The 60 most global artists of all-time

In an era where Taylor Swift reigns supreme over the music industry, Michael Jackson continues to be, by some distance, the most global artist in the world. Not only is he the most global music artist, he also tops every leader, politician, monarch, scientist, intellectual, entrepreneur or artist to have ever lived.

Debates about the most global artists

A never ending discussion

For most people, the most global music artists in the world, are often deemed to be best selling ones. In the minds of many, a global artist, is an artist who is widely popular all around the world, with songs known to many. This does not necessarily mean an artist who benefits from being a huge success in the largest markets.

Looking at this decade, Bad Bunny‘s Un Verano Sin Ti, is the biggest album since 2020. By far the most successful Latin release of all-time, the album and the artist are not what we tend to think of or call global. While the album did chart in countries where Spanish is not the mother tongue, it was nowhere near as successful and popular as it was in Latin America and also performed relatively poorly, compared to the very biggest international artists.

So, how do we measure the global reach of an artist, then?

Well, using our own tools, we can count the number of distinct countries that are represented in an artist’s top 50 cities from monthly listeners on Spotify. While this is a great tool and information, it is limited. No matter how global an artist is, less countries will be represented if they are very successful in a large market, like the US or India.

On top of this, we are only looking at countries, which isn’t the perfect measurement for comparing an artists global reach. Most big artists are relatively well known in places like the US, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan etc, but this won’t necessarily mean they are equally well known. Almost every country that has over 20 million inhabitants, has local ethnic groups, with their own language. So how can we deduce how many people they have reached, which people they have reached? In reality, in a country like India, it could be 5 million people, maybe 50 million or perhaps even 500 million. Inevitably then, we need a more exact measurement than countries.

The flawed view of relative globalness

Over the years, many people have suggested that Taylor Swift is not a global artist. The argument was that her success in many markets, especially in continental Europe countries, was not on the same level as her success in the US. Of course, when you crush everyone in dramatic fashion in your homeland, it’s very unlikely that you are relatively as big elsewhere.

In absolute terms though, she may actually be bigger in these continental Europe countries than artists who are regarded as global. So, how do we deal with this issue? Do we look at actual sales in every country?

Market conditions corrupting comparisons

Let’s clarify something important. Everywhere, in the music industry, often just relates to a core of around 30 countries, the ones with official charts, that are easily accessible online. This alone, negates using countries as a method to deduce the most global artists in the world, especially as these 30 or so countries, are not representative of popularity across all continents.

While Spotify or YouTube gives us great thin data, it doesn’t explain the big or fuller picture. How many streams does Drake have in each country? Quite simply, we don’t know. At best, we can look at how his biggest hits scored, when they charted in the 70-ish countries available.

While this is the picture today, if we were to look at the past, when 80% of the world’s music markets were ruined by piracy, it presents an even muddier picture. There are many average artists today, who probably get more equivalent album sales, in countries where official records were never released, places like Mali, Senegal, Vietnam and so many others. Yet Bob Marley is likely way bigger there than DaBaby.

Our methodology

One very useful indicator, available to everyone and incredibly enlightening for looking at global reach, is the number of translations on Wikipedia.

The open to all encyclopaedia is currently available in just over 300 languages. Speakers of each can create pages for people, events, countries, essentially whatever they want.

As one can expect, the all-time greats of the music industry have their pages available in multiple languages, such as English, Spanish, French, Japanese, etc. Having your page available in Bulgarian or Vietnamese though is not as common. Even rarer are pages in various regional languages that are not deemed the primary language in the areas they exist. Pages translated into these regional languages highlight a deeper cultural interest and a greater cultural impact in these area.

As mentioned, Wikipedia is an open website, meaning that everyone can create a page, although nobody is going to create an Arctic Monkeys Thai page just for fun or just for the sake of it. While there will obviously be outliers, there are so many different languages that we really can gain some useful and insightful statistics from this.

The only real caveat relates to the profile of people who update and create Wikipedia articles and pages, who tend to be academics rather than your average person. This results in pages about people that have been written about in history books etc being at an advantage, as a famous author will most likely be translated into more languages than an equally famous singer.

In a similar way, classical composers are better covered than popular artists. For this reason, they have been listed separately at the bottom of the page. The good news is that among popular singers or bands, no one really has an advantage over anybody else. So, let’s start this amazing view of the most global artists in the world.

The most global music artists

Artists with a page translated into 40 to 59 languages

Historically, the global music industry was mostly limited to the Western world. The biggest albums were released in North America, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa and in Western European markets.

Some pop stars sold well over 100 million albums in these territories, so we tend to view them as artists who were/are big on a global scale. Having said that, data does reveal that people from many countries and ethnic groups, do not really know much about them at all.

Among such artists, there are singers such as Barry White (47), Neil Diamond (54), Cliff Richard (56), Meat Loaf (53), Tracy Chapman (59), or Michael Bublé (59). This range also includes more recent artists, who operate in a musical genre that is not truly global, such as Bad Bunny (42), Juice WRLD (45), Travis Scott (48) or XXXTentacion (58).

Artists with a page translated into 60 to 79 languages

The 60 mark is a difficult one to reach, as it requires an artist to have penetrated deeper than just the traditional Western markets. This can be true of many older artists, who managed to break in the old Eastern European markets/languages, which wasn’t as easy as it seems, as Western music was often banned in the old communist regimes of the USSR and Yugoslavia. A host of later 90s artists, also managed to make it big in Asian markets.

Many stellar performers are featured in this ballpark, such as Simon & Garfunkel (64), Olivia Newton-John (65), Marvin Gay (69), Maroon 5 (71), Muse (73), Julio Iglesias (76), Donna Summer (77) or Robbie Williams (77).

There are also some surprising results, such as French rock legend Johnny Hallyday (67) and Greek soprano Maria Callas (73) posting impressive numbers, while hip-hop superstars Drake and Jay-Z, tied on (73), are maybe less impressive. Considering how the former has dominated audio streaming platforms for nearly a decade, these figures give a real perspective to their numbers. Yes, Drake may be huge in many places, but he is still not mainstream in many others.

Artists with a page translated into 80 to 99 languages

Once we reach this level, we start speaking about globally successful artists. By that I mean artists who sold well in every continent. Their are obviously more globally popular artists, as we will see later on, but these stars are known in most parts of the world.

In fact, we only need to see a few of the names, ranging from 80 to 99 languages available, to be convinced of that. They include Stevie Wonder (80), Ella Fitzgerald (82), Miles Davis (83), Ed Sheeran (83), Ray Charles (84), Eric Clapton (84), Elton John (91), Dua Lipa (91), Coldplay (91), Bruno Mars (92), AC/DC (92), Justin Timberlake (93), Billie Eilish (94), 50 Cent (96), Aretha Franklin (97) and Cher (98).

Two of the most popular voices, outside of Western music, Russian icon Alla Pugacheva (95) and Egyptian goddess Umm Kulthum (97) give us a welcome reminder that it’s not just Western stars who are or can be, globally popular.

Adding perspective to these numbers and outside of the music spectrum, we can find the James Bond franchise (86), golfer Tiger Woods (83), tennis player Serena Williams (98), author George R. R. Tolkien (90), entrepreneur Jeff Bezos (92) and TV series, Friends (87) and The Big Bang Theory (94).

#58 Blackpink, Iron Maiden, Kylie Minogue – 100 languages

Tied with: George Clooney & John Travolta (actors)

People who have been translated into 100 distinct languages, are artists popular enough to have local language pages about them, on Wikipedia.

Blackpink highlight how universally popular K-Pop has become. They tie with metal legends Iron Maiden, well known for touring and filling out stadiums all around the world. The career of Kylie Minogue has always been a bit hit or miss, but there’s no doubt the Australian diva has a following – either mainstream or cult – in many, many territories.

#56 Frank Sinatra, Vladimir Vysotsky – 102 languages

Tied with: Kobe Bryant (basketball), Dragon Ball (manga/franchise), Ivan the Terrible (Tsar of Russia 1547-1584)

The Voice has been a mainstay in Western culture for over 80 years. Frank Sinatra is an absolute legend and he remains a household name over 25 years, after his passing.

He is tied with Vladimir Vysotsky, the most beloved Russian artist of all-time, well known for his political satires, and ironically with the infamous Tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible.

#55 2Pac – 103 languages

Tied with: Bruce Willis (actor), Ronaldo (Brazilian footballer) & Henry VIII (King of England 1509-1547)

We already had a hint of it with 50 Cent (on 96), that not all US rap stars struggle to be globally popular and 2Pac proves it, with his page having been translated into more languages than Frank Sinatra. Always part of the GOAT conversation among rap fans, he has a cult following in many countries since he was shot way back in 1996.

Of course, his music is still very much present, as is evidenced by All Eyez On Me, which is the 6th most streamed album from the 90s.

#52 George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Nirvana – 104 languages

Tied with: Quentin Tarantino (film director)

We have a 3-way tie on 104 languages. The BeatlesGeorge Harrison is a household name by himself, being responsible for two big solo hits in 1971’s My Sweet Lord and 1987’s Got My Mind Set On You.

Equally impressive is Johnny Cash. Arguably the biggest country music legend, the 50s singer has become more and more popular through the years. His signature song nowadays is Hurt, released in 2002 a few months before his passing.

Grunge phenoms Nirvana complete this fantastic trio. They are to US rock music, what 2Pac is to US rap music. A meteoric and unexpected rise to the top in early 90s and a career suddenly curtailed by death, due to the suicide of lead singer Kurt Cobain. Their album Nevermind is both the most streamed and the highest selling 90s album.

#49 Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera, U2 – 105 languages

Tied with: Sylvester Stallone (actor), Juan Carlos I (King of Spain 1974-2014), Nicholas II (Emperor of Russia 1894-1917)

The trio of Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera and U2 come next. They make the top 50, with 105 languages available.

Amy Winehouse was sadly a shooting star. She exploded in 2007/2008 with the modern day classic Back to Black, which put soul and jazz back in the map but passed away aged 27, in 2011. Her life was covered in a documentary film in 2015 (Amy) and a biopic, Back to Black, was released a couple of months ago.

Christina Aguilera though is still well and alive. At 43, she has not tasted true mainstream success for nearly 15 years now. Gen Z people shouldn’t get it wrong though: back in the day, she was an immensely successful diva. Her presence on this list confirms her cultural significance, coming out of the Disney stable, to become a flagship for feminism and LGBT culture, at a point where it was still seen as risqué.

Irish giants U2 were widely regarded as the biggest band on Earth from 1987 to mid-00s, enjoying a huge wave of success from With Or Without You to One to Beautiful Day to Vertigo. At number 14, with over 200 million equivalent album sales among the best selling artists ever, they were definitely expected here.

#46 BTS, Linkin Park, Mariah Carey – 106 languages

Tied with: Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver (actors)

The music industry has become more and more international through the years. At 46, with 106 languages, we meet one of the biggest artist of each of the last 3 decades – Mariah Carey for the 90s, Linkin Park for the 00s, and BTS for the 2010s.

Mariah Carey was unstoppable in North America and Asia throughout the 90s, recording a monster global smash with 1993’s Music Box. Holiday classic All I Want For Christmas Is You will make sure she remains popular internationally for many years.

In the End and Numb were some of the very biggest hits of the early 00s. Linkin Park instantly became nu metal’s most important figure. Their Hybryd Theory album sold tons of copies, from the US to Latin America to Europe to Asia.

Speaking about Asia, BTS confirm their status as K-Pop superstars. Artists as recent as them, are rarely featured here, but this is consistent with their position as the best selling artist to debut in the 2010s. Despite their current hiatus as a band, their hype isn’t slowing down.

#44 Jimi Hendrix, Katy Perry – 107 languages

Tied with: Sandra Bullock (actress), George Lucas (film director), Michael Jordan (basketball)

Ranking #44 may not seem that impressive but what if that ranking from the music field, means you are as globally recognized as Michael Jordan? Both Jimi Hendrix and Katy Perry are tied with the top basketball player (ahead of Kobe Bryant at 102 and LeBron James at 88).

The odds were against Jimi Hendrix from the start. An African American guitarist was surely unlikely to become a global figure, but he did just that. Another member of the 27 club, a list of influential artists who passed away, far too young, at the age 27, Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the whole approach to guitar playing. That’s not something you can say of many musicians.

Katy Perry arrived with the I Kissed a Girl bomb in 2008. In about a fortnight, she went from a completely unknown singer to someone everyone was talking about. She kept dropping Max Martin-esque smashes for multiple years with disconcerting ease.

It’s worth noting, that she is the first artist we list from the iTunes era, when people from all around the world were at last able to purchase music. For decades, sales were limited by distribution and delivery and the idea that music was not worth marketing and promoting, outwith the more profitable markets. iTunes first and streaming second, broke those barriers.

#41 Enya, Led Zeppelin, Miley Cyrus – 108 languages

Tied with: Stephen King (author), Paul Cézanne (painter), Jim Carrey & Julia Roberts (actors), Pokemon (manga/franchise), Avatar (movie)

In the entertainment world, being tied with Avatar and Stephen King proves a huge level of popularity. It’s quite a surprise to see Enya, as she hasn’t exactly been a headline maker in mainstream, gossip magazines. Yet, she edges ahead of fellow Irish superstars U2. It’s fair to say that she was extremely successful and popular everywhere during the 90s. New age music, relying much less on lyrics, also performed very well in markets usually closed to international music.

You won’t read much about Led Zeppelin in mainstream, gossip magazines either, but we are talking about the most successful hard rock band of all-time and the 5th most successful ever. Responsible for some of the most popular tracks we have ever heard, from Stairway to Heaven to Kashmir to Whole Lotta Love to Immigrant Song, they obviously have fans in every continent.

Miley Cyrus exploded through the television series Hannah Montana. One of the many pop stars to first emerge through the Disney Channel and she has a very global appeal. In fact, both movies and TV have a wider global reach than the music industry and Disney are kings at both. Miley Cyrus is no exception, smashing in small territories from Latin America to Asia. No doubt that the global smash Flowers, IFPI’s global #1 song of 2023, pushed her even higher. Barely 31, she still has plenty of time to climb up the ladder.

#40 Adele, Leonard Cohen – 109 languages

Tied with: Natalie Portman (actress), Woody Allen (film maker), Paul Gauguin (painter), Athena & Dalai Lama (religious figures), Spider-man (superhero/franchise)

2011’s album 21 was the undisputed blockbuster of its decade, shooting Adele to superstardom. Within’ months, the British singer went from being a promising artist to second to none, with her two singles, Rolling In the Deep and Someone Like You being hugely successful.

Leonard Cohen is a bigger surprise: the song Hallelujah has done wonders for him. This 1984 track is arguably the biggest religious/inspirational classic of all-time. It explains why many ethnic groups where faith is very strong have a page in their language dedicated to him, from Togo, Benin, Nigeria, the Philippines, Malaysia and more.

With this unexpected duo, we close a group of 19 artists, with pages translated into 102-109 languages on Wikipedia.

These are most of the languages used as a primary language in relevant countries in the world. To climb further, it takes being translated into more regional languages. Some examples are Wallon (Wallonia, Belgium), Lombard (Lombardy, Italy) and Venetian (Veneto, Italy), among many, many others.

#35 Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lopez, Pink Floyd – 112 languages

Tied with: Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman (actresses)

We already mentioned the power of Disney with Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus, so it’s no real surprise to see Demi Lovato popping up, although she isn’t as big of a seller as some other names in this list. On top of her music career, her YouTube docu series, in recent years, has widely covered her struggles with drugs and mental health and also gave her many headlines. She was the most googled person of 2018, after her drug overdose.

From the same generation, Ariana Grande has been topping pop charts for more than a decade now. One of the most followed people on social media, even the deactivation of her Twitter (now X) account, didn’t slow her down. With 9 US #1 hits, including two in 2024, she continues to record huge streaming numbers on every market.

During the Latin music boom of the late 90s, this music enjoyed great results in markets like France and Italy, but also in Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East. One of the main stars of that period was no other than Jennifer Lopez, who also enjoyed a career on screen. Super smash On the Floor and FIFA World Cup song We Are One also added to her global popularity.

Also on 112 languages available, British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd confirms their legendary status. Their success in some countries such as France and Italy, is huge and they have pages in these countries regional languages, unlike many other artists. They remain the 7th among the best selling artist of all-time, with 240 million equivalent album sales and continue to climb.

#33 Bing Crosby, David Bowie – 113 languages

Tied with: Samsung (brand)

Just one month before his death at 74, in 1977, the American godfather of the crooners, Bing Crosby surprisingly performed The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth in a TV duet, with British rock star David Bowie, who was then only 30.

That TV special performance became a #3 UK hit when it was eventually in 1982. More than four decades later, both all-time greats are together again, as they are tied at #33 on this list of the most global artists ever.

#32 Metallica – 114 languages

Tied with: Greta Thunberg (activist), Zinedine Zidane (footballer)

Another 90s heavyweight features at #32 in American metal kings Metallica. The band, who also performed in countless countries, have been global since the 80s. They are at #20 among the top selling acts ever, while the Black album recently became the 4th album from the 90s to crack 50 million sales overall.

While band members may not be as famous as members of their competitors, as a band they are hugely popular, with many sporting their T-shirts, all around the world, a trend that will no doubt carry on for many years to come.

#31 Britney Spears – 117 languages

Just over: Brigitte Bardot (actress), Usain Bolt (sprinter)

The higher we go, the harder it is to be culturally relevant, especially amongst smaller ethnic groups, with local languages.

But then, we have Britney Spears. Arguably the biggest pop star of the later 90s/early 00s, the release of Baby One More Time remains the most buzzed debut in decades. Another diva who debuted on Disney channel, she became so successful, that everyone quickly forgot about that.

Her struggles since mid-2000s have been widely documented online, but apart from the gossip headlines, she is still quite loved by many people, as the #FreeBritney movement remained us.

#29 Selena, Whitney Houston – 118 languages

Tied with: Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks (actors), Catherine II (empress of Russia 1762-1796)

Tejano music hero Selena has impressive stats, tying with R&B legend Whitney Houston. Selena is another artist gone too soon, in 1995, when she was only 23, shot by the woman who was President of her fan club!

The tragic story brought a lot of attention, but Selena had been breaking records among Latin acts, when she was alive, especially with 1994’s album Amor Prohibido, a phenomenal seller among the US Latino communities and across Latin America. Several TV documentaries and movies relating to her life, have since been released. Her current popularity was further increased in 2020, with the two-season Netflix series Selena: The Series.

Whitney Houston was on top of the world at the start of 1993. Her cover of I Will Always Love You was #1 on virtually every existing chart. The album The Bodyguard was selling millions month after month and the movie of the same name, was fighting with Home Alone 2 and Aladdin to top the box office with massive numbers. This came after two highly successful eras during the 80s. Her death in 2012 was followed by a strong wave of nostalgia.

#28 Jim Morrison – 119 languages

Tied with: Game of Thrones (book/TV series), Suleiman the Magnificent (Ottoman Empire sultan 1520-1566)

I’ve commented a couple of times about artists featured on T-shirts. If you think that you don’t know Jim Morrison, just google him and you will surely recognize his face.

The lead singer of The Doors is of course one more member of the 27 Club, another one who left us very young, under circumstances that were never clarified. His inclusion on this list can be disputed, quite simply because he actually never released music as a solo artist. As you can all then guess, his group is still to come.

#27 Avril Lavigne – 121 languages

Tied with: Al Pacino (actor)

Avril Lavigne has been off the radar for so long that this incredible showing is a little unexpected. When Complicated became big, she was the definition of global though. The album Let Go was runner up in the IFPI Top 50 Global best selling albums for 2002, only beaten by Eminem‘s The Eminem Show.

Her pop-punk fusion did wonders in Asia. Lavigne went on to crack a million sales in Japan alone, with not just one or two but three consecutive albums! Her numbers were outstanding all over the continent, she was simply the biggest international artist there throughout the 2000s.

It wasn’t only in Asia though. Let Go for example, went multi-platinum in Argentina and Brazil, something pretty difficult to achieve, it was also big in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, as well. Her impact was also huge in Africa. She was one of the first artists with a page in Chi-Chewa, a language from Malawi, spoken by 6 million people and in Zulu and Sesotho sa Lebowa, two local languages from South Africa.

#26 The Rolling Stones – 122 languages

Tied with: Robert de Niro (actor), Cyrus the Great (founder of the First Persian Empire 550-530 BC)

One of the most well known bands in the world for over 60 years, The Rolling Stones were obviously going to appear on this list. They kept going after the passing of the founder of the group, Brian Jones, in 1969 – another member of the 27 Club. Ground breaking hits from the band include Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, Brown Sugar, Miss You or Start Me Up.

The media hyped them as The Beatles rivals, at first, but they were always slightly more rock than pop, with a blues infused sound. They are responsible for several of the biggest concert tours of all-time and their 2023 album Hackney Diamonds highlighted they still have a huge following.

Leading figures vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards are both 80, so no need to say, the end of line for one of them will come as a major headline and fuel their catalogue for many more years.

#25 Paul McCartney – 123 languages

Tied with: Sean Connery (actor), Bruce Lee (martial artist/actor)

The best selling vocalist, bassist, drummer, piano/keyboard player, performer and songwriter, of all-time, is next. The only artist ever to claim a #1 hit as a solo artist and as part of a duet, a trio, a quartet and a quintet. Basically, he could do anything, with any amount of people and it was successful.

Obviously, Paul McCartney was the leader of the Beatles, along with John Lennon and some of his songs are global anthems, from Yesterday to Can’t Buy Me Love to Hey Jude to Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da to Let It Be.

Now 82, the British legend has released a new studio album in each of the last 7 decades. It could be said that, considering he is still alive, the general public have maybe not yet, fully appreciated just how much love they have for him and his songs. In any case, he is one of the most important figures in the history of music.

#24 Edith Piaf – 125 languages

Tied with: Claude Monet (painter)

One of the most outstanding voice in music. The French icon passed away more than 60 years ago, after facing so many tragic moments in her life. Abandoned by her mother at birth, during WWI, she was raised in her grandmother’s brothel, mostly by prostitutes, was blind for several years during her childhood, was wrongly accused of murder, of collaborating with the German occupation and drawn into alcohol and drugs, after three near fatal car crashes.

If that wasn’t enough, Edith Piaf also had to deal with death all through her life. Her only child, a little girl, passed away aged two, due to meningitis. One of her managers was killed and she lost countless lovers. The prime example was boxing legend Marcel Cerdan, who died in an air crash, while coming to visit her.

The 4ft 8 young woman had a unique voice though, a voice that would turn a ridiculously dark destiny, into an amazing success story. During WWII, she became a household name and soldiers brought her name back to their homeland, as was evident in the US. She wrote and/or sang some of the most popular pre-rock era songs, most notably La Vie En Rose, Non je ne regrette rien, Hymne à l’Amour, Milord and La foule.

Her unbelievable life inevitably led to popular biopics, the most famous being 2007’s La Vie en Rose which got a global release, grossing $87 million in the process.

#23 Bob Marley – 128 languages

Tied with: J. K. Rowling (author), Zeus (Greek god)

One of the most recognized face in the history of music – and no doubt the most famous dreadlocks – Bob Marley‘s global reach is undisputed. Of course, he is massively popular in Africa, as is shown by the presence of translations in languages like Lingala (Congo) or Sesotho (Lesotho).

It’s not just that though, his immense success in continental Europe sees local languages like Arpetan (French regional) and Nordfriisk (German regional) pop up. What else could we expect from the singer of No Woman No Cry or Three Little Birds?

#21 Rihanna, Shakira – 129 languages

Tied with: Constantine the Great (Roman emperor 306-337)

Two of the biggest hit makers of the 2000s and the 2010s are tied just outside the top 20. Rihanna and Shakira both enjoyed great success all over the world, both thanks to their Caribbean and Reggaeton/Arabic influences, respectively, rather than a clean US pop sound.

Shakira became truly global with her smashes Whenever Wherever, Hips Don’t Lie and Waka Waka, even more so as these were directly or indirectly tied with football World Cups. Rihanna‘s share of US sales is lower than one would intuitively guess, with big hits in many countries, thanks to tracks like Umbrella, S&M, Don’t Stop the Music, We Found Love or Diamonds. Then, of course, she paired with Eminem for two of the biggest hits of the 2010s.

#20 Celine Dion – 133 languages

Tied with: Marlon Brando & Scarlett Johansson (actors), Novak Djokovic (tennis), Mark Zuckerberg (entrepreneur)

Celine Dion pops up next, who currently has Wikipedia pages in 133 languages. The superstar diva from the 90s has had a phenomenal career, although she will inevitably linked and tied to the Titanic phenomenon. Back in 1998, she was absolutely everywhere.

It has been mentioned earlier, that the movie industry has been historically more global than the music industry and the apotheosis of that global reach came with Titanic. Its soundtrack, the song My Heart Will Go O, and the studio album which included it, Let’s Talk About Love, broke records left, right and centre. Quite simply, this is the highest selling recording of all-time.

On top of that, Celine Dion also issued the best selling French language album of all-time in 1994’s D’Eux. It’s not something to be underrated, as a lot of countries have a significant number of French speakers, most notably in Africa and in some parts of the Middle East. These people often speak at least one more language and the Canadian singer is very popular across these regions.

#19 John Lennon – 135 languages

Tied with: Angelina Jolie (actress), Roger Federer (tennis), Marcel Proust & Albert Camus (authors)

Next comes John Lennon, the highest ranked Beatle in the list. While Paul McCartney sold more overall, Lennon had the broadest reach with his releases, especially Double Fantasy and Imagine. The title track of the latter album remains a global anthem for peace.

The singer songwriter created huge controversy, mainly in the US, when he intimated his band were “more popular than Jesus”. Well, when we get nearer the top of this list, we can see for ourselves, if he was correct, but for now Lennon on his own, remains incredibly popular, as we can see from this showing.

#17 Louis Armstrong, Taylor Swift – 136 languages

Tied with: Muhammad Ali (boxing), Kofi Annan (Secretary general of UN 1997-2006)

Comfortably the biggest pop star in the world at the moment, Taylor Swift comes in at #18 in this list of the most global artists. She ranks 7th among artists who peaked this millennium.

While this is disappointing, given her unmatched success of late, this result is understandable. First of all, it must be said that this is still incredibly high – tied with Muhammad Ali and ahead of Roger Federer. It gives a great perspective to the level of popularity that we are talking about.

Despite being famous for 18 years, there has been very little drama surrounding her. She has been focused on her musical career, ever since she started. Even the very rare cases of slight controversy, like her fights with streaming platforms or Scooter Braun, were inherently related to her music.

One reason is that her musical styles (from country to pop to alternative) are not styles favoured by that many ethnic groups, outside of those of the more globalized countries. She also hasn’t had any kind of tie-in, with them, through a special sporting event or a feature with local artists..

Ultimately, while the level of engagement she gets from younger music consumers, around the world, is likely unparalleled and unmatched since that of The Beatles, her reach has obviously not extended to all demographics. It must be said though, that she is still relatively young, at 34 and that reach is definitely extending month by month, especially as The Eras Tour advances through new countries and territories.

Tied with Taylor Swift is legendary Jazzman Louis Armstrong. He is well known for his cover of Edith Piaf‘s La Vie en Rose but his signature song remains the ultimate feel good track What a Wonderful World. Jazz just like classical music has little boundaries and Armstrong is the godfather of his genre. His smile and his voice make him an instantly likable and a very recognisable character, as is shown by his presence this high.

#15 Bob Dylan, Paramore – 139 languages

Tied with: Maradona & Pelé (football), Jackie Chan (actor), George Orwell & Jorge Luis Borges (authors), Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India since 2014)

Paramore, has to be one of, if not, the most surprising entries so far. I can hear people saying “whaaaat?”, “really!” when reading their name. Although, about 15 years ago, it was nigh on impossible to go on chart forums without seeing half of the comments asking for data about Paramore.

The American rock band led by Hayley Williams somewhat took the torch from Avril Lavigne. She was only 16 when they started making music, with a punk vibe and quickly raised peoples curiosity. Following the groups success with 2007’s Riot!, their hype became massive. Their trio of 2010s tours saw them perform 463 times, with shows in every continent, on every tour. The data reveals they have a lot of fans in Germany, Turkey and made a huge impact in Oceania, as well as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Bob Dylan is one of the most decorated artists of all-time and possibly the most influential singer-songwriter of all. While he came from an era where the music industry was limited, to the usual Western countries, his lasting impact and cultural significance, have given him exposure in all corners of the globe.

#13 Beyoncé, Freddie Mercury – 145 languages

Tied with: Henry Ford (entrepreneur), Diego Velazquez (painter), Elizabeth I (British Queen 1558-1603)

We make a relatively big jump to 145 languages, leaving behind famous names like Michael Schumacher, King Charles III, Mother Theresa (140 each), Alfred Hitchcock and Theodore Roosevelt (141), Pope John Paul II and Sophocles (143), the Simpsons, Edgar Allan Poe and Elon Musk (144).

With 145 each, It’s a two-way tie between Beyoncé and Queen‘s late singer, Freddie Mercury. The former was a relatively successful hit maker, as part of the Destiny’s Child and then as solo artist from 1997 to 2006, but in 2007/2008, she really became a major cultural force. The support of Barack Obama‘s campaign and the strong statements through her songs (If I Were a Boy, Single Ladies, Run the World (Girls), etc.) made her a vocal leader, much wider than her success inside the music spectrum.

It could be seen as surprising, but her lead over Taylor Swift is mostly down to regional languages from Europe, revealing her more mainstream success there. Indeed, Beyoncé leads 74 to 57 in European languages and 10 to 7 for African ones, while losing 40-29 for Asian ones.

Queen are super popular globally, as is their former frontman Freddie Mercury. Born and raised in Zanzibar, his legacy has increased through the decades, since the monster 70s hits (Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions) to the Queenmania following the 2018 Bohemian Rhapsody biopic. He lands at 13, while his band has yet to be listed.

#12 Selena Gomez – 146 languages

Tied with: Cleopatra (Queen of Egypt 51-30 BC)

Similar to Demi Lovato, but with a more successful recording career and a larger online following, we come to Selena Gomez. The young American singer ticks a lot of boxes, that aid her global popularity: a Disney background, a presence on TV and in movies, popularity from a young age, a much reported relationship with Justin Bieber, the willingness to share her struggles and of course features, with very diverse artists.

Through the years she has worked with US rappers A$AP Rocky and Cardi B, various DJs like Kygo (Norway), DJ Snake (France) and Zedd (Russia/Germany), Colombian and Puerto Rican reggaeton headliners J Balvin, Rauw Alejandro and Ozuna, K-Pop icons Blackpink, Spanish star Camilo, British pop/rock legends Coldplay and more recently Nigerian afrobeat jewel Rema.

Her reach is presumably wider than what we would first expect but If we go back to our continental breakdowns, her main strength comes from Asia, with 43 languages, ahead of Taylor Swift (40) and Beyoncé (29). Very impressive!

#11 Madonna – 149 languages

Tied with: Apple (brand)

Sitting just one place and one language away from the top 10, we are now in rarefied territory and amongst artists who are immensely popular, all around the world. With a page available in 149 languages – as many as Apple! – Madonna was always a safe bet to feature high on this list.

The biggest female artist of all-time, she has been on the cover of so many magazines, through her career, that even her biggest fans couldn’t keep track of them all, even if they wanted to. Songs like Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer or La Isla Bonita were part of the 80s soundtrack and she has reinvented herself multiple times and remained hugely successful, well into the 2000s.

All this places her as the second highest ranked female singer on this list. I know what you are thinking. Who the hell could be ahead of her? And how come as many as 10(!) artists are yet to come? Well, read on!

#10 ABBA – 150 languages

Tied with: Joan of Arc (French patron Saint 1412-1431)

After the Beatles‘ hey-days, the first and possibly only band to generate a craze. which defied the mechanics of music industry as they did, was the Swedish quartet ABBA.

Abbamania took the world by storm, after their win at Eurovision 1974. Their catchy tracks like Dancing Queen, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Fernando or Money Money Money smashed from Eastern Europe to Asia to Africa to Latin America to Oceania.

It’s exactly what’s shown by Wikipedia statistics, as they claim 71 translations in European languages and 32 from Asian ones.

#8 Eminem, Justin Bieber – 153 languages

Tied with: J.R.R. Tolkien (author), Jimmy Carter (US President 1977-1981), Moses (Hebrew prophet)

The two biggest male stars of this millennium are tied at #8. Eminem, the biggest selling artist of his generation, destroyed the geographical limits of US rap music. By early 2000s, next to no credit was given to rap artistically speaking outside of North America. The success of Eminem left many rock fans seeing him as the enemy, the flagship of today’s bad, non-music.

The fact that these views sound so dated, reflects how much this American artist has succeeded in making his genre legitimately globally. He did so thanks to ground breaking singles like My Name Is, Without Me or Love the Way You Lie. He is still smashing in 2024 with Houdini. In-between, Lose Yourself was a monster hit as was the movie 8 Mile, which secured iconic global status.

Justin Bieber was an obvious pop star from day 1. The amount of comments and jokes about the haircut of a 15 year old boy, said it all. Love him or hate him, you just couldn’t miss him, even if you tried and wanted to. Then, he delivered. Baby was a generational hit, which was replicated with the Sorry/Love Yourself/What do You Mean trio, to establish himself at the top of the pyramid. As far as global reach goes, among current solo male pop stars, he is miles ahead of the likes Ed Sheeran or Justin Timberlake.

#7 Lady Gaga – 163 languages

Tied with: Che Guevara (Argentine revolutionary)

The bar is now raised to 163 languages, by Lady Gaga. The American pop icon lands ahead of names as famous as Cristiano Ronaldo (161), Mickey Mouse and Volodymyr Zelenskyy (162). This highlights the incredible impact of music artists around the world.

Her rise to superstardom in 2008/2009 with Just Dance and Poker Face, ensured her career got of to a meteoric start. The hype surrounding her was insane, each new music video was heavily anticipated, with kids regrouping to watch the first airing on TV of Bad Romance and Telephone. Even her dresses at awards ceremonies were headline news.

If that madness vanished relatively quickly, Lady Gaga‘s superstar aura remained. She also proved that she was able to do some flashy comebacks, as with Shallow. She also starred on the parent movie of this song, 2018’s A Star is Born, which grossed a huge $434 million worldwide.

#5 Elvis Presley, Queen – 177 languages

Once we get past Lionel Messi, the Google brand, Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy (all 169), Mao Zedong and Winston Churchill (172 each), we reach both Elvis Presley and Queen, at a gigantic 177 languages covered.

Ranking 3rd and 4th among the best selling artists of all-time, respectively, these two behemoths, duly confirm their status, with this ranking. At this level, both post unbelievable scores everywhere, yet there are still some differences between them.

The King has a lead in the Middle East (11 to 8), in Africa (10 to 9) and in Asia (43 to 36). But Queen‘s deep, deep reach all over Europe is quite something as there they are ahead 90 to 82. They did have one language more under the worldwide category (which stands for languages used on multiple continents) at 18 to 17.

It gets really interesting when we compare artists from different eras. Queen are clearly ahead of Selena Gomez in worldwide languages (18 to 9) and in Europe (90 to 58), but they are behind her in the Middle East (11-9), in Africa (11-9) and in Asia (43-36). This goes on to show that while Queen have been more mainstream in traditional markets, new countries have been joining the international music industry lately.

#4 The Doors – 181 languages

Tied with: Thomas Edison (inventor and entrepreneur)

Until now, I guess Paramore have been the highest placed surprise. Well, be prepared to be even more surprised by number 4. The Doors take the 4th spot with a page available in 181 languages. The band, with lead singer Jim Morrison has already surprised us, when we’ve dug into their sales figures in detail. This study has revealed that the eponymous debut album of the band was the 2nd biggest record of the 60s, only beaten by the BeatlesAbbey Road.

Apart from the relatively weak showing in the Middle East (6 languages), they do wonders everywhere else, from Europe (89) to Asia (40) to Africa (14). It appears that as Spotify will get bigger internationally, songs like Riders on the Storm, Break on Through or Light My Fire will only get bigger.

#3 The Carpenters – 195 languages

Tied with: Joseph Stalin (Leader of the Soviet Union 1924-1953)

And the shocks and surprises just keep coming. I bet none of you would have guessed The Carpenters were going to achieve a stunning #3 ranking, yet they do, with more translations than the most famous actors such as (Charlie Chaplin, 191 and Marilyn Monroe, 189) or a brand as globally famous as YouTube (193).

Fact is, The Carpenters rank #1 among international best selling singles artists in Japan since tracking began in 1968. Their 1995 compilation sold 2.5 million there. They got a handful of #1 hits in most southeast Asian countries. They also had chart toppers in Brazil, Zimbabwe and South Africa, to mention just a few unexpected countries.

Songs like Close to You, Top of the World, Yesterday Once More and Please Mr Postman are some of their biggest hits. Chances are that even if you think you don’t know them, you would recognise at least a couple of these tracks, which have been used countless times in movies, TV ads or as background music during a TV program.

Let’s remember that the duo consisted of siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter. The former, widely popular, passed away aged 32 of heart attack failure, after years of fighting with anorexia nervosa and eating disorders. This was the first time ever these issues were brought to mainstream media, sharply raising awareness and research on the matter.

#2 The Beatles – 208 languages

Remember the John Lennon quote, “more popular than Jesus”? Well, maybe not than Jesus, but with a profile translated into 208 languages they do top Mahatma Ganghi (197), Abraham Lincoln (198), Charles Darwin (199), Vladimir Lenin (200), Pablo Picasso (201), Queen Elizabeth II (203), Buddha (204), Napoleon (205), Vincent van Gogh and Facebook (206). Nearly, John, but not quite!

The light of the Beatles isn’t turning off anytime soon. More than half a century since they disbanded, their success is still one of a kind and while we sincerely wish Paul McCartney all the best, his passing whenever it happens will have a monumental impact. That won’t just be the member of an old band passing away, this will mark the end of an era.

Responsible for a magnitude of memorable hits like Hey Jude, All You Need Is Love, Here Comes the Sun, Blackbird and so many more, their impact during their active years was something unseen up to that point and very, very rarely reproduced ever since, let alone with such amazing consistency, year after year from 1963 to 1970.

If we look at the details of the statistics, we can see that they have pages in 22 international and academical languages, a record so far (tied with the Carpenters). In both Europe (99) and Asia (47) they are ahead of every artist we have met so far and even when they do not lead like in the Middle East (11) or Africa (13) their presence is still huge.

#1 Michael Jackson – 260 languages

The number speaks for itself – 260 languages. It is so big that it is almost ridiculous. The King of Pop Michael Jackson tops Julius Caesar (210), Aristotle (215), William Shakespeare (218), Nelson Mandela (220), Albert Einstein (224), Isaac Newton (227), Leonardo da Vinci (234), Adolf Hitler (237), Donald Trump (238), Barack Obama (246) and Ronald Reagan (251).

The truly insane part is that most of these people can be found in history books. They are household names in the academic world, which is Wikipedia’s DNA. It feels natural to create a page about an American President or the most influential scientists of all-time in an encyclopaedia. Yet, Michael Jackson tops them all.

Of course, you are now wondering, who or what is ahead of him!? Well, as far as I was able to uncover, only Jesus (266) and The Bible (261) are higher than him. As absurd as it seems, Jackson almost verified Lennon‘s claim.

He does so with a gigantic lead. He claims 30 international languages while nobody else is over 22. In Europe, he beats The Beatles 104-99. The highest score in the Middle East was 12, Jackson has 15. In Africa, he destroys the record of 17 with 30. And in Asia, the previous best of 47 is overshadowed with 64.

Ever heard of Sranantongo? This is an English creole language spoken in Suriname by about half a million people. Inuktitut? An Inuit language from Eastern Canada spoken by 80,000 persons. Adyghe? A Northwest Caucasian language spoken by 300,000 people, mainly in Russia around Krasnodar. Bamanankan? A language from Mali, spoken by 14 million people. Vahcuengh? Another regional dialect, this one from Southern China. ChiShona? Farefare? Gungbe? Ikinyarwanda? Oromo? SiSwati? Tyap?

The list goes on and on. These are languages that include a page about Jackson but none of the remaining artists from the top 10. It goes as deep as Norfuk, a language from Norfolk Island spoken by 2,000 persons and Iñupiaq, another Inuit language with 1,250 speakers.

Michael Jackson, who passed away 15 years ago, remains in a league of his own, as the biggest pop star on Earth. His global reach is unmatched, with a reach which defies gravity.

Most global classical music artists

As stated in the introduction, historically important figures, studied by academics are at an advantage on this Wikipedia’s languages indicator. A music instructor is much more likely to create a page about an artist, than someone picked randomly. And that artist is very likely to be a household name of classical music, like Mozart or Beethoven.

Still, the reach of these artists is impressive, with a coverage topping many of the most famous global leaders, scientists or authors. Here is the list of composers topping 100 languages available.

  1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – 215
  2. Johann Sebastian Bach – 210
  3. Ludwig van Beethoven – 203
  4. Frédéric Chopin – 159
  5. Richard Wagner – 153
  6. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – 152
  7. Giuseppe Verdi – 143
  8. Antonio Vivaldi – 141
  9. Franz Schubert – 132
  10. Igor Stravinsky – 130
  11. George Frideric Handel – 128
  12. Johannes Brahms – 127
  13. Joseph Haydn – 126
  14. Antonín Dvorák – 125
  15. Gustav Mahler – 118
  16. Hector Berlioz – 107
  17. Claude Debussy – 100
  18. Franz Liszt – 100
  19. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy – 100

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