Imagine it’s Jan. 1, 2010, and a psychic has laid out the following music predictions for the year:
—Ke$ha, the self-proclaimed “sick and sexified” singer of “TiK ToK,” will not fade into obscurity. Instead, she’ll release two albums and rack up three more Billboard Hot 100 top 10s before the year is up, the last of which will debut at No. 1.
—Lady Gaga will wear a meat dress, flip the bird at Yankee Stadium and pull rosary beads out of her mouth, but none of this will be as entertaining or successful as her music.
–“Biebermania” will not only show no sign of letting up, it will also afflict the Recording Academy, which will nominate the teen phenom for a best new artist Grammy Award.
–The cast of Fox’s hit musical series “Glee” will surpass theÂ Beatles‘ record forÂ most appearances by a non-solo act on the Hot 100.
—B.o.B, a rapper who sings and plays guitar, andÂ Bruno Mars, a Hawaiian who specializes in modern-day doo-wop, will help each other become famous with a tenderhearted duet.
–A 12-year-old Oklahoma boy will sign with Lady Gaga’s management after performing “Paparazzi” at his school’s talent show. Meanwhile, a 10-year-old “America’s Got Talent” finalist will take her operatic seasonal EP to No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and another 10-year-old will have grown women whipping their hair back and forth.
–A song about a mythical private jet will hit No. 1 and gift us with the year’s best new party terminology: slizzard.
–Only one rock band will reach the Hot 100 top 10 –Â Train, with “Hey, Soul Sister.”
In a year when some of the music industry’s few remaining presumptions, such as “digital sales will keep growing” and “tours can withstand a weak economy,” were subverted, no one can be blamed for not foreseeing all the ways in which pop music would take over the marketplace. But a takeover it was.
Seven of the year’s 20 best-selling albums were by pop artists — that is, in Billboard parlance, acts without significant success on our genre-based charts, such as Country, R&B/Hip-Hop, Modern Rock, etc. This compares with four in 2009 and two in 2005. The 2010 top 10 includesSusan Boyle‘s “I Dreamed a Dream,” Lady Gaga’s “The Fame,”Â Justin Bieber‘s “My World” and “My World 2.0” and theÂ Black Eyed Peas‘ “The E.N.D.” If you expand the definition of pop to includeÂ Taylor Swift andLady Antebellum, whose mainstream-leaning country hits were embraced at pop radio, andÂ Eminem, whose “Recovery” featured some of his most unabashedly crossover songs to date, you could argue that nine of the top 10 albums speak to pop’s dominance (all butÂ Andrea Bocelli‘s “My Christmas”).
The fact that Billboard’s top two artists of the year, Gaga and Swift, didn’t chart on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums is also telling. It’s the first time that neither of the year’s top two artists has graced that chart since 1997, whenÂ LeAnn Rimes andÂ Spice Girls came in at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
But perhaps most striking is the way in which synth-driven, Auto-Tuned, four-on-the floor-influenced pop dominated the Hot 100. Of the 15 songs to reach No. 1 on the chart this year, just six fall outside of this descriptive: Eminem’s “Not Afraid” and “Love the Way You Lie,”Â Rihanna‘s “Rude Boy” and “What’s My Name?”, B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars’ “Nothin’ on You” and Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.” When these are the four artists delivering the closest thing to a slow jam, it’s safe to say we’ve entered a new era.
“When you listen to radio now, it’s all so much about tempo,” says Barry Weiss, outgoing chairman/CEO of RCA/Jive Label Group, which can count Ke$ha,Â Usher andÂ P!nk among this year’s biggest success stories.
“We’re in a golden spot for pop music, for sure,” adds Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman/CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJMG), whose artists Bieber, Rihanna and evenÂ Kanye West helped solidify pop’s current boom. “I don’t see it moving any time soon.”