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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.)

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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

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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