International Pop Stars American Audiences Might Have Missed


Pop star Gloria Trevi is known as the “Mexican Madonna” for her provocative style and politically charged lyrics.

Christian Keller’s bio-drama Gloria explores the singer’s rise “from poverty to international stardom, only to be brought crashing down by a sex scandal that mesmerized the Spanish-speaking world. The new movie Gloria tells the true story of her astonishing life, from her meteoric rise to the top of the pop charts to the humiliating fall that followed, all set to a soundtrack of the diva’s infectious hits.” The film opened in theaters this weekend. Trevi’s career inspired us to seek out other international pop stars who have achieved acclaim, yet remain largely unnoticed by the English-speaking world.

Ceca and Jelena Karleuša

“Serbian Mother” Ceca blends Balkan folk and dance-pop music. She started her career as a teen idol, but much of her work has been overshadowed by the war crimes committed by her deceased husband, Željko Ražnatović. Singer Jelena Karleuša is another Serbian pop star who has made a name for herself across continents. And from the looks of it, Lady Gaga has taken notice. Ahem.


The Seoul-born singer found fame in the K-pop girl group 2NE1, but she’s also a skilled rapper who has collaborated with Skrillex, Diplo, and

Gaby Amarantos

She’s been nickanmed “A Beyoncé Do Pará” (“the Beyoncé of the Amazon,” roughly), but Gaby Amarantos has been doing her own thing since her teens. Amarantos is best known for “tecnobrega,” which translates to “cheesy techno,” and involves the reworking of pop music and ’80s electronic beats.

Wei Wei

Mandopop singer Wei Wei is a champion of the International Song Festival circuit and is recognized as China’s musical Olympic ambassador, as well as being a national icon. No big deal.


The Russian pop princess has been compared to Madonna. Perhaps it’s the more than 100 million records sold in her home country.


Armenian singer Sirusho also fuses traditional folk elements with pop and dance music. The BBC called her a “national treasure.”

Hikaru Utada

Influential performer Hikaru Utada’s second album First Love became the best selling Japanese-language album of all time. Her single “Flavor of Life” became one of the best selling singles of all time.


Iranian pop icon Googoosh found her greatest success during the 1970s, but her career was halted after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when a ban was placed on female singers who were not allowed to perform solo in front of men not related to them. She’s since made a comeback and recently spoke out against the homophobia in her home country.