Music Monday: Before They Were Famous

Yesterday, Lady Gaga’s performance at the Oscars reminded everyone that she was a talented, trained vocalist long before she became a weird meat-dress-wearing diva. So for Music Monday, we’re highlighting a few other superstars who have gone through big changes on the road to fame.

Jeff Klima

This will catch me some hell from my fellow writers, but I think Justin Bieber gets a raw deal. Yes, his personality sucks, but we have a really bizarre process for taking kids with talent and making them into these sorta deities. How else do you expect a teenager to act when we give him wealth and the capacity to do pretty much anything he wants? I am grateful I didn’t grow up in the public eye because I am enough of an insufferable asshole without money and the adulation of millions. Justin is a talented kid and he works hard. Granted, the “serial killer” argument applies here in that lots of kids grew up abused and you don’t see them all becoming serial killers. With fame, though, you are talking about a considerably smaller statistical pool to draw from. And with Justin, right from the get go, his publicity team programed him to be a little edgy — many other child stars get the Disney treatment where they are told to stay as far away from edgy as possible. And, frequently, even those kids self destruct. While Justin is insufferable at times, he’s just a kid who still has some growing to do. And if anything, his first video on YouTube shows the talent beneath the record-label-instituted “swagger.”

Evan DeSimone

Before she became an international sensation with “Call Me Maybe” and released one of the most tragically underappreciated pop albums of all time, Carly Rae Jepsen was just another aspiring singer working her way through the star making machine that is Canadian Idol. The Canadian spin-off of an American spin-off of a British reality show juggernaut, Canadian Idol has given the world superstars like Jacob Hoggard (who?) Kalan Porter (what?) and Toya Alexis (I don’t know her…) but it also gave us Season 5, 3rd place finisher Carly Rae, who would go on to release two albums before finally hitting the mainstream with “Call Me Maybe.” While she’s now best known for producing slick pieces of pop candy, Jepsen brought something a little huskier to her first Idol audition. The 21-year-old impressed the judges with an acoustic rendition of her original song “Sweet Talker.” Word on the street is that she’s currently working on a new album and collaborating with some big names, and what better way to prepare for the Carly Rae-naissance than by looking back at her first shot at stardom.

Christine Linnell

Not that I’m a huge fan of hers — though I will admit to listening to “Teenage Dream” a bunch of times — but I think my favorite “before they were famous” transformation is Katy Perry, who used to be perky guitar-strumming Christian singer Katy Hudson. And I went through a big churchy phase myself when I was younger and then decided that it wasn’t for me, so no criticism there. It’s more the part where she went straight from hymns to “I kissed a girl and I liked it,” and now she’s regularly accused of leading satanic cults and plays an Egyptian goddess in the “Dark Horse” video (which, apparently, was edited after it sparked a viral petition to have it pulled from YouTube because of “blasphemy”). Not exactly how you expect squeaky-clean Christian singers to end up, but hey, more power to her.

Rachel Kiley

Pre-dollar sign Kesha (and pre-post-dollar sign Kesha) performing Radiohead’s “Creep” at a middle school talent show is an odd thing to watch. But still, you can hear her vocal styling already coming through even at that age, and with that song. It’s strange to think that this awkward pre-teen with very little stage presence went on to become such a fantastic performer — and say what you want about Kesha’s talents (though I will defend her abilities til the day I die), but she definitely puts on a damn good concert. You grew up good, kid.

Sara Parra

It’s hard to think of a time when Florence Welch wasn’t huge, and even harder to find a video of it. If one were to track her fame, her first album “Lungs” propelled her into the stratosphere, with her second album “Ceremonials” cementing her place among music royalty. It’s amazing to watch Florence back when Florence + The Machine was just Florence Robot and Isa Machine, a combination that was later shortened to the current band name.

When I think of Florence Welch, I see in my mind this fiery redhead whose composed stage presence could fill up a room. She’s grown into herself since her initial debut at SXSW, and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

Carrington Walsh

This video of Zayn Malik singing “Let Me Love You” by Mario was posted nearly five years ago, back when One Direction was in its infancy. The video was taken from a livestream Zayn once did. You call tell One Direction was still blossoming because the views on his livestream amounted to only 5,000. In comparison, he currently has 14 million Twitter followers.

Unshockingly, he sings pretty awesomely. Makes me think he should be the one who eventually has a solo career, as opposed to the fan favorite, Harry Styles.


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