The Top Seven Contenders for the New King of Pop

July 2, 2009

Now that MJ has passed, the need for a new pop icon to fill the large void is an absolute necessity for fans as well as the music industry. Even though there will never ever be another Michael Jackson and no one will ever come close to his level of success, there has to be someone who will be able step up and become the King of Pop for the 21st century.

Sorry, Prince. I think you’re a little too old, buddy…

7. Ne-Yo


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Ne-Yo is, without a doubt, an R&B singer at his roots, but when he dropped the title track from Because of You back in 2007, it became very clear that he was something a tad more extraordinary. A great pop act needs to be able to satisfy a number of different fans and Ne-Yo has a very unique way of doing it. Even though he’s not an MC, Shaffer Chimere Smith has the ability to hold his own by sing-rapping on street MC tracks like Game’s “Camera Phone” and the smoothed-out Plies joint “Bust it Baby Pt.2.” His producing skills also set him apart from most R&B/pop acts.

Ne-Yo's work ethic is second-to-none and his knack for working with a very broad and wide range of artists could easily make him one of the biggest musical names in the coming years.

6. The-Dream


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Producer-turned-solo-artists are nothing new in the world of hip-hop, but The-Dream (AKA Terius Nash) is pretty unique within that exclusive crowd.

We first have to acknowledge the fact that Dream produced Rihanna’s "Umbrella" and Beyonce’s "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," easily two of the biggest pop songs of the last five years. His first solo effort Love Hate was no doubt a great freshman effort for the high-pitched R&B synth-popper, but the growth shown on Love vs. Money seems to truly be a vision of greater things to come. I’m going to come out and say right now that "Rockin' That Sh*t" is by far one of the best pop tracks of the year and the remix is even better. Dream doesn’t have the greatest voice nor the chiseled-chin looks to keep every lady on the planet hanging on his every word, but I really do believe he has yet to hit his absolute peak and will do so at some point in the very near future.

5. Andre 3000


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This may seem like a curveball for some, but to me, it makes total sense. With a little work on a few minor details, Andre could be the total package. Shoot, he almost is now.

Like Michael, Dre has continued to evolve as an artist throughout his entire career. It even feels like he’s a different being on every single LP he’s been associated with. But enough of all that, let’s talk about his skills as an MC, singer, and songwriter. I don’t think we really need to dive deep about why Andre is one of the most unique lyricists of all time. All you really need to do is pick up any one of the first three Outkast records to understand. The most amazing thing about Andre as an artist is how he was able to transition from a semi-underground Atlanta rapper to a pop superstar gracing the screens of MTV all over the world. When “Hey Ya!” dropped back in 2003, it became one of Oukast’s biggest hits ever and showed the true range of Andre as an artist. He may not have the most jaw-dropping voice on the planet, but it is a million times better than most rappers trying to sing. Benjamin has always been ahead of his time and I still feel the best is yet to come. His solo project is supposedly due by the end of the year and I can only hope that it will live up to the hype

4. Usher


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You could easily make a case that Usher was the Michael Jackson of the late-‘90s to early-2000s. He had the voice, ill dance moves, and dashing good looks. To date, Usher has sold approximately 38 million albums worldwide and has won five Grammy Awards. Usher was also ranked as the 21st most successful Hot 100 Singles Artist of all-time by Billboard magazine. He ranked higher than any other artist of his generation. These stats can easily help make a case for why he should be crowned the new King of Pop. He has been dealing with some personal issues of late, but with the tragic death of MJ, I can see Usher wanting to claim his top spot as soon as possible.

3. Chris Brown


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My analyzation of Chris in this situation is purely based on his skills as an artist, not on his amazing right cross.

I will say out of the gate that if Chris didn’t get himself into all of this drama with Rihanna, he was on-course to become one of the biggest pop acts in the world.

First off, the kid kinda does have the total package in terms of superhuman dance abilities, legions of diehard female fans, and a solid singing voice. He can also effortlessly cross genre boundaries. Chris can do R&B, hip-hop, and pop tracks with no problem at all. He also has the unique ability to add a pop touch to street records which makes his songs appetizing to a very wide assortment of fans. This makes him marketable in a way that very few artists can compete with.

If Chris and his handlers are able to remold his image into what it once was and get his albums back on the top of the charts, Mr. Brown might eventually be able to lead the pack as the biggest pop star on the planet.

2. Kanye West


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Let the hate begin. It does kinda pain me to have to defend Ye and give him his props all at the same time, but the man totally deserves it.

One of the biggest keys to being a great artist is a clear vision of what you want your art to be, and Mr. West most definitely has a very crystal clear foresight of what he needs to accomplish on a day to day basis. He also has no fear when it comes to breaking down boundaries of what a pop artist should be. When he dropped 808s and Heartbreak back in late-2008, I never really knew how hard it was for a hip-hop artist to extend out of the genre and explore new territory. The mainstream hip-hop world, mostly MCs, had nothing but hate for the experimental LP. The fact that Kanye was able to pull off singing throughout the entire record and still make it successful was a pretty amazing feat. I honestly hated most of the tracks at first listen, but songs like “Paranoid” and “Amazing” totally started to grow on me like a fungus.

Michael Jackson was notorious for being a workaholic and a control freak when it came to his artistic vision, and Ye is no different. It seems like he has a hand in everything that goes into the music-making process including artwork, music videos, and beyond.  The guy has been able to cross so many boundaries in the music world it’s scary. Kanye is both a great artist and an even better businessman. Both of which you need to succeed as well as last in this industry. People can hate all they want, the man truly understands what it takes to be #1 and has been delivering nonstop since the day he stepped onto the scene.

1. Justin Timberlake


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This may seem like an obvious choice for most, but it’s really not all that simple.

If anything, Justin is just an updated version of MJ in the form of a clean-cut white boy. His release of Justified back in 2002 was basically JT trying to be Michael in every way possible. From the Off The Wall-like harmonies to the dance moves in his music videos, Timberlake seemed to just copy from the book Michael wrote 20 years prior.

But when he released FutureSex/LoveSounds back in 2006, Justin showed us that he was a true artist with the ability to find his own voice and evolve naturally. Even though he was taking inspiration from a slew of pop artists past like Prince, JT somehow made everything he did seem new and unique. I’ve always felt that making great pop is no easy task and Justin was totally able to do so with songs like "My Love," "What Goes Around.../...Comes Around (Interlude)" and "LoveStoned/I Think She Knows." The other thing that absolutely sets JT apart from all other pop artists has been his extracurricular work outside music. His unforgettable appearances on SNL alone have somehow eclipsed every bad thing he ever did as a member of 'N Sync. I can’t believe I just said that. He can also play the piano and has some tangible musical talent. He's the full package. He can sing, dance, and perform with anyone.

As much as people want to fight it, Justin Timberlake is now officially the King of Pop for the 21st century.