More than a decade after being marketed as anti-Britney Spearses, the two singers' new albums show that it's possible to keep making hits without abandoning a niche.
Twelve years ago, pop music was undergoing a revolution. Primed by the glamorous extroversion of high-octane hip-hop and the wide appeal of the Spice Girls, and having fully assimilated the sonic possibilities of the electronic age, several dozen new talents stormed the charts and overthrew the powerhouse genres of the late '90s like grunge-pop (Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls), adult contemporary (Céline Dion, Sarah McLachlan), crossover country (Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes), and female singer/songwriters (Alanis Morissette, Jewel). With shiny, forward-thinking productions by the likes of Max Martin, Timbaland, and the Neptunes, Britney Spears, 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, Destiny's Child, and their peers claimed the attention of a generation of listeners.
So of course there was going to be a reaction. Two singers who released debut albums in 2000 marketed themselves as more authentic alternatives to what a generation of older siblings and parents had dismissed from the beginning as fake, plastic pap. Rust Belt native Alecia Moore, who went by the stage name Pink (stylized as "P!nk"), was a gutsy singer in the Janis Joplin tradition. Her love of the volume and attitude of rock and roll delivered her an audience attracted by teenpop's flashy hooks but more comfortable with the sounds of guitars than synthesizers. Meanwhile, Canadian singer Nelly Furtado managed to get herself sold as "world music" without singing in any language but English on her debut album (some foreign markets got a Portuguese song). Her Portuguese heritage and gestures towards folk rootsiness on hit singles like "I'm Like a Bird" were enough to set her apart from the dance-pop realm.