7 Current Pop Stars I Genuinely Like

There was a time, long ago, where I really liked listening to pop. Sure, my main thing was rock and pop-rock, but this was when I was a kid and MTV was the channel I used as constant white noise. This was also the time I actually gave a shit about the whole social scene, and I had some kind of interest in engaging friends, discussing music, learning the songs and more.

This was over a decade ago and though it’s not something I’m embarrassed of, I’m glad I moved away from that crap and into something else I’ve found far more fulfilling. I’ve been into metal for about 8 years, and since then I’ve discovered how shallow my appreciation of music was when I was a teenager (as it is with most). I used to listen to The Black Eyed Peas or Britney Spears (though I maintain “Toxic” is a fucking amazing song and video) and thought I was listening to some pretty legit stuff. I’ve since discovered that most pop music—and the performers—is disposable and completely manufactured trash.

Today you have Justin Bieber, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Gotye and countless others moving more discs than America Online in the 90’s. I can’t stand any of those artists; not because they’re popular—and not even because the music is bad, because in some cases it’s not—but because they’re, in the great scheme of the music industry, worthless. Sure, we’ll definitely remember Justin Bieber in many years because Jesus Power-Morphing Christ that little turd is popular (though I hear his popularity is beginning to decline now that he’s gone from “Talented and Likeable Girlboy” to “Little Spunk Trumpet”). Yeah, we’ll probably still be making “Miley’s butt looks like raw chicken” jokes in the 2030’s, but none of that makes their music any less disposable.

That being said, and adding that I still cannot stand listening to the radio (though it has more to do with the commercials and incredibly obnoxious DJs), I do think there are a handful of very popular pop stars that are actually making cool music instead of boring “get drunk to this” party music. Here’s them, each featuring my choice song.

Disclaimer: I’m not entirely familiar with how the songwriting process works in pop. I’m not sure how much of the music these artists are actually responsible for; this is working under the assumption that they do have some significant input into the song.

Katy Perry
It’s like someone cut Zooey Deschanel’s pretentiously quirky little head and put it on a AAA porn star’s body. Yeah, Katy Perry is undeniably hot as balls, but I don’t think her appeal is entirely physical—at least not with me. She’s not an artist I ever look for, but I’ve found myself digging a lot of the stuff she puts out, mainly because she has the “feel good” aspect of pop down better than almost anyone else. The songs she’s released as singles have been undeniably fun. “Last Friday Night” for instance—it’s hard to not smile even a little when you watch that video (Rebecca Black is awesome you dickheads). I also really like that she’s one of the few pop stars who are well aware of their beauty and really doesn’t give a shit about looking ugly or stupid. Good for you, Boobs.

Kanye West
I know, he’s a bigger latrine than 2012-to-date Justin Bieber, and more than deserved having South Park murder him, but goddamn have you heard “Yeezus”? It’s not good enough to warrant this man’s hilarious ego, but then again nothing in the history of creation is good enough to warrant that man’s ego (seriously Kanye, what the fuck?) When listening to “Yeezus” I had to tune out everything I knew about this turdmuffin, but it worked. That album is complex, dark, raw, impeccably produced and performed with great sincerity. Add to that a pair of balls of good size and you can really appreciate West’s talent. Just take a look at that video up there.

I still can’t bring myself to like him though. Not even a little.

Lady Gaga
Every time I’m in a situation when pop music is playing—bar, restaurant, car drive—and I casually hear something I like, more often than not it turns out to be Lady Gaga. Almost every song I’ve heard of hers has been buoyed by amazingly catchy vocal melodies and a lot of unpredictable alternative and techno padding. I gained some more respect for her after Weird Al Yankovic’s lampoon of “Born This Way” (warning: it’s creepy and hilarious), which makes some great points about her appearance. “I’m not crazy I perform this way,” he says.

I loved it. People thought Weird Al was making fun of her, but he was actually making a great defensive point about the way she presents herself—her appearance is part of her art. Sure, it’s nothing new (remember Madonna or Cindy Lauper?), but dressing like a crazy person, believe it or not, is also the product of creativity and inspiration. Obnoxious skanks like Nicki Minaj (who made the single worst pop song I have heard in decades) were manufactured on a whim as competition, but never came close to Gaga’s actual talent in songwriting and performing. I hope she sticks around.

Holy shit. I love P!nk. She’s the perfect pop star: immensely talented, beautiful without being same ol’ same ol’ beautiful, honest, and most of all level-headed. There are few artists—this includes bands in many other genres—that have been making consistently quality music for so long. She’s also the only pop artist I liked as a teenager and I still like. Hell, I started liking P!nk back in 2001 when I saw her in “Lady Mermelade”, and have loved her through “Just Like A Pill”, “Trouble”, “Raise Your Glass” et al. Yeah, sometimes the whole 'badass rockstar' schtick feels forced, but I’ve found myself nodding my head to too many of her songs to be unable to look over that.

She can do drunk party music, she can do depressing, she can do bouncy & upbeat, she can do pop-rock. I’m yet to really see her drop the ball. I also appreciate the fact that she’s never been in any significant scandal (or at least I’ve never heard anything) since her climb in fame. I don’t think I’d buy a P!nk album or go to a P!nk show, but I sure as hell would call her my favorite pop artist.

Pop Stars I Used To Love:

Nelly Furtado would be #1 of that list if she had stuck with the style that made her famous (i.e. anything in “Whoa Nelly!” and “Folklore”). Sadly she fell in the claws of the industry and was stripped from “talented, musically earnest and fun” to “exotically hot”. My hatred for Fergie is well documented (and if not, fuck that bitch) so it was really sad to see Nelly Furtado devolve into a Fergie clone (puke). She’s still unbelievably beautiful though, goddamn.

Avril Lavigne was all the rage when I was a sophomore in high school, and I was ignorant enough to think that I was listening to actual punk back then (“It’s not as heavy as Blink 182, but she’s pretty good punk!”), so I was so surprised when I kept liking every single she put out. I forgot about her for a while, then came “Girlfriend”, an incredibly catchy song I enjoy. Then came “Alice”, one of the top 5 pop songs I have heard in the last decade. Then came that new album. I haven’t heard it all but what I heard was indescribably bad. I’m gonna guess there was a lot of producer bullshit involved.

Sum 41 was another “New Single = New Favorite Song” band for me back in 2002. I used to think the mix of punk, pop and hip hop was some ground breaking shit, and all their songs were always a good mix of accessible and aggressive. The band itself was also very likeable, and their videos enjoyable. I have no fucking clue what happened to these guys—I don’t think I’ve heard a new song from them since “The Hell Song”.

As a zinger, I’m going to come out clean and say that even though I don’t like Ke$ha’s music—mainly because I’m pretty much completely unfamiliar with it—I really enjoy “Tik Tok”. Shut up, asshole, it’s so bouncy. Oh and guess what, Ke$ha has a fantastic voice (I have a lot to say about autotune, but it’ll have to wait).

EDIT: This post is too flowery. I need to add at least some metal in here lest my beard falls off.

Fun fact: “Brave New Hell” is what all death metal should sound like. This is known.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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