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Billboard's top 20 artists of the year
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Taylor Swift is forced to share a stage with Kaye West again. This time, she'll probably like the experience a bit better. Swift and West are side by side as Top Female and Top Male Artist of the Year on Billboard's year-end charts.
West marred Taylor Swift's first Video Music Awards win this year when he rushed the stage, interrupted her acceptance speech and went on a tirade about Beyonce being more deserving of the award for Best Female Video. The performer Swift beat out for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard list is none other than Beyonce Knowles.
It's just another milestone in an amazing year for Swift. Aside from the VMA statue, Swift has won two Academy of Country Music awards, five BMI awards, and five Country Music Association awards (including Entertainer of the Year). Most recently, Swift took home five American Music Awards -- including Artist of the Year, where she faced possibly the stiffest competition of all, the late Michael Jackson.
West, however, has all but fallen off the radar since the VMAs debacle. His tour with Lady Gaga was canceled as the rapper retreated to take time away from the spotlight (though he surfaced in the tabloids briefly in October when an Internet rumor declared that he was dead.)
For the following overall year-end standings, the editors of Billboard have tallied the year's album sales figures and reviewed Hot 100 song rankings and compiled a list of the 20 artists who traveled furthest and fastest up the charts.
These stars were the best performers on the Hot 100 singles chart and the Billboard 200 album chart from November 2008 through November 2009.
1. TAYLOR SWIFT
To say Taylor Swift had a remarkable year would be a comic understatement. She sold more albums than any artist not named Michael Jackson. Her first headlining tour, Fearless 2009, sold out every show within minutes. She became the youngest woman to win the Country Music Association's entertainer of the year award, and she set seemingly every chart record that exists. But most important, she proved herself a graceful, timeless celebrity, handling hosting duties on "Saturday Night Live" and a rampaging Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards with equal aplomb.
As Kanye West infamously pointed out at the 2009 Video Music Awards, Beyonce made one of the best videos of all time. "Out of all my videos, ("Single Ladies") was the least expensive and took the least amount of time, and it ended up being the most iconic," Billboard's 2009 Woman of the Year reflects. "But once we got on the set, it was like, wait a minute. This is something special." Not only did the ubiquitous clip inspire thousands of YouTube imitations, it also helped push her "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" album to last over a year on the Billboard 200 chart.
3. LADY GAGA
The chart-topping hit-maker and headline-grabbing fashionista from Yonkers, New York, became the first artist ever to send her first four singles to No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Songs chart. What's her secret? "A hit record writes itself," said the winner of the 2009 Billboard Rising Star award. "If you have to wait, maybe the song isn't there. Once you tap into the soul, the song begins to write itself. And I usually write the choruses first, because without a good chorus, who really gives a f**k?"
4. THE BLACK EYED PEAS
In 2009, Will.i.am, Fergie, apl.de.ap and Taboo became the first group in history to spend six consecutive months atop the Billboard Hot 100, thanks to the succession of two No. 1 songs ("Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling") from the band's fifth release, "The E.N.D." -- a body of work that Will.i.am refuses to think of in traditional terms. "I'm trying to break away from the concept of an album," he told Billboard. "What is an album when you put 12 songs on iTunes and people can pick at it like scabs? That's not an album. There is no album anymore."
5. MILEY CYRUS
What does Miley Cyrus want to be when she grows up? The 17-year-old superstar, who spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on Adult Contemporary with "The Climb," told Billboard last year, "Songwriting is what I really want to do with my life forever. No matter how long what I'm doing here lasts, I want to be a songwriter for the rest of my life." With the soundtrack to her "Hannah Montana" movie climbing to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this spring, it seems the queen of the teens is off to a pretty good start.
6. KANYE WEST
Mr. West is Billboard's Top Male Artist of 2009; an impressive honor, though after his bullying of Taylor Swift at this year's VMAs, he might be a little irked to see her ranked five spots higher than him on this overall artist list. Still, despite his sometimes misplaced enthusiasm, the hip-hop hit-maker never fails to give the fans (and the foes) his all. "I've always wanted to sound like I was rapping at the top of a mountain," he told Billboard in 2005. "I wanted to change the sound of music."
7. BRITNEY SPEARS
After a few tumultuous years that found Spears in the tabloid more often than on the charts, Britney redeemed herself with a pair of chart-topping singles -- "Womanizer" and "Circus" -- from her 2008 comeback album. A successful world tour brought her back to center stage, but the real proof of her rejuvenation was the one-off single "3," which debuted atop the Hot 100 chart in October, making Spears the first artist to achieve that feat in three years.
Sadly, T.I. -- who has done big things on the Rap Songs chart this year -- will be celebrating his 2009 successes behind bars in Forrest City , Arkansas, where he remains imprisoned for federal weapons charges through March 2010. But the Atlanta emcee, who scored two of the biggest hits of his career with "Dead and Gone" and "Live Your Life," is taking his punches in stride. "I must be a man and stand up and accept responsibility," he told BET in May. "I exercised extremely poor judgment, and for that, I must be willing to pay whatever price that comes before me."
Why did the band that sold 7.3 million copies of its 2005 album, "All the Right Reasons," entitle its follow-up "Dark Horse"? "We never feel like we'll ever be done trying to prove ourselves," Chad Kroeger told Billboard last year. "You really have to keep that initial hunger that made some of your first songs your best songs. You have to keep that fire in the belly."
"'Heartbreak is a Motherf**ker' is what I originally wanted to name the album," laughed Pink during an interview with Billboard last year when asked about her 2008 release, which was inspired by her split from motocross star Carey Hart. "But this album is not all about that. There is fun happening, too, and that's why I named it 'Funhouse' in the end." The set proved positive in more ways that one; it produced her first solo Hot 100 No. 1, "So What."
11. KINGS OF LEON
The Nashville band's slow build finally exploded in 2009, with its platinum-selling album "Only by the Night" pushing the alt-rock quartet to arena-headlining status. "I always felt that people would look at me as a guy who dropped out of high school and point out everything I said that wasn't proper," frontman Caleb Followill admitted to Billboard. "I was writing these melodies that I felt were so deserving to be heard (that) I just said, sing the way you know how to sing. Just try it for one record, and, if it doesn't work, you can go back to your shelter."
12. KATY PERRY
Katy Perry went straight to the top 10 with three smash singles, including the No. 1 anthem "I Kissed a Girl." The California Girl embraced her success with open arms. "I can't wait to be super-mainstream," Perry told Billboard last year. "But, take all the production away, and I'll play on an acoustic guitar and sing by myself. I'm not a puppet, I don't need strings. There need to be pop girls other girls can aspire to, like Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar. We need those women again."
13. FLO RIDA
Flo Rida had a monster 2008 thanks to "Low," which reigned as the year's No. 1 song. But 2009 wasn't too shabby for the Sunshine State rapper either; "Right Round," the first single from his sophomore album, "R.O.O.T.S.," sat on the top of the Hot 100 for six weeks beginning in February. "I'm happy to be stepping it up," he told Billboard earlier this year. "I didn't know this record would be this big. I just love making music."
14. KELLY CLARKSON
After taking a much-publicized stand to follow her own creative muse on 2007's "My December" (which yielded only one Hot 100 hit after her previous album, "Breakaway," afforded four top 10s), Clarkson returned to her winning chart formula in 2009. "My Life Would Suck Without You," from "All I Ever Wanted," became her first Hot 100 No. 1 since "A Moment Like This" in 2002.
15. JASON MRAZ
In 2009, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz rewrote Hot 100 history with "I'm Yours," which remained on the chart for a record 76 weeks. "That's a song about generosity, giving yourself or your time to someone else, and countries all over the world are singing it, loud ... really loud," Mraz told Billboard. "I'm really stoked that that's the kind of song people want to hear right now. It makes me want to keep writing songs like that."
16. THE FRAY
The Fray boasted a huge Adult Pop Songs hit this year, "You Found Me," but the band also enjoyed unexpected airplay with an organic remake of Kanye West's "Heartless," which stemmed from a performance on BBC Radio. "They ask guests to cover a current artist and just gave us a list of artists they were playing at the time," said drummer Ben Wysocki. "It was either 'Heartless' or 'Circus' by Britney Spears."
Ne-Yo, who did big things on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this year, respects those who paved the way for his success. "Years ago, if you weren't wearing the right suit or (didn't) have a correct crease in your pants, you couldn't even get in the door, let alone on stage to perform," he told Billboard last year. "For me, the sharpness of Sammy (Davis Jr.) and Sinatra is the kind of style I strive for in clothes and music. (Ne-Yo's 2008 album) 'Year of the Gentleman' is named in honor of those guys."
18. LIL WAYNE
The N'awlins rapper made 21 trips to the Hot 100 in 2009, more than any other solo act. "I think this album is going to be one of my best," he declared to Billboard last year, before the release of "Tha Carter III." "I got one of them Beyonce(-type) albums; everything's hot. I might have to work out a deal with Universal to shoot a video for all these songs, that's how crazy they all are. Every one of them is a movie!"
19. RASCAL FLATTS
The Ohio trio made its debut on Billboard's Country Songs chart in March 2000 and has since become a cornerstone of the format. With 38 chart appearances this decade, including a pair of No. 1s in 2009 ("Here" and "Here Comes Goodbye"), the gang trails only Kenny Chesney (47) and Toby Keith (41) for most visits to the survey in the 2000s.
20. ZAC BROWN BAND
Country fans are accepting of newer sounds as well, especially when they're as carefree and catchy as the Zac Brown Band's recent No. 1 "Toes." "(Co-writer Wyatt Durette) called me (at) about 6 in the morning on my home phone," Brown recounted to Billboard, "which either meant that something was wrong or that somebody was up late partying. He said, 'I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand and we gotta write a song about it.'" Not only was the tune a hit, but it helped the band earn a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
(please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)
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