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200 Greatest Icons in Pop Music of the MTV Generation

Updated December 26, 2017 38.9k views200 items

List RulesOnly artists who were huge in the era of MTV, vh1, and music videos. Image, style, influence, and icon status

The music world will never be the same, ever since "video killed the radio star". In honor of this we are listing the best artists of the video era. All of these artists included on this list had a major impact on pop music in the last thirty years. This list begins in no particular order. Of course, this countdown isn't limited to pop artist--iconic artists that have had major impact in the video era of rock, hip-hop, and R&B are also included. Music fans, remember to look at each artist for their iconic status--looks, image, style, uniqueness, stage presence, as well as their videos. This list is also re-rankable, in case you don't see your favorite artist. But please only artists who have made music videos. At first, MTV started off as a place to see your favorite white rock bands like Van Halen and Bon Jovi jam out. Since Michael Jackson's breakthrough, however, MTV has became a diverse musical haven, making bonafide stars out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eminem, the Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey, The Notorious B.I.G, George Michael, Lady Gaga, and many more on this list. Of course, one of the era's biggest breakthroughs was Madonna, who has been making music as long as the time frame of this list, and has introduced a new format for women in the last thirty years of music, influencing Britney Spears, Beyonce, and others. David Bowie and Boy George are also recognized on this list for experimenting with androgyny and human sexuality. And in addition to Jackson opening doors for black artists to be bonafide superstars, Prince, Whitney Houston, and others broke through easily. Since the '80s, and '90s have died down, many fresh faced pop stars are carving their place in music history for the 21st century. So where would artists like Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus, or One Direction rank? With your votes, it's your call.
Also: There is a limited time to vote, so hurry up and vote while you have the opportunity, just in case you might not like your favorite artists' rating.
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  • 1
    Michael Jackson

    Michael Jackson

    Motown Sound, Rock music
    Influences: James Brown, The Beatles, Elvis Presley
    Peers: Stevie Wonder, Prince, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Madonna
    Followers: Usher, Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown
  • 2
    Madonna

    Madonna

    Pop, Electronica
    Influences: Marilyn Monroe, Cher
    Peers: Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael
    Followers: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Beyonce
  • 3
    David Bowie

    David Bowie

    Rock music, Psychedelic pop
    David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (,... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Eminem

    Eminem

    Hip hop
    Influences: Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2pac
    Peers: Busta Rhymes, Lil' Wayne, Jay-Z
    Followers: 50 Cent, Asher Roth, The-Game, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar  
  • 5
    Radiohead

    Radiohead

    Rock music, Electronic music
    Influences: David Bowie, U2, Bjork, Dinosaur Jr.
    Peers: Oasis, Blur, Beck
    Followers: Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, Matt Kearney 
  • 6
    Britney Spears

    Britney Spears

    Pop, Contemporary R&B
    Influences: Madonna, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey
    Peers: Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson
    Followers: Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Hilary Duff
  • 7
    Nirvana

    Nirvana

    Rock music, Grunge
    Influences: The Pixies, R.E.M., Sonic Youth,The Beatles
    Peers: Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Hole
    Followers: Foo Fighters, Breaking Benjamin, Silverchair 
  • 8
    Sting

    Sting

    Medieval music, Classic rock
    Influences: Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello
    Peers: Annie Lennox, George Michael, Rod Stewart, Peter Gabriel
    Followers: Maroon 5, John Mayer, Rob Thomas
  • 9
    U2

    U2

    Rock, Punk
    Influences: David Bowie, The Ramones, The Clash
    Peers: The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure
    Followers: Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, The Killers, MUSE
  • 10
    Tupac Shakur

    Tupac Shakur

    Hip hop music, Political hip hop
    Influences: NWA, Ice-T, Too $hort
    Peers: Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, The Notorious B.I.G.
    Followers: Canibus, Game, Lil' Wayne, Kurupt
  • 11
    Janet Jackson

    Janet Jackson

    Hip hop music, Pop music
    Influences: Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Tina Turner
    Peers: Madonna, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul
    Followers: Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Aaliyah
  • 12
    Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Red Hot Chili Peppers

    Alternative Rock, Funk Metal
    Influences: Chuck Berry, Parliament Funkadelic
    Peers: REM, Guns N' Roses
    Followers: Sublime, 311, No Doubt, Pepper, Incubus
  • 13
    Green Day

    Green Day

    Pop punk, Rock music
    Influences: The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Who
    Peers: Nirvana, Bad Religion, Weezer, blink-182
    Followers: Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, sum-41, Fall Out Boy 
       
  • 14
    Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey

    Pop, Contemporary R&B
    Influences: Gladys Knight, Teena Marie, Minnie Riperton
    Peers: Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige
    Followers: Brandy, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Beyoncé 
  • 15
    George Michael

    George Michael

    Synthpop, New Wave
    Influences: Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson
    Peers: Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, Prince, Madonna, Duran Duran
    Followers: Robbie Williams, Ricky Martin, Maxwell, Justin Timberlake  
  • 16
    R.E.M.

    R.E.M.

    Jangle pop, Alternative rock
    Influences: Iggy Pop, The Beatles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan
    Peers: Talking Heads, Morrissey, David Bowie, The Police  
    Followers: Nirvana, Radiohead, Tori Amos
  • 17
    Outkast

    Outkast

    Alternative hip hop, Dance-pop
    Influences: UGK
    Peers: Three 6 Mafia, Goodie Mobb
    Followers: T.I., Ludacris, Lil' Scrappy, the Yin Yang Twins
  • 18
    Beck

    Beck

    Alternative hip hop, Anti-folk
    Influences: Bob Dylan, Beastie Boys, Nirvana, Sonic Youth
    Peers: Radiohead, Bjork, Luscious Jackson, The Flaming Lips, Garbage, Cake
    Followers: Gorrilaz, Ben Kweller, LCD Soundsystem, MIA, Air, Ke$ha
  • 19
    Beyoncé

    Beyoncé

    R&B, Pop
    Influences: Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson
    Peers: Alicia Keys, Ashanti, Britney Spears, Pink, Justin Timberlake
    Followers: Rihanna, Ciara, Nicole Scherzinger, Frank Ocean  
  • 20
    Metallica

    Metallica

    Thrash metal, Rock music
    Influences: Led Zeppelin, Lynard Skynard, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath
    Peers: Megadeath, Anthrax, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Black Label Society
    Followers: Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Godsmack
  • 21
    Prince

    Prince

    Hip hop music, Synthpop
    Influences: Al Green, Santana, Jimi Hendrix
    Peers: Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, George Michael, Madonna, David Bowie
    Followers: Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Pharrell Williams, Lenny Kravitz  
     
  • 22
    Beastie Boys

    Beastie Boys

    Hip hop music, Pop punk
    Influences: Bad Brains
    Peers: LL Cool J, Biz Markie, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Run-DMC
    Followers: Kid Rock, Eminem, 311, Cypress Hill
  • 23
    Aerosmith

    Aerosmith

    Glam metal, Blues-rock
    Influences: The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Deep Purple
    Peers: Queen, Motley Crue, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake
    Followers: Metallica, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Soundgarden, The Black Crowes 
  • 24
    Queen/Freddie Mercury

    Queen/Freddie Mercury

    Pop music, Rock music
    Queen are a British rock band formed in London in 1970. Their classic line-up was Freddie... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Whitney Houston

    Whitney Houston

    Pop music, Dance-pop
    Influences: Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan
    Peers: Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Janet Jackson
    Followers: Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Brandy