Pop Power Ranking: Oscar Winners and Losers, ‘Anti’ Course Correction, and the Week’s Other Big Moves

2016 Music Preview
The albums we are most looking forward to hearing this year.

In which we look back at (and rank) the week’s biggest, bestest people in pop.

Welcome to Pop Power Ranking, a new feature in which I, your humble guide, attempt to make sense of everything interesting, awful, incredible, and otherwise notable in the world of pop over the last week. Here’s how I will attempt to accomplish that: I will rank, from “lowest” to “highest,” the five or so musicians or bands that, for whatever reason, made the biggest splashes in pop culture over the last seven days. Still with me?

Before we begin, a few notes.

  • I may tinker with the format as I figure out what works and doesn’t work. So bear with me as I smooth out the kinks.
  • Because I will be focusing on what happened over the last seven days, I will often not make mention of major pop stars. For example, Beyoncé is not included in this week’s Pop Power Ranking. This is not to say she is not powerful. It just means she didn’t really do much this week. In order to address this, I have included a Power Rating scale underneath each musician’s entry in an attempt to illustrate where they land on the overall spectrum of pop success. So for example just imagine Beyoncé (and basically every other pop star) is placed, invisibly, somewhere on the scale of 0 – 100.
  • Expect major shakeups each week. Again, this is about the last seven days, not about your fav’s entire career. So he or she who appears at No. 1 on this ranking may completely fall off the list the following week should he or she go quiet. Make sense?


Without further delay, let’s get into this. Here is this week’s Pop Power Ranking.

5. Sam Smith

Sam Smith may be the only person qualified to teach a college course called How to Turn an Oscar Win Into the Biggest Failure of Your Career. Though Lady Gaga was the favorite to take home the Best Original Song Oscar, it was Smith’s name that was called on Sunday night. He took the stage and erroneously implied that he might just be the first openly gay man to win an Oscar, a fact so blatantly untrue it’s shocking he actually said it. He followed it up with another gaffe backstage about how he should date Howard Ashman, an Oscar-winning lyricist who died of AIDS-related complications in 1991. And I didn’t even mention his awful, pitchy performance of “The Writing’s on the Wall” during the show, which Smith himself “hated every minute of.”  One embarrassing Twitter spat with openly gay Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black later, and Smith had accomplished the impossible: he became pop’s biggest loser on the night of his big, big win. (But hey: he’s halfway to an EGOT now, so at least he has that.)

Power Rating: 5/100

4. Kelly Clarkson

As American Idol winds down for good, the competition’s first-ever (and only truly iconic) winner, Kelly Clarkson, returned to the stage that made her famous and performed an emotional rendition of “Piece By Piece.” The performance went so viral that the song, which was released a year ago, shot up to No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart, displacing Rihanna and Drake’s “Work.” Though Idol’s power and influence have waned severely over the years, this moment is a great reminder of what it was once capable of doing. It’s also a reminder of what a powerhouse Clarkson has always been.

Power Rating: 42/100

3. Adele

In case you forgot: we’re still living in the age of Adele. 25 just notched its 10th non-consecutive week atop the Billboard Album 200, which is especially impressive when you remember that more than 8 million people have already bought it. (That’s in America alone!) Adele also cleaned up at the BRITs, where she took home several awards, performed “When We Were Young,” and sweetly, publicly declared her support for Kesha. Lastly, Adele kicked off her sold-out world tour; one show in, and she already spawned a viral moment. One not-so-bright spot: 25’s second single, “When We Were Young,” appears to have stalled without even reaching the Top 10.

Power Rating: 65/100

2. Rihanna

After one of the most disastrous album rollout campaigns in history (if not the single most disastrous), Rihanna is finally finding her footing in the ANTI era. Lead single “Work” is No. 1 on the Hot 100 for a second week, and its video, which premiered last week, delivered a jolt of energy to the internet and pop music fans. ANTI is also holding steady on the Album 200 chart, where this week it lands at No. 2, just behind Adele’s 25. (Sales-wise, however, the album is hardly doing 25 numbers. No, we don’t count those freebies.) Throw in her and Drake’s decent (if a little unmemorable) performance at The BRITs last week, and you can bet Rih and her team are finally, thank God, breathing a sigh of relief.

Power Rating: 72/100

1. Lady Gaga

Gaga may not have won the Oscar she deserved, but she won the Oscars. Her jaw-dropping performance of “Til It Happens to You” floored the live audience and brought the entire arena to its feet in rapturous (and tearful) applause. When, minutes later, Sam Smith took home the award for Best Original Song, you could actually feel shock and confusion emanating from the audience over the fact that Gaga, who had been the far-and-away favorite, wasn’t being called up to the stage. But no matter: the performance has since gone viral, not only inspiring repeat viewings and massive surges in sales and streams of the song, but also praise, support, and heartbreaking confessions from other survivors of sexual assault. That this performance was simply the cap to her historic, performance-filled February — she also nailed the national anthem at the Super Bowl and delivered a memorable (though divisive) tribute to David Bowie at the Grammys — proves what I told you earlier: Gaga is back and better than ever. Now drop that #LG5 single, Lady!

Power Rating: 95/100

Please return next week for another edition Pop Power Ranking to see if ur favs made the cut.