11 Music Stars Who Started as Pop Basics
Whenever a band or musician arrives with a fully realized, completely assured sound and aesthetic on their debut album, heaps of praise and accolades follow. Which makes sense, it is REALLY HARD to sound original and like you know what the fuck you're doing on your first album. Just know that it's all a goddamn stinking lie. A debut album is not the starting point; most artists have already gone through several incarnations by that time. Lady Gaga did not emerge from a giant egg and belt out "Just Dance" out of the ether.
The road to pop stardom is paved with dried-up layers of skin that have been shed throughout years of trial-and-error. Get big enough, though, and someone will dig up that pre-fame molting stage, because it's comforting to know that stars go through awkward stages too, with the requisite ill-advised style choices. So in the name of humanity and unity, here are 11 famous musicians who started out as pop basics.
11. Iggy Azalea
Least shocking thing ever — Iggy Azalea's Southern cadence isn't the first thing she has faked on her way to pop domination. It seems she discovered Auto-Tune and Britney Spears long before she discovered rap, which led to this steaming pile of wannabe pop known as "Nothing Like Me," which has all the dead-eyed gloss and atonal purring of Countess Luann's "Money Can't Buy You Class" and Kim Zolciak's "Tardy for the Party." What we're saying is, everyone's new pop overlord has Real Housewives-level chops. Great hustle, everyone.
Danielle and Este Haim were in Valli Girls in the mid-aughts, and the only thing worse than the music was the pre-Fashion Era hair. Alana was too young to be in the group at the time, but it sounds like someone at her age level ghostwrote the material.
9. Trent Reznor
Before he was riding the downward spiral to the top with Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor was a full-on New Romantic — Don Johnson blazer, Flock of Seagulls haircut, and all. As part of the New Wave synth act Exotic Birds in the '80s, he was featured on an incredible local news segment about "computer music."
8. Alanis Morissette
Alanis raging out against Uncle Joey like a shrieking wraith was one of the lasting images of the '90s, but before all that, she doled out two albums of Paula Abdul-style sass-pop in the early '90s. Check her out rocking Tory from Saved by the Bell swag in the "Too Hot" video.
7. Dr. Dre
Another immortal '90s icon with some questionable pre-fame choices. Dre was in the proto-hip-hop group World Class Wreckin' Cru, and while they were a major force in the development of hip-hop, he's gotta be embarrassed about this period. Listen to him purr, "I'm Dr. Dre, gorgeous hunk of a man" on "Surgery," and then remember that he was wearing a jumpsuit that would've given even Rick James pause.
Gangsta rap came to life on the West Coast, but damn did it have some soft beginnings. We just rehashed Dre, of course, but Tupac isn't immune, either. That most intellectual of thugs started out as a backup dancer for goof-rap group Digital Underground.
5. Sleigh Bells
Singer Alexis Krauss was in Lilith-wave girl group Ruby Blue in the early 2000s. She pretty much sings in the same style for the amp-disintegrating duo Sleigh Bells, she's just got a noise maniac behind her this time.
4. FKA twigs
If you know who FKA twigs is, then you probably know she started out as a music video dancer (she even has a song about it). Future-R&B singer Tahliah Barnett used to make her money from other people's music, appearing in visuals for everyone from Taio Cruz to Ed Sheeran, and most notably in Jessie J's "Do It Like a Dude."
Fergie is one of the most successful basics of all time, but if you can believe it, she used to be even more basic. Back in the '90s, Ferg was a member of melismatic girl group era also-rans Wild Orchid.
2. St. Vincent
Annie Clark, the guitar's last great hope, was once just a bit player in the irritating robe-clad collective The Polyphonic Spree. If this stint is the source of the beautiful torment behind Mercy and St. Vincent, though, all is forgiven.
1. Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is the patron saints of fake pop personas. Before she flopped on SNL and rebounded with Paradise and Ultraviolence, she was soft pop singer Lizzy Grant, using her actual legal name. And before that, she struck out as acoustic balladeer May Jailer. So third time was a charm with her "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" persona Lana Del Rey. Nothing was the same.