Pop icon

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For the British television series, see Pop Idol.
Musical artists from Mozart to Michael Jackson have been credited as pop icons for their contributions to music.

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. Moreover, "pop icon" status is distinguishable from other kinds of notoriety outside of popular culture, such as with historic figures. Some historic figures are recognized as having reached "pop icon" status during their era, and such status may continue into the present. Pop icons of previous eras include Benjamin Franklin[1] and Mozart.[2] The worship of pop icons is due only in part to their actual accomplishments. Some of the most notable pop icons are James Dean, Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. However, even celebrities who died old can become a pop icon like Elvis Presley.


Usually, the pop icon status of a celebrity is contingent upon longevity of notoriety.[3][4] This is in contrast to cult icons, whose notoriety or recognition may be limited to a specific subculture. Some pop icons have left a lasting and indelible mark in the area of their career, and then gone on to attain a lasting place of recognition in society at large.[5]


A common element of pop icon status is the ubiquity of imagery and allusions to the iconic figure.[note 1] It is common for the figure to be recognized and even celebrated in areas outside the original source of celebrity status.[note 2] An example of this is Albert Einstein, a physicist whose image and legacy have been represented in comic strips, T-shirts, greeting cards and many other contexts.[6]


Often pop icon status implies distinguished association with a societal ideal or archetype. It is not uncommon for iconic figures to have a nickname or sobriquet that is used to emphasize this association. Sometimes the very name of such individuals is even used as a synonym for common words or ideas.

Some pop icons, such as Mickey Mouse,[7] Big Bird, Winnie the Pooh, Bugs Bunny,[7] Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Harry Potter,[8] the Simpsons,[7] and even Sherlock Holmes are fictional characters. Even inanimate objects have been recognized as pop icons.[9][10][11]

Some figures attain transitory or context-specific "pop icon" status for particular events that captivate public attention, such as in the case of the O.J. Simpson trial.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaku,[6] p. 11
  2. ^ See e.g., Kaku,[6] Chaplin,[1] et al.


  1. ^ a b Chaplin, Joyce (2006). The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00955-7. 
  2. ^ Nettl, Bruno (1995). Heartland Excursions: Ethnomusicological Reflections on Schools of Music. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06468-2. 
  3. ^ Dearborn, Mary V. (December 9, 1999). Mailer: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin Books. ISBN 978-0-395-73655-5. 
  4. ^ Gottesman, Ronald; Brown, Richard Maxwell, eds. (1999). Violence in America: An Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80487-5. 
  5. ^ Ratcliff, Ben (November 6, 2002). The New York Times Essential Library: Jazz: A Critic's Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings. Times Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-7068-2. 
  6. ^ a b c Kaku, Michio (April 2004). Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's Vision Transformed Our Understanding of Space and Time. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-05165-0. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f McNary, Dave. "Icons of the century". Variety100.com (Variety). Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d Schmidt, Robert (February 24, 2004). "The 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons". Blue Corn Comics website. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  9. ^ Vail, Mark (April 1, 2002). The Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B (2nd ed.). Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-705-9. 
  10. ^ Sheff, David (April 27, 1993). Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children. Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-40469-9. 
  11. ^ "The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon". Teaching with Historic Places. National Park Service. October 16, 2006. 
  12. ^ Boot, Max (1998). Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption and Incompetence on the Bench. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-05375-9. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab "Beckham 'greatest pop icon of all time'". BreakingNews.ie. Thomas Crosbie Media. November 12, 2003. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  14. ^ "The World". Time. April 18, 2013. 
  15. ^ Robinson, Kat (19 December 2012). "Happy birthday, Christina Aguilera: The pop icon turns 32!". Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "Christina Aguilera Collections". Microsoft. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  17. ^ a b Kim, Esther (March 7, 2011). "Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in 2011". seventeen.com. Seventeen.
  18. ^ Jules-Rosette, Bennetta (2007). Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image. University of Illinois Press. p. 49. ISBN 0252074122. Retrieved September 1, 2013. More broadly, Baker has come to be seen as a "pop icon" whose achievements and celebrity are self-referential, standing as signifiers of her historical importance. 
  19. ^ a b "Beatles named 'icons of century'". BBC News (BBC). October 16, 2005. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b c Danesi, Marcel (2007). Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-7425-5547-X. 
  21. ^ "Bee Gees To Be Named BMI Icons at 55th Annual Pop Awards". BMI.com. Broadcast Music, Inc. March 27, 2007. 
  22. ^ http://www.mtv.com/artists/mary-j-blige
  23. ^ "David Bowie Dead at 69". Rolling Stone. January 11, 2016. 
  24. ^ "David Bowie: the man who thrilled the world". The Guardian. January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 
  25. ^ "Star Transcended Music, Art and Fashion". The New York Times. January 11, 2016. Retrieved February 1, 2016. 
  26. ^ "All-Time 100 Fashion Icons". Time. April 2, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Mariah Carey Receives Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame: Inside the Festive Ceremony". Billboard. 
  28. ^ Everett, Cristina (January 27, 2012). "Cher is not dead: Pop icon falls victim to Twitter death hoax that fools many including Kim Kardashian, Patti Stanger". NY Daily News. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  29. ^ http://www.harpersbazaar.co.uk/culture-news/staying-in/why-kurt-cobain-is-still-an-icon-20-years-after-in-utero
  30. ^ The Canadian Press (August 17, 2008). "Pop icon Celine Dion wows her Canadian fans". CTV News. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  31. ^ Elle UK. "Donatella Versace: "Lady Gaga is a pop icon"". 
  32. ^ http://www.bmi.com/news/entry/20000601eminem_eminem_a_legend_in_the_making
  33. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/lady-gaga-engaged-pop-icon-celebrated/story?id=29241338
  34. ^ "Janet Jackson Music News". popculturemadness.com. Retrieved September 14, 2010. 
  35. ^ a b c Agencies // MED.B. (June 26, 2009). ""Pop icon" Michael Jackson dead at 50". ECHOROUK Online. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  36. ^ Pareles, Jon; Sisario, Ben; Stelter, Brian; Barnes, Brooks (June 25, 2009). "Michael Jackson, 50, Is Dead". Arts Beat (The New York Times). Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  37. ^ "http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/1035/michael-jordan
  38. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/cyndi-lauper
  39. ^ http://www.today.com/klgandhoda/billy-porter-cyndi-lauper-i-found-each-other-2D79536239
  40. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/sydney-confidential/eighties-pop-icon-cyndi-lauper-is-bringing-her-shes-so-unusual-tour-to-australia/story-fni0cvc9-1226682453549?nk=d35c66d46f80742be01675fe35acee2f
  41. ^ Tagliaferro, Linda (March 2000). Bruce Lee. Lerner Publications. ISBN 978-0-8225-9688-2. 
  42. ^ The Steel Butterfly Still Soars. The New York Times. October 6, 2012.
  43. ^ http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/entertainment/03/29/10/latin-pop-icon-ricky-martin-tells-fans-he-gay
  44. ^ =http://www.mtv.com/artists/boyz-ii-men/biography
  45. ^ a b "Streisand, Minnelli and Garland: Pop Icons, Gay History". Huffington Post. June 26, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Jay-Z's Roc Nation Signs Deal With Pop Singer Kylie Minogue". Hotnewhiphop.com. 2013-02-06. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  47. ^ "Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Halftime Show Was All About Showmanship". Time (magazine). February 1, 2015. 
  48. ^ Grow, Kory (November 24, 2013). "Rihanna Wins First-Ever 'Icon Award' at American Music Awards". Rolling Stone (magazine). 
  49. ^ Rothman, Michael (April 21, 2015). "Rihanna Serves as Bridesmaid for Her Assistant". ABC. 
  50. ^ Hardwick, Jack (April 4, 2015). "Rihanna to debut new single American Oxygen tonight at March Madness festival". Daily Star. 
  51. ^ Mokoena, Tshepo (July 2, 2015). "Ten reasons why Rihanna has become the 21st century's ultimate pop star". The Guardian. 
  52. ^ =http://www.sacurrent.com/Blogs/archives/2015/03/31/from-the-archives-selena-a-star-dies-and-an-icon-is-born
  53. ^ =http://clizbeats.com/latinpop-music-icon-selena-brought-back-life-help-revolutionary-digital-technology-5225/
  54. ^ ="http://www.vh1.com/shows/famous_crime_scene/episode.jhtml?episodeID=164801
  55. ^ "Global Pop Icon Britney Spears To Join L.A. Reid And Simon Cowell On "The X Factor" Judges’ Panel | The Official Rca Records Site". Rcarecords.com. 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  56. ^ "Britney Spears Accepts Video Vanguard VMA – And A Kiss From Lady Gaga". MTV News. August 28, 2011. 
  57. ^ http://www.thevine.com.au/fashion/beauty/style-icon-meryl-streep-20090423-256538
  58. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/hollywood-icon-elizabeth-taylor-dies-79/story?id=12894882&page=2
  59. ^ "Lynda realiza su internacionalización" (in Spanish). terra.com. Retrieved 2014-11-12. 
  60. ^ Heaf, Jonathan (April 21, 2011). "2006: Justin Timberlake". GQ. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
  61. ^ http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/181131#.VPtTk3yG-So
  62. ^ http://tech.mit.edu/V118/N20/agrease.20a.html
  63. ^ D'Addario, Daniel. (2012). Retrospective Body of Work: Screen Siren Raquel Welch Gets Her Lincoln Center Retrospective. Retrieved April 13, 2015.

Further reading[edit]