed the stability (or lack thereof) of Courtney Love, and as her descent seems to continue, it seems few things can salvage what’s left of her career.

Iggy Pop

Though still as earnest and energetic as he was during the birth of punk rock in the late 1960s, Iggy Pop has gone from a reckless and wild teenager to a less-reckless force now more aware of himself, the industry and music in general.  Having spent most of the 70s influenced by drugs, alcohol and the ups and downs associated with the turbulent era, the rocker eventually conquered his heroin addiction and continued with music while pursuing acting, appearing in film and television spots as well as releasing countless other albums.  Unlike his contemporaries whose lives were ended as a result of their habits and lifestyles, Iggy Pop has succeeded in watching his legacy unfold while using his own experiences to guide and influence younger musicians.

Snoop Dogg

Formerly a politically-aware, blunt and controversial hip-hop artist, Snoop Dogg has gone from a social and political commentator to a PG-rated party rapper who’s currently appearing in a Candyland-inspired Katy Perry video.  While all musicians undoubtedly undergo various transitions as their career evolves, Snoop Dogg’s “tell it like it is” tracks from the 90s have become a distant memory from the “drop it like it’s hot” prose currently inundating top 40 charts on mainstream channels.  Formerly renowned for his rap sheet avid pot use, the rapper has more recently appeared alongside Martha Stewart (ed. note, also proving his maturity and dedication to family by coaching his son’s football and renewing his marriage vows.

Green Day

When Dookie came out in 1994, it was received by an abundance of teens that were refreshed by the fact that there was a new genre tailored specifically to them.  Fast forward to 2010, and the trio known as Green Day have gone from modern-day punk idols to pop-rock chart-toppers to “sellouts” to Broadway producers, marking one of the most noticeable transitions in modern music since the demise of Courtney Love.  Whether they’re an example of growing up or the fact that monetary success prevails over a cult following, Green Day has indeed evolved – though whether that evolution’s a good thing is highly debateable.

Cat Stevens

While some transformations are defined by sobriety or the opposite, Cat Stevens’ prominent conversion to Islam is one of the most memorable personal evolutions in music history, as the former British folksinger took the name Yusef Islam and began focusing on philanthropy and education in the late 1970s.  At the height of his popularity, Stevens auctioned off his guitar collection, and in the mid to late 2000s was presented with several awards for his humanitarian efforts and promoting world peace.  Now recording under the professional name, Yusef, the artist formerly known as Stevens has returned to music, and has been making various concert appearances since 2009 following the release of his album, Roadsinger.

Elvis

Not a transformation of the most positive variety, Elvis’ descent from rock ‘n roll darling to a drug-induced overweight crooner is one of absolute heartbreak.  Going from “the boy who stole the blues” to a rhinestone-clad regular on the stages of Las Vegas nightclubs, the King may still boast a million-person following 33 years after his death, but having acted as the puppet of labels, yes-men and various other enablers, Elvis’ descent resulted in his untimely death that is still debated today.  Though the impact of his music throughout his career cannot be denied, his noticeable physical transformation (and the emotional and psychological results associated with it), make Elvis’ demise even more tragic and unnerving.

Lady Gaga

Like the surprise felt by all after seeing Alanis Morisette’s dance-pop videos of the early 90s, to hear of Lady Gaga’s earlier work is just as shocking.  Formerly a member of New York’s rock scene, the modern-day queen of pop spent the early 2000s at the Tisch School of the Arts and performing at various venues across the city, and eventually evolved into a pop music force that now challenges nearly every convention the genre is defined by.  Drawing comparisons to early Madonna and shattering the pre-conceived notions pioneered by the likes of Britney and Christina, Lady Gaga is still in the midst of continued transformations, and is defined by her ability to effortlessly evolve.

Tags: Music, Featured, News, Eric Clapton, Gene Simmons, Iggy Pop

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