Thursday, June 4, 2009

Carrie Underwood

Arguably the most successful contestant in the history of American Idol’s seven-year run, Carrie Underwood has deftly managed to overcome the stigma of her reality-show origins to establish herself as a record-breaking and award-winning country singer. Her first album, Some Hearts, became the fastest-selling debut country album since SoundScan started tracking record sales in 1991, and quickly became the best-selling debut album by a female as well.

Her sophomore album, 2007's Carnival Ride, included four hit singles. She’s also won three Grammys, transforming her from up-and-comer to superstar.Carrie Underwood’s record-breaking 2008 run is certainly impressive in its own right -- she did, after all, earn her third consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association, yet it’s her social consciousness and down-to-earth personality that have assured her a place on this list.

Carrie Underwood’s contribution to American Idol’s charitable offshoot Idol Gives Back, a cover of George Michael’s “Praying for Time,” shot to No. 3 less than a day after its release, and she also performed alongside (among others) Beyonce and Miley Cyrus in support of the anti-cancer campaign Stand Up to Cancer. Her ongoing support of the military and passionate views on vegetarianism have earned her a special place in our hearts.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is a Pennsylvania-born singer-songwriter, performing pop-influenced country music at the tender age of 18. Influenced by Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline as a child, Taylor Swift began writing songs as early as 12 years old. Her debut album, released in late 2006, featured five singles that all ranked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In early 2008, she was nominated in the Best New Artist category at the Grammys, but lost to Amy Winehouse

Taylor Swift released her second album, Fearless, on November 11, 2008. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard, selling almost 600,000 copies in its first week alone. Six different songs from the album appeared on the charts in the same week, and one of them, “Change,” was featured heavily in NBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games. And if that wasn't not enough, she dated a Jonas brother. With so much time in the limelight, we know big things are sure to come to Taylor Swift in ’09

Nicole Scherzinger

Hawaii-born and Kentucky-raised is a winning combination for sizzling hot Nicole Scherzinger, and why shouldn’t it be? She gets the exotic looks of the Pacific and a wholesome upbringing in the heartland, one that was initially at odds with the Pussycat Dolls' raunchy costumes. She got over it.

In 2009, Nicole Scherzinger returns to her roots as a solo singer as she promotes her debut solo album, Her Name is Nicole. She brings extra musical credibility as well, having been the only Doll to contribute original songs to their recordings and repertoire.

Julianne Hough

Adorably bubbly, blue-eyed and blond, with a body like a bursting stick of dynamite, singer and dancer Julianne Hough joined ABC’s Dancing with the Stars as a professional and remained with the show for three seasons, winning once each with partners Apolo Ohno and Hélio Castroneves. In those two seasons alone, Julianne Hough led her partners to nine perfect scores.

Not yet 21 years old, this highly accomplished performer has now turned her boundless energy and cheer team optimism toward a career in country music. Her self-titled debut album was released in 2008.

We will miss seeing Julianne Hough on Dancing with the Stars. Her personal pyrotechnics never failed to dazzle us on the dance floor, but if country music is her destiny, we wish her the best. Any way we look at it, Julianne Hough belongs in our spotlight.


Born as Mathangi Arulpragasam in London, England in 1977, singer-songwriter and visual artist M.I.A. spent her childhood in her parents' native Sri Lanka after her father moved the family there so he could support the Tamil independence movement. Much of her lyrical content and visual graphics are influenced by the political struggles she witnessed both as a child, and later, as a refugee on a South London council estate following her mother's return to England.

 She began exhibiting her paintings in 2001, before recording a demo tape of her tunes in her bedroom. XL Recordings issued her debut album Arular in 2005, followed by Kala in 2007. The single "Paper Planes" benefited from its inclusion in trailers for Pineapple Express, as it became a Top 5 hit in the U.S. during the summer of 2008.M.I.A. began 2008 on a high note, as her critically acclaimed sophomore album, Kala, was selected as one of the best albums of 2007 in many prominent year-end surveys, including being named Album of the Year by both Rolling Stone and Blender.

M.I.A. created the N.E.E.T. record label and also modeled for Marc Jacobs this past year. "Paper Planes" became a phenomenon, bounding up Billboard's Singles chart to No. 4. In addition to its appearance in Pineapple Express, it was also heard in Hancock and Slumdog Millionaire, and it made it to No. 1 on TRL. The L.A. Dodgers borrowed the track as their victory song, and Rihanna sang it in concert as well. To cap it all off, "Paper Planes" earned her a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year in December. M.I.A. and fiancé Benjamin Brewer are expecting their first child in 2009.

Leona Lewis Biography

At the BRIT School in London, Leona Lewis excelled on the guitar and piano, and was writing songs by the time she was 12 years old. After saving up to pay for recording time, she produced her demo album, Twilight, and with a boyfriend's encouragement, she tried out for The X Factor.

After she became the first female on The X Factor to win a record deal, Leona Lewis's first single, "A Moment Like This," was released. The single was downloaded 50,000 times in the first 30 minutes it was available online, and went on to become the most downloaded song in 2006. The complete album, Spirit, hit North America in 2008, leading to even more fanfare and recognition for this talented Brit.

Leona Lewis dominated 2008 on the musical front. Singles like "Bleeding Love" and "Better in Time" from her album Spirit made a killing across worldwide charts, and she shared a stage with Jimmy Page, Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Carrie Underwood at an anti-cancer event at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Leona Lewis closed out the year with three Grammy nominations.

We'd also like to mention that Leona Lewis was selected by PETA as one of its Sexiest Vegetarians of 2008. Audiences are waiting to hear more of Leona Lewis' incredible voice when her next album is released in 2009.

Alicia Keys Info

The mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen have produced their fair share of thugs and lowlifes. However, on January 25, 1981, the planets aligned and a beautiful, angelic soul rose from the urban decay. She was named Alicia Augello Cook, but we know her as Alicia Keys. She began playing the piano at age 7 and quickly showed a deft musical ear. So deft, in fact, that she left university after just four weeks to focus on music. That appears to have been a good decision -- she has since sold over 30 million albums worldwide and has the only duet in Bond soundtrack history to her credit (the theme song to Quantum of Solace).

No offense intended, but the resumes of some women considered beautiful in our culture are a bit lacking. Heiress? Reality TV star? Then you’ve got Alicia Keys -- a singer, songwriter, pianist, cellist, author, producer, and actress with multiple Grammy Awards under her belt. Her silky vocals and classic looks have made her a superstar, one truly deserving of the fame, fortune and everything else that comes with the territory. Alicia Keys doesn’t run over paparazzi, get arrested or date thuggish point guards -- she just keeps her head down and makes great music. And there are few things sexier than that.