How can you tell if an artist has reached Superstar status? A good indicator is travelling to a faraway country, popping down to a local bar, and paying attention to the playlist. There’s a good chance you’ll hear the same names anywhere you go, sometimes with a slight delay (looking at you, beach bars that never grew tired of the 2016 bangers). But hey, that instils your travelling with a bit of a time-travelling feel, so it’s not all bad, right?
The Art of Defining a Superstar
It’s very simple, really: the more popular an artist is, the closer they are to superstardom. Meaning, the more people watch their videos, engage with them on social media, follow them on streaming services, etc., and do so over long periods of time, the more reliably we can claim they are indeed a prominent force in the music industry. Speaking of the latter, since this business is all about who knows whom, having famous names in your network also tips the scales in favor of popularity. By tracking and analyzing all these factors, we've created a reliable chart algorithm.
• Among the half a million artists in our database, only the top 200 are considered Superstars.
• More than half of the Superstars are men, but 8 out of the top 10 Superstars are women.
• Less than 20% of Superstar names are groups, bands or duos.
Each artist is also recorded by their country of origin, meaning that Celine Dion remains Canadian no matter how long she’s been living in the US or how many Vegas shows she sells out. Two things are also worth pointing out. First, we’re mostly drilling into Western social networks and streaming services (some of them not available in certain parts of the world yet), and, due to data accuracy, only taking into account the artist-owned channels while omitting record labels and entertainment platforms. Secondly, our contributor community keeps reviewing profile details and voting on genres, so some facts are bound to change through time. All said and done, while the results are accurate, some parts of the whole picture remain to be painted.
For now, let’s see what the data has to say.
The Superstar world seems to be strongly dominated by US artists, 107 names to be exact. Eight out of the global Top 12 Superstars are American women, all of them Pop stars – from Ariana Grande at #1, to Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lopez. In terms of genres, the second most popular is Hip Hop, while Rock and Metal are represented exclusively by bands (not duos or individuals).
Even though Puerto Rico is officially a part of the US, its Superstars are documented separately. An impressive list of 12 names contains almost all of the hottest Latin players right now, with Daddy Yankee positioned highest at #19.
Remaining on the Americas’ side, Latin and Pop are prevailing, with the exception of Jamaica’s Major Lazer representing Electronic. The highest-ranking Superstars from the Caribbean and Latin America, both in the global Top 10, are both ladies: Rihanna (Barbados) and Shakira (Colombia), while Brazil leads Latin America with the most Superstars: 15.
One of the only two men in the Top 10 is Canadian, and you probably already know who we’re talking about. Justin Bieber, positioned at #2, is one of the 4 hottest Canadian exports, along with Drake, The Weeknd, and Avril Lavigne. Before you ask, no, Nickelback unfortunately do NOT qualify as Superstars…yet.
Old Country, New Beats.
Crossing over to the European side, our first stop are the UK and Ireland. While Niall Horan is the only (lucky) Irish representative, the United Kingdom hosts 14 Superstars. Ed Sheeran is the second male Top 10 name, and Pop is the most popular genre. The standouts include Calvin Harris representing Electronic, and 3 Rock acts: Harry Styles, Coldplay, and Queen.
The 3 Spanish Superstars also had a good year – Rosalía was our 2019 festival winner, Alejandro Sanz released a new album, while Enrique Iglesias at #42 seems to hint that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything can be found in Pop.
Moving to Central Europe and to the North, the turntables are turning strongly in favor of Electronic. All Norwegian and Dutch Superstars are Electronic (Alan Walker, Martin Garrix, and Tiësto). The same can be said for France’s own DJ Snake and David Guetta, who is also the world’s #2 most popular Electronic artist, just behind Marshmello. For Germany, Superstar genre popularity is split in half: making the list are Zedd in Electronic, and Rammstein in Metal, one of the only 3 Superstar names in this genre, alongside Metallica and Slipknot.
2019: the Asian chart invasion.
One of music industry’s hottest topics this year was the worldwide chart dominance of K-Pop. Already in January, Jimin of BTS fame managed to smash Drake’s SoundCloud record for the most first-day streams. His debut single "Promise" was played 8.5 million times in the first 24 hours, and to this day has managed to gain well over 190M plays.
Three South Korean K-Pop stars made our list, namely BLACKPINK, BTS, and TWICE. According to our data (and to the outrage of BTS’ loyal fanbase), BLACKPINK reign supreme at #22. Also pushing Asia up the star-chart is Agnez Mo, Indonesia’s most popular – and most awarded – Pop sensation.
Australia and New Zealand are Popping.
The majority of Superstars from the Land Down Under are Pop stars, from New Zealand’s Lorde to Australia’s 5 Seconds of Summer, Sia, and Troye Sivan. Sticking out of the Pop crowd are Hip Hop’s own Iggy Azalea, and Rock legends AC/DC, who have been thundering around the world for 46 years now – more than double the time some of other Superstars have even been alive! Respect, mates.
Last but not least: Middle East (and India).
The most popular genre in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and India is – again – Pop. Representing Iraq is Nour Al-Zain, who is also the region’s highest-ranking Superstar (#89), while the other countries all pride themselves with two names: Sherine and Tamer Hosny for Egypt, Elissa and Nancy Ajram are from Lebanon, and Neha Kakkar and Shreya Ghoshal sing for India.
While the global map shows an interesting insight into genre popularity, many local nuances still exist. On your favorite artist’s profile, Superstar or not, you’ll probably already find where they're the most popular, see if you can catch them live somewhere nearby, and which posts to engage with to boost their popularity further. Who knows, maybe next year’s chart will be totally different.
Cover photo: Ariana Grande by Kevin Mazur/Lollapalooza 2019
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