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Introducing the Queen of Pop

Page 11 of 11

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga
Mariano Vivanco

MASTER RANKING

Time for the moment of truth. Let's bake together all of these data points into one master list.

Surprised? Not likely. Lady Gaga as Queen of Pop makes a lot of intuitive sense.

No matter how we cut the numbers, Gaga was bound to crush the competition. Even if we'd stuck to data from 2010 and 2011, her massive album and singles sales swamp her competitors' – although that period might have given a boost to later career-starters like Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj. It might also have given an even bigger lift to Rihanna and especially Katy Perry, who were both on fire in 2010.

Conversely, if we'd widened our scope to five years instead of three, Taylor Swift could well have threatened for the top slot. And Beyoncé – with her string of 2007 and 2008 hits – would have made a much stronger run for Gaga's money.

Don't judge Beyoncé too harshly for her modest fifth-place ranking. Her I Am…Sasha Fierce album was already aging when 2009 started, and she's been between album cycles ever since. (We're confident that when we revisit this survey in a few months, her just-released 4 will propel her higher on the chart.) Named by Billboard as "Artist of the Decade" in 2010, Beyoncé has had so many hits since the turn of the millennium, she'd be anyone's first choice for Queen of Pop. Besides, an artist who kicked off the Obama Pop Era by singing to the Obamas at the 2009 inaugural ball has reached a whole other echelon of pop success.

Still: Our goal here was to crown the current tiara-wearer. And the hard-working, culture-dominating Gaga more than earned the title. Maybe a year from now, after 4 has spun off a year of radio, digital and video hits, Lady G and Honey B will be more evenly matched, tugging on either end of the Queen of Pop scepter like the demigods they are.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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