Britney built her career on sex appeal. It is not an insult to say that she is a weak vocalist, it’s a fact. Throughout her career she has shown almost no growth as an artist and you can’t blame her. How can one mature as an artist if they don’t have the singing chops necessary to succeed in any genre other than bubblegum pop? Britney can’t sing emotional ballads like Adele because she can’t actually sing. The longevity of Britney’s career is impressive, impressive enough that people don’t really expect anything else from her. And now that she’s found a formula that works for her (speak singing in a weird robot voice) it’s pretty evident that Britney will never go beyond her shallow but catchy dance songs.
Taylor Swift’s success is built upon exploitation. She writes songs that are generic enough that every teen girl is tricked into thinking that Taylor ripped a page out of her diary and wrote a song about their heartbreak. Taylor’s songs are extremely formulaic. They are either about a boy being an asshole, a girl regretting letting guy go, or being crazy in love. It’s impossible for music to be truly intimate if its written for a mass audience. But as long as the public buys into her good girl routine and indulge themselves in their own self obsession, Taylor will continue to dominate the charts.
Rihanna has been on the pop scene since 2005 with her hit song, “Pon de Replay”. Despite a staggering amount of number one singles, Rihanna is incapable of connecting with her fans or the public at large. Sure she is beautiful and her singing voice is pretty (when her vocals aren’t flat or off key), but she’s missing that star quality that others like Britney Spears possess. She’s bland and unlikable- partially because of her very public relationship with Chris Brown and partially because of the “I don’t give a fuck attitude” that she constantly displays. If only Rihanna’s public persona was as consistent as her music.
Lady Gaga caters to her Little Monsters and she’s not afraid to make polarizing pop music because she knows her cult following will love everything she releases. Her work can be overly ambitious and somewhat pretentious and while her work may seem extremely artistic to the uninformed masses, to many art critics it is contrived and plagiaristic. Is she really an artist, or is she just a plagiaristic hack looking for shock value? The issue with Gaga is that it’s almost impossible to tell whether she’s artistic or just being weird for the sake of being weird. With the impending release of her album, ARTPOP, only time will tell if she’ll ever find a balance between being pop friendly and satisfying her own theatrical urges.
Like Britney, Katy’s career is built upon her beauty, although Katy tries a bit harder than Britney to be well rounded. Katy’s production team knows how to write a song that will dominate the music charts, but as a result Katy has no real credibility as an artist. She writes music that people will buy. She does not write music that will inspire or provoke. Her singing voice is pretty but wavering and she has yet to master the art of theatricality that her pop rivals have mastered. She’s beautiful, but conventional and safe. Her album, “Prism”, is indicative of this, but unlike “Teenage Dream”, it is not a #1 album. Maybe people are tired of Katy churning out the same rote songs. Katy has established herself as a chart topping popstar, now what she needs to do is take a risk and show the world why she loves music and not just profits.
Beyonce has established herself as a powerhouse vocalist. She has a stage presence that is undeniable and she has achieved an almost godly status in the pop music industry. There is something about Beyonce though that is inherently distant. Beyonce seems to know that she’s better than everyone else, and while she does not inherently say that outright, it appears that she thinks she operates in a reality different than everyone else. When she speaks, it isn’t personal. It seems like Beyonce thinks because she is Beyonce that her thoughts and beliefs are inherently superior to that of the public. Her attempts at being philosophical and poetic are distant and nonsensical and her apparent perfection is unnerving. Beyonce will only achieve pop nirvana when she can show vulnerability, not as a musician, but as a person.