Just as music evolves over time, so do the people who make it. So many of the artists we've listened to and come to love have pushed the boundaries of their genre — whether that's pop, rap, country or rock — and some have even completely crossed over into another type of sound entirely. From Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg to Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker, Garth Brooks and more, check out some of the successful music stars who've crossed or swapped genres and majorly changed up their sound…
RELATED: Musicians' real names revealed
Katy Perry started out as a Christian singer
Katy Perry shot to fame singing a scandalous song about kissing girls, so it's sort of hard to believe she got her start as a Christian and gospel singer. But in 2001, Katy — the daughter of two pastors — released an eponymous Christian album, "Katy Hudson" (her birth name). The following year, she went mainstream, moving to Los Angeles where she started working with a variety of producers, developing a new pop sound and her adopting her stage moniker (Perry is her mom's maiden name). It took a few years of blood, sweat and tears and even losing record contracts before she finally signed a deal with Capitol Records in 2007. The next year, she released her second album, "One of the Boys," which included her smash single "I Kissed a Girl." Her pop career went off like a "Firework" — and the rest is Billboard Hot 100 history!
RELATED: Katy Perry's biggest career moments
Snoop Dogg went from rapper to reggae artist
Snoop Dogg rapped for several decades about "Gin and Juice" and walking the streets of Compton. He produced a slew of hit singles and commercially successful albums and was considered one of the dominating forces in the genre. But in 2012 after a vacation in Jamaica, he converted to Rastafarianism and gave himself a new moniker: Snoop Lion. He soon released his first reggae album, "Reincarnated." In 2014, it was nominated for best reggae album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards and topped the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart for 34 non-consecutive weeks. By 2015, he'd returned to his original moniker.
RELATED: Martha Stewart's life in pictures
Lady Gaga's dabbled in jazz and country music
Lady Gaga took the pop world by storm in 2008 when she released her debut album, "The Fame." Her contagious electro-pop sound and outlandish attire — which included red carpet looks like her infamous meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards — set her apart from all the other stars on the Billboard charts. She quickly gained a devoted following she dubbed her "Little Monsters." But as her star climbed, she refused to stay in her genre lane. Over the years, she's used her vocal talents to dabble in jazz, releasing the 2014 album "Cheek to Cheek" with Tony Bennett. She recorded a stripped-down country-inspired album, "Joanne," in 2016. In 2019 — a few weeks after debuting her pop-focused "Enigma" show in Las Vegas — she launched her second Sin City residency, "Jazz & Piano," which showcases standards from the Great American Songbook. We can't wait to see what Gaga has in store for us in the years to come!
Darius Rucker went from pop-rock to country
Darius Rucker gained fame in the 1990s as the lead singer of rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, releasing five studio albums and charting six Top 40 hits. After releasing a few commercially lackluster solo albums in the early 2000s, Darius signed to Capitol Records Nashville and started singing country. He's now one of the most successful African American country stars amd has gone on to release five albums in the genre. He even won a Grammy in 2013 for best country solo performance as well as the Country Music Association Award for best new artist in 2009.
Taylor Swift ditched country for pop
Taylor Swift was born and raised in Pennsylvania and moved to Nashville when she was 14 to pursue a career as a country musician. She was the youngest artist ever to sign with Big Machine Records, releasing her self-titled debut album in 2006. It was a huge success in the genre but it wasn't until she released her second album, "Fearless," in 2008 that her country-meets-pop sound went mainstream: "Fearless" earned Grammys for both album of the year and best country album. As Taylor continued to release music, her sound got poppier and poppier before she declared she was officially ditching country music altogether with her 2014 album "1989." Her music wasn't the only thing to get edgier, either: Along with Taylor's sound, her look transformed as well. Let's just say Tay Tay's overall image is a little sexier these days!
Miley Cyrus gave up her pop princess crown
Billy Ray Cyrus was a huge star in country music back in the 1990s thanks to his hit song "Achy Breaky Heart," so it was a little surprising when his daughter, Miley Cyrus, hit the scene as a pop singer. While mainstream, catchy music is what she's best known for — think hit songs like "Party in the U.S.A." and "Wrecking Ball" — Miley has crossed over into her dad's genre on occasion. Her most famous country performance is a Dolly Parton cover, "Jolene." She even got to sing it with her idol (and godmother!) at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019. There have also been rumors over the years that she's planning to do an entire country album, but we'll have to wait and see. Miley told Vanity Fair that she'd describe her seventh studio album, 2019's "She Is Miley Cyrus," as "genre-less… There's psychedelic elements, there's pop elements, there's more hip-hop-leaning records," she said of the project.
Kid Rock went country
Kid Rock is another musician who's made a career of blending genres, mostly rock, rap, metal and country. While he first made a name for himself as a rock-rapper, he's over the years gravitated more toward country and officially slid onto the country charts in 2003 with "Picture," a duet with Sheryl Crow.
Lil Nas X didn't just hop genres — he created a new one!
Lil Nas X didn't just cross genres — he created a crossover genre! The young entertainer from Georgia released the country-rap song "Old Town Road" — which also samples music from alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails — in late 2018 and it quickly went viral on the video sharing app TikTok. The catchy tune, in which he raps about riding horses and tractors, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 83 and later climbed to the top spot. It also appeared on the Hot Country Songs chart as well as the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. There was major controversy concerning whether it should actually be considered country music, however, and was removed by Billboard from the country chart in March 2019. However, many country artists — including Billy Ray Cyrus, who appears on a remix of the song that's since broken the record for the longest No. 1 run in Billboard chart history — are totally supportive of the artist in the country genre.
Skrillex went from hardcore to dubstep
Skrillex might be a dubstep master, but the talented musician actually started out in a completely different genre. Sonny John Moore (his real name) was the frontman in From First to Last, an American post-hardcore band. He recorded two studio albums with the group before branching off in 2007. Eventually, he found his new sound, which turned him into an international success. Since switching genres, he's won eight Grammy Awards and holds the world record for most Grammys won by an electronic dance music artist.
Queen Latifah transformed from rap royalty to soulful singer
After reigning the rap world for decades, Queen Latifah decided to prove to the world that she could really sing! In 2004, she released an album of soul and jazz standards, "The Dana Owens Album" (that's her real name!), following it up with a soul and blues album, "Trav'lin Light," in 2007 — and she even ended up winning a Grammy for it!
Gwen Stefani went from ska-punk to pop
Back in the 1990s, Gwen Stefani was the reigning goddess of ska-punk as the lead singer of Orange County, California's No Doubt. But in 2004, Gwen decided to do a solo album, "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." She claimed it was inspired by the Cure, Madonna and Depeche Mode and worked on it with songwriters and producers including Dr. Dre and The Neptunes. While it blended many genres including R&B, hip hop and pop, punk and ska were notably absent from the mix. The album was a commercial success and Gwen continued her solo career in pop. Eventually, she recorded one more album with No Doubt in 2012, but she's definitely considered a pop — not a ska-punk– princess these days!
Lil Wayne tried to be a rock star
Lil Wayne established himself as a dominating force in the rap world in the aughts, releasing a slew of hit albums including 2008's "Tha Carter III," which was famous for the hit single "Lollipop." He also appeared on what seemed like pretty much every hit rap song over the next few years. But in 2010, he decided to dabble in rock music with his album "Rebirth," even collaborating with Fall Out Boy. While it did chart relatively well, music critics weren't exactly into Wayne's new sound. Since then, he's pretty much stayed in his music lane — rap!
Country music legend Garth Brooks tried to be a rock star too
Sometimes genre shifts don't exactly work the way an artist would hope. In 1999, country musician Garth Brooks decided to create an alter ego for himself in order to establish himself as a rock star. He called himself Chris Gaines and released the album "Garth Brooks in… The Life of Chris Gaines." The album was initially intended to be a pre-soundtrack to a film he hoped to star in called "The Lamb," which centered around the fictional Chris Gaines. Fans and critics alike were confused by the whole thing, and while the album made it to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and produced the Top 40 single "Lost in You," the overall response was less than stellar. The movie was never made and Garth quickly put his cowboy boots back on.
Beastie Boys go from punk rockers to rap legends
When Michael Diamond was making music as a teenager in 1979, his band, which would soon morph into the Beastie Boys, was as far from a rap act as could be: The Young Aborigines was a bona fide punk rock outfit that played in the New York thrash hardcore scene. But Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz soon joined, they all got inspired by Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash records and one of the most successful rap groups ever emerged in 1982. After being signed by Def Jam, the Beastie Boys went on to sell more than 26 million albums in the United States and a whopping 50 million internationally. Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock also made history in 1987 when their album "Licensed to Ill" became the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2012, they became the third rap group to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Kenny Rogers transforms from psychedelic rock star to country legend
Kenny Rogers is one of the more famous country singers in the world, but once upon a time, the "The Gambler" singer was a psychedelic rocker! He started his career as a jazz musician in the 1950s and by the next decade found himself in a folk group. Soon after, he formed the psych rock group The First Edition and released a major hit, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." The band was pretty successful but didn't last through the disco era. Kenny refused to give up, however. In middle age, he released 1977's "Lucille," which transitioned him into a lucrative career as a country musician.
Jessica Simpson's a country girl at heart
You can take the girl out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the girl! Texas-born Jessica Simpson made her name in the music industry as a bubblegum pop singer, releasing albums with titles like "Sweet Kisses" and "Irresistible." In 2005, she put her cowboy boots back on when she starred as Daisy Duke in the film adaptation of "The Dukes of Hazzard." She even recorded her own country-ish version of the song "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" for the film. The next year, she took the stage with Dolly Parton, where she infamously forgot most of the lyrics to "9 to 5." Jessica finally went fully country in 2008 with the release of her sixth studio album, "Do You Know," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Other than a Christmas album, it was her last major studio release.
Country legend Willie Nelson turns genre shapeshifter
Willie Nelson is another country legend who's refused to pigeonhole himself in the genre. While he's famous for his Nashville sound, the Texas native recorded a jazz album, "Stardust," in 1978, covering songs penned by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington as well as songs made famous by Nat King Cole, Ray Charles and the Righteous Brothers. He's gone on to explore the genre throughout his career, including on his 2016 album "Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Traditional Jazz Album and overall Jazz Albums charts.