Greatest Pop Stars of the 20th Century

27 Jun
Frank Sinatra* Elvis Presley** Michael Jackson* Madonna
#1 Singles 4 31 13 12
#1 Albums 5 4 5 7
Top 10 Singles 11 38 23 37
Top 10 Albums 32 7 7 17
Grammy Awards 13 3 13 7
Albums Sold 150,000,000 > 1,000,000,000 750,000,000 400,000,000

* Only solo performances are counted in top albums and singles.

** Soundtracks are not included in album counts.

I understand that pop as a genre did not really mature until the 1980’s and as such artists like Sinatra and Preseley are not truly competing on the same field as MJ and Madonna. However, in their respective times, I think they held similar positions in the realm of musical entertainment as Madonna and Michael Jackson. Certianly both were parfoemers as well as musicians; both Sinatra and Presley went on to have great performance careers in Las Vegas. It could be argued that Elvis and Ole’ Blue Eyes are really the two main reasons that Vegas is what it is today.

In the modern world of pop music, certainly Madonna and Michael Jackson have been two large, if not the largest stars. Each began their solo careers early on in the emergence of true pop music. It is a musical genre that grew out of the carefree beats of disco. Certianly MJ was all too familiar with through his work with his brothers and sisters in the Jackson 5.

Now the numbers are a bit skewed as the music nad entertainment markets changed dramaitcally over the course of 60 years. And to be fair, the only person listed to win all of their Grammys for actually singing was Evlis; and his came for Gospel music, not for his rock and roll. Sintra won one for album art and Madonna and MJ both won multiple Grammys for music videos.

Of course none of the four only did music. But while Sinatra, Elivs, and Madonna all expanded their entertainment empires through movies, Jackson chose to explain his music through music videos. If you put “Thriller” into YouTube, something like 115,000 results come up, and most of them are people doing their best impression. Music vidoes became an artform because of Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson’s love of peformance, his innovative and inspiring dance moves, his overt desire to please his fans, and his sheer stage presence I believe do put him on par with Elvis Presley. Elvis may have sold more albums and may continue to out-earn Michael, but I believe they are the two greatest musical icons of the 20th century. Sinatra and Madonna have certainly been extremely sucessful an popular, but both Elvis and MJ continued to push the bounds of entertainment and bridged musical genres.

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Posted by on June 27, 2009 in Opinion


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