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Introducing the Queen of Pop

We crunched the numbers to determine who takes the crown

June 29, 2011 3:00 PM ET

The last half-decade of popular music has been an era of female dominance: Britney. Gaga. Beyoncé. Katy. Rihanna. But who, we wondered, is the undisputed Queen of Pop?

Here is the first Rolling Stone Queen of Pop Index. We ranked 16 solo female artists, looking at album and digital song sales, Hot 100 rankings, radio airplay, YouTube views, social media, concert grosses, industry awards and critics' ratings. In alphabetical order, they are: Adele, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, P!nk, Rihanna, Robyn, Shakira, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

In selecting a time period to cover, we decided to focus on the very recent past: 2009 to mid-2011. (And thus artists like Fergie and Gwen Stefani were not considered, because they haven't released solo albums during that time period.)

Katy Perry Talks Body Image, Fame and Politics in Rolling Stone Cover Story

You can probably guess who wound up on top if you've wandered past a newsstand or watched an awards show anytime in the last three years. But the breakdown is enlightening – even our lowest-ranked contender overall came within a false eyelash of topping one of the lists.

Let's start with the yardstick the record industry cares about most: album sales.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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