It's great to think of our favorite entertainers as people born with unique visions, destined from childhood to share them with the world. Dr. Dre was always a gangsta, damn it, and you can't bear to think of him as, say, a glam rapper in sequins who reinvented himself because it was profitable.
Yet, more often than not, that's the way it goes. Even if you love their music, often the musicians are doing what they're doing only because they realized at some point in the past that making any money was going to require them to radically shift gears. For instance ...
The Artist You Know:
If you're so far removed from society that basic pop culture knowledge like "Who is Lady Gaga?" lies outside your information wheelhouse, then probably the best we can do for you is "She's that singer with the crazy costumes who once wore a dress made of meat."
"I would cry, but my eyes are already lubricated with bacon juice."
Because while her music might be popular (to the tune of 23 million albums sold in four years), her "bag lady from space" sense of style attracts the most attention. Someone with that much flair and personality was born to be on stage. She even said so in that song she stole from Madonna. She is pure packaging, all ridiculous sets and crazy hats and bullshit. Hell, the record label probably just found some out-of-work model somewhere and glued a bunch of shit to her, right?
Glue fumes would explain a lot.
But if you think Lady Gaga looks crazy now, wait until you see what kind of getup she paraded around in before she was famous.
The Artist You Don't Know:
Holy shit, that's Lady Gaga on that album cover! And she looks ... completely normal? Well, technically speaking, it's Stefani Germanotta, frontwoman for the aptly named Stefani Germanotta Band. Before she was showing up on red carpets in a gigantic egg, Lady Gaga was just a girl in a bar band. Yep, you read that correct. Lady Gaga was in a band, with real instruments and everything.
We understand that that flies in the face of what listeners think of as the Lady Gaga creative process, which most believe works something like this:
Step 1 -- Check email for new backing tracks from producers in Sweden
Step 2 -- Grab lyrics from songwriting software (keyword optimized to attract gay males and insecure tweens) to plug into Auto-tune machine
Step 3 -- Assemble the first 10 items within arm's reach into an outfit for the day
Step 4 -- Count money
Step 5 -- Claim you were born this way while your hairdresser puts in a 16-hour day.
Even though Red and Blue, the EP that the video posted earlier appeared on, was recorded just a few short years ago, any trace of the Stefani Germanotta who just sang over a piano was mostly gone by the time Lady Gaga's first album was released.
Depending on who you ask, the radical shift in style was the result of either a legitimate expression of creativity from a talented young artist (according to her camp), a marketing meeting (according to the New York Post) or an illicit tryst between Madonna and Ziggy Stardust 26 years ago that's finally paying dividends (according to us, just now).
Iggy Pop watched.
The Band You Know:
The Beastie Boys are the biggest selling rap group since SoundScan started tracking album sales. That was in 1991, when Will Smith was just a rapper with a television show and the Beasties' legendary album Licensed to Ill was over five years old. That means most of that album's sales aren't even factored into the equation. That's quite an accomplishment.
Seeing as how the song "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" seemed to put the Beastie Boys on the map overnight, and that they appeared to be like 15 years old, most people assume that Licensed to Ill is the band's first album.
But it's not. The Beastie Boys' first release came out long before they signed to Def Jam records and, in fact, long before they started rapping.
The Band You Don't Know:
The Beastie Boys were one of the first hardcore punk bands. Ever. They started out as a quartet in 1979, a full seven years before they captured the hearts and minds of suburban kids who discovered a form of music they knew their parents would absolutely hate. They actually formed before seminal hardcore acts like Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Husker Du and too many others to list. They even put out an EP of hardcore songs in 1982 called Polly Wog Stew.
So what prompted this completely unprecedented at the time shift in musical direction? It was a prank phone call.
The band recorded a four-track EP called Cooky Puss. The title track was built around a prank phone call Adam Horovitz made to a local ice cream shop. Somehow, this not only caught the attention of Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin, but it also led him to believe that the Beastie Boys should totally start rapping.
Rubin is also God's half brother.
And that's the story of how the world started down a slippery slope that eventually ended at Limp Bizkit.
The Band You Know:
These days, Mark McGrath is probably more well-known for his work as a host on the entertainment tabloid show Extra than for his work as the frontman of '90s pop-rock band Sugar Ray. But during their heyday (which lasted approximately 18 months), Sugar Ray was huge. Their brief flirtation with mattering earned them two multi-platinum albums, a gold album and three Top 10 hits.
And it didn't go to their heads at all, sadly.
Their ridiculously catchy brand of pop-rock endeared Sugar Ray to legions of fans who never once questioned why such a feel-good band would have a member named "DJ Homicide" in their ranks.
The Band You Don't Know:
Sugar Ray used to fucking rock. Mind you, we don't mean "rock" in a good way, necessarily:
That video even features a clip of a mosh pit. At a Sugar Ray show. That's news that's as shocking as it is disappointing, given our tendency to use "when a mosh pit breaks out at a Sugar Ray show" as a slightly more modern twist on the classic "when pigs fly" phrase.
Even more interesting is how Sugar Ray's radical shift in style came about. The band was indulging in a little inter-band bickering during the recording of their 1997 album Floored when Mark McGrath stormed out of the studio, leaving the band with a whole bunch of nothing to do. Out of sheer boredom, they started riffing over a drum loop and, a few minutes later, had tossed together "Fly," the song that would eventually make them famous.
Of course, seeing as how they were still holding onto their dreams of being metal, "Fly" stuck out like a sore thumb as the only pop-rock tune on an album full of aggressive rock songs, leaving fans who purchased the album (people still did that back then) wondering why that dreamy guy from that band with the pool in their video was screaming at them.
Sugar Ray would address this concern by cashing in and doing absolutely nothing hardcore for the remainder of their time as a band.
Five seconds later Christina was wearing a nun's habit.