Five Singers Who Totally Changed Their Styles Over the Years

Metallica's James Hetfield
Metallica's James Hetfield

As someone who likes to sing along to my favorite songs a lot despite my limited vocal capabilities, I think a lot about people's voices. After you listen to particular singers for a long enough time, I find you start to get a real feel for their cadences, tics, quirks, and inflections.

You also start to notice how much they change, sometimes from one album to the next and sometimes over the course of many years due to wear and tear from age, touring, and vices. Some singers have changed their style so much though that they're practically unrecognizable, like this bunch below.

James Hetfield Wow, here's one who has gone through so many phases over the years that you can pick out the year of a live recording just based on the tone of his voice. Hetfield started in the '80s with a high pitched scream that quickly turned into a low growl by the end of the decade.

Of course, we all know his powerful roar on The Black Album, and his country twang on the Load records. Then came the smooth crooning of S&M, the crackling nu-metal grunt of St. Anger, and now his haggard but admirable attempt at going back to the classic '80s growl live.

Al Jourgensen The change in Al Jourgensen's vocal style is wrapped up in mystery. On Ministry's first record, With Sympathy, the future industrial metal band performed in a contemporary New Wave/synth-pop style that would make fans of their later work blush in embarrassment. Various explanations have been tossed around from record label pressure to the idea that songwriter Jourgensen simply wasn't into heavy music yet.

Regardless of the reason for the record's odd sound, Jourgensen also made the executive decision on the record to sing in a weird British accent. Eventually for the band's more well-regarded material he'd shift to his natural range and start shouting and screaming.

Phil Anselmo

By the time Pantera went from underground glam rockers to metal superstars with

Cowboys from Hell

, they had virtually eliminated most remnants of their early years. One stuck around though and it was the Rob Halford imitation vocalist Phil Anselmo liked to do every now and then. Hence those wailing cries in their first big hit, "Cemetery Gates."

That had been Anselmo's primary MO on previous album Power Metal. By the time they released Vulgar Display of Power, he had chilled out completely on those wails and settled into a low growl, which would transition into a scream closer to death-metal styles that he still employs today.

List continues on the next page.


Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's voice has always been so weirdly flexible, never technically great, and always perfect for his music. From his earliest days singing in his nasally, heavily accented persona that we most classically associate him with, to his

Nashville Skyline

country crooner turn.

These days though we know him much more for the Tom Waits-esque grunts and growls that have become his stock and trade. Maybe it's the fact that Dylan has always been a heavy smoker, but maybe no one else has ever ended up with such a raspy, gravelly voice as the one Dylan sings in today.

Bjork The elastic-voiced Bjork has experimented with style after style over the years, so maybe it's less appropriate to pin down any kind of "before and after" with her. Nevertheless, her time in '80s punk bands like Tappi Tikarrass certainly showed a very different side of her, where she would have fit right alongside future riot grrrls like Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill.

Later, she'd switch to her more recognizable styles, varying between a low, sultry whisper and a blistering growl that dominated her '90s music. These days you hardly know what you're going to get with Bjork -- she's even started doing throat-singing.


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