By Sterling Wong
“She works hard for the money,” Donna Summer once sang, and just as it was the case in 1983, pop stars these days have to work their butts off to earn those album purchases, downloads and concert ticket sales in this age of YouTube, X-Box and Angry Birds.
But while some singers identify with the Protestant work ethic espoused by Donna, there are others who, as Bruno Mars puts it, “don’t feel like doing anything [and] just wanna lay in my bed.” And it’s not always only those who are hardworking who find success, as the popularity of Bruno proves. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it.
So, who’s working hard and who’s not? In the spirit of Christmas, we decided to put together a pop star naughty and nice list for Santa.
Hardest-Working Stars of 2011
Was there any doubt that Gaga wouldn’t make it on this list? Since her show-stopping arrival on the pop music scene, Gaga has redefined what it means to mean a 21st century pop star, melding avant-garde fashion, pop hooks and social activism like no one else. This year marked the released of Gaga’s sophomore full-lengthalbum, Born This Way, and to ensure that it matched the success of the impeccable The Fame/Fame Monster, Gaga has worked her butt off promoting it, performing on the Grammys, VMAs and countless other TV shows, while finding time to speak up for gay rights, direct her own music video (“Marry the Night”) and even directing her own Thanksgiving special. How’s that for accomplishment?
Three years, three albums: That’s the kind of frenetic rate that Rihanna has been working at since she left Chris Brown in 2009. Just this year alone, Rihanna has released six (!) singles: “S&M,” “California King Bed,” “Man Down,” “Cheers (Drink to That),” “We Found Love” and her latest single, “You Da One.” Rihanna also found time to guest on tracks by Kanye (“All of the Lights”), Nicki Minaj (“Fly”), Drake (“Take Care”) and more surprising artists like Coldplay (“Princess of China”) and the Lonely Island (“Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde”). We got tired just by typing all that out! Keep in mind that Rihanna cranked out all of that while also taking her Loud tour to over 20 countries for 100 dates. The amazing thing is that 2012 looks to be just as crazy, as she continues to promote Talk That Talk and preps for the release of her feature film debut, “Battleship.”
Plenty of artists, after having the kind of breakout year Katy enjoyed in 2010, would have chosen to take some time off and enjoy the fruits of their success. But Katy is not one of them. After “California Girls” and “Teenage Dream” became ginormous hits last year, Katy continued to push out hit after hit, with “Firework,” “E.T.,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)” and “The One That Got Away” all becoming ubiquitous radio staples. Besides chasing chart history – if “The One That Got Away” hits No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Katy will be the first artist ever to have six singles from one album hit the top spot – Katy also found time to host “Saturday night Live,” tour the world and voice a character in “The Smurfs.” No wonder she is our Artist of the Year.
Laziest Stars of 2011
OK, I recognize that Britney worked her butt off on her Femme Fatale tour, but where was the star on TV? In February, I wondered why Britney had made so few public appearances when she was about to release a new album, and while we did eventually see her perform on a handful of shows like “Good Morning America,” her promo schedule was nothing compared to those undertaken by Gaga, RiRi or Justin Bieber. Now that Britney is reportedly engaged and will take some time off, it’s highly likely we won’t be seeing much of the 30-year-old in 2012 either. We miss hearing from you, Britney! How about another MTV “For the Record” documentary when you release your next album?
Why are we calling the bestselling (by a considerable margin) artist of 2011 lazy? It’s all because of “Rolling in the Deep” really. The video to her smash single has her pretty much sitting on a chair the entire duration of the song. Compare her efforts to, say, Gaga’s exertions in “Marry the Night,” and you’d agree that Adele has a good gig, no? In fact, Adele herself has good-naturedly acknowledged the ribbing she received over the video. In a July blog post on her website, she wrote, “Flabbergasted about the VMA nominations!! Thank you thank you MTV! I’m thinking about releasing a range of chairs to celebrate!” A great singer with a great sense of humor – now that’s something worth celebrating.
Five years after the release of FutureSexLoveSounds (Gulp. Has it been so long?), Justin Timberlake is now a serious Hollywood leading man, with roles this year in “Friends With Benefits’” and “In Time.” But while it’s admirable that Justin’s honing his craft, I must say I’m getting antsy waiting for a new J.Timberlake record! Come on, Justin! It’s been five years! And if Rihanna can shoot a movie and record an album, so can you! We need some new music from you, please!