If you’ve heard Lady Gaga’s “Do What U Want” or Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” recently, you’re privy to an important fact: Now is a very, very good time for female pop superstars. The singles slay and the iTunes-frequenting public respond in kind. In fact, the past five years have been an era of fabulous singles for pop princesses, and that brings us to today’s topic: the 25 greatest pop songs of our biggest female stars since 2008. I like 2008 as a cutoff date since that’s when Lady Gaga and Katy Perry debuted, Rihanna hit her stride as a super-sexualized hitmaker, and Miley emerged from her Hannah Montana cocoon as an overcaffeinated pop entity with “See You Again.”
Some guidelines: I’m only included superstars in this tally. “Call Me Maybe” might be a brilliant song, but Carly Rae Jepsen has yet to prove her mettle as a (Canadian) idol with staying power. The same goes for Jessie J, Ellie Goulding, and many others with big hits . Furthermore, since I’m only including pop superstars, I’m only using songs that hit the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 20. Any lower and the songs aren’t eligible. This means plenty of my favorite songs aren’t on the tally, like Kylie Minogue‘s “Timebomb” or Madonna‘s “Celebration.” This is about pop divas and which of their pop hits reign supreme in this very profound pop era.
Got it? Good. Let’s brush our teeth with a bottle of Jack and just dance.
25. Katy Perry, “E.T.”
Despite the fact that Katy Perry is intent on barraging us with blander fare like “Roar” and “Walking on Air” in recent months, the girl is truly at her best when she’s being weird. “E.T.” is awash in robo-drones and Tetris beeps, and when Katy blares, “You’re not like the others, futuristic lover,” she sounds shocked and titillated — precisely the reaction we’d all have to a cocky aeronautical invader, even if he turned out to be an imp like Kanye West.
24. Britney Spears, “Till the World Ends”
Britney Spears has enjoyed a couple of #1 hits in recent years, but her best single was a #3 jam with an apocalyptic bent: “Till the World Ends” gave us Britney Jean’s cooing vulnerability (which, I think, is what fans like most about her — but I’m still not sure) and an anthemic climax complete with a Madonna-esque wail of “If you feel it, let it happen / Keep on dancing ’till the world ends.” A lovely You Can Dance-type sentiment, no?
23. Jennifer Lopez, “On the Floor”
I didn’t expect a return to form from J-Lo in early 2011, but this was comeback that raged from London to Ibiza. “On the Floor” is a scorching, bumping dance supernova, and even if Pitbull’s yippy growls aren’t for everyone, the beat here is undeniable and huge.
22. Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
Who doesn’t root for Kelly? Her upcoming Christmas album sounds like an ace, she always stuns us with candor on Twitter, and she’s a flawless live performer. She landed her third #1 hit with “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” in 2012, and it was a refreshing success considering its an exhibition of her greatest talent: convincing us she’s a survivor. From “Since U Been Gone” to “Never Again,” Kelly has found the triumph in heartbreak, and “Stronger” is an unofficial testament to her own convalescent charisma.
21. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
Nothing compares 2 youth, but Miley emerged into a ferocious and (so far) controversial adulthood with her recent album Bangerz and its killer lead single “We Can’t Stop” and the powerful ballad “Wrecking Ball.” The latter track is the more impressive effort thanks to its quiet buildup, harsh chorus, and an undeniably strong vocal performance from Miley, whose singing ability has remained vastly undervalued since her “See You Again” days.