7 Artists That Turned From Pop to Rock

Those who made the reverse change in their careers.

Ultimate Guitar
7 Artists That Turned From Pop to Rock

As you've requested in comments to "10 Bands That Don't Rock Anymore", here's a list of artists who have made the reverse change in their careers and started playing rock music.

7. Vanilla Ice

His first album "To the Extreme" released in 1990 (actually, it's re-recorded 1989 album "Hooked") has spent 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 and sold 15 million copies worldwide. Thanks for the Ice Ice Baby.

After not a very successful album "Mind Blowin'" Ice started a friendship with producer Ross Robinson, who had become known for producing such bands as Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Sepultura. So in 1998, "Hard To Swallow" was released. The sound on this album has changed more to rap metal and nu metal. Reviews of the album were mixed to negative. A reviewer for the New Times in Los Angeles referred to the album as "stupid, exploitive, derivative rap-metal by the man who once did nearly irreparable damage to hip-hop."

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

6. Kate Nash

Kate Nash is an English pop singer and songwriter. Her debut album, "Made of Bricks", peaked at number 1 in the UK and number 36 in the US.

In 2013 Kate released "Girl Talk". Dropping the slick production of her previous album, Nash jumps headlong into a punk- and garage rock-influenced aesthetic that has more in common with such distortion-heavy guitar bands as the Raveonettes, the Kills, and the Dum Dum Girls.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture


In 2007, MGMT released their debut album "Oracular Spectacular" with such hits as "Kids", "Electric Feel" and "Time to Pretend". Bet you have heard these songs on the radio several times a day back then. In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album at number 494 on its updated list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. AllMusic called Oracular Spectacular's tracks "some of the catchiest pop songs to come from NYC since the turn of the millennium".

But in 2013, MGMT presented their self-titled album with more psychedelic rock sound. According to review aggregator website Metacritic, the album received an average critic review score of 62/100, based on 37 reviews, indicating generally favorable reviews. This album might be bad news for radio DJs out there praying for another "Kids" or "Electric Feel".

MGMT is currently working on a new album called "Little Dark Age". Will see soon what it'll sound like.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

4. Dir En Grey

Although Dir En Grey were never a pop band, they've changed their sound from pop rock/alternative rock to progressive metal. Some tracks of their debut album Gauze demonstrated a clear pop appeal, which was abandoned in favor of a more progressive sound on the next albums, "Macabre" and "Kisou". Since the release of their album "Uroboros" in 2008, Dir En Grey have been frequently described as progressive metal. "Uroboros" and their 2011 album "Dum Spiro Spero" express a remarkable difference from previous albums, with critics noting that their sound on these albums bears almost nothing in common to their earliest work.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

3. Myrkur

Myrkur is a one-female band, started by Amalie Bruun, a Danish pop singer when she decided to play black metal. Probably the weirdest participant in this list.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

2. Ministry

The original line-up of Ministry consisted mainly of Al Jourgensen (vocals and guitar), Stephen George (drums), Robert Roberts (keyboards), and John Davis (keyboards), although with a few personnel changes, the band's image would begin to focus more on Jourgensen and Stephen George. Ministry's original sound was essentially new wave synthpop. Their first LP "With Sympathy", was issued on Arista Records in 1983 and hit the upper '90s in the Billboard 200.

In 1986, Ministry released the second LP "Twitch". The album stepped away from the pop-oriented form of their previous record "With Sympathy" and moved toward a darker, more aggressive sound in the form of EBM.

Finally, in 1988 the band has started mixing industrial with rock, as opposed to more electronically influenced previous albums, although only the first three tracks use guitars extensively.

In 2016, Al Jourgensen cited "The Land of Rape and Honey" as his favorite Ministry album. Bands like Fear Factory, Linkin Park, Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails call this album as significant influence.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

1. Pantera

I was not saying that Pantera was a pop band, don't beat me. But, hey, playing glam metal and then turn into groove metal. I couldn't help adding Pantera to this list.

Despite being a standard glam metal band at the beginning of their career, the band members perceive themselves to have had an uncompromising career in which they never "sold out" or gave into trends. This is most noticeably highlighted in the themes and title of their 8th album "The Great Southern Trendkill". Phil Anselmo said:

"We've survived every fucking trend - heavy metal, 'grunge metal', funk metal, rap metal - and we're still here. We put everyone on notice that we don't fuck around. Our fans know we're true right down to the fucking core."

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

Know more artists that turned from pop to rock? Feel free to post them in the comment section below.

50 comments sorted by best / new / date

    John Mayer, I suppose? And I think this might be debated because Michael Jackson is like David Bowie and Prince and is hard to pin to just one genre, but I think he went from pop to rock too. Musically his albums always had a little bit of everything but his image and the way he dressed became like rock stars did in the 80s, and even musically, he went from 'ABC' as a kid to the Thriller, Bad and Dangerous albums.
    Came here to say John Mayer And thank god he turned!
    I'm still waiting for a proper follow-up to Continuum.
    a drummer
    Me too. Though i really enjoyed the folk sound of Born and Raised and Paradise Valley, I think his Where the Light Is live record is the pinnacle of his guitar playing. Continuum was so good.
    Where the Light Is is so good. I loved the concept of Mayer "opening" for himself, and how he showed the acousti-pop side, the blues, and the combination of the two. That rendition of Slow Dancing in a Burning Room is gorgeous.
    a drummer
    Yup. That's definitely my favorite way to listen that song, even better than the studio. Also the extended intro for I Don't Trust Myself is perfect
    I might get flayed for this, but I still think Bigger Than My Body is better than any song in his "rock" period.
    Michael Jackson was always POP. But towards his later years, specifically the 90's, his pop was definitely much harder than common pop music. Hard pop, I guess. Kinda like how 'hard rock' is compared to just 'rock'. But I would never call his music straight up rock (with very few exceptions).
    Nice idea for an article, but - and I'm not trying to upset anyone - the writing was pretty atrocious. Not sure if English isn't the author's first language, but that was difficult to read in places.
    I had to re-read " After not a very successful album "Mind Blowin'" " several times. It's poor choice of words, phrasing, and punctuation. 
    Isn't Alice in Chains also Glam into...Alice in Chains?
    no.  Different bands with almost the same name.  Alice 'N Chains vs Alice in Chains.  When Layne joined forces with Jerry and Sean they took the old band name
    Well in all fairness Pantera turned style when Phil joined the band and they kept the name, the only difference is an i.
    paul 13
    Ha ha I never knew AiC were glam in the beginning. I saw them supporting Megadeth in like 90 or 91 (after the image change) touring the 'Facelift' album and i was blown away by them; to this date one of the best bands I've seen live. Didn't have a clue who they were when i went in but I definitely knew who they were when i left. 
    During their glam era, they were called (wait for cringe) "Alice N' Chainz" (commence cringe). Like Pantera, it all seemed to work out in the end, so it's the kind of thing everyone can have a good laugh about.
    Iirc they wanted to call the old band Alice in Chains too but were afraid that people would hate then for the sadomasocishm-y name
    Nope, different band, "Alice N' Chains", though early "Alice in Chains" was a tad glammy, until they heard "Nothing to Say" by Soundgarden and completely changed their sound.
    We should do an opposite list where bands started at Rock and then went to something else. Now if only there was some recent band I could think of that would make a good examLPe...
    I must say that glam pantera is still pretty heavy. Vocals are bit different from Anselmo's though.
    Depeche Mode. At the beginning they were not very different from Pet Shop Boys (those early songs are great nontheless!).
    Wow I never guessed that Ministry was a pop band at one point... No W is a pretty heavy song 
    Solid list! Really dig the early Ministry Stuff for some reason. Never thought it was as radical as this!
    The Beatles went from Pop to Rock... 
    No, the only reason anyone ever calls them pop at all is that pop is whatever's popular and the Beatles in their day were the very definition of popular.
    So you're telling me there's 2 different types of pops with the same definition? 
    Huh. I've never heard glam Pantera before. Sounds pretty fucking good (duh it's Pantera). Glam Pantera sounds like a more intense Def Leppard. But not poppy Def Leppard, more like Die Hard The Hunter/Rock Brigade/Wasted Def Leppard. 
    Skye Sweetnam? She was a teenage pop princess originally but then turned to full-on Skindred-y punk metal with Sumo Cyco \m/ \m/
    You can also go listen to Taylor Swift's songs "Better Than Revenge" and "Haunted" - they are both rock songs on pop albums.
    I really want to check out both that Vanilla Ice and Kate Bush album. The latter sounds badass, and the groove Ice had going there was alright IMHO!
    Is UG being paid to create lists that the Danish girl can be included in? I'm sure she's been in at least 3 so far.
    Missing Harry Styles here. Or does leaving a pop boyband and making a damn good rock album not count?