But don't forget about Jessica Simpson. Her 2006 song, "A Public Affair," had overtones of Madonna's hit "Holiday," so much so that when the song was released, Simpson told MTV, "I think people are ready to hear something that Madonna used to do," admirably citing Madonna's influence and longevity to stave off criticism of the songs' similarities.
Gwen Stefani, whose coif alone replicates Madonna's 1980's "platinum" chic, told Elle magazine in 2007, "A lot of my influence came from her early work, like directly, like a Xerox." From "Like a Virgin" to "like a Xerox," Madonna's definitely left her mark.
Dubbed by the media first as The Queen of Pop and later as The Mother of Reinvention, Madonna is one star whose influence and staying power has touched generations.
Michael Jackson's influence can be seen all over today's pop culture map. Watch any music video by nearly any solo star and dance breaks aren't just an aspect — they are a requirement.
The Gloved One's pop sensibilities are recognized in the dance moves of superstars like Usher, Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake — all of whom have named the "Bad" singer as an inspiration.
His ability to effortlessly glide across the stage while bopping to the beat and eagerly entertaining audiences set the standard for future wannabe pop stars — like when he announced to the world he was ready to leave the Jackson 5 behind as he moonwalked across the stage during the Motown 25 television celebration in 1983 when he performed Billie Jean. It said, "I've arrived ... alone."
Like Jackson, current pop heartthrob Timberlake similarly would try to leave his boy band days behind him with an MTV performance of his debut solo single "Like I Love You." His performance and the song's sounds drew instant comparisons to Jackson.
But he did more than make good dancing a must for upcoming artists, he made the brand new video music genre matter in a way it never had before, with innovative videos like the heavily lauded "Thriller," "Billie Jean" and "Black or White," which introduced morphing to the video masses. He was the first African-American artist to have video played on MTV.
Even current emo cover band Fall Out Boy paid homage to the Gary, Ind., singer when it performed his popular song "Beat It" this year. His dozens of awards, two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a previously unparalleled level of international influence, despite his personal problems, Jackson remains one of the industry's most heralded singers and performers.
Though arguably Whitney Houston's most famous song is a Dolly Parton cover ("I Will Always Love You"), the songbird with the distinctive pipes has etched her own musical identity.
Singer Brandy sought to mimic Houston's success when she began and said in several interviews how much she admired the singer. Accolades pour in from all over the industry. Even in her most troubled times, people saw Houston as one of the premier voices of her generation.
With movies like "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale," Houston showed aspiring singers how they too could dominate the Billboard charts and the big screen. Singers like Beyonce, who starred in the very successful "Dreamgirls," have taken Houston's cue.