Notable musical artists who have enjoyed multi-genre success

Truly special musical acts and artists are able to find success spanning various genres of music. In doing so, they are then able to branch out even more beyond an assumed comfort zone.

Here’s a list of notable artists who have drawn fans from different musical genres. Listed in alphabetical order. 

 

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Albarn’s work with Brit-pop giants Blur, and the refreshingly odd virtual-alternative, electronica favorites Gorillaz seems to come from two different planets. The common denominator is that both are hugely successful to different fan bases, and is also an example of the immense talent displayed from Albarn. Blur related to the everyperson, though encompassing a true alternative blanket. Meanwhile, virtually-charged Gorillaz is an underground juggernaut and a staple on the festival scene throughout the world, popular with the electronica and club crowds. However, the project still harbors plenty of characteristics associated with alternative music.

 

The Beatles

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As anchors of the “British Invasion” of pop rock music, the Beatles were international superstars by the mid-1960s. However, as the band’s popularity and critical acclaim continued, the Beatles pushed the envelope with its sounds and lyrics on Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966), and going in an even more conceptual direction, while veering into the worlds of psychedelic rock and some art rock, as well on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and The Beatles (1968). With each release, the band’s fan base grew more broader, and obviously, has only grown in the decades that have followed. 

 

Beck

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You name it, Beck has played it, and done so quite well. Perhaps no other artist in music history has spanned more genres than one Beck Hansen. Sure, that might seem like a stretch to say, but his 14 studio albums (as of 2023), have covered such genres as lo-fi, country, hip hop, funk, and various forms of rock, like pop, alternative, experimental, indie, folk and psychedelic. He’s an eight-time Grammy Award winner, spanning categories such as Best Alternative Music Performance, Best Rock Performance. He was also nominated for an American Music Award in the category of Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.

 

Bee Gees

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The Gibb brothers — Barry, Robin, and Maurice -—were known for their brilliant three-part harmonies. In the late 1960s, the Bee Gees earned success with pop classics like “To Love Somebody” and  “Massachusetts.” That type of success lasted the rest of the decade, and into the early-to-mid-1970s. Then the hall of famers’ sound turned to capitalize on the growing disco/dance music craze with “Jive Talkin” in 1975. The brothers enjoyed massive international stardom while going full-on disco through the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (1977).

 

Chicago

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For roughly a decade, spanning the late 1960s and ’70s, Chicago was a highly talented rock outfit, which fused jazz, blues, and R&B, and was most notably known for its innovative brass section. However, co-founder, vocalist and guitarist Terry Kath died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1978. Chicago became a soft-rock band during the 1980s, with Peter Cetera at the forefront. Producer David Foster’s growing influence on the mainstream pop sound made Chicago a lot of money, with tunes still heard in office waiting rooms around the world.

 

Childish Gambino

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When digging into Donald Glover’s musical alter ego, he’s evolved rather impressively as an artist. His first two studio releases Camp (2011) and Because the Internet (2013) were both straight-up hip hop offerings. However, 2016’s Grammy Award-nominated “Awaken, My Love!”  was a severe departure from the past while showcasing Glover’s R&B influence, and feature severe elements of funk and psychedelic rock. Then 2020’s 3.15.20 had a more alternative hip hop and experimental vibe that continued his musical progression.

 

Miley Cyrus

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Miley Cyrus is barely in her 30s, yet her popularity spans various fan bases and musical genres. As a teen star via Hannah Montana, Cyrus’ pop roots were laid with teen-friendly tunes. However, it was only a matter of time before she also earned success in the world of country music (where her father Billy Ray Cyrus remains relevant) with the single “The Climb.” Of course, she continues to maintain her status as one of the world’s biggest pop stars, who also has found fame with dance, club and R&B factions of music lovers.  

 

Bob Dylan

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One of the great controversies, at least within a fan base, came when Dylan veered from his early, dependable folk music roots to straightforward rock and roll. The latter came about during the mid-1960s, when Dylan decided to plug in his guitar, as oppose to continue strumming on an acoustic. Of course, all ended up just fine — Dylan never abandoned his folk background and continued to celebrate it, while gaining new generations of fans as one of the most legendary and iconic musicians of all time. 

 

Eagles

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Undeniably, the Eagles are a rock band. However, within that wide blanket, the group’s music falls into several categories — such as pop, folk, roots, soft (“Best of My Love”) and even a certain level of yacht rock. Meanwhile, the Eagles also did very well with country music fans. Songs such as “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It to the Limit” and “Desperado” all had wide crossover appeal. Of the Eagles’ six Grammy Awards, came in 2008, in the category of Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, for the track “How Long.”

 

Genesis

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Yes, for the most part, the departures of vocalist Peter Gabriel and guitarist Steve Hackett eventually allowed Genesis to shed its critically acclaimed, but not-so-commercially-successful, progressive rock sound. Drummer Phil Collins became the main vocalist, and the three-piece Genesis, with Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks still in tow, became a bona fide pop-rock band that was in heavy rotation on Top 40 radio and MTV thanks to hits like “No Reply at All,” “Invisible Touch,” “Land of Confusion,” and “I Can’t Dance.”

 

Amy Grant

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Grant is subject of perhaps the greatest crossover success story in music history. She started as one of the most prominent Christian music stars of the early 1980s, when she won Grammy Awards for Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary and Best Gospel Vocal Performance, Female. Then in 1986, Grant posted her first No. 1 tune on the Billboard Hot 100, with “The Next Time I Fall,” a her duet featuring Peter Cetera. In 1992, she earned a Grammy Award for the pop album Heart in Motion, which included her No. 1 hit “Baby, Baby.” In 2012, Grant received yet another Grammy nomination, this time for Best Country Song (“Threaten Me with Heaven”).

 

New Order

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Sadly, when talking about the creation of New Order, the 1980 death of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, opened the door for surviving members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris to move in a different direction when it came to their musical career together. Adding keyboardist Gillian Gilbert, New Order still harbored the post-punk tendencies of Joy Division, but blended it with healthy doses of synth-pop and electronic dance elements that made the group one of the first, and most celebrated, mainstream alternative acts.

 

Madonna

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During the 1980s, ’90s and even parts of the 2000s, Madonna was a reliable trendsetter when it came to look, style and overall fashion within the world of pop culture across the globe. However, the foundation for it all was her music. She’s an undeniable icon within the realm of pop music — on the level of Michael Jackson — when talking about legendary status. However, that was not enough for the ever-evolving, multi-Grammy Award-winning “Material Girl.” She’s also extremely popular with club, dance and electronica crowds, and continues to push the envelope as an entertainer.

 

Alanis Morissette

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Another well-known tale of crossover love, Morrissette went from a peppy, good-time, hang-at-the-mall-with-your-friends, young pop star in Canada during to the late 1990s, to angst-ridden, dark-haired alternative rock force by 1995, when she released the uber-popular Jagged Little Pill. That album, and its smash single “You Oughta Know,” was a significant departure from Morrissette’s early pop days. However, for most audiences, especially in the United States, it was their first true introduction to a talent singer/songwriter who ruled the second half of the 1990s.

 

REO Speedwagon

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Following some lineup changes in the late 1970s, that brought guitarist/songwriter Gary Richrath into the mix, REO went from a popular Midwest attraction to a straight-up, rock-and-roll, national headliners. The Richrath-penned “Ridin’ the Storm Out” is one of the great classic rock tracks. Teamed with lead singer Kevin Cronin, songwriting duo brought the band much more commercial success with You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish (1978), and turned them into mainstream, pop-rock giants via Hi Infidelity (1980). Following the latter, Cronin steered the band in a more soft-rock direction, leading to Richrath’s departure in the late 1980s. From then on, REO has essentially found a home in the adult contemporary community.

 

Rolling Stones

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Somewhat similar to the Beatles, the Stones’ sound through the years catered to various genres of music, though always with a definite rock and roll undertone. There’s the blues (1964’s The Rolling Stones / England’s Newest Hit Makers ), country (1968’s Beggars Banquet and 1969’s Let It Bleed), funk/reggae (1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll) and new wave (1978’s Some Girls). And those examples are actually just scratching the surface. When it came to influences, the Stones’ choices seemed endless, and music fans should be grateful for it all.

 

Linda Ronstadt

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When it comes to achieving successful musical diversity, Ronstadt might be the queen. She’s an 11-time Grammy winner, claiming the award in categories such as: Best Country Vocal Performance, Female for “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You); Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Female (Hasten Down the Wind); Best Mexican-American Performance (Canciones de Mi Padre); and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (“Don’t Know Much,” Aaron Neville). She’s collaborated with the likes of Dolly Parton, Frank Zappa, Neil Young and Johnny Cash, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

 

Darius Rucker

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When Rucker and his buddies struck it big as Hootie & the Blowfish in the mid-1990s, they won an alternative/pop rock, MTV fan base. The band enjoyed a nice run, but Rucker eventually opted for a solo career. He initially set out with an R&B vibe, but ultimately found his solo calling as country artist, which wasn’t too much of a stretch, since Hootie had a solid crossover appeal. Rucker’s 2008’s country album debut Learn to Live featured three No. 1 singles — “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” and “Alright.” He’s released four country albums since, with another do in 2023. Rucker has won a Grammy in both Pop and Country categories. 

 

Gwen Stefani

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Following the death of New Doubt singer John Spence, then new vocalist Alan Meade leaving the band, backup singer Gwen Stefani stepped to the forefront. With the charismatic Stefani the new focal point, No Doubt progressed from a raw ska/punk band to commercially successful mainstream pop-punk giants following the release of the MTV-favorite Tragic Kingdom in 1995. Then when Stefani opted to strike out on her own, she went full-blown pop, with a tinge of hip hop and dance for good measure, en route to winning multiple Grammys as a solo artist. 

 

Taylor Swift

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By now, Swift’s rise to stardom has been well chronicled. She was hired as a professional songwriter at 14 in Nashville. Four of her earliest albums were made for country audiences, and won four Grammy Awards in country categories. Building on that success and already a crossover pop favorite, Swift blossomed into one of the world’s biggest entertainers, beginning in 2015. From 2018’s 1989 to the present, Swift has been a pop force, while also becoming a favorite with dance and club crowds. She’s even shown a penchant for rap. Hey, she’s only in her early 30s — there’s plenty more time for her to musically explore.

A Chicago native, Jeff Mezydlo has professionally written about sports, entertainment and pop culture for nearly 30 years. If he could do it again, he’d attend Degrassi Junior High, Ampipe High and Grand Lakes University.