Forty-five years ago, James Brown declared it a man’s man’s man’s world. But when it comes to music — and pop music in particular — the women might beg to differ.
There’s certainly been parity in the worlds of pop and R&B during the past couple of decades, with female artists and even the occasional group taking half or more of the top chart positions. A quick perusal now, for instance, finds women in half of the Top 20 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and holding the top three albums on the Billboard 200 and six of the Top 10 pop chart hits.
Clearly the girls just wanna have fun — and success. And they’re achieving both. With two of womankind’s top draws, Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj, headed to town this week, it seems like a good time to take stock of that end of the pop world and see who ranks where in the strata of divadom.
Adele: The 23-year-old British singer is the reigning queen of pop, burning up the charts with her sophomore album, “21.” It has hit No. 1 in 17 European countries and has logged three stays atop the Billboard 200. “21” is the top-selling album in the world so far in 2011 at more than 7 million copies. It was recently nominated for a prestigious Mercury Prize. It’s Adele’s world, and everyone else is just living in it.
Taylor Swift: In just five years, the singer-songwriter from Wyomissing, Pa., has become a juggernaut, ruling the country and pop realms to the tune of 20 million albums and 34 million singles sold worldwide. She’s the most successful digital artist in music history and holds more than 80 industry awards. And in October she comes out with a fragrance, Wonderstruck, which, of course, is nothing to sneeze at.
Katy Perry: The California ‘gurl’ hasn’t woken up from her “Teenage Dream.” Perry’s second album is a platinum sensation that’s still in the Billboard Top 20 and launched four consecutive No. 1 hits with a fifth, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” looking like a certainty. She has every reason to be one proud “Peacock.”
Lady Gaga: Her sophomore album, “Born This Way,” has shown that “The Fame” she achieved previously was no fluke. The set moved 1.11 million copies in its first week, partly thanks to some deep discounting by Amazon.com, while the title track is the fastest-selling single in iTunes history. As adept at provocation as her model, Madonna, Gaga makes some kind of news at least twice a week, and as the first celebrity to snare more than 10 million Twitter followers, we clearly aren’t tired of her yet.
Nicki Minaj: Her fresh and clever blend of pop, hip-hop and R&B has carved out a solid niche of hip for the New York songstress — who’s also benefited from featured appearances on songs by Usher, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, David Guetta and others. Nevertheless, her debut album “Pink Friday” is a platinum triumph, and she’s the first artist ever to lodge seven singles on the Billboard 100 simultaneously.
Rihanna: The public and media has not really allowed the Barbadian singer to escape the specter of the 2009 assault by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, though she herself has risen above and beyond it in a dignified manner. Her career is rocking to the tune of more than 20 million albums and 60 million singles sold worldwide, and, at 23, she’s the youngest artist to score 10 No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. She has every reason to “Take a Bow.”Beyoncé: Overcoming an album leak, rumors that the record company didn’t like it and a nasty business split with her father, Lady Be’s “4” bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — though selling 172,000 fewer first-week copies than its predecessor, “I Am ... Sasha Fierce” in 2008. She did hold on for a second week at the top, but the lukewarm reception to the singles “Run the World (Girls)” and “Best Thing I Ever Had” could mean she has a struggle on her hands.
Jill Scott: The Philly neo-soul singer was welcomed back to music after a four-year gap between albums with a No. 1 bow for her latest, “The Light of the Sun.” She enjoys tremendous credibility and has given herself a presence in the pop culture mainstream with an acting career that includes roles both in film (“Hounddog,” “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” and its sequel) and TV (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Lifetime’s “Sins of the Mother”). She brings her Summer Block Party Tour to town Aug. 30 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.
Christina Aguilera: The former Mouseketeer appeared dead in the water after the one-two 2010 failures of her “Bionic” album and “Burlesque” film. It wasn’t a “Genie in a Bottle” but rather a TV show — NBC’s “The Voice” — that gave Aguilera new life. The world cares again, and you can be there’s some renewed anticipation for new music.
Britney Spears: Despite perceptions that her career is in descent — not to mention her life after some high-profile meltdowns — Spears was still the top-selling female artist of the ’00s and ranked sixth on Forbes magazine’s list of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential celebrities. That might be some solace for an album, “Femme Fatale,” that’s cooled considerably since its chart-topping debut in March, though the third single, “I Wanna Go,” has worked its way into the Top 20 and she’s got tongues wagging for a just-released alternate, topless version of the video for “Gimme More” from her 2007 “Blackout” album.
FIVE MORE COMING UP ON THE OUTSIDE
Kelly Rowland: Beyonce’s former Destiny’s Child partner drops “Here I Am,” her third solo album and first in four years, on Tuesday. “Motivation,” with Lil Wayne, has already topped the Billboard R&B chart, while Detroit rapper Big Sean guests on the new single, “Lay It On Me.”
Nikki Jean: The singer-songwriter from St. Paul, Minn., has guested with Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West, and she co-wrote a song with Bob Dylan on her just-released debut album, “Pennies in a Jar.”
Pia Toscano: With apologies to “American Idol” runner-up Lauren Alaina, Toscano was an early odds-on favorite to take the whole shebang this year, and it’s no surprise that Interscope Records scooped her up for a debut album that we may see out before the end of the year.
Selena Gomez: The Disney-bred actress released a third album with her band, The Scene, last month.
Madonna and Cher: The mother and grandmother of this generation of pop divas are both working on new albums, with Lady Gaga contributing a track to Cher’s project.
Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Jessie & the Toy Boys and Nervo perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $29.50-$149.50.
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