Pop Power Ranking: Zayn Makes Weak History, Rihanna Heats Up, and More

Last Week's Ranking
Bieber breaks hearts, Gwen turns heartbreak into success, and more.

Climb to the top of the pops and dive deep down into the depths with the flops in our latest edition of Pop Power Ranking.

Welcome back to Pop Power Ranking, my attempt to make sense of the week that was in the world of pop. Please consult the inaugural Pop Power Ranking for a bit more information on how I put this together (and also check out last week’s ranking for a peek at how things have moved around), but also know that it’s pretty self-explanatory — I start with the flops and end with the week’s biggest winner — and that you can probably just jump right in…

5) Justin Bieber

Following last week’s fan meet-and-greet meltdown, Bieber remains on probation. And what should one — when one is a white, heterosexual male, who has already and quite often veered dangerously into cultural appropriation territory — not do when one is on probation? Get dreadlocks! Shut it down, Biebs. Or cut ‘em off. Either way. The redemption tour narrative is quickly failing. But, whatever, he won some iHeartRadio Awards so not all is dark in the Bieberverse.

Power Rating: 22

Last Week: No. 5

4) Fifth Harmony and Meghan Trainor

On the Hot 100, Fifth Harmony earn their first-ever Top 10 hit as “Work From Home” rises to No. 10 from No. 12. Congrats, ladies! Meanwhile, no one is saying “no” to Meghan Trainor’s “No,” which rises to No. 3 on that same chart. It is Trainor’s second single to reach the top tier, following 2014’s “All About That Bass” which peaked at No. 1. Whether these single successes will translate to big albums remains to be seen, but things, so far, are looking good.

Power Ranking: 35

Last Week: Meghan Trainor – No. 4, Fifth Harmony – N/A

3) Zayn Malik

Zayn Malik’s spin team is working overtime trying to make you believe his debut album, Mind of Mine, is some kind of unprecedented success. Sure enough, and to the shock of no one, Mind of Mine debuts this week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Album 200 chart. (It also debuts at No. 1 on the UK album chart). Success, right? Sure, but let’s all calm down for a second and actually dig into this, because what looks like “history” at first glance quickly becomes shrug-worthy with just minor excavation. Regarding this “historical” debut: Malik is being touted as, and I quote, “the first male U.K. solo artist to debit at No. 1 with their first album.” In that sentence I count at least four qualifiers. You tried it, Billboard. Know this: everyone’s a No. 1 if you pile on enough qualifiers. For example: This article is the most popular ever written by a person named Matt Russoniello that includes the phrase “Zayn Malik’s spin team” for a site called Celebuzz. Even discounting the qualifier overdose, the album’s first-week numbers are surprisingly anemic. Mind of Mine moved a total of 157,000 units, only 112,000 of which were pure album sales. Is that really what we consider historic now? For the “debut” album of the first (and only so far) member of the biggest boy band of the last decade to go solo? For an album that has been hyped and promoted for nearly a full calendar year? 112,000/157,000 is less than Rihanna’s ANTI sold/was streamed its first full week out, and she gave away a million copies for free. Madonna’s Rebel Heart, widely considered to be one of the most notorious flops of the last few years, sold more pure-sales copies (though not too many) its debut week. Mind of Mine moved considerably less than a Zayn-less One Direction moved with Made in the A.M. in November 2015.  It moved mortifyingly less than Justin Bieber’s Purpose did its first week on shelves. So while Malik gets to enjoy the bragging rights that come with scoring a No. 1 album — and also the pleasure of seeing “PillowTalk” rebound from No. 8 to No. 4 on the Hot 100 — let’s all cool it with the hyperbolic “history making” praise.

Power Ranking: 50/100

Last Week: No. 2

2) Taylor Swift

At times, it’s hard to believe that Taylor Swift’s 1989 is already a year-and-a-half old. Because here we are, 18 months later, and Miss Swift’s multi-platinum record is still cleaning up. Swift’s 1989 collected three iHeartRadio Awards on Sunday, including the award for Album of the Year. In her acceptance speech, Swift thanked her boyfriend, Adam, a moment which went semi-viral thanks to the fact most people, apparently, didn’t know Calvin Harrisreal name is Adam. As boring as that revelation is, the ensuing coverage proves that Swift’s influence is still internet-shatteringly strong even when she’s in-between album eras.

Power Ranking: 78/100

Last Week: N/A

1) Rihanna

As Rihanna remains a fixture at the peak of the Hot 100, so shall she remain a fixture at the summit of this feature. “Work” notches its seventh consecutive week atop the Hot 100, giving her a career-total of 58 weeks at No. 1. If she holds on to the top spot for another week, she will tie The Beatles for second-most weeks at No. 1. With seven weeks on top, “Work” officially ties “Umbrella” as the Rihanna song with the second-longest run at No. 1. (The only song Rih song that remained at No. 1 longer? The timeless”We Found Love,” which held the spot for 10 weeks.) And that’s not all: if the internet felt 30 or 40 degrees warmer to you last week, it’s likely because Rihanna released the steamy video for “Kiss It Better” to breathless, horny excitement. Bad Gal also accepted the Rock Star Award at Black Girls Rock! and looked absolutely flawless while doing so.

Power Ranking: 82/100

Last Week: No. 3