There has been a lot of hand wringing this summer about the lack of a pop diva hitting #1. Part of this is because of the country/rap/viral song “Old Town Road” holding the top spot for much of it’s run. The Lil Nas /Billy Ray Cyrus song has stretched the imagination of what the future of music looks like. Who knew it would have a mullet?
Part of the appeal of “Old Town Road” is that it was built to be a streaming song. Another part of its success is that it feels different. Which is not something many artists can say about the music they are releasing today. It’s time for the pop divas of today to look to the undisputed Queen of Pop to see how they can stave death off of their glittery and substanceless careers.
Dangit Taylor Swift
Most of the worry has stemmed from the fact that Taylor Swift has not reached #1 with either of her recent singles. If (arguably)the world’s biggest pop star could be denied the chart leading position, is there any hope for pop music as a whole? If industry executives are pinning their hopes of a pop music renaissance on Swift, that means they have not listened to the trainwreck known as “Me!”
Her second attempt to dethrone “Old Town Road” was the over-the-top “You Need To Calm Down.” As with “Me!,” the second single debuted to #2 and will likely to fall from there. Some music critics have pointed out that “You Need to Calm Down” offers a smorgasbord of queer icons and many thought that would propel it to the top spot. By that logic, a TV show could load their show with stars and it should be a huge hit. Alas, when they tried it, we were left with the disaster known as Dancing With The Stars season 16.
The biggest problem Swift is facing currently is that she’s reverting back to an era of fizziness and no emotional weight. Maybe that worked for a while but people are demanding more of their pop divas.
Kiss Another Girl, Katy Perry
Back at the start of this decade, Katy Perry was kissing girls and her teenage dream. She was a fun pop confection, and we assumed that’s how it would stay. Then a weird left turn and a mind-bogglingly boring feud with Swift left us with Witness. The best thing about that CD was we finally got a duo collaboration with Nicki Minaj. But none of her singles have had the rocket fuel of her early career.
“Never Really Over” seems like the kind of song that would begin a breakup era. Yet, the song has done little to quell talk that Katy Perry as a pop force is done. Which might have happened anyways. Outside of her bops, Perry doesn’t have the voice of Mariah Carey or the charisma of Britney Spears. Everything she does seems like a cash grab.
Which is the biggest problem Katy Perry faces. She still has enough goodwill and some additional pull within the music industry that she could hit the top of the charts again. But she needs to find a song that resonates with her personality and what she has going on in her life.
Teach Them Madonna
For the past three decades, almost FOUR, Madonna has done everything on her terms. With the release of Madame X, she is following her own pattern to a lot of success. Lead single, “Medellin,” had a slow burn to the top of the dance charts.
What Madge understands better than anyone else is that it takes people a second to love something. And then they hate it until they love it again. Somehow this has become the perfect allegory for her life.
One of the lessons that really should be looked at here is the Hot 100 isn’t everything. Madonna knows her fans want to dance and makes sure she gives that to them. Of the other four singles released, “Crave,” will likely offer the next big song.
Maybe Swift and Perry need to do it their way like Madonna. Experiment a little, test out new waters. And for the love of God, Swift, LGBTQ people love you. There is no reason to beat them over the head with it.
Pop music isn’t dead. No one is paying attention to it because she’s a 60-year-old woman who refuses to play by anyone else’s rules. We need more pop like that.