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Question? What Exactly is an “Icon” in 2013?

On Sunday night at the American Music Awards, everyone’s favorite bad girl, Rihanna, received the “Icon Award”. As I was watching this take place, I began to ponder about what exactly qualifies Rihanna as pop icon. For decades, singers featuring much greater talent and artistic depth have been given the same honor. Although Rihanna is, undeniably, one of the most current and notable pop stars in the current music scene, she lacks a variety of characteristics required for her to actually be considered an icon. Before analyzing the specific topic at hand, it is important to know what exactly a pop icon is. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a “pop icon” is a celebrity, character, or object whose exposure in pop culture constitutes a defining characteristic of a given society or era. The categorization is usually associated with elements such as longevity, ubiquity, and distinction. Rihanna ultimately falls short of two of the three elements of being an icon.

Furthermore, it may seem like Rihanna has been in the industry for a long time, but she has actually only been releasing music for the last seven years or so. In order for her to be considered to have longevity, she would have to prove  the capability of standing the test of time. In the brief time that Rihanna has been in the industry, she has released microwavable music that comes and goes, and has failed to make a lasting impression as a performer. It’s probably difficult for most people to name a performance of hers that was actually memorable. In addition, although it is a matter of opinion, Rihanna clearly does not posses the vocal ability and stamina that some of her rival performers have. Ultimately, she has become to lackluster popstar whose popularity has been defined by her overexposure in the media and outlandish behavior.

Rihanna does have the potential to be an icon eventually, but she may have received this award prematurely. Rihanna is more of and image than artist. She clearly has an impact on pop culture and has become a prominent figure in the music industry. But will she be talked about ten years from now? Will Rihanna reach generations of pop music lovers  to come and have songs that become classics? Will she be able to stand the test of time or will she just be an image of the past? Will future pop stars emulate her like Lady Gaga does Madonna and Ariana Grande does Mariah Carey? These are all great questions that will decide whether Rihanna will ever live up to her new title as an Icon. 


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