Pop singers have been the highest-charting musicians for decades, captivating audiences with hook-laden tunes and mesmerizing live performances. As pop music is an amalgam of a number of different genres, including dance, RnB, hip-hop, country and rock, many performers have crossover success within many of these titles. Here are ten of the top pop singers of all time, who have been able to transcend their varied influences to create a unique experience for listeners.
Number Ten: George Michael
Originally known as half of the pop duo Wham!, George Michael has had a long and successful career in the music industry. With hits such as “Careless Whisper” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” he was able to translate his previous success into solo success. In 1987, he released “Faith,” his first of many solo number one singles. George Michael continues to release music to this day.
Number Nine: Beyoncé
Beyoncé Knowles has become one of the top singers of the last 15 years. As a member of Destiny’s Child, she rose to stardom and quickly broke out from the pack. Her solo career has been even more successful, with her first solo single, “Crazy in Love,” reaching number one on the Billboard charts. Throughout her career, she has sung about being an “independent woman” and continues to make her dominance as a female performer and a strong black woman known. Her latest single, “Formation,” is a bold statement regarding black power in the face of the recent rash of violence shootings.
Number Eight: Whitney Houston
Over the course of her career, Whitney Houston has dominated the pop and RnB music charts with her powerful two-and-a-half octave vocal range. Her 11 number one singles include “Saving All My Love,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” However, it is her iconic cover of “I Will Always Love You” from the soundtrack to The Bodyguard that really grabbed listeners’ attention. Even after her tragic death in 2012, she remains the most awarded female singer of all time.
Number Seven: Olivia Newton-John
One of the best-selling artists of all time, Olivia Newton-John is known for both singing and acting. She holds the record for most consecutive number one singles on the adult contemporary charts with a streak of seven songs. Her biggest hits include “I Honestly Love You” and “Physical.” Newton-John is also an accomplished actress, best known for her roles in Grease and Xanadu. Her work on Grease also landed her at the top of the Billboard charts with her John Travolta duet, “You’re the One That I Want.”
Number Six: Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson has been a trailblazer in the pop and RnB genres, paving the way for a varied array of artists in different genres. Differentiating herself from the other pop singers of the time by incorporating perfectly choreographed dance moves in her live shows, Jackson became one of the best-selling artists ever. With 18 consecutive top 10 singles, she is the only artist to have had number one hits in each of the last four decades, as well as the only artist to ever have seven top five hits from one album.
Number Five: Mariah Carey
Known for her use of melisma and ear-piercing high notes, Mariah Carey’s nearly five-octave vocal range has propelled her to a more than two-decade career in RnB and pop music. As one of the best-selling pop singers of all time, she has sold more than 200 million albums since beginning her career in 1988 and holds the record for most number one singles by a solo artist with 18 over the course of her career. Her musical and vocal style have been emulated by many pop singers since the late 1990s and continue to be influential to future generations of artists as well.
Number Four: Michael Jackson
The “King of Pop” started in the music business from a young age as the youngest member of the Jackson 5. Taking the lead on hits such as “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” and “I’ll Be There,” his early musical success started him on the path to solo fame as an adult. Given the title of the “Most Successful Entertainer of All Time” by Guinness World Records, his music transcended racial boundaries, topping both the RnB and pop charts. Even after his death in 2009, Jackson has continued to sell (and release) records and influence new generations of artists and fans. His album Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time, going a record 32-times platinum as of 2016.
Number Three: Barbra Streisand
Over the course of her six-decade music and acting career, Barbra Streisand has released a collective 50 albums, and is still actively recording music today. Though many of her hits have been Broadway standards, she has earned the title of “Mother of All Contemporary Pop Divas.” She is also considered to be the best-selling female music artist of all time by the Recording Industry Association of America, having sold more than 145 million albums worldwide. Furthermore, she is one in only a handful of entertainers who have earned a Grammy, a Tony, an Oscar and an Emmy.
Number Two: Elton John
Sir Elton John is one of them most prolific and best-selling song writers in the world with more than 50 top 40 singles, nine of which went to number one. Best known for singles such as “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “I’m Still Standing,” among many, many others, he was named by Billboard as the most successful male solo artist of all time. He continues to produce music to this day, releasing his 32nd studio album in February 2016.
Number One: Madonna
The “Queen of Pop,” Madonna Ciccone has consistently reinvented herself, finding success in every decade since her music career began in the late 1970s-early 1980s. As she gained popularity in the late 1980s, she began pushing the envelope, making both religious and political statements with her music and over-the-top outfits on stage. In the 1990s she went one step further, releasing the album Erotica alongside a photography book of her in sexual positions with various men. Madonna continues to be the best-selling female solo artist of all time, as well as the highest grossing solo touring artist of all time. Thank you for reading our list of the top 10 pop singers of all time. We hope you enjoyed it!