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Who are the most significant musical artists in the United States today? That is the question that this list attempts to answer. Today, numbers 20 through 16 are presented, including a pop star pariah and a couple of critical darlings.
20 – Lorde
The precocious New Zealand pop star was treated as a breath of fresh air—thanks to her carefully crafted anti-image and minimalistic production—when her globe-conquering single “Royals” started making the rounds. “Royals” was a massive pop hit and won Song of the Year at the Grammy’s. Critics love her too, with “Royals” placing second in the 2013 Pazz & Jop poll.
19 – Jay-Z
Even though it’s probably been about a decade since he has bothered to come up with a decent verse, Jay-Z still has serious industry clout and commercial appeal. He has been particularly successful with collaborations with artists including Beyonce, Kanye West, and Justin Timberlake. Meanwhile, his latest solo album Magna Carter Holy Grail has sold over one-million copies, including first-week sales of 528,000.
18 – Kendrick Lamar
A serious contender for best rapper alive, Kendrick Lamar is the rare artist who has won over music critics, Grammy voters, and the general public. His 2012 major-label debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City justified the hype generated by his mixtapes and independent releases, getting rave reviews for its dense production and introspective lyrics. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts and has sold over 1.2 million copies to date. It also received a nomination for an Album of the Year Grammy.
17 – Frank Ocean
The Odd Future affiliate’s debut studio album Channel Orange has performed well commercially (certified gold by the RIAA), but the R&B artist has not yet become a household name. However, Frank Ocean does not require an ounce of commercial success to place in the top 20 as he has been the recipient of an amount of critical acclaim that only Kanye West can match: Mr. Ocean absolutely dominated the 2012 Pazz & Jop polls.
16 – Justin Bieber
Interestingly, Bieber’s performance on this list is more similar to country stars than other pop stars. Although he has had hit singles in the past three years, none were massive enough to place in the year-end top 25. Instead, Bieber’s ranking is based primarily on his strong album sales, with both his 2011 Christmas album Under the Mistletoe and his 2012 album Believer debuting at #1 and going platinum.
Image Credit: Snatch / Nabil