Pop stars sure typically have the longest shelf life.
For every Madonna, who’s been around for almost four decades, you have about 20 has-beens or never-wases. There are a slew of one-hit wonders in the genre for a reason: It’s really hard to maintain a presence, a fanbase, and a high quality of art in a field that’s so fickle and trendy.
In the age of social media celebrities, stars have to work extremely hard, release work often, and reinvent themselves enough times to stay relevant and not be swept away in a wave of newer, shinier singers with more Instagram followers and YouTube streams.
That’s not easy, and most pop stars can’t manage to accomplish it. However, that doesn’t mean their egos aren’t the size of Lady Gaga’s inflatable dress. These pop stars can’t seem to accept the fact that stardom is fleeting and they’ve fallen by the wayside and some of these try-hards never even made it big to begin with.
Fergie has come a long way down since her days of The Dutchess, which spawned five top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (three of which topped the charts at No. 1) in 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, Fergie waited almost a really long time to release a followup to the massive hit. She dropped “L.A. Love” in December 2014.
The song peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard charts, and due to its lackluster performance, she delayed the release of Double Dutchess, which was slated to hit shelves in 2015. She enlisted Kim Kardashian, Ciara, and Chrissy Teigen for her “M.I.L.F. $” music video in July 2016, but the song stalled at No. 34. Fergie tried another single, “Life Goes On,” in December 2016, but the track didn’t chart at all.
When the album finally dropped in September 2017, it peaked at No. 19, despite her best publicity stunts, including her Trevor Live stage crashing to plug her Target bonus tracks and her disastrous national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game in February 2018. There’s a reason she’s working so hard: She revealed in a European radio interview that she paid for her music videos herself, adding:
“I am still paying for all the videos that I did for the album so I think I might be about to go on credit. I have things that I could sell. It’s fine.”
Let’s be clear: Taylor Swift is still a top pop star, outselling every other artist in 2017 despite not even releasing Reputation until November of that year. That said, she’s not at the top of her game anymore on the Billboard Hot 100. “Look What You Made Me Do” debuted at No. 1 in September 2017. “Ready For It” debuted at No. 4, dropping to No. 53 in its second week. Then came “Gorgeous” at No. 13 (dropping to No. 69 in its second week) and “End Game” at No. 18.
Her radio play for Reputation hasn’t been stellar, Billboard reported, with insiders claiming her team made pushed to get “Look What You Made Do” to No. 1, and then backed off from promotion, leading to a steep drop in airplay. Her Reputation tour hasn’t fared well compared to her past successes due to her ultra-expensive ticket prices and sales strategy. A source told The New York Post:
“Sales so far have been a mega disappointment. There are hundreds if not thousands of tickets left for every show.”
Add that to the multitude of think pieces written about Reputation’s lack of cultural impact, and that tumble’s still got to hurt.
Some of Katy Perry’s recent struggles on the charts are due to her feud with Taylor Swift. On June 8, 2017, Swift’s catalog was released on all streaming services, stealing the thunder from Perry’s album release for Witness on June 9, 2017. Spin reported that Perry’s streaming numbers for Witness’ opening week barely beat Swift’s 1989, coming in at 19.2 million streams for Perry and 18.9 million for Swift. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 but dropped off the charts after 21 weeks.
That said, Witness just didn’t have any hits. “Chained To The Rhythm” peaked at No. 4 in March 2017 but dropped off the Billboard Hot 100 entirely after just 15 weeks. “Swish Swish” peaked at a dismal No. 46 that June and dropped off the chart within 10 weeks. “Bon Appétit” fared even worse, peaking at No. 59 and disappearing after only six weeks. Capitol Records chairman Steve Barnett told Variety:
“I talk about how engagement is so important and I don’t believe you can have big cycles between projects [as Perry did]. I think that’s changed. So you sit down and have tough conversations with her.”
Hey, at least she’s got American Idol, right?
Azealia Banks’ hit “212” garnered her an incredible amount of hype in the music industry. But, unfortunately for her, Banks squandered whatever hype she’d gained with petty (and often racist and homophobic) social media beefs with everyone from Zayn Malik to Iggy Azalea to Bill Cosby’s rape accusers, leading her to get permanently banned from Twitter and Facebook.
Her antics also cost her a collaboration with Lady Gaga, who told fans that Banks had “a bad attitude.” By July 2014, The Guardian reported that Banks left her record deal with Universal, and Vice reported that she had to cancel a Norway performance the same month because no one showed up to it. Add that to her legal troubles, and Banks’ outlook is bleak.
Banks may have celebrated signing a new record deal in February 2018, but it remains to be seen if she’ll actually release any music on it and if anyone is left to care about it.
Iggy Azalea had a massive hit with “Fancy,” which was the song of the summer in 2014 and stuck to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks even breaking a record set by the Beatles. However, as soon as March 2015, Azalea’s heat was cooling. The Wrap reported that she refused to do press to promote what would have been her first arena tour, leading to it getting scrapped entirely.
In January 2016, Azalea lashed out at her label for not letting her drop a video for “Azillion,” and her single “Team” flopped on the charts, leading most to abandon hope for her sophomore album, Digital Distortion. The ironically titled “Can’t Lose” wasn’t a chart winner, either. Her spring 2017 single, “Mo’ Bounce,” flopped as well, though plenty tuned in to see her twerking to the song.
In July 2017, Azalea claimed that her label boss Steve Bartels refused to release any more singles from Digital Distortion, which, at the time of writing, still hasn’t been released. Unfortunately for Azalea, her undoing was, well, her own doing.
When Rita Ora appeared on The Wendy Williams Show in December 2016, host Wendy Williams asked:
“I know you from [Fifty Shades Of Grey] and from Adidas, I know you as the fashion girl … but what else does she do?”
The question was symbolic of the way most of America feels about Ora, who’s actually a singer. Ora’s got a great voice, so it only makes her lack of breakthrough success stateside all the more tragic. Her struggle became glaringly apparent in October 2014, when she tweeted (via BuzzFeed):
“Dropping my new song Monday if this gets 100,000 retweets.”
It got about 2,000 retweets, and then she retweeted a fan account that wrote:
“Where [are] her 3.9 million followers when you need them? SMH.”
She later said she’d been hacked, but the damage was done. To be fair, not all of Ora’s issues are her own fault. Though she was heavily pushed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label when she first got signed, battles with the record label, as well as with her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris, led to her releasing just one album, Ora, in 2012.
She had some success, going platinum in the UK and collaborating with Iggy Azalea, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, and Charli XCX. But for every hit, she seems to have a gaffe, whether it be a public breakup with Harris or Rob Kardashian, or being busted buying her own single. Maybe modeling is her true calling after all.
Charlie Puth has attempted a whole lot publicity stunts with female artists in his thirst for companionship and fame. In his “How Long” video, released in October 2017, he deliberately made fans speculate that he dated Selena Gomez. He would later tell Billboard in February 2018 that his alleged fling with Gomez, who collaborated with him on “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” “really messed [him] up.”
However, sources insisted to E! News that Gomez only ever had a platonic relationship with him. Before that, he made a fling with Bella Thorne exceedingly public when she had the nerve to end it, Us Weekly reported. At the time, he ranted:
“Nobody should have their heart messed with like this.”
However, Thorne denied dating him at all. Prior to that incident, Puth believed that making out onstage with his “Marvin Gaye” duet partner Meghan Trainor at the 2015 American Music Awards would help make him a sensation, but it didn’t. In terms of sales, Puth’s 2015 EP, Some Type Of Love, peaked at No. 37, while Nine Track Mind fared better, peaking at No. 6 in 2016. He’s only had one single, “Attention,” break the Top 10 without a featured artist.
Perhaps Puth should have taken the hint that his career wasn’t quite taking off as he’d hoped when The Late Late Show host James Corden could only correctly name a single one of Puth’s songs during a recent “Spill Your Guts Or Fill Your Guts” segment.
Meghan Trainor dominated the charts with “All About That Bass” from her platinum debut album, Title, in 2015. Unfortunately, the M-Train derailed with her sophomore record, Thank You. The album peaked at No. 3, which isn’t terrible … until you learn that it sold half of what Title did in its first week.
Her first single from the album, “No,” peaked at a respectable No. 3, but her subsequent releases, “Better,” didn’t even break the Hot 100, though it did peak at No. 35 on the Adult Top 40. (“I’m A Lady” fared similarly, not breaking the Hot 100, but landing at No. 40 on the Adult Top 40.) “Me Too” stalled at No. 13. At the time of this writing, album No. 3 isn’t shaping up to be much better.
“No Excuses,” the first single from her upcoming third album, was a return to her Title style of modern day doo-wop, but debuted at No. 46 in March 2018.
Be honest: You still know all the lyrics to Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” (and probably “Promiscuous”). Though both are fairly modern classics in the pop music canon, Furtado hasn’t really been able to stick the landing with her subsequent tracks or releases. She took six years between her English language albums Loose in 2006 and The Spirit Indestructible in 2012.
Loose debuted with 219,000 copies sold in its first week. The Spirit Indestructible sold 6,000 copies in its first week. The Ride, released in 2017 after another long hiatus, debuted with 1,814 copies sold in its first week. No, there aren’t zeroes missing there. The album didn’t even break the Billboard 200 in Canada, her homeland. She explained to Huffington Post Canada:
“I have very few albums that debut high. I’ve had kind of everything happen to me commercially and at different levels … so one chart or anything doesn’t necessarily [mean anything] … I have had a lot of ups and downs in my career on a commercial level, so I’m very bulletproof in that way.”
Fifth Harmony should be huge. The incredibly talented ladies got their start on TV’s The X Factor, they had the backing of Simon Cowell, they opened for Demi Lovato and yet they’ve struggled their entire careers, most notably after Camila Cabello left the group in December 2016.
Billboard reported that they scrapped an entire Australian tour in 2017, while Cabello topped the charts with “Bad Things” and “Havana.” Fifth Harmony’s highest-charting track without her was “Down” in June 2017, and it peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100. Still, the remaining Fifth Harmony members seem at least somewhat aware of their issues. In December 2016, an audio clip leaked allegedly of Lauren Jauregui crying to Ally Brooke about the group’s huge workload, meager pay, and greedy management. Jauregui sobs:
“They are making decisions on a regular basis to f**k us over, to make us literal slaves, like literally slaves Ally. We’re doing f**king labor every day and we see nothing.”
It seems the lack of mainstream success is getting to the girls, too. In March 2018, Fifth Harmony announced that they’re going on a hiatus to pursue solo efforts after “six years going hard, non-stop.”
My, how the mighty have fallen Justin Timberlake was once branded the next huge male pop star, carrying the torch Michael Jackson left behind (despite throwing Jackson’s own sister under the bus after the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl). However, his solo Super Bowl performance in 2018 was panned as a flop, and many believe it led to dismal sales of his album Man Of The Woods.
That Grape Juice reported that the record was initially projected to sell upwards of 700,000 copies in its first week … but actually sold less than 250,000 copies. (To be fair, it did still debut at No. 1 despite poor to middling reviews from critics.) The album has yet to produce a hit single. “Filthy” and “Say Something” each peaked at No. 9 (with the former dropping to No. 51 in its second week), “Supplies” hit No. 71, and the title track made it to No. 79 on the Billboard Hot 100.
That’s not great for most artists, but that’s abysmal for someone of Timberlake’s level and caliber, especially when “Can’t Stop The Feeling” topped the charts less than two years earlier. Then again, maybe it’s karma for all his past shady behavior.