Readers Poll: The Queen of Pop - Rolling Stone
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Readers Poll: The Queen of Pop

We crunched the numbers, but you chose your own winner

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Last week we did some serious number crunching and created the Rolling Stone Queen Of Pop Index – a ranking of the current top 16 female pop recording artists. To be as up-to-date as possible, we only examined data from the last two years – which excluded all artists that hadn't work in that time period. Needless to say, this pissed off some fan communities. Madonna fans were particularly enraged, even though her last album was released in early 2008 and she's been off the road since the summer of 2009. One particularly nutty critic even accused of taking bribes from Lady Gaga. Well, I'm still waiting for my check. (Hey Gaga, make it out to "cash" this time. We can't have a paper trail.)

With all the fan feedback, we decided to poll our readers so they could name their own queen of pop. Here are the results. 

By Andy Greene

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10. Mariah Carey

Even the Mariah haters have to marvel at all this woman has accomplished. She's sold over 200 million records, and has 18 Number One singles – more than any other solo artist in history. Many counted her out after 2001's Glitter turned to dust, but she came roaring back in 2005 with The Emancipation Of Mimi and her supporting role in Precious a few years later. Sure, the last two albums didn't do so hot – but another comeback is always right around the corner for Mariah. 

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9. Elton John

Okay, so Elton isn't a woman. Calling him a Queen Of Pop might even seem a bit homophobic – but he did get the votes. And Elton John is also one man who probably wouldn't mind the title. After all, he did write "The Bitch Is Back" and wear more fabulous dresses than most members of the royal family. He can also throw a hissy fit like nobody else in the business. If you have any doubts, take a look at his 1997 documentary Tantrums & Tiaras and watch what happens when a fan bothers him while he's playing tennis. It isn't pretty. 

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8. Cher

The joke has been repeated so many times it's become an extremely tired cliché, but we'll repeat it anyway: When the world is destroyed by a nuclear holocaust there will be two survivors: cockroaches and Cher. By all logic, her career should have dried up around the time the Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour went off the air in the 1970s. But that didn't happen. She just kept coming back, and somehow she became more famous each time around. She won a freakin' Academy Award in 1988, and 11 years later scored the biggest hit of the year with "Believe." In 2002 she went on a "Farewell Tour," but everybody knew it was bullshit. She's not going anywhere. 

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7. Katy Perry

Remember the first time you heard "I Kissed A Girl" in early 2008? Whether you hated it or thought it was brilliant, you probably thought that Katy Perry's career would last about as long as Jill Sobule's – the last artist to land on the charts with a song called "I Kissed A Girl." Katy didn't pull a Sobule though. She just kept releasing shockingly popular hits. Even the haters can't hate on "Teenage Dream." It's just too good. Her second album seems to be a modern-day Thriller, just scoring number one hit after number one hit. She's now on a sold-out arena tour – and has been on the cover of Rolling Stone twice.

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6. Aretha Franklin

If this was a Queen Of Soul list there's little doubt that Aretha Franklin would be number one. But Franklin is so insanely brilliant that she even lands high on a Queen Of Pop list. What more can be said about Aretha? In 2008 we named her the single greatest singer of all time. Last year, horrible rumors were circulating that she had a particularly lethal form of cancer and just months to live – but she stunned everybody by returning to the stage earlier this year. By all accounts, she looked and sounded absolutely amazing. 

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5. Beyoncé

When Destiny's Child released their debut LP in February of 1998 Beyoncé Knowles was just 16. The group was massively successful right from the release of their first single "No, No, No Part 2" and the hits got bigger from there. Everybody knew it was just a matter of time until Beyoncé went solo. After "Crazy In Love" hit in 2003 there was simply no doubt. She was just way too big to be part of an ensemble. The group did one more LP in 2004 before splitting, and since then Beyoncé has become one of the most famous women on the planet – headlining arenas, starring in movies, and launching perfume and clothing lines. Marrying Jay-Z hasn't exactly lowered her profile, and it seems like everyday the tabloids have new stories about her being pregnant. When it does finally happen, it'll be almost as big a story as Kate Middleton's first child. 

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4. Tina Turner

It's easy to forget, but before she released Private Dancer in the spring of 1984, Tina Turner was widely seen as a has-been. In 1976 she walked out on Ike Turner after a long, abusive relationship. She had no money and few people thought she could last as a solo act. Her first four solo albums failed to find an audience, but Private Dancer changed everything. Since then, she's been an international superstar and rock icon. In 2000 she went on a farewell tour, but eight years later she was back on the road. By that time she was nearly 70, but hadn't slowed down one bit. Hopefully she has at least one more tour left in her. 

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3. Britney Spears

In February 2007 it sure didn't seem like Britney's career had much of a future. That month she left a drug rehab center in Antigua after just one day, flew back to California and then shaved her head in front of around 100 paparazzi. It was one of the biggest celebrity meltdowns of all time. That same month she attacked a photographer's car with an umbrella with a truly crazy look in her eyes. Many careers couldn't come back from that, but not many fathers could get a judge to grant them a "temporary conservatorship" that's lasted for over three years. Whatever Jamie Spears has done since taking over his daughter's affair, its certainly working. She's been largely out of the tabloids and continues to sell out arenas and score hits. Whether or not she's happy is an entirely different question – and one maybe even she doesn't know the answer to.

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2. Lady Gaga

Everybody has a different point at which they realized that Lady Gaga was an absolute genius. For me, it was watching her performance of "Paparazzi" at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Not only was it one of the most daring and bizarre spectacles in recent VMA memory, but she sang with incredible passion while fake blood poured all over her and she was suspended from the ceiling like a recently disemboweled pig. The shocked look on Puff Daddy's face says it all. Gaga spent the last two years on the road, earning sqaujillions of dollars and rivaling Springsteen in terms of energy poured into a single performance. Word is she's planning an even crazier show for the next tour.  We calculated that she's the reigning Queen of Pop, and you almost agreed.

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1. Madonna

To say that Madonna won this poll in a landslide would be like saying that she was a kind of popular pop singer in the 1980s. It wouldn't even begin to explain the scope of the situation. She received five times as many votes as Lady Gaga, who landed in second place by a very comfortable margin. The only persistent criticism that Gaga has dealt with in recent years is that she's too much like Madonna. It's a hard shadow to escape. Madonna is a musical icon without peer. Her run of hits over the past 30 years is simply astounding, and when she hits the road, tickets sell like it's a Led Zeppelin reunion tour. Sure, her last few albums didn't match up to the classics. Nobody cares. She's Madonna. Lady Gaga has accomplished more in recent years than any artist of her era, but she's still got a long climb until she reaches Madonna level. It's very likely that no other artist will ever reach it though. Her manager Guy Oseary recently tweeted that she's started recording her 12th studio album, so clearly she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

In This Article: Elton John

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