Things will really heat up over the next several weeks with the release of long-awaited albums by Janet Jackson, BeyoncÃ©, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, and a couple of the second-tier stars, including the R&B singer Kelis. It’s a veritable perfect storm of popâ€”never before has the public faced so concentrated an assault of melisma and dÃ©colletageâ€”and it’s bound to be bloody: In a market this glutted, someone’s record is going to flop. But based on the slew of new songs already in heavy rotation on radio and MTV, we’re in for some awfully good music, and all kinds of clever stratagems for besting the competition.
[…] In the 21st century, the superstar pop singerâ€”that heroic mantle once held by Sinatra and Elvis and Michael Jacksonâ€”has become almost exclusively women’s work.
And for good reason. These days, the emotional range of a male performer is radically circumscribed: Rappers are slick trash-talkers and brutes, emo rockers are sensitive and aggrieved, R&B singers are lotharios. But pop’s female superstars recognize no limits, playing all these roles and a dozen others, often in the course of a single torrid love song, all the while executing tricky dance steps with bared midriffs glistening beneath whirling strobe lights. […] In the current season, the ladies may steal some more thunder with the arrival of a figure whose malevolence rivals the most fearsome gangsta rapper’s. She might not be able to sing or dance, but Paris Hilton offers diva-pop one thing it’s lacked: an anti-hero.