Past Life Progression: 5 Artists Who’ve Successfully Reinvented Themselves

Turn of the century Nickelodeon-lovers know that before his last name was “Ever” and his first name was “Greatest,” hip-hop and R&B sensation Drake was just Aubrey Drake Graham, the teenage actor behind basketball star-turned-paraplegic Jimmy Brooks on the popular Canadian television program Degrassi: The Next Generation.

But while Drake made music during his run on the oft-watched Canadian television, other popular musicians have made their way into the bright and shiny limelight after similar runs in the semi-dull, not-so-shiny limelight.

Here are five other artists who were something before they became someone.

Alex Ebert

Remember Ima Robot? They were like Motion City Soundtrack, but a bit lamer. Their tunes were emo-pop-punk-metal with a lot more underground cred than Simple Plan, but a lot less than Coheed & Cambria. And after a decade of partying it up in Los Angeles and getting addicted to drugs, frontman Alex Ebert (far left) called it quits, went out into the desert, met an American Apparel model named Jade Castrinos and some other friends, started a band to make music that matched Mamas & the Papas with Arcade Fire, wrote one of the catchiest songs ever in “Home,” and became Edward Sharpe, leader of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes.


Sonny Moore

Were you really into Hot Topic in the mid-2000s? Then chances are you probably already knew about Sonny Moore from his work as guitarist for screamo band From First to Last. But if you’ve been on the Internet in the last year or are under 16 years old (especially if you’re under 16 years old), then you know Sonny Moore as the stage alias of DJ/producer Skrillex. While all Moore really changed music-wise was going from making music for kids who wear tight tees and have stupid screamo hair to making music for kids who wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces and have dirty-looking half-hair, he’s gone from little-known band member to demigod of dubstep.

Blake Sennett & Jenny Lewis

You might recognize Jenny Lewis as the darling little actress in Troop Beverly Hills, Roseanne, Growing Pains and Pleasantville. And you might recognize Blake Sennett as little Ronnie Pinsky in the Nickelodeon classic TV series Salute Your Shorts, or as Joey the Rat in the awesome Boy Meets World. But if you’re a music fan, you probably recognize the pair as the principal songwriters for indie-rock faves Rilo Kiley. The two met in the early ’90s as teen actors, and after Sennett wrote the score to the Lewis-featured 1996 film Don’s Plum, they started Rilo Kiley, one of the best, most-beloved indie bands of the past two decades. Unfortunately, the band called it quits last summer following Lewis’ mounting solo success and Sennett’s displeasure with the direction of the band and his own ongoing work with indie band The Elected.

Katy Perry

We’re not sure how Katy Hudson’s evangelical parents felt about Katy Perry kissing a girl (and liking it), but we’re sure they loved their daughter’s Christian-pop musical stylings. As it turns out Katy Perry and Katy Hudson are one in the same, as singer/songwriter Perry (who’s more songwriter than you think) went from teenage Lord-loving Southern church singer living in relative squalor to runaway moneymaking chart-topping pop radio harlot. And despite the can’t-get-this-song-out-of-my-head bubblegum of it all, the world is much the better for it.

So what’s the lesson here? Don’t judge a book by its cover? No, that’s not it. Everyone deserves a second chance? That’s a little closer. Image is everything? That’s probably it. So kiddies, just be pretty and be interesting, and you’ll go far in this world.

Happy Friday!


(P.S. Know any other artists that fit this profile? Let us know in the comments!)

  • Tom Okins

    You’re probably too young, but it was sad you failed to mention Jenny Lewis’ greatest achievement in playing Fred Savage’s love interest Haley, in the Nintendo funded, nostalgia heavy-weight film The Wizard.

    • Nate Brennan

      Alas, I went with a Ben in my Savage-Rilo Kiley connection. Looking for pictures of Blake Sennett in Boy Meets World reminded me that Adam Scott was one of Joey the Rat’s cool, edgy guy leaders. If only Lewis and Sennett could have both been in the Howie Mandel vehicle “Little Monsters,” then the world would be in perfect harmony.

  • Gina Marie

    @facebook-500317330:disqus thank you for pointing out this egregious error. The line, “He touched my breast!” pretty much defined my childhood. I thought she was so badass.

  • Brandon Beachum

    You’re telling me Katy Perry might be listenable based on the merits of something that has nothing to do with literal musical talent, but rather because she’s just a cool person? The music theoretician inside of me scorns you. I’ll tell him to just calm the hell down.