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Pop Goes Viral in 2010

  • Ray McDonald

Lady Gaga poses in the photo room at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

Lady Gaga poses in the photo room at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles

Pop music went viral in 2010, flourishing in cyberspace while downloads stagnated and CD sales continued to plummet.



Released late in 2009, Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" reached second place on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart, while earning a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. More significant, however, was the accompanying video. The surreal five-minute clip has to date attracted 319 million views on YouTube…and it's far from the year's most-watched music video.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber

That honor goes to Justin Bieber, a 16-year-old Canadian singer whose mother kick-started his career by uploading his home performances on the internet. Today, he's become a global teen-pop phenomenon with two Grammy nominations - including Best New Artist - and the single most-watched video on YouTube. "Baby," featuring rapper Ludacris, has to date received 411 million views, proving beyond a doubt that music marketing has entered a new age.

Social media

Rihanna's "Music Of The Sun" CD

Rihanna's "Music Of The Sun" CD

The importance of so-called "social media" in connecting artists with the public was underscored in December, when Billboard Magazine introduced a new chart. The "Social 50" ranks acts based on their activity in such outlets as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. The first winner was Rihanna, who left memories of her 2009 beating at the hands of Chris Brown far behind in the new year. The young native of Barbados enjoyed four chart-topping singles in 2010, bringing her career total to nine.

Among them was "Love The Way You Lie," by Eminem. The rapper says he chose Rihanna specifically for this ballad, which spent seven weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Eminem's album Recovery, which celebrated his victory over drug addiction, topped year-end Rhythm and Blues, Rap, and Digital Album charts.

Best seller

Susan Boyle's album "The Gift" reached number one on Billboard’s Top Two Hundred albums chart.

Susan Boyle's album "The Gift" reached number one on Billboard’s Top Two Hundred albums chart.

The top-selling album act, however, came not from the worlds of pop, rap, or dance music. Forty-nine-year-old Scottish native Susan Boyle stunned an English crowd with her April, 2009 performance on the TV program Britain's Got Talent. From there, her voice took to cyberspace, and by the end of 2010, her debut album I Dreamed A Dream had sold nine million copies while topping charts worldwide…among them, Billboard's year-end album list.

Dance Pop Domination

Ke$ha's 'TiK ToK' single

Ke$ha's 'TiK ToK' single

Bieber and Boyle aside, the year belonged not to an artist, but to a musical genre. Dance pop dominated the charts in 2010, starting on January 2. That day, Ke$ha, a longtime musical striver who once broke into Prince's house to leave her demo tape, became the decade's first new number one act. Her debut single "Tik Tok" held the title for nine weeks, setting the template for the dominant sound of 2010.

Along with dance pop, the charts were fed a constant stream of cover hits, courtesy of the fresh-faced cast of Glee. This U.S. TV series about a high school chorus hit a milestone in October, when it broke The Beatles' record for most appearances by a non-solo act on the Hot 100 singles chart.

Web surge


While the Web buzzed with activity, traditional music outlets weakened. Compact disc sales continued their decade-long nosedive, while U.S. downloads turned flat, after exploding in the previous few years. Concert attendance was also low and some tours were cancelled in 2010, but the urge to physically connect with their musical idols proved irresistible to millions of fans.

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi, an old-fashioned rock band with a 25-year track record of hits, emerged the year's most successful touring act. The New Jersey band drew 1.5 million fans while grossing $146 million in 2010. Following it were U2 and AC/DC, proving classic rock can still pull its weight in the new age of viral music.

Among the musical stars who left us in 2010 was iconic singer-actress Lena Horne, who passed away in May at age 92. Fans also said farewell to Rhythm and Blues star Teddy Pendergrass; rapper Keith "Guru" Elam; rock singer Ronnie James Dio; soul singer Solomon Burke; and reggae star Gregory Isaacs. December 8 also marked the 30th anniversary of the shooting death of John Lennon. Fans around the world observed the solemn occasion.

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