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Pop Princess Play-Off 2013

2013 ay? What a year. Kanye made our ears bleed then spazzed out with Zane Lowe, the world almost ended about 8 times due to global warming, and Australia elected a Prime Minister who's main two qualities appear to be a rain man like ability to remember catch phrases and a neck long enough so that he can remain standing as he digs his head firmly in the sand.

Thank god for pop music then right? Whilst all this craziness tempestually swirls around we can always count on our top 40 staples to come through with a nostalgic nod to the bubblegum 90s. This year we had albums from pop royalty Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, not to mention the new queen of kink Miley Cyrus and Beyonce's shock release.

Now don't change the channel just yet. As a man of the world I recognise that there are millions of people out there who worship at these altars, and whilst I may not be one of them, I'm not within their target market anyway. The point of this article is the interesting direction the industry is taking, and how, whilst they may sound similar and have similar levels of success, all of these divas have taken completely different paths.

Analysing trends in the internet age has become more complex than brain surgery during an earthquake, yet the riches that await those who unlock the key to popularity are endless (google PSY's net worth). Who has the secret formula? Pop music is becoming a bit of an enigma as a genre. It is limiting in the sense that those who are hamstrung by its boundaries find it very difficult to break out, and yet for those who are new and willing to experiment, accommodation awaits. How do todays straight edge pop stars approach their careers?

Let's start with Perry. She is beautiful. She has large breasts. She is willing to get naked in order to further her career. I'm sold. Well I'm not, however judging from her record sales there are a plethora of fans willing to forgive her almost sinful lack of talent for the chance to see her prance around on screen wearing very very little. A cursory glance over some live footage reveals her inability, yet women like my sister who sings like an angel descended from the place above heaven, heavens heaven, remains stuck teaching kids who wouldn't know Joan Sutherland if she sung an F to wake them up every morning. Perry has taken what I call route A. Her personality and presence is such that her achievements have propelled her in to pop royalty, and her looks and assumed promiscuity keep the dream alive for 14 and 40 year old boys alike. Money brings better producers, more savvy writers and ultimately more success. A juggernaut hard to stop.

Try Lady GaGa on for size. Her first single Poker Face was probably her most straightforward pop release. Since then she has shocked and awed with her wild behaviour and penchant for wearing clothes even Kanye wouldn't touch. This is pop the purists don't mind getting on board with. GaGa seeks the same kind of status Lauryn hill, Janis Joplin and Madonna have enjoyed. She wants to push the boundaries further than they've been pushed. ARTPOP could've come straight out of a Yoko Ono play book. But as admirable as that route may be, our lady doesn't quite seem to have the talent and follow through to pull it off. Too often on ARTPOP she trudges down contemporary lane with big aggressive beats and electrically enhanced vocals. Too pure for the hip hoppers, too mainstream for the purists.

So what of the others? Avril Lavigne had a new one out this year, proving she is 29 going on 15. We must firstly question her taste, as she is married to Chad Kroeger. The duet with him on her latest album is a definite low point, but Lavigne represents Route C to success: you did something once and a whole bunch of people loved it, so why not just keep doing it? Sk8er Boi was awesome, and her rebellious attitude and relatable activities in her video clips endeared her to the younger generation. 

Britney Spears is Route D, and the most travelled, most maligned, and also the one with the least success. Lets face it, her more wild years have proven she isn't the most gifted of individuals when it comes to intelligence. To put it more bluntly, she is about as sharp as a German's wit. She needs guidance, management, coaching. She could never sing, but she sold the dream of the teenage girl next door who is just naughty enough to give you a peak of her goodies through the window before bed on your birthday. As those around her showed their true colours she descended in to madness, and it was heartbreaking to watch. She is back in 2013 with a new record that stinks of cynicism, but we know none of that can actually be attributed to Britney. She is being led around by a series of faceless back room staff. The puppet.

Where would 2013 end of year lists be without Miley Cyrus and her very public and very distasteful maturity? Twerking her way in to the collective consciousness of pundit and common punter alike, she may have been 2013's most hated personality if it wasn't for Kanye and his medically mysterious case of god-complex. Nudity and dancing to the most atrocious song of the last decade (Blurred Lines) aside, her record was quite brilliant. Not in a listenable sense, it barely made it past 3 spins for most, but it was a calculated strike upon the soft underbelly of teenage ears that has been uncovered by the new wave of Boy Band hysteria. It remains to be seen whether Miley is another Spears; being led around by her minders, or a genuinely intelligent young woman who has cornered her market and is feeding it controversy and outrage till it grows as large as a Kardashian behind. She is young, and youth is becoming a bit of a prerequisite for success in these matters.

Purely, absolutely stunning woman

And then there's Beyonce. Who or what is she? Is she the absolute consummate professional? A hard working, ridiculously talented, beautiful woman who was doomed to succeed? You could argue Christina Aguilera falls in that category. But if Aguilera released a record tomorrow with no promotion 99% of the market would shrug their shoulders and go back to tweeting Harry Styles (no, I don't know who that is either). Could she then be seen as the ultimate pop star? Again, probably not. Her last album was criticised by some as being too self-indulgent as she began experimenting with new directions and sounds. There is a little of all in Beyonce. GaGa's desire for artistic integrity and experimental flair, Cyrus' dominance of intrigue and press, Lavigne's nostalgic tendencies and Spears' ultimate pop power. She is, then, the Queen. The other's are just chasing the throne.

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