Snoop Dogg, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to go reggae and change his name to Snoop Lion. In honour of this slightly mystifying decision, here are few other memorable music alter-egos.
On the 1992-3 Zoo TV Tour, U2’s Bono – already an alter ego of sorts (he was born Paul Hewson) – employed three onstage characters: The Fly, Mirrorball Man and MacPhisto. This last one, a leering lounge singer with devil horns, was an arch statement on rock excess (or something), but most of us were too busy going, “Hur hur, sounds a bit like ‘fister’.”
Tupac Shakur wasn’t going to let the small matter of dying get in the way of a long and fruitful recording career. His first posthumous album, ‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’, was released under the pseudonym Makaveli – a tribute to 16th century Italian writer Niccolò Machiavelli, whose book The Prince Shakur had read while serving a prison sentence.
In the early ’70s, John Lennon acted as producer for singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson – although they spent more time drinking and taking drugs than they did on the music. On the records themselves, Lennon was credited not as himself but as a mysterious Dr Winston O’Boogie. Hilarious!
Of Montreal singer Kevin Barnes doubles as Georgie Fruit, a 40-something-year-old black man who has undergone multiple sex changes and starred in a funk-rock band in the ’70s called Arousal. The second half of the band’s eighth album, ‘Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?’, is dedicated to this elaborate persona.
Green Day are fond of a good wheeze. In addition to their masked electro side-project The Network, in 2008 they released an album of upbeat garage rock numbers, ‘Stop Drop and Roll!!!’, under the name Foxboro Hot Tubs. Confusingly, the record sounded a lot like Jack Penate.
Hard to imagine it now, but back in 2004 Madonna was positioning herself as a matronly, English Rose-type figure. She did this by banging on about Kabbalah and adopting a new persona, Esther, after the Biblical Jewish queen. We’re sure it made sense at the time.
We hate to break this to you, but Marilyn Manson is not the ‘shock’ rocker’s real name. No, he’s really Brian Warner, a former music journalist who once made money on the side flogging watercolours to drug dealers (so he claims). More recently, he put his name to a line of absinthe that one critic described as being “as bad as piss”.
Kings Of Leon’s Caleb Followill admits to having a cruel, drunken alter ego called Rooster. “Rooster is a dick. I hate him,” he once confessed.
In 2006, Mariah Carey revealed another side to her multi-faceted personality. Her album of that year, ‘The Emancipation Of Mimi,’ introduced us to what was supposed to be her true, free self. Turns out she has more than one mammoth ego.
The man born Marshall Mathers has not one but two pseudonyms: Eminem (formerly M&M, after his initials) – and Slim Shady, which he came up with while having a shit (apparently), and describes as “just the evil thoughts that come into my head. Things I shouldn’t be thinking about… I got a warped sense of humour I guess.”
One alter ego wasn’t enough for Tori Amos. She created five distinct personalities for her 2007 ‘American Doll Posse’ album and tour. They were called Isabel, Clyde, Pip, Santa and Tori and each was based around archetypes from Greek mythology. She also created five blogs for them. Weird.
One for our older readers, this. An homage to the psychedelic pop music of the ’60s, XTC’s alter ego act, The Dukes Of Stratosphear, released two albums (‘25 O’Clock’ and ‘Psonic Psunspot’), which were later compiled into one CD titled ‘Chips From The Chocolate Fireball: An Anthology’. None of it was remotely pretentious, oh no.
Not content with selling 70million albums as Garth Brooks, the country superstar reinvented himself as brooding alt-rocker Chris Gaines in 1999. Unfortunately, his fans were unconvinced and the album bombed, forcing a swift return to arena-friendly country anthems.
Britney Spears’ 2004 track ‘Mona Lisa’ served notice of a new persona, apparently a vehicle for when she’s in a really shitty mood: “Whenever I feel like being mean or bustin’ people around to get stuff right, it’s kinda easier to be called ‘Mona Lisa’ instead of Britney.” Wish we could do that.
The Beatles created ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ as a way of freeing them up to experiment. Interestingly, the original plan was to write a concept album about childhood – that’s why they wrote ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ – but when those tracks were released as singles instead, the childhood plan was shelved, and Sgt Pepper was born.
A persona born for album ‘I Am… Sasha Fierce’, Beyoncé’s short-lived alter ego of Sasha Fierce was, as the singer described, the “fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side” for the stage. However, she recently announced that “Sasha Fierce is done… I killed her.”
Her hips might not lie, but Shakira happily took on a separate identity for her latest album. Being She-Wolf apparently helps her to capture the passion and energy of her more ‘animalistic’ and ‘primitive’ side.
In 1972, David Bowie emerged as flamboyantly androgynous space-age superstar Ziggy Stardust to release hit song ‘Starman’ and album ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’. After breaking up with The Spiders, he moved on from this red-mullet-donning act, but rumours have recently circulated about a possible Ziggy return.
If you thought Norah Jones was an insipid jazz singer, you’d be wrong. Kind of. She created her alter ego Maddie, lead singer and guitarist of punk band El Madmo, for an eponymous album in 2008. It contained the track ‘Rock Yer Balls Off’ which is yet to be heard in wine bars across the UK.
In 2008, Courtney Love wrote on her blog that she was taking on the “bananas” alter ego of Cherry Kookoo. Why? Erm, apparently it’s so that “if /when im overcome and blog again wich i wont do i took a picture of a friend looking at me rather sternly to remind me not to – well know it was Cherry Kookoo, but i think I’ve killed her off.” Got that?
Mary J Blige masquerades as Brook-Lynn from time to time. The alter ego debuted in the Busta Rhymes video for ‘Touch It’. “I had to separate the two because Mary is nice, you know, intelligent,” explained Blige, “Brook is crazy and ignorant, and she don’t care.”
American country music star Hank Williams began recording as Luke The Drifter in 1950. A name given to him for his religious-driven tunes, he hoped to disguise his identity from DJs for radio play.
During her ‘Stripped’ era in 2002, Christina Aguilera introduced her alter ego of Xtina, even getting the nickname tattooed on her back. Now that’s dedication.
An eight-track album recorded by Prince in 1986, ‘Camille’ was to be released anonymously without a cover photo, casting doubts over the artist’s gender. However, the album was cancelled two weeks before its release date in favour of the more ambitious ‘Sign O’The Times’.