For rock radio in the US, the answer for my generation is Nirvana. There were rock stations before Nirvana, and then rock stations after Nirvana who played completely different rock music. Oasis had their moment here, but minor in comparison compared to other bands of their generation. Remember, my “generation defining” is limited to rock music, which was usually out-charted by other acts, so my answer only speaks to that realm.
Nirvana certainly defines my generation. To a lesser extent: U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam or REM.
But the last one? I cannot really claim to know the most modern groups. I’m not sure Eilish or anything K-pop (of which I know almost nothing) has broad enough appeal to qualify but I could be completely wrong.
So my guess is Taylor Swift, who crossed genres, seems pretty popular and has for some time. Again, I could be wrong, in which case I proffer Eminem, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Madonna, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga?
Is that the case though? particularly the last point? I get that I personally am not going to have as much emotional attachment to modern music as I have to music made when I was between the ages of 16 and 20 (because duh the best music ever was made then and culture only went down hill from there .)
But was the music and cultural influence of a Justin Bieber or a Taylor Swift so great, in society at large not just in Bieber/Swift fandom, that the era when their careers peaked is actually defined by them? In the same way it was for the Beatles or Sex Pistols?
I would say that you have to be of that generation to really understand what is “generation defining.” I remember what the musical cultural scene was before Run-D.M.C. and what it was like after Run-D.M.C. Things changed overnight. Same for Nirvana. I was there, I felt it. My oldest millennial daughter would have no idea what I was talking about. She would say it was definitely Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the boy bands of the early 2000’s. She was there, she had all their music, dolls, posters, My Gen Z nephews would say…I don’t know- BTS, Bieber, Drake, Eilish, Beyonce?
To the extent that that is possible in this day and age, I think so. Popular music has progressed so far along the EPS cycle that I don’t think it’s possible for any band or artist today to be as popular as the Beatles were. Indeed, it’s been that way for some time - despite how influential Nirvana was, they never had a #1 on the Hot 100. There’s far more music coming out every day, in more genres, it’s easier than ever to record and publish music, and there are far fewer gatekeepers to decide what becomes popular (Lil Nas X, for example, didn’t even have a record deal when Old Town Road went viral and topped the charts.)
BTS and BLACKPINK both have huge followings internationally. They certainly qualify if appeal was the main criterion. BLACKPINK only have one studio album out so far (as of today, but check back tomorrow!), though, so only BTS meets the first criterion of the OP.
I’d say this is the era when K-Pop (and Hallyu in general) burst onto the West, so in that sense, they’re going to be associated with that, their fans are certainly committed (one of my colleagues travelled from Cape Town to Seoul just to attend a BTS concert) and if I’m reading non-music articles about them in The Guardian, I’d say they’re known outside their fanbase (unless Biden is just a huge secret Jungkook stan).
for British music in the 80s, it depends on the genre … I mean there was u2 the smiths the clash, the cure, the police even Elvis Costello I mean until 85 it was the"new wave invasion then came the electronic wave like new order, pet shop boys I mean except for his hair line how would you know Neil and Chris are almost 70 years old?
But the problem is whats left of radio and streaming is too narrow in genres you can pick the one you like and never hear anything else I remember as a kid I could hear new order guns n roses new kids on the block and what ever bob dylan had released at the moment
As for oasis the only thing they’re remembered here is for 3 or 4 songs claiming they were better than the beatles and the brothers fighting each other
I prefer both Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, so respect, but both Tiesto and Daft Punk and probably Kraftwerk had more big albums over longer periods and more recent successes. Canada’s EDM scene is also small and I’m not sure the Brothers were as popular here as they deserved to be.
I know Psy had one of the most viewed songs, and elevated the genre. Although the horse dance looks fun, I don’t think he repeated that success. I saw one of the K-pop bands, young Asian men with suits and ties, on some awards show, doing a song not so far removed from Step By Step or (She Don’t Know) She’s Beautiful…. Is that typical for them? Dunno.
Kraftwerk doesn’t quite fit in there, they came 20 years before Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy. I just wanted to point that out because we’re talking about generations, and Kraftwerk are two pop generations before those other bands. Hard to believe in this case, because Kraftwerk were so ground-breaking for everything in electronic music that came after. The first next generation they inspired were the 80s synth-poppers.
I don’t know how to include synth/EDM when talking about generations. When I was beginning in university and learning a lot about music, Nirvana, GnR and U2 were very popular. My friends liked Britpop and Techno bands (as above) too, but these were less popular than rock and grunge, even if they had plenty of enthusiastic fans.
But then twenty years later some of these bands and DJs are making fortunes with Vegas residencies, are still making music and hit songs now, and are finding new audiences in Silicon Valley, university radio and well beyond. It seemed a bit unusual for music to persist so long, though maybe it was always slightly niche?
(Rush, Spirit of the West and The Tragically Hip were also popular with some Canadians at the time, less well known internationally.)
The title of the post includes “artist” so if we expand THAT definition beyond music I think the “generation defining” artist for post-millenials would probably be someone who became popular through social media.
Jojo Siwa, maybe? I don’t know-I am in mid 40s so I don’t follow the trends of the young people closely.
And they are literally the biggest band in the world right now. Nobody else comes close, really. Psy was a one-hit wonder in the West. They add $5 billion a year to their country’s economy. 800 000 people a year visit South Korea for them
I’m not a fan (I don’t mean that in the “not a fan” pejorative way, I’m neutral on them), but I certainly recognize their impact.
I think you have to go all the way back to Nirvana. Now that gatekeepers like record labels, radio stations, and M-TV have lost their stranglehold on production and distribution of music, following generations have been freed of the burden of a defining musical act.