Kurt Cobain: It's not going to be about food, is it?So you've just bought a new novel from your favorite author. You've read every book thus far, and are outright giddy about this new book. You pop onto your couch and open it up, and... hey! This doesn't look like anything before it from this author, or, as you will learn later, after it. You've discovered the outlier; the author has committed Genre Adultery. Perhaps the sausage machine producer of crime novels has shifted from a light hearted Great Detective to a hard boiled Dirty Cop or is even experimenting with a completely different genre. Keep in mind that just because it's different doesn't mean it's bad. (Of course, some fans would have you think otherwise.) This trope doesn't just exclusively apply to literature, but it's certainly an obvious way to phrase it. Music albums, movie sequels, even TV shows can be a radical departure from the creator's norm. The only thing that matters is that the new genre is never returned to again in such a manner which is what distinguished it from He Also Did, its Supertrope. For musicians it may lead to a Black Sheep Hit and may occur when trying for New Sound Albums but they never return to that sound. See also: Playing Against Type for acting-specific examples, Creator's Oddball for other sorts of one-time stylistic changes, and Genre Shift for genre changes within a single work. Compare with Genre Roulette.
Al: No, it's going to be about how no one understands your lyrics.
Al: No, it's going to be about how no one understands your lyrics.
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Anime & Manga
- Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman was quite a departure from Kaimu Tachibana's usual work.
- Naoki Urasawa is responsible for Monster, 20th Century Boys, and... Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl.
- Yuu Watase went from Fushigi Yuugi and Absolute Boyfriend to Sakura Gari...
- The mangaka who did The Electric Tale of Pikachu typically wrote hentai.
- Norihiro Yagi, whose manga debut was the Genre Savvy and humorous story Angel Densetsu, subsequently wrote the bleak and gory fantasy series Claymore. Oddly, the two do have a bit of a connection, as some characters are visual expies of each other.
- Junko, who is known for her Yaoi Genre doujinshi, is now writing Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda, a shoujo Reverse Harem manga somewhat similar to Ouran High School Host Club. Though the main character is a Yaoi Fangirl.
- Akitaro Daichi, who is famous for lighthearted adventures and wacky comedies, saw some news reports about the genocide in Rwanda and created the bleak dystopian anime Now and Then, Here and There.
- Arina Tanemura usually writes stories with strong Magical Girl elements. Shinshi Doumei Cross is a drama about a former deliquent going to a school for the elite. General fan opinion is that it's... not her best.
- Mohiro Kitoh is well-known for his cynical and dark manga, most famously Narutaru and Bokurano. Noririn is a tame, fluffy manga about biking.
- Junji Ito is famed for his Body Horror manga, where Nightmare Fuel is present on nearly every page. He also did a manga about his cats that contains not a shred of mutation or disease (though due to his style, the humans are right there in the Uncanny Valley).
- Eliezer Yudkowsky is most well-known for the blog Less Wrong, as well as having written Three Worlds Collide and the fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which are more or less Author Tracts about his view of rationality. He also wrote Peggy Susie, which is a parody of The Terminator using Calvin and Hobbes characters, which contains very little philosophical speculation.
- superstarultra is an author well-known in the Haruhi Suzumiya fandom for his Crack Fics. He is also in the process of writing a horror-story collection. Then again, perhaps this is to be expected.
- Two of the official Silent Ponyville stories are pure romance, and a third one is straight up Slice of Life using the mind-delve spell to show cute scenes from Twilight's childhood.
- Mel Brooks produced The Elephant Man but had his name removed so that nobody thought it was a comedy. He also produced David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly (1986).
- Busby Berkeley, best known for his lavish musical numbers, directed a crime drama remake called They Made Me a Criminal in 1939. Warner Brothers gave him the oddball project in an attempt to keep him occupied so he wouldn't leave the studio; it didn't work.
- Horror director Wes Craven:
- Directed Music of the Heart, a based on a true story drama starring Meryl Streep, about a music teacher in a school in Harlem. This film was actually Craven's pet project, and he only directed Scream 3 so he would be financed and allowed to direct Music of the Heart.
- Directed a segment of Paris Je T'aime.
- Bob Clark directed several notable horror films in the early '70s, including Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Deathdream, and the groundbreaking Black Christmas (1974). Then he abandoned horror, directed the teen sex comedy Porky's, and spent the last 20 years of his career making more family-friendly films such as A Christmas Story and Baby Geniuses.
- Kevin Smith, who is known mostly for slacker comedies with characters that discuss pop culture, made Red State, which is a dark and violent story about a murderous, homophobic cult.
- David Lynch's The Straight Story, a Disney-produced, G-rated, uplifting family drama about an old blind man who drives 240 miles on a ride-on lawnmower to see his dying brother. It's not a Mind Screw, nor does it have anything in the way of Body Horror.
- Sergio Leone, who was most famous for directing westerns, made one movie set in the gangster time period of the 1930s: Once Upon a Time in America, which got bad reviews at the time, but was Vindicated by History as perhaps the best gangster epic since The Godfather.
- George Miller. If you grew up in the '80s, you know him as the maker of the Mad Max series of violent action films that wrote the book for a great deal of the post-apocalyptic fiction that came after it. If you grew up in the '90s and '00s, you know him as the maker of the classic family films Babe and Happy Feet. Then he went back to it in 2015 with the explosive, batshit insane and adrenaline-pumping Mad Max: Fury Road.
- Robert Rodriguez is another filmmaker who got his start and "cred" making violent, sleazy action and horror films like El Mariachi, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn. So it came as a shock to just about everybody when he made the lighthearted family comedy Spy Kids in 2001... and then made two back-to-back sequels to it over the next two years. He's since mostly gone back to his more R-rated roots with Sin City, Planet Terror, and Machete, though he does this side-by-side with family films like Shorts and The Adventures Of Shark Boy And Lava Girl. His teen sci-fi film The Faculty is something in-between.
- Nelvana is a Canadian animation studio best known for children's franchises such as Care Bears, Little Bear, and Franklin. So it's quite surprising to find out that their early work includes Rock & Rule, an adult animated film.
- Joe Wright became famous for directing period dramas based off English literature (usually starring Keira Knightley) - Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina. He also made Hanna - an action thriller - and Pan a fantasy tentpole blockbuster. The former was well-received, the latter infamously was not.
- Following bad reviews for The Long Kiss Goodnight, Shane Black attempted this doing a romantic comedy imitating his idol and mentor at the time, James L. Brooks. Then when he hit a creative wall, he just returned to his Signature Style and the result was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
- The Monkey's Paw was the one and only horror story by a fellow who mostly wrote about sailors.
- While it's in the sci-fi genre like most of his stories, Good Night, Mr. James by Clifford D. Simak has been described by the author himself as unique; it's much darker in tone than most of his work, and has a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending.
- John Grisham usually writes legal fiction. Only five aren't of this genre, and one of them is Skipping Christmas (which was later adapted as Christmas with the Kranks). A Christmas Special, of all things. A Painted House, a coming-of-age story in Depression-era Arkansas, is another. He also wrote An Innocent Man which is legal nonfiction and the only nonfiction book he has written so far.
- The Big U, a college campus satire novel by none other than Neal Stephenson, science-fiction writer and author of Snow Crash. He does not like the book, and discontinued publishing for a while. Then people started paying hundreds of dollars for old copies of it, and he had it republished, saying that "the only thing worse than people reading the book was paying that much to read it." To be fair, it was his first novel.
- Edgar Allan Poe, master of all things gothic and macabre:
- He wrote The Gold Bug, where the main character tries to find Captain Kidd's buried treasure on an island in South Carolina.
- Poe was also the father of detective fiction, with his C. Auguste Dupin appearing a full forty years before Sherlock Holmes in three stories prior to 1845, the very first "detective" stories.
- Of course, while Poe is now best known for his gothic fiction, this by no means makes up the majority of his work, which also includes a remarkable amount of satire and of science fiction.
- This was parodied in a Halloween Episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, where Hilda and Zelda invite him over to the house in the hopes of hearing a scary story. He ends up reading poetry full of "rainbows and sparkles".
- Elmore Leonard's short novel Touch seems glaringly out of place as a supernatural thriller compared with the rest of his collection of crime novels.
- Ian Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me was the only James Bond novel written from a woman's point of view. Probably why he didn't like it and put in the film deal that an adaptation of that book should be In-Name-Only. Ian Fleming also wrote the children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (The film version was scripted by Roald Dahl.)
- Comic novelist Kingsley Amis (using the pseudonym "Robert Markham") wrote Colonel Sun, the first James Bond novel published after Ian Fleming's death.
- Roald Dahl, world famous for his children's novels, also wrote My Uncle Oswald, an erotic soft core satire. Exactly why becomes more clear when one learns that he was an inveterate womanizer. One of his jobs in World War II actually required him to seduce well-connected American women into political compliance.
- Joanna Russ, one of the angriest feminist science fiction writers ever, wrote a children's book (Kittatinny).
- Roger Zelazny is primarily known for writing science fiction and fantasy, but he also co-wrote (with Gerald Hausman) the novel Wilderness, a straightforward story of frontier survival.
- James Patterson is so well known for writing thrillers that when he wrote Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, a romance novel, the television commercial even lampshaded the trope by saying "By James Patterson. Yes, James Patterson."
- H.P. Lovecraft wrote a comic short story Sweet Ermengarde, a parody of romantic melodrama.
- Robert W. Chambers, the author of the supremely creepy ''The Repairer of Reputations'' and ''The Yellow Sign,'' mostly wrote light, fluffy romantic comedy stories. A reader looking for more weirdness is likely to be very disappointed.
- Orson Scott Card, writer of Ender's Game and other science fiction and fantasy stories, also wrote a series of soap-opera-ish stories about women in the Bible.
- Stephen Donaldson is famous for writing speculative fiction: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Mordant's Need, The Gap Cycle. He is not at all famous for his series of detective novels entitled The Man Who [did something]. (Interestingly, he's in the habit of writing a new detective story after completing a series of fantasy novels: it seems to be how he winds down.)
- Suspense novelist Dean R. Koontz surprised his fan base with an uplifting but dark illustrated children's book called "Oddkins" in 1989. He then followed it with the illustrated kids' Christmas books "Santa's Twin," and its sequel "Robot Santa," though those were much more comedic in tone.
- After writing the novels Bombardiers, a novel about Wall Street greed; and The First 20 Million Is Always the Hardest, which is about Silicon Valley; Po Bronson wrote The Nudist on the Late Shift, a non-fiction book that was also about Silicon Valley. Then he wrote What Should I Do With My Life? and had this to say:
My last three books were set in the world of business, and suddenly I'm writing about bodyworkers and high lamas? What's my dad going to think? Will the Wall Street Journal ever talk to me again?
- Steve Martini started off writing courtroom dramas with twist endings. His series character suddenly found himself thrust into the world of international assassins and intrigue and has stopped a few weapons of mass destruction.
- Robin McKinley, who usually writes YA fairy tale retellings, also wrote Sunshine, an urban fantasy book for adults.
- Agatha Christie is mostly known for Mystery Fiction. But also wrote tales of occult and supernatural horror (The Hound of Death, The Fourth Man, etc), autobiographical novels with tragic elements (Unfinished Portrait, Absent in the Spring, etc), and religious stories with Christian themes (Star Over Bethlehem, Promotion in the Highest, etc).
- Robert E. Howard is mostly known for Heroic Fantasy tales. But also wrote several Westerns, "spicy tales" (adventures with implied sexual content), and a few comedies.
- Norwegian Wood, a gentle, tragic coming of age tale, is this for Japanese surrealist author Haruki Murakami. His work is usually compared to Philip K. Dick.
- P.D. James, a famous British crime writer, also wrote The Children of Men, a dystopian novel.
- David Gemmell, one of the premier writers of Heroic Fantasy, wrote a Thriller named White Knight, Black Swan under the pseudonym Ross Harding, to avoid leading readers to expect another Heroic Fantasy.
- China Miéville is well-known for his Steam Punk, sci-fi, and Urban Fantasy which is why The City & the City leaves such a strong impression on the reader. The Reveal, which does in the wizard, is that the whole plot has nothing do to with magic, but was driven by a Mega Corp that used citizens' Selective Obliviousness for their own ends.
- Stephen King is perhaps the most prolific and famous horror author of all time, but he has occasionally branched into other genres.
- Two of his most famous departures are Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Interestingly, both stories are heartwarming tearjerkers about men wrongfully convicted of murder, and both were made into movies (by the same director) considered among the best ever made.
- King also committed multiple counts of genre adultery with The Colorado Kid: Though it was part of the initial launch of "Hard Case Books" — a series in which successful writers depart their usual genres to write hard-bitten noir — King departed from that as well. The story is a mystery but there are no noir elements and the mystery remains unsolved at the end.
- And then there's his various non-fiction books, like On Writing, a how-to for up-and-coming authors that also serves as a sort of autobiography, and Faithful, about a season in the life of a Boston Red Sox fan that had a far happier ending than anyone could've anticipated when the project began.
- Stephen King commits genre adultery so often one has to wonder when he'll be considered just "general fiction". While there's a dark element to almost all his works, few of them fall squarely in "horror". The Stand is post-apocalyptic epic fantasy, The Dark Tower is epic fantasy, all the novellas collected in Different Seasons are straight dramas with no (or few) supernatural elements, The Dead Zone is sentimental drama, Firestarter is a semi-sci-fi thriller, Dolores Claiborne is about an abused woman, one could go on and on.
- Val McDermid, well-known for her crime novels in which violence, torture and murder is often described in disturbing detail, has also written a cutesy children's picture book called My Granny is a Pirate.
- Jack London is famous for his adventure stories set in the 19th century American West. He also wrote The Iron Heel, which is about the rise of an oligarchic regime in the United States and is often called the earliest of modern dystopias.
- He also wrote "The Star Rover" about a man who astral travels into several previous lives.
- Jane Austen was known for her "light and bright and sparkling" romantic comedies about wealthy girls marrying wealthier men while dealing with pompous, annoying relatives and rivals during their courtship. Mansfield Park is basically a case study in child abuse, depicting how the psychological trauma the heroine has endured courtesy of her wicked aunt for eight years has made her grow up into an Extreme Doormat and Shrinking Violet who believes she has no right to be happy. Unsurprisingly, whether justly or not, it's her least popular novel.
- Science Fiction author Stanisław Lem also wrote Hospital of the Transfiguration, a semi-autobiographical novel about a Polish doctor trying to survive the Nazi occupation of his (and Lem's) homeland. (This will frequently be found in the "Science Fiction" sections of libraries and bookstores, despite containing no sci-fi elements whatsoever.)
- Jim Butcher was quite successful with The Dresden Files when all of sudden, he released Furies of Calderon, a huge departure from his typical hard-boiled, first-person magic detective stories. The idea came from a bet where he would take two bad ideas and write a successful story about them, and was given The Lost Roman Legion and Pokemon. With the series The Cinder Spires he has also begun writing Steam Punk.
- After becoming famous for Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling hasn't returned to fantasy since, writing first general fiction and then mystery thrillers.
- Neil Young had made his name in the 70s as musician with roots in folk-rock and blues, but when he signed with Geffen Records in 1982, he released Trans (a synthsizer-based album) followed in the same year by Everybody's Rockin' (a rockabilly album). He was ready to release Old Ways (a country album) before Geffen actually filed a lawsuit against him for making music "unrepresentative" of his previous work.
- LIGHTS, a Canadian Synth Pop artist released and acoustic EP with re-workings of some of her previous songs, as well as a brand new song and a light re-imagining of an old punk song.
- Remain in Light by Talking Heads.
- Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys.
- Pinkerton by Weezer. Might be a bit premature, as the band hasn't broke up yet.
- The Rolling Stones album Their Satanic Majesties Request. Despite the title it is surprisingly psychedelic. It has since become their most polarising release.
- Elvis Costello's The Juliet Letters. This was a collection of songs based on letters written to Juliet (who's considered to be a help to the lovelorn). The album was done as a collaboration with the Brodsky String Quartet who had much more collaboration into the writing process than was usual on an Elvis Costello album.
- The Queen album Hot Space is full of disco songs, a departure from their usual rock music. After Hot Space they never touched disco again.
- The Melvins have had several album-length left turns, but possibly the most surprising is The Bootlicker: while their sound usually involves sludgy walls of feedback, this album features absolutely no guitar distortion. The actual content doesn't get any lighter and softer, but the arrangements bring to mind Tom Waits and Krautrock more than they do grunge or stoner metal. Freak Puke by Melvins Lite is probably the closest they've come to returning to this sound - that album did prominently distorted guitars; However, with Trevor Dunn sitting in on standup bass and Dale Crover restricted to playing his drums with brushes, it also emphasized the more jazzy and experimental elements of their sound.
- The Butthole Surfers' Weird Revolution, which is much more electronica-influenced than anything they'd previously done. It may have been an attempt to roll with their popular Black Sheep Hit "Pepper", although it was actually preceded by a couple of electronic-based soundtrack contributions, along with the similar but much more experimental After The Astronaut, which got shelved after promo copies got scathing reviews.
- Brian Eno noted that he wanted the first reaction of U2 fans who bought Achtung Baby to think that either their stereos were broken or that they accidentally purchased the wrong album.
- Although it was recorded as a joke, Anal Cunt's Picnic Of Love is a complete inversion of their trademark style: instead of short grindcore songs with Black Comedy lyrics and song titles, it consists of 2-3 minute acoustic ballads sung in falsetto, with titles like "I'd Love To Have Your Daughter's Hand In Marriage".
- KISS had the disco album Dynasty. Part of the reason for the violent backlash against disco was that this happened with so many artists that it began to appear that disco would engulf everything.
- Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats was a country album, which used veteran country session musicians as a backing band. Though they'd had the odd country-influenced song before and since, it was still a pretty unexpected turn, especially because they generally played it straight (well, aside from "Piss Up A Rope" and "Mr. Richard Smoker" anyway).
- "Anniversary" by Voltaire is a straight love song, with no references to death, goths, evil, or Sci-Fi shows. His later country album may also count. The musical style is different, but the subjects of the songs are his usual fare.
- Joy Electric is Synth Pop, as the name implies. He dropped the "synth" half on the album Unelectric and recorded acoustic arrangements of prior songs. And he dropped the "pop" half for The Tick Tock Companion, which featured completely improvised, ambient synth jamming.
- Pete Shelley, frontman of the punk group Buzzcocks, was regarded by fans as having invoked this trope in 1981 with the synthpop album Homosapien.
- Most Pat Benatar albums are album-oriented rock and roll... except True Love, which is jump blues.
- Alice in Chains' Sap and Jar Of Flies EPs. The albums surrounding them can best be described as grunge metal, but these eps are acoustic alternative rock.
- Country Music singer Alan Jackson did a very blues-pop oriented album, Like Red on a Rose, in 2006. It was also the only album on which he did not work with producer Keith Stegall, instead choosing bluegrass pioneer Alison Krauss. Also, despite having written maybe 75% of his own songs, his only contribution as a writer on Like Red on a Rose was "A Woman's Love", a re-recording of a track from his 1999 album High Mileage.
- This is what launched Ludwig Von Beethoven's fame, for when got deaf, he moved out of his classical style and shifted music towards the romantic period.
- Attention Please by Boris is a dance rock album that sounds nothing like their usual metal/hardcore/noise oriented albums.
- Country legend Buck Owens had already displayed a lot of non-country influences in his music by 1969, but that year he released two singles that were much more rock than country: "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass", which featured fuzztone guitar and harpsichord (!) as lead instruments, and a live cover of "Johnny B. Goode" that would've put most garage bands to shame. However, he was a big enough star that they still managed to become #1 country hits.
- Owens received some backlash from longtime fans for those two records, plus a bluegrass/gospel cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," due to a pledge he signed several years earlier stating he would never record a song he didn't consider a country song. Owens defended his choice of music, noting that he said he would not record in a pop-country vein, not record rockabilly or bluegrass (forms of country music).
- That stated, from about the mid-1970s to early 1980s, in part due to massive grief over the death of his best friend, Don Rich, in a tragic accident in 1974, an apathetic Owens began recording pop country. While the music itself isn't bad, it also did not represent Owens at his best, something he has admitted. It wasn't until the late 1980s, when he had a brief comeback with Dwight Yoakam on "Streets of Bakersfield", that he began to record in his classic styles and made vintage Buck Owens music.
- The Carpenters — Richard and Karen — were best known for soft rock in the early-to-mid 1970s, but in 1978, released a ditty called "Sweet, Sweet Smile" ... which became a top 10 country hit! (Additionally, their 1981 single, "Touch Me When We're Dancing" was covered by Alabama and became a No. 1 hit for the group in 1986.
- WASP had Kill Fuck Die, their industrial metal album. The song-writing itself wasn't actually that far removed from the band's previous few albums, just a bit angrier, but the production turned it into something totally unlike anything else the band has recorded before or since. Whether or not that's a good thing is highly dependent on who you ask.
- Diary of Dreams is normally dark wave, but The Anatomy of Silence is entirely acoustic neoclassical songs.
- An unusual case: country star Charley Pride recording the disco-flavored Dallas Cowboys theme song in 1979.
- Happy hardcore act Dune released two albums of orchestral ballads; Forever and Forever and Ever.
- Justified with alt-rockers Eels with Cold Dead Hand. In this instance, they teamed up (as the Clutterbusters) with Jim Carrey (Lonesome Earl) to record a Country Music-style satirical piece on gun politics. For good measure, the band members dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon and Mahatma Gandhi - peace advocates who were all shot dead.
- In The Life Of Chris Gaines, a rock album by Garth Brooks under the fictional identity of Chris Gaines, an Australian rocker. Brooks originally planned to play Gaines in a film, which never materialized, so fans simply thought he'd lost his mind.
- In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy an album of metal and hard rock covers by family-friendly Pat Boone.
- John Lennon, member of the most commercially succesful rock band of all time, started a solo career in 1968. His first three albums were literally everything but commercial. They are all extreme Avant-garde Music: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions and Wedding Album. Needless to say, many people across the world were surprised!
- Rocker Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, a double-album of proto-noise music consisting entirely of guitar feedback. It was a long-standing assumption that the album was a Take That! at his record label to get out of his contract. However, Reed later admitted that he'd been completely serious about the album and also on a lot of drugs.
- Frank Zappa's album Cruising With Ruben And The Jets was considered an unusual departure in his oeuvre. The album contains no pointed political Satire, no Bawdy Song material, no sudden musical experimentations, no clashing of different musical genres, but is just an honest, straight faced Homage/Pastiche to the Doowop bands he adored. For his fans this was a huge Audience-Alienating Premise.
- 99% of Santana's songs are Latin-infused rock of some kind with some glimpses of other popular genres....except the song "America" off of Shaman, which is, of all things, Nu Metal, thanks to being performed with and written by P.O.D.
- Navigatoria, Akiko Shikata's not-quite-first album was much more pop-rock oriented (and more uncluttered instrumentally) than her later, or even earlier works (Midori no Mori de Nemuru Tori and Haikyō to Rakuen namely). The songs mostly use electric drums, bass, solo violins and folk guitars, flutes are absent, and there are even saxophones in one song (La Corolle). In her other ablums she's rather prone to use traditional percussions, a variety of strings, flutes, and a lot of multi-tracking.
- Tech N9ne is known for his incredibly fast, infinitely creative brand of Hip-Hop and all of his output reflects that, except one: The Therapy EP, which changes his style to loud and abrasive Nu Metal. This is due to it being produced by Ross Robinson.
- Metallica was accused of this once "Fade to Black" was partly acoustic. Then came actual ballads "Nothing Else Matters" and "The Unforgiven", which opened the way for more on that same vein.
- David Herbert's Tnemrot is a serious manga story, which seems weird, since Living With Insanity is all about craziness and T&A.