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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

The music industry has no shortage of very talented artists. There are plenty of artists that listeners can find joy and relatability in. Despite this, I’ve noticed that, even with all these artists, it just doesn’t feel like there is one artist that defines our generation or stands out from the rest. I feel like what used to be the definition of a “pop princess” or “popstar” doesn’t really have meaning and everyone has a different idea of who should fulfill these roles.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my opinions on who I think are stand-out artists, but I feel like that’s all they are—my opinions. If you spend five minutes on Twitter or TikTok, you’ll see that everyone has a different opinion about who they believe is this generation’s standout star as well. This is different from what we’ve seen before because there seemed to be more identifiable “pop” artists, like Britney Spears and Micheal Jackson. It feels like there is more of a universal agreement that these people have had a huge impact on the music industry. 

This observation I have made recently has led me to another observation: are there even pop stars anymore? 

Now, I know that asking this question will make certain people angry, but I feel like there is a distinction between a popular artist and a pop star. Yes, there are many extremely talented artists who end up making very popular songs that are remembered and valued for years, and if you Google the definition of a pop star, it will align with this sentiment. Even then, I feel like this is the bare minimum of what being a pop star truly means. 

Maybe I’m too caught up in the stereotypes of pop stars, but we aren’t seeing the same types of performances we used to. Where are the elaborate outfits? Where are the extreme visuals? The makeup looks? The songs playing where the audience can’t help but dance and sing their hearts out? Where are the people who are truly iconic, on and off the stage?

Of course, all of these features haven’t completely disappeared. There are still remnants of all of this in artists that are currently popular, but I don’t feel like there are any artists who meet all of these criteria consistently. You can take my list of questions and apply it to people like Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, or any of the other top pop artists, but is this attitude shared among the general public? 

Maybe, as a society, we’ve moved away from the stereotypical pop star image and having one or two dominant artists. Perhaps there doesn’t need to be a generally agreed upon artist who is defining this generation and era of music. This is more or less the conclusion I continue to come to. There is space for all the different pop stars to be considered iconic and make their mark on the music industry—we don’t really need just one person to be considered our generation’s pop star. It’s not that the word pop star has lost its meaning, it’s that we are adjusting to a new definition of what it means to be a “real” pop star.

Sarah Knowlton

Illinois State '24

Hi I'm Sarah! I am a junior at Illinois State and I am majoring in Human Development and Family Science! After I finish my bachelor's degree, I plan to get my master's degree in Human Development and Family Science as well. Besides writing, I like to read, watch TikToks, make art, and bake!