Ten Greatest Pop Stars Since 1990
The latest generation of veteran pop stars is an impressive bunch
American popular music has been around since the early 1800s, when Stephen Foster and other composers and performers sang songs meant for minstrel shows. These days, pop stars perform more diverse types of music - rock and roll, blues, soul, hip hop and R&B - and those artists are the ones you’ll find on this list.
As for artists of jazz, country, bluegrass or classical, they deserve their own lists, so no such performers will be found on this list.
Please keep in mind this list only includes performers who began their recording careers since 1990. Also, pop stars on this list must be at least 25 years old; only performers who’ve proven their worth by providing many years of quality production are included.
Now let’s begin the countdown!
10. Sean Combs
Alias Puff Daddy or P. Diddy or simply Diddy, Sean Combs was born in Harlem and grew up in Mt. Vernon, New York. In the early days, Combs worked as a talent director for Uptown Records (he helped develop Jodeci and Mary J. Blige), and then he founded in 1993 Bad Boy Records, for which he signed many cutting-edge rap artists, including The Notorious B.I.G. Fours years later, Combs released his debut album, No Way Out, which went seven times platinum and included the hit single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down.” A hip hop and R&B artist, Combs has won numerous Grammy Awards and MTV Video Music Awards. Interestingly, Combs has also acted in TV shows, movies and stage productions, and in 2004 performed at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.
9. Christina Aguilera
Another alumnus of The Mickey Mouse Club, Christina Aguilera is short in stature yet has a booming voice. Aguilera, of Latin decent, won her first talent show at the age of eight and recorded her first song at 14, a duet with Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi. In 1998, Aguilera signed with RCA Records and soon released her debut album, Christina Aguilera (1999), which spawned the hit singles “Genie in a Bottle,” “What a Girl Wants,” and “Come on over Baby (All I Want Is You).” Then in 2000 she recorded a Spanish language album, Mi Reflejo. Over the years, Aguilera had produced many successful albums which draw from a variety of musical styles – blues, soul, jazz, hip hop, Latin, electro pop and rock. Moreover, Aguilera has appeared in several movies, including Burlesque with Cher, and has starred on the TV show, The Voice.
8. Bruno Mars
His birth name Peter Gene Hernandez, Bruno Mars was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Mars is a multi-talented musician, singer, songwriter, dancer and producer, who first performed in the family band at age four and by the age of five was impersonating Elvis Presley. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Mars began playing guitar, among many other instruments, at a young age as well. Mars’ recording career began in 2004 when he moved to L.A. and signed with Motown Records, though this signing led nowhere. But after inking a deal with Atlantic in 2009, he became known as a solo artist. Bruno’s first album was Doo-Wops and Hooligans (2010), and its hit single was “Just the Way You Are.” In 2011, Mars won his first Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. And to ice the cake, at least for now, Mars was one of the halftime performers at Super Bowl XVLIII in 2014.
7. Taylor Swift
At the ago of 11 Taylor Swift traveled with her mother to Nashville, Tennessee, hoping to become a country star. Well, she didn’t become a star overnight, but by the age of 16 she was very close. In 2006, Swift released her first album, Taylor Swift, and its hit single “Our Song,” drew lots of attention. At the time, Swift was the youngest artist to write and sing a number one country song. But, also a cross-over artist of note, Swift began producing rock and pop tunes, on her way to becoming one of the most prolific pop artists in recent years. Swift has already won numerous Grammy Awards as well. Moreover, by 2014, Swift’s transition to pop music was dramatic and perhaps total with the release of 1989, a concept album which has sold over eight million copies worldwide. It seems safe to say that Taylor Swift is already one of the best veteran performers in show business.
6. Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake was born in Memphis, Tennessee and sang country tunes as a kid. And, like others on this list, he appeared on the All-New Mickey Mouse Club in the early 1990s. Then, as a teenager, Timberlake became one of the lead vocalists in the boy band, NSYNC. Going solo in the early 2000s, Timberlake released the albums Justified (2002) and Future Sex/Love Sounds (2006), both of which spawning hit singles such as “Cry Me a River,” “Rock Your Baby,” and “My Love.” For a while, from 2007 to 2012, Timberlake pursued an acting career, starring in Hollywood movies and appearing on hit TV shows such as Saturday Night Live. Then Timberlake resumed his singing career, this time emphasizing the influence of soul and R&B music from the 1960s and ‘70s. The album 20/20 Experience (2013) exemplifies this new retro sound.
5. Katy Perry
Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, stage name, Katy Perry, came from a poor, religious family that insisted on calling deviled eggs “angeled eggs.” So, understandably, Katy began her singing career by doing gospel music. Her first album was titled, Katy Hudson, released in 2001. Then Perry moved to L.A. and pursued a career as a secular pop singer. Eventually Perry signed a deal with Capitol Records in 2007, and her career really took off thereafter. Her first big hit single was “I Kissed a Girl,” which had provocative, gay-oriented lyrics many fans enjoyed. Astonishingly, her third album, Teenager Dream (2010) was one of the most successful albums in recent years, producing five number-one Billboard Hot 100 songs. Perry also writes or co-writes many of her songs, and she’s already one of the best-selling artists of all time.
4. Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus has been a pop star since 2006, when she played Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, soon becoming a teen idol or the so-called Queen of Tween. But once Miley left the Disney Channel, she became a much more controversial entertainer, seemingly doing everything she could to appear the anti-Hannah Montana – twerking, wearing risqué attire, smoking pot and cussing. Leaving that quest behind as Miley climbed into her twenties, she has become a much more appealing pop star, appearing on numerous TV shows, particularly NBC’s The Voice and Saturday Night Live. Now Miley’s new singing style is much more uplifting, inspirational and sentimental, and curse words have mostly disappeared from her act. Miley released the single “Malibu” in May 2017, which soon ascended to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. And Younger Now, Miley’s sixth studio album, was released in September 2017.
In August 2018, Billboard released its list of top 60 female solo artists since it started 60 years ago, and Miley was listed as number 43.
3. Britney Spears
Britney Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi and, as is the case with many on this list, started her singing career at a young age. In the early 1990s, Spears became the understudy for the leading role of Tina Denmark in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless!; she also appeared as a contestant on Star Search. Then, in early 1998, Spears recorded her debut album, Baby One More Time (1999), which quickly became an international sensation and also the biggest selling album ever for a teenage artist; in fact, it eventually became one of the best-selling albums of all time. Spears had personal problems in 2007 but soon rebounded and has pumped out many more hit singles and albums, eventually garnering the honorific – The Princess of Pop. In recent times, Spears has been the star of Britney: Piece of Me, a residency concert at The AXIS in Las Vegas, Nevada.
2. Lady Gaga
Even though Lady Gaga (Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) has only been recording since 2008, she is already one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. Influenced by such glam artists as David Bowie and Queen, and schooled on the slick dance routines of Michael Jackson, as well as echoing the controversial themes of Madonna, Lady Gaga is about as eye-catching as they come. Has anyone seen a pop star with more impressive haute couture? But the lady was no overnight sensation. She began performing at open mikes at 14; she tried out for musicals in NYC and later hit the club scene on the Lower East Side. Then she moved to L.A., set up her own creative team and then produced the single “Just Dance,” her first big hit. Stepping away from pop, in 2014, Lady Gaga recorded Cheek to Cheek, a collaborative jazz album with legendary crooner Tony Bennett.
1. Beyoncé Knowles
When Beyoncé was only eight, she began singing and dancing in Girl’s Tyme, a hip hop and R&B girl group. After Girl’s Tyme signed with Columbia Records, they changed their name to Destiny’s Child and released their debut album in 1997. This gorgeous, flashy assemblage produced many great albums but disbanded in 2005, though along the way Beyoncé released her debut solo album Dangerously in Love in 2003. Since then, Beyoncé has released many hit albums and also appeared in numerous movies, including Dream Girls (2006). She’s also won a staggering number of Grammy Awards – 22 as of 2017. These days, Beyoncé has become one of the top recording artists and performers in the world. And in 2014, Time magazine put her on its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
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© 2015 Kelley Marks