It is common to categorize African American singers into the genre of R&B or rap music. However, over time there has been a shift in the culture. Here are three African American singers who are certifying their name in the pop music industry.
After casting off from the former girl group Fifth Harmony, the Houston-native steals the spotlight by diving into the pop music scene as a solo artist. By featuring on songs with popular artists such as Sam Smith and Khalid, the young singer-dancer has maintained her relevancy after the girl group announced their split last year.
Normani made a gradual effort leaning onto the pop side of music. The young star recently concluded Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” tour, where her powerful performances were well-received by millions of Grande’s fans. This career move allowed her to easily transition from a band member to a solo act.
Normani devotes much of her time to highlighting other African American pop singers. In the debut single “Motivation,” the young star showcases her dance ability with choreography and themes inspired by trailblazing pop sensations such as Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. The music video’s visuals consisted of bits that mirrored Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” video as well as Spears’ legendary “Baby One More Time” performance.
Like the pop stars that came before her, the 23-yeard-old singer lit up the VMA stage with a performance that lived up to the standards of snake-wielding Britney and baby-revealing Beyoncé. Being that Normani’s four-minute performance consisted of electrifying choreography, a wardrobe change and sitting atop a basketball net, the African American singer is determined to hold the torch that was passed down by the pop music forbearers.
The young artist is making a name for herself in the pop industry. The fact that the debut single charted in the Top 40 list of the Billboard 100 proves that Normani is on the verge of becoming an iconic pop star.
Lizzo is not only breaking barriers for African Americans in pop but for plus-sized singers as well. Not to mention, the pop star is beginning her career at the age of 31 years old.
The “Truth Hurts” singer is not your average cookie-cutter entertainer. However, she has still placed her stamp on the pop charts. Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” has peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard after spending 18 weeks on the Hot 100.
Amazingly, Lizzo did not conform to the standards of the pop industry. While fearlessly strutting in bright leotards on stage and giving the crowd an upbeat flute solo, Lizzo represents African American singers who might not have the “perfect body” according to the music industry’s beauty standards. In fact, Lizzo’s nude photo is the cover of her album “Cuz I Love You.”
Lizzo proves that talent and confidence trump body type and inspires young and plus-size girls to follow in her footsteps. Being that most pop stars make their debut before turning 18, Lizzo also proves that it is never too late to pursue your dreams.
Lizzo also gave an outstanding performance at the 2019 VMAs due to her powerhouse vocals and never-ending stamina. One can only hope that her body-positive persona and talents will continue to be appreciated in the pop industry.
3. Todrick Hall
Todrick Hall was the name that blew in the wind of pop labels. However, with the help of his Broadway performances and YouTube videos, Hall is becoming a mainstream brand.
In 2010, Hall made it to the semifinals on the 9th season of “American Idol.” According to his interview on the “Wendy Williams Show,” Hall reveals that he was often told by the “American Idol” producers that he could not sing the songs that he wanted because it was “too much,” indicating a hint at his flamboyancy.
At the beginning of Hall’s career he was never given the chance to express his sexuality with music. However, due to today’s social climate, Hall’s homosexuality is not only accepted but embraced. Specifically, famous pop star Taylor Swift is aware of Hall’s talents being that he is one of the many LGBTQ celebrities who starred in Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” video.
Although his name rarely holds a place on the music charts, the singer has a lot of buzz in the dance and LGBTQ community. Popular choreographers such as Brian Friedman, Nika Kljun and Blake McGrath have gained millions of views from filming and sharing videos of dancer’s grooving to Hall’s singles such as “Dem Beats” or “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.”
Hall’s pop music resonates with the LGBTQ+ community and explores confidence and self-expression, a big leap for “American Idol” standards. Last year, Hall wrapped up his “Todrick Hall American: The Forbidden” countrywide tour. He was also one of the guest judges on Season 8 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
The fierce superstar represents and inspires young LGBTQ individuals who are afraid that their true personality should be concealed within the status quo. Hall’s fierceness matches the essence of pop industry and it looks like it can only go up from here for the 34-year-old. After years of hiding in the closet, Hall is gaining buzz throughout the music industry by being a gay and African American singer and songwriter.
It is no surprise that the pop industry is becoming more diverse. Through movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, America is transitioning into a more inclusive society, and that is reflected in today’s music.
African American singers are reshaping other musical genres as well. Black country singer Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road ft. Billy Ray Cyrus” spent 17 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, an unprecedented record in the chart’s 60-year history. The singer was recently awarded the VMA’s song of the year.
Music is an artistic language that has an influence on anyone who listens. If diversity is explored in the music industry, perhaps it will influence people to become more diverse in all aspects of life.