Male Pop Stars Are Going Extinct

Men who sing need to get their asses up and work

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - MAY 29:  Harry Styles performs on the Main Stage at War Memorial Park on May 29,...
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Adam Levine Does Not Count

I cannot escape Harry Styles’s Madison Square Garden residency. Every time I open TikTok I see a new video from his nightly shows at the arena, there are new headlines about him bantering with his fans every day, and amidst all of that there is the ongoing Don’t Worry Darling drama. Being completely unable to avoid this man made me wonder: Is he the only solo male pop star left?

Well, there are certain criteria we have to follow when looking for answers. A pop star needs to be so famous that they can basically be mononymous (see: Michael), the music needs to be good and everywhere, they need to have some kind of sex appeal, and they have to have women losing their voices because they’re screaming so much at their concerts. These qualities are easy to find in female pop stars — in fact we have a bit of a glut of those right now. But when it comes to men, it’s slim pickings out here. Gone are the days of David Bowie, George Michael, and Prince. In terms of more recent candidates, Ricky Martin was a flash in the pan and Robbie Williams never got big enough outside Europe. Justin Timberlake appears to still be lost in the woods. So what gives? I thought a survey of the current offerings might help me see if I was completely losing my mind. Here are the results:

Harry Styles

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Emerging from a boy band to make songs that are actually pretty good, a highly publicized relationship, legions of girls willing to die for him, and a foray into acting? He’s basically following the Justin Timberlake Method.

Verdict: Pop star

The Rest of One Direction

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It’s not even worth talking about. The closest one out of the bunch is Niall Horan, who is too much of a bro to ever attain true pop star status. Stream “Slow Hands.”

Verdict: Not pop stars

Justin Bieber

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Here is where it gets interesting. Bieber is one of the last of his kind. He sang songs to arenas full of shrieking girls, he was famous as a teenager, he did choreo, and the music was good. This all slowed down after 2015’s Purpose, the last of his albums to be top-to-bottom good. In the following seven years, he has been more notable as a tabloid figure than as an artist. For example, did you know that he has been on a worldwide tour since February? And that he’ll be doing that until March of next year? Can you name a song from the last album that’s not “Peaches?” I’m going to guess that the answer is probably no to all, but I bet you did know that he was recently diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome around the same time that Hailey Bieber had a stroke.

Verdict: He certainly was at one point, now we’re waiting to see…

Ed Sheeran

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What a sorry state of affairs where Ed Sheeran can be considered a pop star. Sure, he makes popular music, but there is no charisma behind his tiny eyes. Despite what the “Shape of You” video wants you to believe, there is no sex appeal either. In fact, he is one of the only famous singers who can make the case for entertainment being a meritocracy — but at what cost?

Verdict: Not a pop star

The Weeknd

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On paper, this is obviously a yes. He did the Super Bowl halftime show! There’s a Kidz Bop version of “Blinding Lights!” His muse was Bella Hadid! But something is not clicking. Maybe it’s because his early music was so dark, or maybe it’s because so much of it is about cocaine. No misandry, but the fact that men love him does not help his case. Pop stars are for girls and gay people, and I’ve met too many straight white guys named Ethan and Aiden who love The Weeknd for him to get the title.

Verdict: International superstar, but not a pop star


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“Isn’t Drake a rapper?” Yes, but he’s a rapper who acts like an Instagram model. Much like The Weeknd, lots of men like Drake, but that is in spite of his decidedly slutty persona. Not only is Drake a pop star, but he’s a bit of a diva, too.

Verdict: Pop star

Shawn Mendes

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I hope a bunch of Brazilian teenagers don’t dox me for saying this, but it’s not happening. The music is not good enough and he has never put on a big enough show to be considered a true pop star.

Verdict: Not a pop star

Bruno Mars

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How does this man keep pumping out hits? He is the only person on this list with true four-quadrant appeal, and for that it’s an automatic yes. Not to be overlooked is the fact that he somehow pulls off being sexy while also being 5’5”. Not every man can say that.

Verdict: A pop star

Charlie Puth

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Similarly to Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth is just a savant who got lucky. Unlike Sheeran, the “Attention” singer could believably be described as “hot.” However, there is no music. Puth has been gearing up to release his third album for years now, and the few tracks that have been released in the interim have been lackluster. The meanest thing you can say to someone who so clearly wants to be a pop star is that they should stick to producing, but that is the case here.

Verdict: Not a pop star

Bad Bunny

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Verdict: Yes!