Not long ago, R&B legend Mariah Carey revealed to the world that she once recorded and released a secret alternative rock album under the band name “Chick”.
But did you know that she’s not the only artist to do so? In fact, stunts like this are quite popular among the most prominent musicians in recent history.
Here are six other well-known solo artists and bands that have released side projects, singles, and albums under a different name in the past:
- Los Unidades a.k.a. Coldplay
In 2018, a group called Los Unidades released a track titled “E-Lo” as part of a charity project initiated by the organization Global Citizen. The aim of the movement is to end extreme poverty by 2030. The band may have tried to go undercover in order not to overshadow the aim of the initiative, but one doesn’t have to be a fan to immediately realize that the voice behind “E-Lo” is Chris Martin, and the music, none other than Coldplay.
- Larry Lurex a.k.a Freddie Mercury
Before the iconic British rock band Queen made its debut in 1972, frontman Freddie Mercury recorded two songs and released them as a single after he was approached by Trident’s house engineer Robert Geoffrey Cable. The songs were covers of “I Can Hear Music” by The Ronettes and “Goin’ Back” by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and they were released under the name Larry Lurex.
- Chris Gaines a.k.a. Garth Brooks
Country superstar Garth Brooks shook the music scene when he released an experimental album in 1999 under the name Chris Gaines. The fictional persona, which was originally created to be the main character in a movie where Brooks was to be the lead, became a rock- and pop-singing alter ego of the singer instead. But while the studio album and singles credited to Gaine were meant to be Brooks’ venture in the rock genre, most of the songs sounded pop and one (“Lost in You”) even ranked No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart at the time of its release.
- Passengers a.k.a. U2
It turns out Irish rock band U2 was also having an experimental moment the same year Mariah Carey did her secret alternative rock album. In 1995, U2, together with music producer Brian Eno, recorded and released a full-length album titled “Original Soundtracks 1” under the pseudonym Passengers. Eno was the frontman of the side project. Although the record wasn’t a commercial success, perhaps due to the fact that it’s far removed from the signature rock sound of the band, it’s still home to some great classics like “Miss Sarajevo” and “Your Blue Room” (from “Beyond The Clouds”).
- Percy “Thrills” Thrillington a.k.a. Paul McCartney
It’s no secret that the former Beatle has a long list of pseudonyms he used for a lot of side projects. But the one we’d like to highlight is the guy Percy “Thrills” Thrillington who was simply the artist behind the 1977 instrumental cover version of McCartney’s 1971 album “Ram”, at least until McCartney revealed it himself in 1989 that the “Thrillington” album is indeed his own work. In an interview with Iconic, McCartney explained “I kind of like hiding behind a pseudonym. It’s actually just for fun. There’s no particular reason. There’s no significance. What it does is it frees you up a bit in the studio.” Instead of being tied to the Paul McCartney vocal, McCartney said “It just makes you think anything is possible.”
- Madhouse a.k.a Prince
In 1987, Prince released two jazz-funk albums under the band name Madhouse. But it wasn’t until the biography “Prince: The Man and His Music” written by Matt Thorne was released in 2016 that Prince was officially credited for the work. It was Eric Leeds, who worked with Prince for the side project, that made the revelation to Thorne nearly three decades later. Leeds was credited as one of the four members of Madhouse, but as it turns out there were never three other members who go by the name John Lewis, Bill Lewis, and Austra Chanel. There was just Prince who worked on everything else.
While some of the side projects released by these artists received a lukewarm reception from the general public and their fans, it does seem like a whole lot of fun getting to create songs and music that’s different from what they usually do and from what’s always expected of them.
After all, “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.” —Mary Lou Cook