November 30, 2012 - 6:05 pm
Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
10. Wonder Girls
Reps: Seoul, South Korea
While they don’t share the same American chart presence as the other names on this list, Wonder Girls certainly have the buzz and high profile backers. Akon co-signed the bubbly girl clique on their well-received cut “Like Money.” Teen Nick featured the Wonder Girls in their own television movie earlier this year. And gossip maven Perez Hilton has championed the Korean act. Will their American album debut reach the heights of their overseas takeover? Well, having a roster of producers that includes J.R. Rotem, the aforementioned Akon, songwriters Wynter Gordon and Claude Kelly is a nice start.
9. The Weekend
Reps: Scarborough, Ontario
Canada already boasts an Emo rap superstar in Drake, so why not a mysterious, conceptual R&B artist? Music blogosphere favorite the Weekend first turned heads with the 2011 nine-song release House of Balloons. Since then, the singer-songwriter born Abel Tesfaye, has joined the ranks of Miguel and Frank Ocean as the new guard of rhythm and blues. The Weekend’s current Trilogy project, propelled by the remastered single and video for his seductive track "Wicked Games", displays an artist who is destined for even bigger and better things.
8. Calvin Harris
Rep: Dumfries, Scotland
The veteran DJ, songwriter, singer and producer had one of his strongest years as an artist and a studio visionary. Calvin Harris’ production of Rihanna (the world-beating, no. 1 track “We Found Love” was the highlight of her Talk That Talk release) expanded his presence even further. And his single, the soulful “Feels So Close" was arguably 2011-12’s most infectious dance anthem.
7. The Wanted
Reps: United Kingdom
Everyone loves a good boy band battle. In the tradition of New Edition vs. New Kids On The Block, Backstreet Boys vs. N’Sync is the Wanted vs. One Direction. To the Wanted’s credit, they have attempted to present a more worldly, sexy sound than their UK counterparts. You don’t feel that much guilty listening to their three million and counting selling single “Glad You Came”. Even if you are not much for seeing a group of guys engage in synchronized dancing you can appreciate the Wanted’s full blown November Twitter war with One Direction that was ignited after member Zayn Malik called Max George a “geek.” Good times.
Indie rock act Gotye had long been a buzz-heavy artist in his home down under. But in 2012 his stock rose in America and abroad. A few high profile appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Saturday Night Live exposed Gotye to a wider audience as his single “Easy Way Out" was even performed on the Fox hit Glee. The publicity helped immensely as the atmospheric vocalist enjoyed his first US no. 1 single.
5. One Direction
Reps: London, England
Pubescent, screaming girls worship at the tear-soaked altar of this new-age British boy band. On the heels of their 2011 triple platinum set Up All Night, this Simon Cowell creation followed up their introduction with their second no. 1 release Take Me Home. Pros: The five-member One Direction have been a global touring juggernaut as their upcoming 2013 trek is already sold-out. Cons: The more popular, cutesy act makes their older rivals sound like the Beatles.
4. David Guetta
When you are both the most in-demand producer in the electro-pop arena and the most polarizing DJ on the scene, there is no in between. David Guetta’s reach within the current music scene is frightening. Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, will.i.am, Rihanna, Usher, Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne are among the French spinner’s collaborators. He has also been named as the main culprit behind R&B artists seemingly selling their souls for Euro-fueled dance club glory. But really, is it Guetta’s fault that most of today’s party people want to dance to his beat?
Reps: South Korea
The intriguing aspect of PSY’s out-of-nowhere ascendance on the pop culture food chain is that the man himself is in on the joke. Proof? His just-add-water-and-spoof video for his massive anthem “Gangnam Style”. That absurd pony dance. His string of seemingly endless cheeky television appearances (the peak of the madness so far has been PSY’s surprise appearance on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, in which guest host and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane pushes a magic red button and out comes you know who).
But if you are going to be the second-coming of the Baha Men you might as well break some serious records (PSY’s “Gangnam Style” has just reached 824 million views, beating out Justin Bieber’s 803 million) and pull off a feel-good moment by bringing out dance-rap icon MC Hammer during his show-stealing performance on the American Music Awards. It’s a 15-minutes-of-fame run that at least makes you crack a smile.
It’s official: Rihanna is the biggest pop star on the planet. She’s cooler than Lady Gaga; trumps Justin Bieber in moving the cultural needle; is more bad ass than Katy Perry; and more relevant than Britney Spears. And like any world-beating pop star worth their jet-setting swag, RiRi has mastered the art of publicity. When she isn’t dominating headlines by trolling her critics (her bold tweet of a shirtless, controversial, on-again, off-again boyfriend Chris Brown laying on the bed has had the Internet going crazy) or seductively wearing nothing more than a jacket on the cover of GQ, the tatted up, tough-talking, drop dead gorgeous performer is releasing some of the best music of her career.
It’s easy to forgive Rihanna for refusing to sit down for just a minute—she’s put out nearly an album per-year since her 2005 debut—as long as she keeps dropping transcendent singles like “Diamonds.” Rihanna’s reward? Her first no. 1 debut and the biggest first-week sales of her career.
Reps: England, UK
As you read this, the powerhouse British vocalist has just sold 10 million albums in the U.S. alone. Okay, okay…yes, Adele’s critically acclaimed, omnipresent, 2011 release 21 is nearly two-years-old. But that hasn’t stopped the recent Album of the Year Grammy darling from having one of the biggest selling works of 2012. Adele’s superb, throwback James Bond single “Skyfall” has ran up two million copies. Her international reach is simply staggering (Adele has gone no. 1 in more than 26 countries). And in October, the lovable, self-effacing, diva-in-the-making gave birth to her first child, a baby boy. Charmed life, huh?