Some singers were born with names that were simply made for the stage. I’m talking about the Beyoncés, the Rihannas, the Biebers. But for the rest of Hollywood, choosing the perfect title is as much about personal style as it is about effective branding. Some celebrities go the “memorable” route (try Katy Perry), whereas others are just trying to cause as much controversy as possible with their stage names. The ability to rename themselves can allow singers to share a piece of who they are. 3OH!3 hails from Boulder, Colo., where the area code is 303. Halsey is an anagram of her first name, Ashley, as well as the name of a subway stop in Brooklyn. But some singers get a little more complex.
There are the names that are hard to pronounce. SZA, whom I have an enormous crush on, takes her stage name from “Savior, Zig-Zag, Allah,” as well as from derivatizing RZA, one of her influences. SZA is pronounced like “sizzah.” Another of my favorites, Danish electropop singer MØ, has her English-speaking interviewers at a total loss. Danish for “maiden,” the word “mø” isn’t exactly in the repertoire of English sounds; I would most closely describe it as how the French teach their children the cow noise: “meuh.”
Other artists have regrets. The Chainsmokers said in an interview, “If we had known we were gonna be this big we probably would have named ourselves something else.” The duo claimed that in their beginning, they had a show one night and simply scrambled to call themselves something at all. They also have alleged that they don’t actually like smoking cigarettes, but unfortunately for them, the name stuck.
Some have taken a different approach all together. Rapper XXXTENTACION might have one of the most bizarre aliases out there right now. His name is two-part: “Tentación” is Spanish for temptation, and he says the X is supposed to represent the unknown. I’ll do the math for you: Together it’s “unknown temptation.” When asked as to why he chose three X’s, the performer replied, “Um I don’t really know to be honest.”
Alternatively, or thankfully, some artists kept it simple. I like Drake, who uses his middle name, because it cuts right to the chase. Also, maybe because “Aubrey” doesn’t really scream “rapper.” 21 Savage is also pretty straight forward… He’s telling us that he was a total savage at the age of 21. Okay, maybe this is sort of legit because he’s referring to the fact that he was shot six times on his 21st birthday.
Last but not least, there are the singers who wouldn’t let you forget their names. I’m sure we all remember that familiar intro, “J-J-J-JASON DERULOOOO.“ Thankfully, this trend of shouting your name at the beginning of the song seems to have died out; maybe producers decided that Americans had evolved enough to Google songs. It’s hard to say. All I can say is that luckily I am tone deaf, so I won’t ever have to stress about what my stage name would be.