People may be surprised to see P!nk (real name Alecia Moore) on this list. However, the Pennsylvania native had enjoyed a highly successful career in the hybrid genre of pop rock. Among her many accolades, P!nk has three Grammy Awards and the Billboard Women of the Year Award (2013). In total, the energetic singer has sold upwards of 90 million records across the globe.
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24. Gwen Stefani
In the mid-’90s, Gwen Stefani was an integral member of the ska/pop rock scene within Southern California. While her band No Doubt garnered critical acclaim, Stefani was also able to carve out her own career as a solo artist. The three-time Grammy winner created hits like “Hollaback Girl”, “The Sweet Escape”, and “What Are You Waiting For?”
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23. Katy Perry
Katy Perry is relatively new to the pop scene. Her career has spanned a little more than a decade up to this point — first starting with the viral hit “I Kissed a Girl”. From there, Perry exploded into a global star. Over the course of her career, Perry has sold upwards of 100 million records. This puts her in the same category as peers Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, and Maroon 5 (among others).
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Adele’s voice is both booming and full of soul. As such, it came as no surprise to see her break out as a worldwide phenomenon. From 2009-2017, Adele had a run in which she won a whopping 15 Grammy Awards. “Set Fire to the Rain” and “Rolling in the Deep” remain as instant classics (as well as top choices for any karaoke session).
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21. Justin Bieber
Are you a Belieber? The child prodigy out of Canada was first found on YouTube. From there, Bieber became one of the biggest stars on the planet. Despite only being 24 years of age, we’ve seen Bieber transition from bubblegum child pop to more of an R&B singer. As a 15-year-old, seven songs from his debut album appeared on the Hot 100 chart (a mark no other artist has ever accomplished). With plenty of time to crank out more material, there’s no telling how high Bieber will eventually finish by the time he stops performing.
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20. Ed Sheeran
Sheeran is the quintessential pop musician. His music is enjoyed by multiple demographics. Tweens to teens to young adults to full-fledged adults all love Sheeran’s witty lyrics and sweet-sounding musical accompaniment. The 28-year-old out of England first became a known commodity in 2013. Since then he’s been the recipient of four Grammy Awards (including one for Song of the Year in 2016).
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19. Bruno Mars
From a performance standpoint, Bruno Mars (real name Peter Hernandez) may rank within the top-10. His ability to both move and entertain is simply special. There are moments in which Mars channels his inner Michael Jackson from a movement standpoint. The Hawaii native dabbles in multiple genres under the pop umbrella.
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18. Taylor Swift
Sorry, Taylor…you aren’t a country music star. Swift sits squarely in the realm of pop. We have to say, that’s not a bad thing considering her mass success financially. At not even 30 years of age, Swift is rumored to be worth more than $300 million. The 10-time Grammy Award-winner has evolved from a sweeter sound to one with a bit more maturity and attitude.
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17. Billy Joel
Billy Joel is one of the longest-running musicians within the pop genre. Like most, he crosses over a plethora of genres. Since the ’70s, Joel has been performing in front of gigantic crowds. The New York native has six Grammy Awards, 33 songs featuring within the top 40, and over 150 million records sold. Simply put, Joel is the perfect definition of musical consistency at the highest level.
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16. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston was a powerhouse of a performer. The range and depth of her voice is widely unparalleled. Her ability to light up a room was simply fantastic. Houston won six Grammy Awards during her performing career. She also was inducted as a Hall of Fame member in 2018. Duly, Houston has sold over 200 million records — making her one of the most successful musicians of all-time. Sadly, she passed away in 2012 at the age of 48.
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15. Lady Gaga
Eccentric and eclectic, Lady Gaga (real name Stefani Germanotta) is a icon for millions. Aside from her classically trained voice, Gaga is went through multiple periods in which her wardrobe was quite garish in nature. Musically, “Just Dance” and “Bad Romance” continue to be show-stoppers. Gaga has even carved out a legacy beyond music and fashion. She’s recently began acting — and co-starred alongside Bradley Cooper in the latest remake of A Star is Born. Her performance netted Gaga Oscar nominations for Best Original Song and Best Actress.
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14. Cyndi Lauper
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is one of the biggest anthems from the entire decade of the 1980s. For years, Cyndi Lauper has cranked out head-bopping tunes. In fact, she even was pegged as the musical director for the soundtrack of the hit film The Goonies. Unique in both appearance and voice, the two-time Grammy winner was highly versatile when it came to bouncing back and forth between genres (though ‘pop’ was certainly Lauper’s claim to fame).
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13. Janet Jackson
At age 52, Jackson continues to perform on the world stage. While her family garnered her plenty of fame, Jackson was able to branch out and form her own highly successful career. The ’80s saw her churn out a number of critically-acclaimed albums — including Rhythm Nation 1814 and Control. A vibrant and inventive artist, Jackson doesn’t nearly get the credit she should when it comes to building the genre of pop.
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Beyoncé first came into view as the burgeoning star within the group Destiny’s Child. However by her mid-20s, Queen B became an elite solo artist. It’s gotten to a point where Beyoncé has garnered the mystical ‘single name’ denotation. Along with the likes of Oprah, Prince, and others, Beyoncé is simply atop the game at this point. Collectively, she’s sold over 150 million records, and has 23 Grammy Awards to her name.
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Rihanna (real name Robyn Fenty) transformed herself from a shy island girl to one of pop’s biggest stars over the last 25 years. The Barbados native quickly made her way up the charts as a teenager. From there, she matured into a global brand. Rihanna is worth approximately $260 million — and has already sold over 250 million records worldwide. At only 31 years of age, the sky is truly the limit.
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10. Mariah Carey
A diva in the best sense of the term, Carey has long enjoyed a career categorized by her gigantic voice. Since the early ’90s, Carey has moved back and forth between the pop and hip-hop genres. It speaks to the quality of her voice — as well as the overall versatility she performs with. Carey has sold an eye-popping 200 million records. Additionally, she has accrued five Grammy Awards during her illustrious career. Perhaps most impressive, Carey went through an 11-year stretch in which she had at least one number-one hit each year on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
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9. David Bowie
David Bowie (real name David Jones) was a man who wore many hats. While not exclusively a pop artist, much of his influence heavily aided in shaping what pop is known as today. This included experimental presentations along with funky musical beats. Bowie’s vocal talent always shined — as did his ability to captivate an audience. He achieved virtually every personal accolade possible. Sadly, Bowie passed in 2016. He was 69 years of age.
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Cher (born Cherilyn Sarkisian) is a terrifically wonderful performer. She’s both acted and sang for nearly five decades. Sonny & Cher got her notoriety — though the California native exploded on her own accord with a multitude of top hits (such as “Gypsy” and “Dark Lady). Cher’s most recent hit single — “Believe” — top the charts in multiple countries. To this day, it’s one of the most iconic pop songs of all-time.
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Prince (born Prince Nelson) is a triumph of a human being. How many people have their own symbol universally recognized as another form of their name? Prince dabbled in a number of musical genres, though many widely consider him to be a pop singer above all else. A delicate yet vulnerable persona enabled him to garner quite the following. Prince was sublime when it came to playing an array of different instruments (particularly the guitar). The multi-time Grammy winner is one of the most prolific artists — regardless of style — in recent memory.
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One can’t think about the pop music genre without the ultra-talented Madonna (born Madonna Ciccone). It’s rather difficult to grasp just how impressive Madonna’s career has been. To date, she’s sold over 300 million records — thus making her the best-selling female artist in the history of music. Duly, Madonna has produced more than handful of iconic tracks (“Like a Prayer”, “La Isla Bonita”, “Like a Virgin”, “Vogue”). Essentially, everything Madonna touches turns to music gold. There are even estimates that Madonna could be worth as much as $600 million. When crafting a comprehensive look at pop music as a whole, Madonna sits atop the genre’s vast mountain.
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5. Elton John
Elton John (real name Reginald Dwight) oozes high amounts of pop star appeal. John has never been shy about performing in crazily garish costumes. It helped to build John’s persona as an entertainer. Of course, his personal appearance was only accentuated by John’s insane skills in the arena of piano playing, vocals, and the crafting of lyrical construction. Nine of John’s singles reached the No. 1 spot on the charts. His personal tribute to the departed Princess Diana (“Candle in the Wind”) is the best-selling single in the history of both the United States and the United Kingdom. Furthering the legend of John, a biopic on his life — entitled Rocketman — is scheduled for release in May of 2019.
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4. Britney Spears
Britney Spears drove many people crazy throughout the late-’90s/early 2000s. She broke onto the scene as a young girl from Louisiana. At the height of her career, there was not another singer as famous or prolific as Spears. No other teenager singer enjoyed the same type of commercial success. Her first two albums (Oops!…I Did It Again, Baby One More Time) were global hits. Currently in her late 30s, Spears hasn’t enjoyed close to the same level of success. However for a decade-long period, Spears was a giant. She’ll long be embedded within the fabric of American pop music.
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3. Freddie Mercury
Some may quibble over whether Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) is indeed a pop star. Some will call him a rock star — while others will call him a byproduct of a rock-based hybrid. Regardless, Mercury possessed the charisma, flamboyancy, and unbelievable voice of an all-time great. We all will widely recognize Queen as a terrific band. However, it starts and begins with Mercury. His talent was transcendent — as was his vision for what he wanted his music to illustrate (with “Bohemian Rhapsody” being a perfect example of such).
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2. Frank Sinatra
The same classification questions surrounding Mercury also pertain to Sinatra. Sinatra was a crooner — and one with an unbelievable velvety sound. His music came at an early time period when mainstream pop was non-existent. Essentially, Sinatra’s ability to build a story through his clever, rhythmic lyrics helped set the stage for the infancy of pop. Duly, Sinatra’s version of pop music was accompanied with a number of instruments used today (though previously in more muted terms). Sinatra is beyond iconic, and still has a strong base of supporters to this day.
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1. Michael Jackson
Did you really think we wouldn’t have “The King of Pop” anywhere else other than atop this list? Michael Jackson was a transcendent performer on a number of fronts. He had countless hits — which still today resonate with people of all ages. From a performance standpoint, we had yet to see anyone possessing Jackson’s fluidity on stage. He strutted, jived, and ‘moonwalked’ himself into living rooms all over the world. Beloved and utterly phenomenal, Jackson’s legacy will live on well into the future.
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