Music

Billboard’s Greatest Pop Stars of 2023: No. 6 — Karol G

For this year’s update of our ongoing Greatest Pop Star by Year project, Billboard is counting down our staff picks for the top 10 pop stars of 2023 all this week. At No. 6, we remember the year in Karol G — who reached new heights as a recording and touring artist and confirmed herself as one of the biggest stars on the planet.

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Karol G’s progress towards global domination was on display at her two-day “Mañana Será Bonito” Festival, held in December at Estadio Atanasio Girardot in her native Medellín, Colombia — where she performed for a sold-out crowd of more than 40,000 fans each day. Far beyond just giving the ultimate fan experience to those in attendance — including a carnival, live music and special guests such as Romeo Santos, Feid, Young Miko and DJ Tiesto — the festival was the admirable result of a music career that began in 2006 and has now achieved global recognition in 2023.  

Billboard’s Greatest Pop Stars of 2023:
Introduction & Honorable Mentions | Rookie of the Year: Peso Pluma | Comeback of the Year: Miley Cyrus | No. 10: Drake | No. 9: Doja Cat | No. 8: Bad Bunny | No. 7: Olivia Rodrigo

“My home is the place where the dream began, the desire, the motivation, where we took the first step […] Who said that no one is a prophet in their own land when Colombia has given me everything?” she expressed on Instagram prior to her Dec. 1st and 2nd shows. “It brings tears to my eyes to know that my year ends at home, in the city where I was born, and which believed in me before any other place.”  

As the MSB Festival indicated, 2023 has been nothing but life-changing and historic for Karol.  Fresh off her 2022 successes — such as the Becky G-assisted “MAMIII” and “Provenza,” both which hit No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart, and her $trip Love U.S. arena tour, which grossed $72.2 million and sold 424,000 tickets — the Colombian hitmaker was ready to conquer the new year, setting even bigger goals.  

Karol G
Karol G

Her first release of 2023 was “X Si Volvemos,” a sultry reggaeón collaboration with Romeo Santos , which arrived on Feb. 2 and marked the third preview of her fourth studio album (following her 2022 one-offs “Cairo” and “Gatubela” with Maldy). On Feb. 24, she officially unleashed the entire set, entitled Mañana Será Bonito (Tomorrow will be Beautiful), with 14 other tracks that showcased her musical evolution and versatility. The artist born Carolina Giraldo Navarro did not shy away from experimenting with bossa nova (“Carolina”), banda (“Gucci Los Paños”), dembow (“Ojos Ferrari”) and even punk rock (“Tus Gafitas”), but it was the set’s lyrical content that resonated most with fans — one that showcased a happier, healthier, and healed Karol for 2023.  

The album’s reception was so massive that it made history as the first Spanish-language album by a female artist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Moreover, the set’s focus single “TQG” with Shakira—a dramatic urban pop song where the two artists successfully blossomed after their respective public celebrity breakups — debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Global 200 and Billboard Global Excl. U.S. charts, while also crowning six other Billboard listings and becoming Karol’s first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100

In celebration of her historic production, the 32-year-old singer took over Puerto Rico’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium for three back-to-back concerts in March. It was then — due to fans chanting all her new material just days after its release — that the idea of embarking on her first-ever stadium tour was born. 

But before hitting the road again in the summer, Karol made important career moves. In April, she made her Saturday Night Live debut, where she performed songs from her new album and was part of a sketch alongside Cuban-born actress (and that episode’s host) Ana de Armas. In June, she signed an ambitious deal with Interscope Records that included her owning all her masters and releasing music under her own imprint, Bichota Records. And in July, she dropped “Watiti” with Panamanian artist Aldo Ranks, a playful reggaetón single with EDM influences that marked the second single from the Barbie motion picture soundtrack. Not only did forming part of the biggest movie of the summer further prove her tremendous star power but it was also the only Spanish-language track on the star-studded set, which also included songs by Dua Lipa, Sam Smith, Bilie Eilish and more huge names.  

And because one album was not enough for her prolific 2023, Karol surprised fans with Mañana Será Bonito (Bichota Season) — a brand new set with nine tracks, including her norteño hit “Mi Ex Tenía Razón” and the Peso Pluma-assisted “QLONA” — that not only earned her another top five entry on the Billboard 200, but officially kicked off her U.S. stadium tour.  

The 15-date stint, which included a pair of sold-out shows at the New York-area MetLife Stadium in September, gathered fans of all ages, dressed in pink wigs and their best summer fits as they chanted along to all of Karol’s biggest hits. The trek grossed $138.4 million and sold 759K tickets across 15 shows in the U.S. between Aug. 11 and Sept. 28, landing Karol at No. 1 on the Billboard Year-End Latin Tours chart and later winning her top Latin touring artist, in addition to top Latin female artist, at the 2023 Billboard Music Awards in November.  

Then, after being one of the very few Latin acts to dominate a massive stadium tour, Karol was ready to sweep awards season. In September, she made her MTV Video Music Awards debut, where she not only performed a sultry medley of “Oki Doki” and “Ta OK,” but also nabbed the best collaboration award for “TQG.” In October, she won five Billboard Latin Music Awards, in addition to the Spirit of Hope Award for her philanthropic work supporting women through her Con Cora Foundation. And in November, she nabbed three Latin Grammys, including the coveted album of the year trophy for Mañana Será Bonito. She also became the first woman to take home the urban album of the year award.  

“How cool is it for a woman to win this?” she said during her acceptance speech. “This album changed my life, and it’s incredible that it’s changed the life of so many people.”  

Meanwhile, amid touring life and collecting well-deserved accolades, Karol’s light shined on social media. Often times she’d send voice messages on her Telegram group, she’d do an Instagram Live to show what a day off looks like for her back home, and on TikTok, she’d share adorable videos of her baby niece or jump on viral trends. It all further demonstrated why, beyond connecting and falling in love with her persona and charm, fans practically consider her family.  

Next year, the Colombiana is ready to take her Mañana Será Bonito Tour to Latin America, where she will visit countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, and her acting lessons will also come into play when she makes her Netflix debut on the drama series Griselda, starring Sofia Vergara, in January. Though Karol has ascended to global superstardom in 2023, it’s safe to say that Bichota Season should stretch well into 2024. 

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