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Song Style Shift
"You see, we never ever do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough. So we're gonna take the beginning of this song and do it easy. Then we're gonna do the finish rough."
Tina Turner, spoken intro to "Proud Mary"

You're listening to a song on your media source of choice. You're grooving along to the beat and you get to a point where it sounds like you are going to get a Big Rock Ending or a Truck Driver's Gear Change.

Not so fast! Instead, the music changes almost completely. It gets faster and more aggressive. As if someone rewrote the song in a different style and pasted that part into the middle of the recording.

If done well, it can result in some Crowning Music Of Awesome. Bear in mind that this is ostensibly the same song, rather than a segue (one song, leading to another) or a medley (parts of different songs put together).

See also Mood Whiplash.


  • The Trope Codifier: Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird", shifting from mournful Southern Rock ballad to pure Guitar Attack rock.
  • Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run" is composed of three quite different sections.
    • "Uncle Albert" goes from a dreamy slow pace, to a lively horn-based singalong, to a fast-paced groove.
    • "Live And Let Die" has the format of a ballad, then an orchestra, then a reggae verse, then back to the orchestra, then back to the ballad, then back to the orchestra AGAIN.
    • "You Never Give Me Your Money" is much the same.
    • Speaking of The Beatles, "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", written by John Lennon, switches styles and moods radically at least three times, arguably more.
  • Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight", after the EPIC DRUM BREAK, goes from slow, dark pop song to faster pop/rock.
  • Sly And The Family Stone's "Stand"
  • Metallica's "One". Let Beavis And Butthead show you what we mean.
    • Also, "Fade to Black".
  • Santana's version of "Black Magic Woman" speeds up for an epic instrumental outro.
  • Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" speeds up into a coda called "Get Away" (usually left off on most radio edits).
  • Country music band Alabama shift two of their singles this way: "Dixieland Delight" and "Mountain Music", with both going from mid-tempo to fast-paced bluegrass-influenced instrumentation. The former also uses a Truck Driver's Gear Change.
  • "Dance Yrslf Clean" by LCD Soundsystem.
  • Derek and the Dominoes' "Layla" goes the other way: It's a fast-paced guitar-driven rock song, which suddenly shifts into a Linda Ronstadt piano piece.
  • Doctor Steel's "Childhood (Don't) A-Go-Go" has a major shift halfway through, abruptly going from hard-driving punk to a melancholy waltz.
    • It's somewhat explained in the music video (the punk part was from a wind-up music toy).
  • Prog Rock is full of these, particularly acts with "chapter"-structured songs. Rush's 2112 is a prime example.
  • Ike and Tina Turner's version of CCR's "Proud Mary".
  • Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" starts off as a mournful apology song, but after a long guitar solo turns into something faster-paced and more whimsical.
  • Mötley Crüe's "Wild Side" is an inversion.
  • Starflyer 59's "Who Says It's Easy?" starts as a fast (and for Sf59, relatively upbeat) pop-rock song, then slows down to a moody space-rock finish.
  • Richard Swift's "Buildings in America" starts off poppy, then turns industrial after the second chorus.
  • At the three-minute mark of Linkin Park's "And One", the song switches from the brand of nu-metal they became famous for to a musically and lyrically strange hip-hop section.
  • Led Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away" start out as an acoustic guitar folk ballad, and then it abruptly transitions into a faced-paced hard rock tune (with the acoustic guitar providing the rhythm), and then slows down into an echo-y finish.
    • Hell, this IS Led Zeppelin's MO. "Kashmir," "Stairway," and even "Black Dog" are this trope. Basically, if it's by Zeppelin and over 3 minutes long, this will happen.
  • "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby, Stills & Nash can be split into four distinct parts: the "I am yours, you are mine" part; the slower "what have you got to lose" part; the "SPAAA-rrow" part; and finally, the faster "do do do do do" conclusion.
  • "The Nameless" by Slipknot is a prime example of this. It starts aggressive and hard then switches into an almost pop-like chorus then switches back and builds up until the final chorus retains the melody but is much harder. Its jarring but fits the story of the song as its about the cycles of a dysfunctional relationship.
  • Pantera's "Cemetery Gates" starts out with an acoustic guitar, then shifts into an aggressive heavy metal tune.
  • "Frozen" by River of Guilt goes from a straight-forward groove metal song to a Proggy solo section that finishes off the song.
  • Pulp's "Like A Friend".
  • Styx were very fond of this trope. "Suite Madame Blue," "Come Sail Away" and "Queen of Spades" start out as a soft ballads before dramatically transitioning into a full blown hard rock tunes partway through.
  • The Dingees' "Blackout!" starts off with echo-y drums and a jazzy flute solo before it turns into a pop-punk song. "Smoke Signals" is a very funky reggae song for most of its duration, then about two minutes before the end, a bunch of synthesizers wash over the song, and the whole rhythm section gets simultaneously louder and fuzzed-out.
  • A lot of hard rock and metal songs have slow, melodic intros, often with unusual instrumentation. Examples: Metallica's "Battery", Avenged Sevenfold's "Afterlife" and "Critical Acclaim", Megadeth's "My Last Words" or Disturbed's "Another Way to Die".
  • Sublime's "Seed" rotates from being punk to reggea to ska throughout the song.
  • The Guess Who's "American Woman" - a slow one-and-a-half minute intro followed by a slightly harder second part. The intro is commonly edited out for radio airplay.
  • The refrain of "Should I Be Sweet" shifts repeatedly between "sweet" and "hot" styles with just about every other line.
  • In Vain's October's Monody takes this trope and runs with it. Recklessly. Starting with a standard metal acoustic intro, it seems to be a Hammond organ based post-black metal song at first. Suddenly, and "like a thief in the night", it drops the post—hard, launching into an old-school blast beat section. Okay, you say, so we're settling into a back and forth between Hammond organs and black metal. Until In Vain drive a truckload of blues into the song.
  • In EarthBound, Porky's battle theme ("Cease to Exist", more popularly known as "Pokey Means Business") starts off as an almost whimsical-sounding 8-bit boss tune, then suddenly shifts into much more aggressive hard rock/metal about a minute into the song.
  • Iwrestledabearonce is pretty notorious for this, for example throwing a random hoedown into You Ain't No Family or the strange electronic interlude in Tastes Like Kevin Bacon.
  • "Religion Song (Put Away The Gun)" by Everything Else starts with a gentle string section, then goes to a church song, then to a rock song, then to spoken word, then back to the church song.
  • One of the more noticable differences between pre-Aramary and post-Aramary Sound Horizon is that, besides getting significantly longer, songs have taken to shifting gears or even musical genres in the middle of them.
  • Frank Zappa was very fond of this. "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" packs about 20 different sections into 7 1/2 minutes, with tempos including "Slow shuffle", "Corny Swing", "Tempo di Cocktail Lounge", "Tempo di Beach Boys" and "No Tempo With Random Keyboard Effects" before ending on a "Fraudulent Dramatic Section".
  • "Rocket Queen" by Guns N' Roses starts as standard Appetite for Destruction song (fast, distorted guitars and dirty, dirty lyrics) before changing tempo and moving into a Power Ballad-ish love song in the final 2-and-a-half minutes of the song with a suitably epic Big Rock Ending.
  • Mr Bungle built their entire career around switching from metal to funk to jazz to swing to crooning and back again within the same song.
  • Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" goes from happy, jangly pop to an uptempo rock style reminiscent of a Broadway show number.
  • Sometimes, at the end of "Head Over Heels" by Tears For Fears, you'll hear a fast-paced instrumental jam known as "Broken".
  • "Body Shot" by Electric Six spends most of it's run-time as a straightforward uptempo disco-rock hybrid - then for the final minute the tempo slows down and it becomes dub-reggae.
  • Weezer's six minute "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)", which seems to be inspired by "Bohemian Rhapsody". It starts out with classical piano, suddenly shifts into Rap Rock, and there are about 10 other change-ups in style and tempo from there.
  • Green Day's American Idiot album contains the two nine-minute tracks "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Homecoming".
    • "Jesus of Suburbia" goes from a windmilled, power-chord hard-rock first act ("Jesus of Suburbia") to a wave-your-lighter-in-the-air stadium ballad ("City of the Damned") to a hardcore, dissonant punk sound ("I Don't Care") to a quiet acoustic, almost country-Western ditty ("Dearly Beloved") to a bassline-driven, "Ring of Fire"-inspired, hard rock finale ("Tales from Another Broken Home")—which is interrupted by a soft piano interlude.
    • "Homecoming" goes from a melancholy, mournful vocal opener to a pounding, beat-driven hard rock number ("The Death of St. Jimmy"), to faster, more dissonant punk intermingled with percussive acoustic guitar ("East 12th St.") to a slow, singsong, acoustic self-pity ballad ("Nobody Likes You") to a rollicking autobiography of drummer Trè Cool ("Rock and Roll Girlfriend")—complete with jazz piano and saxophone—to the lighter-in-the-air, marching-band tempo, funereal closer ("We're Coming Home Again").
  • A more recent popular example: "We Are Young" by fun. It's a fast-paced low-key song for the first 50 seconds, but it then kicks into "TONIIIIIIIIGHT...."
  • Older Than They Think - J.S. Bach used Song Style Shift in the 18th century.
    • Unique among J.S. Bach's organ fugues, the Fugue in E-flat Major shifts between three themes with radically different characters and styles while maintaining the fugue's underlying melody, which appears several times throughout the whole work.
    • Another Bach piece with a Song Style Shift is the cantata Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen (BWV 66), specifically the fourth movement. Bei Jesu Leben freudig sein. This movement is technically a recitative, but it actually shifts styles two times. The movement starts out as a solo recitative. The first time it shifts, the movement turns into an interesting and unique duet (see the Let's Duet page for more details). The second time the movement shifts styles is directly after the duet; the movement shifts back to a recitative format, only now it is a dialogue between the two duetters.
    • The cantata Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (BWV 21) is practically made of this trope. Almost every movement has some sort of Song Style Shift, and they all help make this cantata one of Bach's highest quality works.
    • Bach's Mass in B minor also has many movements with Song Style Shifts. One quite jarring example is from "Gloria in excelsis deo", in which the loud, epic chorus transitions to a slow, soft one before gradually becoming as loud as it was at the start of the movement.
    • Another example from Bach's works is the 2nd movement of Christ lag in Todes Banden (BWV 4). Each movement of the cantata ends with a "Hallelujah!". The "Hallelujah" from the second movement is in a different style than the rest of this movement.
  • Willie Nelson and Aerosmith's duet "One Time Too Many" is first done as a country ballad, then as an uptempo rock song.
  • Autechre: "Augmatic Disport" is a generatively sequenced glitchfest for most of its 9 minutes, but turns into an orthodox ambient breaks number in its last two minutes.
  • Miracle Of Sound's BioShock Infinite-inspired song "Dream of The Sky" goes from faux-Christian hymn about the game's city in the sky and White Man's Burden, to a soul music anthem of rebellion that sounds like it could be sung by a prison Chain Gang, to an Irish folk song about the opression of that minority within the city, back to the hymn for the chorus, to an oddball section about quantum physics, and finally to a Lonely Piano Piece that serves as a Call Back to his song for the first BioShock 1 game. All of that in one song!
  • Deep Purple's "Child in Time" starts with an organ solo, which is followed by a low-key ballad part, which gets more intense, seguing into the guitar solo, then cycles back to the ballad, and ends with a chaotic Big Rock Ending.
  • Very common in old Tin Pan Alley songs, which would have an introductory verse that sounded nothing like the rest of the song.
    • Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" uses this technique in a more modern setting.
  • "In The End" off of Fly By Night by Rush. The first half takes things nice and slow, and then, BAM, Alex Lifeson out of nowhere.
  • "I Wonder" and "Holyman" by Blind Melon.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's Bedrock Anthem parodies two very different songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers. The opening riffs the slow "Under the Bridge", then the rest of the song riffs the fast-paced "Give It Away".
  • "Shangri-La" by The Kinks is soft enough to be a lullaby, albeit a very sardonic one. Then it picks up a lot of speed and volume before the end.
  • Zedd's "Hourglass" starts off as a drumbeat-heavy pop rock song with a ticking clock and then switches midway through to progressive house.
  • Live's "Lightning Crashes" starts off as a quiet electric guitar theme then slowly adds more drums and guitars and turns into a loud, moderately fast-paced alternative rock song.
  • Awolnation's "Knights of Shame" fuses a TON of music styles.
  • Coldplay - once in "42", twice in "Death And All His Friends".
  • "Home Sweet Home" by country group The Farm does an Alabama-esque shift into a faster-paced bluegrass coda at the end.
  • Most of The Who song "Baba O'Riley" is standard hard rock, but the coda of the song changes into a fast-paced polka that rapidly builds to a climax.
  • Stereolab's "Mass Riff" starts off as the band's usual style of retro-futuristic Krautrock-inspired pop, then halfway through, it turns into a disco song.
  • Eurobeat Brony's "Luna" changes from Eurobeat to Death Metal at the end to represent Luna's corruption into Nightmare Moon.
  • Eric Church's "Cold One" does this twice. The first verse is laid back with nothing but acoustic guitar and Dobro, and then the rock instrumentation kicks in at the first chorus. Then after the second chorus, the song shifts again to a blistering acoustic guitar solo before returning to the usual tempo.
  • Many country songs with a comedic bent start off slow and drawn-out before revealing the punchline and increasing the tempo. Examples include "Big Deal" by LeAnn Rimes, "Pray for You" by Jaron and the Long Road to Love, and "Brand New Girlfriend" by Steve Holy.
  • "The Cheat Is Not Dead" is for the most part a fairly slow-paced ballad - until it breaks into an incredibly upbeat groove for the last 40 seconds.
  • As a Progressive Metal band, Dream Theater is naturally prone to this on occasion. One of the most notable examples, however, is "Ministry of Lost Souls", which is mostly a slow, mournful ballad until it gets to the instrumental section, where it switches to a far more up-tempo triplet feel. The jury is still out as to whether the song benefits from this.
    • Even more striking is "Illumination Theory", which for the most part is stylistically fairly normal for the band. Then comes the middle section, where the music rather abruptly transitions into a drawn-out ambient soundscape, followed by an equally long orchestral section... then hits you square in the face with the return of the song proper.
  • "Born to Be Blue" by the Judds. The first 1:05 is a slow, bluesy piano piece, then the guitars and drums kick in and the tempo increases.
  • Gordon Lightfoot's "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" goes from upbeat to gentle ballad and back again.

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