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The Best Pop Artist of Each Year (1983 to 2023)

In this list, we are taking a look at some of the most talented stars pop music has to offer.

Taylor Swift singing into a microphone.
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For decades now, the genre of pop music has dominated the music industry, showcasing some of the biggest artists that the world has ever known. In this article, I will give my pick for who I think deserves the title of the best pop artist of the year, starting with 2023, and going all the way back to 1983.

2022 & 2023: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift performing at a concert.
Credit: Brian Friedman / Shutterstock.com

Who else to start this list off than with the woman who has been at the forefront of the pop scene for the last decade. Taylor Swift’s record breaking tenth studio album, Midnights, as well as the release of the Taylor’s version of her previous albums, such as 1989, Speak Now, and Red, earns her the title of best pop artist for both 2022 and 2023.

2021: Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo wearing a black dress, looking to the side.
Credit: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

In 2021, we saw the birth of one of the biggest up and coming pop stars in Olivia Rodrigo. At the beginning of the year she released her debut single “Driver’s License”, which blew up immediately. Soon after, she followed suit with the release of “deja vu” and “good 4 u”, eventually putting out her debut album, Sour, which as of this article, has become the most streamed album on Spotify by any female artist ever.

2020: The Weeknd

The Weeknd onstage, holding a microphone.
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No artist had a greater hold on the music industry during the coronavirus pandemic like The Weeknd. With the release of his fourth studio album, After Hours, as well as the success of the mega hit single “Blinding Lights”, The Weeknd dominated the charts in 2020, with “Blinding Lights” eventually becoming the highest streamed song in Spotify history.

2019: Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish onstage singing into a microphone, wearing red tour merch.
Credit: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com

The world first became aware of Billie Eilish just a few years before, but in 2019, Billie Eilish truly cemented herself as a star. She released her debut studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and her #1 hit single, “Bad Guy”, serves as an anthem for what can be considered a great year of pop music.

2018: Post Malone

Post Malone crouched down while holding a microphone.
Credit: Jacob giampa / Shutterstock.com

At the end of 2018, Post Malone, alongside Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, took the world by storm with the single, “Sunflower”, which was featured on the soundtrack for the animated film, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Before this though, Post released his second studio album, beerbongs & bentleys, which featured hits such as “rockstar” and “Psycho”.

2017: Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran onstage holding a guitar and singing into a microphone.
Credit: yakub88 / Shutterstock.com

Before The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” took the mantle, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” previously held the title of most streamed song in Spotify history. Which makes sense, when you think of how big this song was, as well as other hits, such as “Perfect”, from his third studio album, ÷.

2016: Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars singing on stage with a band while in a suit.
Credit: Brian Friedman / Shutterstock.com

Coming off of the success of “Uptown Funk”, the mega popular collaboration with Mark Ronson, Mars kept the rhythm going when he released his third studio album, 24K Magic, which featured hits such as “24K Magic”, the album’s title track, as well as “That’s What I Like”.

2015: Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber singing into a microphone wearing a Wu-Tang Clan shirt.
Credit: Jack Fordyce / Shutterstock.com

I’m sure we can all agree that at one point in time, the biggest pop star in the world was Justin Bieber. In 2015, he released Purpose, which featured several hits like: “Love Yourself”, “What Do You Mean?”, and “Sorry.”

2014: Taylor Swift

A Taylor Swift paparazzi photo from 2014. She has short hair, and is wearing a silver jacket.
Credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com

A decade ago, Taylor Swift released one of the biggest pop albums of all time, 1989, an album that still lives up to the hype to this day. The three big hits from this album, “Shake It Off”, “Bad Blood”, and “Blank Space”, have all aged incredibly well and are songs that will be remembered years down the line.

2013: Katy Pery

Katy Perry performing on stage while wearing a peacock outfit.
Credit: Harmony Gerber / Shutterstock.com

Katy Perry was without a doubt one of the biggest pop stars the early 2010s had to offer. 2013 was just one of those years. With the release of singles like “Roar” and “Dark Horse”, Perry’s fourth studio album Prism, lands her the title of 2013’s best pop artist.

2012: Rihanna

Rihanna pointing while singing into a microphone.
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It’s about time Rihanna showed up on this list, considering the star she is. In 2012, she released her seventh studio album, Unapologetic, her first album to ever go number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. This album featured possibly her biggest song to date, “Diamonds”. She also released an album at the end of 2011 as well.

2011: Adele

Adele holding two Brit awards she won in 2011.
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Possibly the greatest vocalist of her time, Adele definitely owned 2011. She released her second studio album, 21, with singles like “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep” being released beforehand, with the latter ending up as the biggest song of the year, according to Billboard.

2010: Katy Perry

Katy Perry performing on stage in a silver dress.
Credit: A.PAES / Shutterstock.com

In 2010, Katy Perry made history. She became the first person since MIchael Jackson to have five songs from just one album, Teenage Dream, to go number one on the Billboard Hot 100. This is a feat that hasn’t been done since, and because of that, I decided to give her the title for this year.

2008 & 2009: Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga singing on stage while someone dances in the background.
Credit: Brian Friedman / Shutterstock.com

The late 2000s saw a surge of new pop starts emerging. Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and of course, Lady Gaga. In 2008, she released her debut LP, The Fame, which featured “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”, some of her biggest hits. The next year, she did a reissue of The Fame that was titled, The Fame Monster, which featured even more hits, such as Bad Romance and Telephone featuring Beyonce. These back to back releases earns her the title of best pop artist for both 2008 and 2009.

2007: Fergie

Fergie on stage singing into a microphone.
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Widely known as a member of The Black Eyed Peas, at the end of 2006, Fergie decided to put out her own solo album, which did incredibly well. Five songs from the album reached the top ten, with three of those songs, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Glamorous”, and “London Bridge”, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

2006: Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake playing a guitar while on stage.
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In 2002, Justin Timberlake released his debut solo album, Justified, The album did great for a debut, however, in 2006, he would reach even more success with the release of his second studio album, FutureSex/LoveSounds. This album also had three albums reach number one, with the lead single “SexyBack”, staying at the number one spot for 7 weeks.

2005: Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson holding a microphone and singing into it.
Credit: Brian Friedman / Shutterstock.com

Kelly Clarkson first got her big break when she won the first ever season of American Idol. After which, she released her debut album Thankful, which peaked at number one on the Billboard 200. In 2004, she released her second studio album, Breakaway, which was an even bigger success, although it saw most of its chart success in 2005. This album featured some of her biggest hits to date, such as “Since U Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes”.

2004: Usher

Usher performing on stage.
Credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

While Usher may be more on the R&B side, you can’t say that this wasn’t his year. “Yeah!” ruled the clubs, landing at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart. Other songs like “Burn” and “My Boo” also helped make Confessions the biggest album of 2004.

2003: Beyonce

Beyonce performing at a concert in a gold dress.
Credit: A.RICARDO / Shutterstock.com

Breaking out of the very successful R&B group Destiny’s Child, in 2003, Beyonce released her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love. With this, we saw the birth of one of the biggest stars that the music world has ever seen. The lead single from this album, “Crazy in Love”, was even the number four song of 2003, according to Billboard.

2002: Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne on stage at a concert.
Credit: Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Shutterstock.com

Avril Lavigne can be considered a pioneer in the subgenre of pop-punk. In 2002, she released Let Go, her debut studio album. The most popular song from the album, “Complicated”, now serves as an anthem for the genre.

2001: Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez singing and dancing on stage.
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Make way for “Jenny From the Block”! Jennifer Lopez first started her music career in 1999. In 2001, she released her second studio album, J.Lo, which featured two number one Billboard Hits, “Ain’t It Funny” and “I’m Real”, which featured Ja Rule. With this, she cemented herself a star for years to come.

1999 & 2000: Britney Spears

Britney Spears performing on stage in a pink and black outfit.
Credit: A.PAES / Shutterstock.com

It’s the turn of the millennium, and pop music was in need of a new star, and the world got that new star in the form of a young Britney Spears. She was everywhere during this time, be at it all of the award shows, or hanging out with Michael Jackson. “…Baby One More Time”, one of the most famous pop songs of all time, was released in 1999, and in 2000, “Oops!…I Did It Again”, another big hit, was also released. Her accolades during this time earned her the title for both 1999 and 2000.

1998: Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson dancing and singing on stage in a white outfit.
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The youngest sibling of the famous Jackson family had become an icon by 1998. At the end of 1997, she released The Velvet Rope, which has been highly praised by critics and reviewers. The second single from the LP, “Together Again”, landed the number six spot on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart for this year.

1997: Backstreet Boys

(From left to right) Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Howie Dorough posing for a group photo on a red carpet.
Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

It was their year, and they were back (even though they didn’t go anywhere). At the end of 1996, Backstreet Boys, the first and only group to make this list, released a self titled LP, which featured hits such as “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”.

1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, & 1996: Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey performing on a stage in a black outfit.
Credit: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

I’m sure you saw the amount of years and thought, “really?” Yes, the answer is yes. She deserves the spot for all seven years. The 1990s didn’t see the creation of many pop stars with staying power, however, it did see the creation of one who’s legacy may live on forever: Mariah Carey. She ruled the 1990s. With albums like Daydream, Emotions, and her self-titled LP, as well as songs like “Always Be My Baby”, “One Sweet Day”, “Hero”, and “Dreamlover”, she dominated the music scene year after year. Think about it, there is no solo artist with more number one hits than her. You can argue my choice, but I’m sticking with it.

1989: Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson posed on the floor of a stage beside two dancers.
Credit: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

In 1989, the youngest Jackson sibling really showcased how big of a star she really was when she released her fourth studio album, Rhythm Nation 1814. For her, it was also a step out of the shadow of her older brother Michael, something the rest of her siblings struggled with. The lead single from this album, “Miss You Much”, landed at number five on Billboard’s Hot 100 year-end chart.

1988: George Michael

George Michael standing on stage holding a microphone.
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Seeing success as part of the pop duo Wham!, George Michael continued to see success as a solo artist, when he released Faith, his debut solo album, at the end of 1987. Not only did the lead single “Faith” reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100’s weekly chart, it was also the number one song of 1988.

1987: Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston on the red carpet, posing for a photo and looking to the right.
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While people may argue this, many will say that Whitney Houston is the greatest vocalist of all time. In 1987, she released Whitney, which has now become a classic album with some of the greatest pop songs ever made on it, including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” which ranked as the number four song of 1987.

1986: Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson standing in front of a car while wearing black and red.
Credit: Vicki L. Miller / Shutterstock.com

The King of Pop continued his reign when he released Bad. This album became the first album to have 5 songs, from just this album, reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was basically a greatest hits album in real time, which is very impressive, considering that this wasn’t the first time he did this. The music videos for songs like “Bad” and “Smooth Criminal” were some of the greatest videos ever made, and is something that we still haven’t seen done like that since.

1985: Madonna

Madonna singing into a microphone while reading white and red.
Credit: A.PAES / Shutterstock.com

Madonna was a real pioneer. Many of the female pop stars of today have her to thank for paving the way. At the end of 1984, she released Like a Virgin, which featured many classic pop hits. From “Material Girl” to “Like a Virgin”, she truly became an icon with the release of this album.

1984: Prince

Prince playing a guitar on stage.
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Prince was nothing short of an absolute genius. In 1984 he released what some might consider to be the greatest pop album of all time, Purple Rain. This album came accompanied with a film of the same title, with the songs from the movie serving as the soundtrack. “When Doves Cry”, the lead single from the album, was the biggest song of 1984, according to Billboard.

1983: Michael Jackson

A drawing of Michael Jackson dancing.

Thriller. Do I need to say anything else?

Do you agree with this list? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

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Hey guys! I'm a college student here in North Carolina who loves music, movie, TV, and video games.

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