Before starting this Queen of Pop project, I also shared that seven of these contenders have a legitimate shot at the #1 spot. Six of them made it to the Top 6 (a.k.a. the top seeds). The seventh member didn’t even make it to the Top 10, undeservedly if I may add. Nonetheless, read on to see how the also-rans ranking played out.
Note: This analysis refers ONLY to the period spanning 2000-2013, from the new millennium to the time of writing. No, pre-2000 achievements are not counted here. That’s why it’s called Queen of Pop of “THIS” millennium.
24. Leona Lewis (Total Point = 14.8)
Completely Robin Thicke-d! Back in 2007, Leona was on her way to becoming one of the biggest pop stars. What went wrong? Well, imagine how interesting Mariah Carey would be if she decided to get stuck in the Music Box era and release samey-sounding sappy ballads for the rest of her career—that’s what happened to Leona. Rule #1 that every aspiring pop divas should know by heart: reinvention #AskMadonna
23. Nelly Furtado (Total Point = 16.7)
I’ve always thought that Nelly is an outlier. She’s not a pop diva, but a prolific artist tackling world music bravely. Sure, the 2006’s Loose was a big era for her, but even then the album seems more like a musical tourism—dissecting pop music from an outsider’s viewpoint. Needless to say, once Nelly goes back to her usual style, the public doesn’t get her and loses interest.
22. Madonna (Total Point = 23)
Late-era Madonna is a hit-or-miss. Whatsoever achievement she’s gotten from Confessions on a Dance Floor and Music are quickly followed-up by messy eras like American Life or MDNA, which come to think of it isn’t too bad as it shows that late in her career she’s still taking risks. When your favorite hit the 50s and still have as much success as Madonna currently have, then we’ll talk.
21. Jennifer Lopez (Total Point = 24.7)
Here’s the truth tea: J.Lo is a high-profile celebrity, no doubt about it. But when it comes to music career, even in her prime, she was never a real threat. I think J.Lo makes entertaining feel-good music, but she’s never quite been a trend-setter whose music changes the landscape of pop music. She’s just there.
20. Christina Aguilera (Total Point = 26.7)
Xtina may have always played the second fiddle, but altogether she was an amazing dark horse who could potentially snatch the crown when no one else is looking… if you count out Bionic and Lotus, that is. She needs to stop self-sabotaging her own career. Like, you know, go promo your album. And when you actually go on a promo, be nice and don’t be a PR nightmare by dissing everyone from Lady Gaga to an interviewer who had to cough. I love Xtina and want her to succeed, but she’s really not making it easy.
19. Shakira (Total Point = 27.6)
Latin music don’t usually generate chart-toppers, so genre format limitation dooms Shakira’s chance of winning from the very beginning. Nonetheless, her global success has been nothing short of amazing. And as far as Latin music is concerned, she’s well on her way to becoming a legend.
18. Mariah Carey (Total Point = 27.7)
Mariah had one of pop’s biggest comeback stories with 2005’s Emancipation of Mimi, a very strong era that would obliterate most of the other chicks’ discography. Unfortunately, she gets complacent again with her subsequent studio albums; but to be fair, I don’t think MC even cared about competing with the new pop chicks. She has nothing left to prove, and if we’re judging on the strength of overall career, she’s right up there on Top 2 with Madonna.
17. Avril Lavigne (Total Point = 28.6)
At one point, Avril was a phenomenon that spawned many baby-Avrils giving their own best shot at pop-rock. Ironically, her biggest hit Girlfriend was also the one that ruined her career. Fans who liked her more serious brand of pop-rock music was alienated in favor of general public, but for the general public she’s eternally remembered as the bratty girl who never grows up. Avril is still big worldwide, but she’s clearly fading in US now.
16. Kelly Clarkson (Total Point = 30.6)
Most important reality TV singing star ever. Current pop music’s biggest belter. Primarily pop-rock chick, but skilled at singing circles around any genre. I guess her preferred pop-rock styling is limiting her full potential, as the genre has long become unpopular since mid-2000s and it’s becoming predictable to guess what Kelly’s next album will sound like. Maybe it’s time for her to go back doing something more rootsy like country, soul and blues? You know, stuff she slayed effortlessly during her American Idol days?
15. Miley Cyrus (Total Point = 32.7)
Miley’s ranking is a little premature right now. She just had her biggest era and it hasn’t even finished yet. Had we compile the data after the Bangerz era ended, her ranking will probably be much higher. Successfully shedding her Hannah Montana image, she’s certainly mastered the art of reinvention. To the industry, she’s the rightful heiress to Britney Spears and so far it looks like she can live up to the title.
14. Britney Spears (Total Point = 33.2)
Calling Britney an also-ran is insulting. She’s a pop music icon! She makes a very compelling candidate to be a Madonna for her generation. And obviously, she’s one of the seven contenders whom I earlier said have legitimate chance at #1 spot. Her early dismissal is definitely due to technical limitation and diminishing returns. Clearly, she’s the last remaining artist whose first solo debut comes out before the new millennium (and one of the last few not coming from the post-2005 era).
13. P!nk (Total Point = 33.8)
P!nk has amazing consistency. Her fame may have never reached fever-pitch level, but she’s still selling incredibly well 13 years into her career without ever having flopped (sshh… let’s just pretend Try This never happened). And that’s the reason why she’s doing really well on the ranking.
12. Gwen Stefani (Total Point = 36.1)
I knew Gwen’s score would survive the diminishing return factor and be benefited from having only two solo eras so far, but I didn’t expect her to be so close to Top 10. It’s a pleasant surprise, because I think she’s a truly creative artist whom single-handedly brought diversity and eccentricity into diva-pop music back in mid-2000s. In a way, she was the original Lady Gaga (minus the electropop sound).
11. Carrie Underwood (Total Point = 38.3)
You know what I’d say… yadda yadda country fans yadda yadda loyal buyers. Personally, I think Kelly deserves to rank higher if we’re talking overall success and quality, but this is a US-centric list and Carrie’s sales number in US is undeniably HUGE. Besides, Carrie is a competent country entertainer so I have no qualm of her ranking #11.
10. Alicia Keys (Total Point = 40.7)
Alicia (and R&B music in general) may be declining right now, but she can still fall back on her early successes. Alicia’s main strong point is the numerous Grammy Awards that she has amassed throughout her career. Plus, the figures from her first three albums were quite strong. At some point in time, Alicia was the most respected female mainstream artist in the industry: a smart, beautiful, talented prodigy. I guess her Top 10 position is well-deserved.
9. Ke$ha (Total Point = 44)
Ke$ha is totally underrated! Many people think she’s just a trashy autotune star, but if they actually bother to give Ke$ha a chance they’ll learn how wrong they are. Ke$ha writes some of the world’s catchiest pop hooks without Katy’s blandness and Gaga’s pretentiousness. She’s pure fun! But she can rock some indie credential when needed, ask Flaming Lips! An author from The Atlantic once wrote that Ke$ha is the last great rock stars, and you know what, it made a lot of sense.
8. Fergie (Total Point = 55)
Fergie is the biggest underdog among the contenders. She may be the key reason behind Black Eyed Peas’ success, but her solo career is sort of forgotten by pop music fans nowadays. But numbers don’t lie… Fergie completely slayed the mid-2000s, and when compared to other chicks, she does exceedingly well. We can only wonder how big she would’ve become if she actually pursue her solo career further.
7. Nicki Minaj (Total Point = 55.3)
The most successful female rapper shows up at #7. I’d personally bump her down just a little. In one way, Nicki is an interesting rapper who can command critical respect, but she’d rather flush all her credibility down in order to be real-life Barbie making bubblegum pop music. But credit where credit is due: Her constant flirting with pop music, wacko public persona and killer verses on various featured singles certainly put her on top.
Next week we’ll rank the Top 6. Who do you think should win? Vote below and leave a comment.
All Posts on the King of Pop and Queen of Pop series:
- Introducing the New King of Pop – Part 1: Background
- Introducing the New King of Pop – Part 2: Success
- Introducing the New King of Pop – Part 3: Popularity
- Introducing the New King of Pop – Part 4: Quality
- Introducing the New King of Pop – Part 5: The Also-Rans
- Introducing the New King of Pop – Part 6: The Top Seeds
- Who is the Queen of Pop of This Millennium? Part 1: Background
- Who is the Queen of Pop of This Millennium? Part 2: Success
- Who is the Queen of Pop of This Millennium? Part 3: Popularity
- Who is the Queen of Pop of This Millennium? Part 4: Quality
- Who is the Queen of Pop of This Millennium? Part 5: Also-Rans
- Who is the Queen of Pop of This Millennium? Part 6: Top Seeds