10 Music Stars You Never Knew Are Actually Geniuses

When we say that a musician is a genius, we normally mean that their songwriting abilities are beyond compare. Maybe they can do things on the guitar that look so complicated that they seem inhuman, or they can hit notes that no-one has ever been able to hit before or since.

With that said, there are musicians out there who are geniuses in the traditional sense: people with engineering degrees, members of MENSA, musicians who balanced going on tour with handing in their doctoral thesis. Some are surprising, some start to make sense the more you think about it, but either way we’re counting down the top 10 music stars you’d never know are actually geniuses.

10. Ke$ha

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Out of all of the pop stars that you would expect to be secretly a genius, Ke$ha probably wouldn’t be at the top of the list. However, despite her being famous mostly for vapid songs about alcohol and partying, she’s actually one of the most intelligent people in the pop world.

As well as getting a near-perfect score on her SATs, she was offered full scholarships to a bunch of super prestigious colleges, including Barnard College. She was all set for an incredible academic career, but decided to drop out and become a pop star instead.

9. Tom Scholz – Boston

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Most people become stars when they’re young, which means whatever point in education they are at, their school or college tends to take a backseat. With that said, Tom Scholz had already completed a Master’s degree by the time he founded his band Boston, which helped him out in more ways than he expected.

Because his MA was in mathematical engineering, he had the skills to found his own music technology company, and even design and build his own amps from scratch. The amp he designed is still sold by Dunlop today, and each one still comes with his signature designed into it.

8. Simon & Garfunkel

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Like bread and butter or chocolate and strawberries, Simon and Garfunkel are two musicians who obviously belong together. They’ve been an iconic duo for decades (even after their acrimonious 1970 breakup) but both their lives nearly looked very different, mostly because of how smart they were.

The two started writing and performing together when they were only aged 11, and continued to right into their teens. College made them split up though, with one getting a degree in art history and a Master’s in mathematics before returning to music, and the other getting an English degree and attending law school.

7. Shakira

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Though there are a lot of candidates, there’s a pretty good chance that Shakira is the most intelligent pop star out there. For starters, she has a reported IQ of 140, and that’s reflected in the number of languages she knows how to speak.

She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, but that’s not all. She can also speak French, Italian, Catalan, and Arabic, and used those skills to get a degree in the history of western civilisation at UCLA.

6. Dexter Holland – The Offspring

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Credit: Pixel Focus via Wikimedia Commons

A lot of bands deal with philosophical themes and highbrow topics in their music, but The Offspring aren’t exactly one of those groups. Their music mostly talks about things like high school, skateboarding and girls – which is surprising when you realise how intelligent the lead singer is.

The co-founder and frontman actually graduated high school as valedictorian, and went on to study both an undergraduate degree in biology and a Master’s in molecular biology. He was even planning on studying a doctorate before his band took off, which he recently completed as well as becoming a licensed aircraft pilot.

5. Greg Graffin – Bad Religion

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Credit: Stefan Brending via Wikimedia Commons

Being the frontman of a rock band is a pretty demanding job, which is why most rockstars don’t tend to have a whole other career on the side. That’s not always true though, as Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin doesn’t just have one other side hustle, but several.

He’s written three in-depth academic texts, scripted the pilot for a TV show, and even teaches at university in between touring. All this revolves around his PhD in zoology that was achieved after an undergraduate and Master’s in geology, which he studied for after forming his band at the age of 15.

4. Madonna

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It’s so common for musicians to be eccentric or weird that it’s basically a cliche at this point, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Madonna was regarded as the weird kid at her school. However, what might surprise you is how smart she was.

She was top of her class all the way through high school, with a grade point average that was miles above that of her classmates. She also has an IQ of 140, which explains the determination she had to become a successful and industry-revolutionising star.

3. Tom Morello – Rage Against the Machine

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There are some bands you don’t expect to harbour genius, but there are some cases where it kind of makes sense. Rage Against the Machine are one of the most famously politically engaged musical acts out there, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that their lead singer is politically plugged in.

Morello has a Master’s degree in political science from Harvard University, which is kind of as legitimate as you can get. He uses his degree to protest censorship and fascism wherever he finds it, in between touring and writing of course.

2. Brian May – Queen

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Brian May is mostly known for being the lovable grandad of iconic rock band Queen and, second to that, he’s famous for his incredible mane of bright white hair. With that said, what most people don’t know about him is that a career in rock and roll was only his second ambition, after becoming an astrophysicist.

May graduated with honours from London’s Imperial College, with a degree in physics and mathematics. After Queen’s success, he used his fame to publish a book all about the scientific history of the universe, as well as going back to school to complete his PhD in Astrophysics. As for the title, it was called ‘A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud’ – pretty rock and roll, right?

1. Annie Lennox – Eurythmics

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Most of the artists on this list are geniuses because outside of their careers in music, they’re also experts in another equally difficult field. Annie Lennox is different because her genius manifests in her musical ability, which qualifies her for genius status all by itself.

Lennox was accepted into the Royal College of Music, the most prestigious musical institution in the world, and studied there to perfect her flute, piano and harpsichord for three years. She graduated with one of the most thorough music educations you can get, before going on to become half of the hit music duo Eurythmics.