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Music artists branch out from pop music roots

Catherine Moore, Free-lance Writer

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        It came as a shock to many young Disney Channel fans when Miley Cyrus abandoned her country-girl, ringlet-curl image for a platinum blonde pixie cut makeover. Instead of singing about “The Climb,” she swung around on a wrecking ball and infamously twerked to “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke on live television at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, making it clear that she was no longer the little girl many teens grew up with.

    But nearly four years later, Cyrus has once again reinvented herself, releasing a new single titled “Malibu” in advance of her next album release within the coming weeks. The song is catchy yet raw, beginning with a solo acoustic guitar, with lyrics that the singer also penned. The music video for the song features Cyrus with her hair grown out and little makeup, revealing a more natural version of herself.  
    This is the most in-touch Cyrus has been with her musical roots since she was a young star. And lucky for Cyrus, her fans have been almost as receptive to her softer side as they were her fun and edgier side, placing “Malibu” at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But when Cyrus first changed her persona, it was hard for many to differentiate chart-toppers like “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” from her Disney Channel character. But now, even in all of her pop-star fame, why is her new sound not reaching peak popularity?
    The American pop music industry is more accepting of consistency than it is of originality. Once artists have made names for themselves, they are then known as “the singer who did that.” It is difficult in today’s music scene for an artist to reinvent him or herself and still captivate fans.
    In the beginning of May, former One Direction member Harry Styles released his debut single as a solo artist, “Sign of the Times,” and then the rest of his self-titled album days later. As an artist, Styles seemingly aimed to separate himself from his pop boy-band image, with soft-rock anthems and edgy love songs. But the entire album seems to tiptoe around being a rock album, pulling influences from British bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, without creating a unique sound for himself as an artist.
    On the other end of the spectrum, Zayn Malik released his debut album, Mind of Mine, in early 2016 after leaving One Direction in 2015. He established himself as more of a pop and R&B artist than Styles, gaining high popularity and even peaking at No. 1 on the U.S. and U.K. charts. In many ways, Malik continued the same persona he had adopted when he was with One Direction, and with that his immediate success continued.
    While exploring other musical genres, all three artists seem to remain in a “comfort zone” in order to still fit into the pop music scene. They have already established themselves as celebrities and artists, and as they experiment with other styles, they find that they still need to stay somewhat true to their pop roots in order to remain on the charts.

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