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The Wildest Left-Turn Albums Ever, From Lil Yachty to Queen to Taylor Swift

Lil Yachty’s ambitious new album, Let’s Start Here, is an out-of-nowhere dive into psychedelic rock from an artist who formerly described his genre of choice as “bubblegum trap.” Say what you will about the project — critical reaction has ranged from marveling at his boldly realized transformation to umbrage over his clumsily phrased suggestion, at a pre-release event, that he needed to veer outside of hip-hop to prove himself a “real artist” — but it’s definitely a wild left musical left turn.

On the latest episode of our Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, Rob Sheffield joins host Brian Hiatt to talk about the Yachty album and the whole history of extreme left-turn albums through the years. Queen’s new-wave flop Hot Space, Arctic Monkeys’ turn toward space-lounge crooning on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Stevie Wonder’s experimental Secret Life of Plants, the Killers’ stab at heartland rock on Sam’s Town, Fleetwood Mac’s proto-indie turn on Tusk, and Taylor Swift’s synth-y revamp on 1989 are just a few of the curveballs up for discussion. (To hear the episode, press play above, or find it here at the podcast provider of your choice.)


The episode also talks about artists whose entire careers have been one left turn after another — including icons like Prince, David Bowie, Radiohead, and Neil Young — and tries to imagine the psychological motivation behind albums like Tusk: Sometimes the only way to follow up a career-shaking hit like Rumours is by getting so weird that all pressure is off.

Download and subscribe to our weekly podcast, Rolling Stone Music Now, hosted by Brian Hiatt, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify (or wherever you get your podcasts). Check out six years’ worth of episodes in the archive, including in-depth, career-spanning interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Halsey, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Brandi Carlile, Phoebe Bridgers, Rick Ross, Alicia Keys, the National, Ice Cube, Taylor Hawkins, Willow, Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Dua Lipa, Questlove, Killer Mike, Julian Casablancas, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Marr, Scott Weiland, Liam Gallagher, Alice Cooper, Fleetwood Mac, Elvis Costello, John Legend, Donald Fagen, Charlie Puth, Phil Collins, Justin Townes Earle, Stephen Malkmus, Sebastian Bach, Tom Petty, Eddie Van Halen, Kelly Clarkson, Pete Townshend, Bob Seger, the Zombies, Gary Clark Jr., and many others. Plus, there are dozens of episodes featuring genre-spanning discussions, debates, and explainers with Rolling Stone’s critics and reporters.

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