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Darwin Day: 10 Unexpected Musical Evolutions

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    Darwin Day is celebrated each February 12th in honor of the birthday of the legendary author of On the Origin of Species. Largely considered the father of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin suggested a process of natural selection in terms of animal and plant species, his theory explaining (for example) how many wildly different species of bird could have grown from the same root.

    With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some unexpected evolutions in the music world, whether that’s from one musical style or persona to another (think the difference between the Finches on the Galapagos), or from music to another effort entirely (maybe the jump from tortoise to giraffe). We’ve come up with 10 unexpected musical evolutions to help you commemorate Darwin Day, including a pop star turned politician and a punk hero turned biochemist.

    –Adam Kivel
    Managing Editor

    Gwen Stefani

    Gwen Stefani Darwin

    Charismatic chanteuse and No Doubt co-founder Gwen Stefani unfurled from lovesick ska queen to a confident j-pop superstar, mom, and fashion designer. Heavily influenced by her brother’s ska favorites as a teenager in California, Stefani joined No Doubt in 1987 and went on to massive critical and mainstream success throughout the ’90s, the band itself shifting from a bouncy ska act to sultry New Wave group. Stefani’s other musical sensibilities began to emerge in the early 2000s, when she collaborated with Moby on “Southside” and rapper Eve on “Let Me Blow Your Mind”. Then came her smash hit Love.Angel.Music.Baby in 2004, the Harajuku Girl-strutting, bubblegum-surged record that catapulted her into pop stardom. Since then she has begun a designer label (L.A.M.B.), married Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, and is a mother to two (soon to be three) children. –Paula Mejia

    Milo Aukerman

    Milo Aukerman Darwin

    While it was apparent from the title and album cover of the debut album from punk legends DescendentsMilo Goes To College, the depths of vocalist Milo Aukerman’s nerdiness ran far deeper than many would expect, and incredibly far afield from the average punk frontman. The drawing of the skinny-necked dude in the starched shirt, tie, and glasses is supposed to be him, and he did leave the band after that record to attend UC San Diego. But this isn’t a simple case of a punk growing out of it: on breaks from his science education, he’d return replete with lyrics pushed by an eccentric, highly specific, decidedly anti-rock star persona. Punk and institutional education don’t often go hand in hand, but Aukerman managed both, going on to work on five more albums with the Descendents and receive a PhD in biology. Recently, Aukerman’s been working as a plant researcher for DuPont, but he’s also still that rebellious, nerdy punk hero whenever the Descendents get the itch to hit the stage. –Adam Kivel

    Justin Timberlake

    Justin Timberlake Darwin

    I distinctly remember being eight years old — toothy, impressionable — and running out to Best Buy with the intention of snagging *NSYNC’s No Strings Attached upon release day. Oh, the hits were there, “Bye Bye Bye” and “Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay)” among them. But there in the center, former Mouseketeer and heartthrob Justin Timberlake posed, his glorious, blond crunch-curls the archetype of new-millenium uber-cool. I’d never thought then that Timberlake would grow to be, by 2014, an entrepreneur, a pioneer, a movie star expertly portraying Napster’s Sean Parker in David Fincher’s The Social Network, a handsome dude bringing sexy back, and an all-around cool guy posing for selfies with McDonald’s employees. It’s a career arc that he’s expertly maneuvered since the days of the boy band extravaganza, becoming a jack-of-all trades superstar in the process. –Paula Mejia

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