10 Pop Stars Indie Rockers are Allowed to Like
Pop superstars and indie rockers usually go together like oil and water. With their huge egos, massive promotional budgets and focus — in the minds of many indie rockers, at least — on style over substance, pop singers can be seen as direct affronts to indie rock’s DIY ethic, which values creativity, self-expression and grassroots marketing over everything. Yet the occasional pop star manages to shine through all the glitz and glam and earn popularity and respect in the indie community. Sometimes, it’s through music — other times, it’s natural charisma. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites: 10 Pop Stars Indie Rockers are Allowed to Like. If you’re fans of the following acts, consider yourself vindicated!
Justin Timberlake has come a long way from his ‘N Sync days. On his own, JT has unleashed three chart-topping solo albums en route to becoming a universally beloved pop star, thanks in no small part to five guest-hosting spots on ‘Saturday Night Live’ (check out his Emmy-winning collaboration with Lonely Island on ‘Dick In a Box’ below) and several high-profile TV cameos, like his ‘History of Rap’ duets with Jimmy Fallon. That’s when his natural charisma shines — so brightly that even the most calloused indie rocker cannot deny it.
Beyone’s little sis is the epitome of the indie-approved pop star. Solange has racked up numerous indie collaborations, joining forces with the likes of Dirty Projectors, Of Montreal and, in a three-way joint project, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow. Solange teamed up with Taylor and Shadow in 2011 to record ‘Kenya’ for the Coca Cola Foundation’s Replenish Africa Initiative, earning praise from hipsters and popsters alike.
Swedish synth-pop singer Robin Miriam Carlsson (aka Robyn) is flat-out phenom in her homeland and a bona fide star here, but it’s her relatively low-profile collaborations with the likes of Diplo, Röyksopp and Deadmau5 that have made her so beloved in the indie community, landing her on our 10 Pop Stars Indie Rockers are Allowed to Like tally.
Love him or loathe him, Kanye West is a genuine superstar — albeit one of the most controversial superstars of the last decade. It may very well be his headline-grabbing actions alone that endear him to the indie community — anyone who challenges the authority of media tends to win approval from alt cultures — but some of his music is hipster-approved as well, thanks in large part to his version of Peter, Bjorn and John’s whistling anthem ‘Young Folks.’ Check out his appearance at Sweden’s Way Out West festival with PB&J below.
Kesha has a least one fervent fan in the indie community, and he’s quite an influential one. Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne has championed Kesha as an underground idol, teaming up with her on the ‘Heady Fwends’ cut ‘2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)’ and recently revealing plans to record a full-length album together. But Kesha may have earned the most cred from her request to drop acid with Coyne; he turned her down, suggesting she really didn’t need any. “The way she is,” he said, “it’s as though she’s on acid already.”
The Queen of Pop: indie rock idol? Madonna certainly has her share of detractors, but no one can accuse her of being boring. She’s constantly reinventing herself, her music and her style, and that sort of creative drive is highly regarded in the indie community. Plus, her iconic image has fascinated the underground since she rose to fame, and such artists as Juliana Hatfield, Ryan Adams and Sonic Youth (who her took her maiden name for their one-off Ciccone Youth project) have covered her songs.
Kelly Clarkson came from humble beginnings (she was discovered via ‘American Idol’) before finding stardom, and in winning over the American heartland, she wooed many indie rockers in the process. Her hit ‘Since U Been Gone,’ which leans alt-rock in sound and even cops a guitar bridge from the Yeah Yeah Yeah‘s ‘Maps,’ has become popular cover fodder for hipsters ever since; everyone from Ted Leo and Tokyo Police Club to Florence Welch and Mark Ronson have turned in versions of the tune.
On first blush, George Michael may not seem to be an obvious indie idol, but his influence can be heard in bands as varied as Twin Shadow and Violens, who have drawn from the ‘Faith’ singer. And Michael has even been known to keep it real from time to time: He once made a super surprise guest appearance with Mister Heavenly — a supergroup featuring members of Islands and Modest Mouse — during a club gig in Portland.
Phil Collins makes the 10 Pop Stars Indie Rockers are Allowed to Like list based on covers of his song alone. His tunes may sometimes be considered guilty pleasures, but his oeuvre is likely more timeless than one realizes. How else can you explain so many indie rockers turning in faithful, lovingly constructed versions of his tunes? Check out the Postal Service‘s ‘Against All Odds,’ Wolfmother’s ‘Easy Lover,’ Reel Big Fish’s ‘Another Day In Paraide’ and Takka Takka’s ‘In The Air Tonight’ to see what we mean.
More an indie rocker-turned-pop star than simply a pop star approved by indie rockers, Lady Gaga (formerly known as Stefani Germanotta) cut her musical teeth in the mid-’00s fronting an indie-funk band struggling in New York City’s downtown music scene. Before her debut album, ‘The Fame,’ hit in 2008, industry execs called her too “racy” and “underground,” but her Bowie-meets-Madonna-meets-Scissor-Sisters shtick has won over fans of indie and pop alike.