Pop Stars and Flop Stars: Solange’s New Album Soars, Miley Cyrus’ Career Appears to Be in ‘Crisis’
Welcome back to Pop Stars and Flop Stars, which, as I explained earlier, is a revitalized (and shortened) restructuring of the feature formerly called Pop Power Ranking. Here’s the drill: each week, I’ll name a Pop Star — someone who secured the lion’s share of No. 1s, trophies, and/or other cultural gold stars (both tangible and intangible) — and one Flop Star who… well, you get the idea. And that’s about all there is to say. Let’s get into it.
This Week’s Pop Star: Solange
Solange’s third full-length album, A Seat at the Table, debuts this week at No. 1 on the Billboard Album 200 chart. It is her first-ever No. 1 album, and in addition to already being a commercial success, it is one of the best-reviewed albums of the year. A Seat at the Table currently holds a 91% rating on review aggregate site Metacritic. Of note, Lemonade — by Solange’s sister Beyoncé — holds a 92% rating on the same site. What a year for the Knowles sisters, right?
- The Weekend, whose “Starboy” rises to No. 2 on the Hot 100 and whose “False Alarm” debuts on the same chart at No. 63
- Lady Gaga, who last week kicked off her mini Dive Bar Tour and performed three new songs live, including “Million Reasons,” which she later released as a Joanne promotional single
- Bruno Mars, whose just-released single, “24K Magic,” is shaping up to be a major hit
- Beyoncé, who wrapped up her massively successful Formation World Tour with a blowout show in New Jersey
This Week’s Flop Star: Miley Cyrus
Just three years ago, Miley Cyrus was, if not the biggest, the most talked-about pop star in the world. The lead-up to Bangerz, which included her infamous performance at the 2013 VMAs, dominated the pop culture conversation for months, overshadowing the campaigns of Lady Gaga’s polarizing ARTPOP and Katy Perry’s successful-in-a-very-banal-way Prism. That was three years ago. Now, just a year after releasing her most recent album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, for free, Miley’s career looks very different. Part of that is surely by design — Miley is working hard to make people think she’s fed up with the Hollywood machine — though it is still a bit curious. She is currently a mentor on The Voice, a gig most often reserved for pop stars whose popularity has, to put it politely, declined in recent times. She also returned to acting, the job that made her famous, but has otherwise been relatively quiet. Well, quiet-ish. Because she has been generating attention recently, but mostly for controversial and sometimes misguided remarks. Beginning at last year’s VMAs, when she and Nicki Minaj had their memorable confrontation, and continuing through recent disparaging remarks about Mariah Carey, Miley’s been on a bit of a roll with commentary that is surprisingly off the mark from someone who clearly considers herself “woke.” Last month, she claimed she would never walk another red carpet again because of starving children in Africa or something, which makes little sense; it’s not like she’s abandoned fame to solely focus on making “ART” — she’s starring on a reality singing competition, hosting The Ellen Show, and marketing herself everywhere but the red carpet. She has in no way rejected fame, and yet she wears the pretense of that rejection proudly and garishly. And so we come to the present. Today, an interview in which Miley defends her decision to work with Woody Allen, hit the ‘net, and it leaves a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth. As a vocal champion of feminism and women’s rights (and even, specifically, an an advocate for sexual assault survivors), Miley’s bad track record working with alleged sexual abusers — she worked a lot with Terry Richardson and producer Dr. Luke — continues to get worse. If three years ago Miley — problematic though she was — was shaping up to be a provocative subverter of the status quo, the 2016 incarnation of Miley appears to be content propping up the old guard, even as she pretends she’s doing the opposite. It’s disappointing, to say the least.
- Lady Gaga, whose “Perfect Illusion” continues to fall down the Hot 100, landing this week at No. 69
- Britney Spears, whose Glory fell another 35 spots down the Album 200 chart to land this week at No. 138