Best artists in pop
While the music industry might be in a perpetual state of disarray, the allure of a successful pop artist has remained more or less constant over the course of decades. But what makes for a successful pop artist? Aside from the obvious qualifier -- i.e. a bevy of chart-topping songs -- great pop artists represent the ideal combination of innate talent and infectious personality. Early examples include Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, both of whom epitomized their respective eras. Presley, in particular, signified a seismic shift toward the importance and power of the youth market. In fact, one might even say the pop star archetype as it’s known today began when Elvis Presley shook his hips on live TV in 1956.
In the time since, each decade has yielded its own legion of musically-inclined pop culture representatives. Like Elvis before them, most of these talents are equal parts performer and celebrity. Of course there are exceptions, especially when entire bands are taken into consideration. Furthermore, artists like Adele tend to keep their everyday exploits out of the limelight. That said, there seems to be a newfound emphasis on the celebrity factor these days, with many pop stars grabbing headlines for pretty much anything but the actual music.
Today, Stacker is listing out the best artists of the modern pop era. To be clear, the modern pop era (as it’s defined for the purpose of this article) starts with the advent of the Billboard “Pop Songs Chart” in 1992. Hence, acts like Michael Jackson, Elvis, or The Beatles won’t be on the list. For the data, Stacker went straight to the source, Billboard, which ranked each artist based on their weekly performance on the “Pop Songs Chart” over the last 25 years. Counting down from #50, here are the best artists in modern pop.
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#50. Nicki Minaj
Originally hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Onika Tanya Maraj -- better known as Nicki Minaj -- was a queen of the underground before bursting onto the mainstream. After signing with Lil Wayne’s label, Cash Money Records, Minaj released her debut album in 2010. Soon after, she became the first female solo artist with seven songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Nowadays, Minaj is still releasing popular music, even if her various beefs are more likely to grab headlines.
#49. Sheryl Crow
Before rocketing to success on the back of her hit single “All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow made a decent living as a writer of jingles for companies like McDonald’s and Toyota. She was one of the biggest names in music by the mid-1990s, with a string of award-winning songs and albums to show for it. Over the course of her career, Crow has tackled various political and environmental causes. Her upcoming (and reportedly final) album will likewise aim to raise awareness on the world’s most pressing issues.
#48. Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding was an in-demand songwriter and rising star in England before landing on the American charts with her hit single “Lights.” Inspired by Goulding’s own preference for sleeping with the lights on, the track was accordingly a sleeper hit. Between her own hit songs, her regular appearances at festivals around the world, and her collaborations with other popular artists, Goulding manages to retain a respectable career -- albeit one that could use another boost.
#47. Hootie & The Blowfish
“Cracked Rear View,” Hootie & the Blowfish’s debut album, was bolstered by no fewer than five hit singles and became one of the best sellers of all time. While the band would never again reach the same heights as it did on that first effort, frontman Darius Rucker did forge a successful career as a popular country star. Rucker continues to release material under his own name, but that doesn’t mean he’s impervious to the occasional band reunion.
OneRepublic dropped the single “Apologize” in 2007 after spending five years on the road and watched it soar up the MySpace charts (when such a thing mattered). But it wasn’t until super-producer Timbaland remixed the same track that the band became a worldwide sensation. Of course, the best was yet to come for OneRepublic. The band released the song “Counting Stars” in 2013; to date, the smash hit single has generated more than 2.4 billion hits on YouTube.
#45. Ariana Grande
The prime example of a modern-day pop phenom, Ariana Grande has been performing on stage since childhood. After starring in Nickelodeon shows “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat," the multi-talented star segued into a resoundingly successful music career. As impressive as her songs might be, however, Grande has become a true master of social media. She boasts 128 million followers on her Instagram feed alone.
#44. No Doubt
After struggling for years, California-based ska band No Doubt exploded onto the world stage with its 1995 album “Tragic Kingdom." Featured on the album were hit songs like “Just a Girl” and “Don’t Speak." Several popular songs and albums followed before lead singer Gwen Stefani launched her own successful solo career in 2004. To this day, No Doubt fans are clamoring for a reunion. Original bassist Tony Kanal thinks it will happen, but Stefani doesn’t seem to be in any rush.
#43. Enrique Iglesias
Often described as the “King of Latin Pop," Enrique Iglesias has achieved the career even the most accomplished pop stars aspire to. The award-winning singer has sold more than 170 albums and singles to date and earned more than 14 billion streams. While no longer the stateside chart-topper he once was, Iglesias keeps a consistent presence on the Billboard Latin Airplay chart.
#42. The Weeknd
His name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, but audiences know him best as The Weeknd. A true modern-day success story, the Canadian-born artist kicked off his career by uploading a handful of anonymous videos to YouTube that reaped all the right kinds of attention. The Weeknd has since generated a massive fan base that can't get enough of the performer's emotional lyrics, falsetto voice, and propulsive beats. He’s also become quite the savvy entrepreneur.
#41. Boyz II Men
This R&B vocal quartet (now a trio) was among the most omnipresent entities in the pop music sphere in the early and mid-1990s, thanks to smash hits like “Motownphilly” and “End of the Road." The latter has truly endured, with more than 100 million hits on YouTube to date. Boyz II Men still tours and releases music; most recently, the group helped kick off the NFL season by performing the National Anthem at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.2018 All rights reserved.