In many, many ways, “star” and “superstar” are very vague, dependent on intangibles such as publicity and perception. When the Tejana singer Selena was killed, many Americans found out we’d lost a superstar we didn’t even know existed.
What are those intangibles? How familiar is this person? Do they need an identifier? Are they recognized on the street? Do people know what they’ve done?
In Adam’s case, I’d say that by that criteria, he’s on the star spectrum, but I can’t tell. I’m too deep inside the Adam-bubble, so I’m aware of all the press and gossip and “I just saw Adam Lambert!” tweets. I honestly don’t know how much the average person knows.
There is only one real clue – those articles often call him a “superstar”, which I assume is hyperbole, but there has to be some basis, so star.
Well, that and he has been used as punchlines about screaming or eyeliner, so he has cultural relevance. Of course, so does Snooki.
There is one person, Donald Pressman, who wrote All You Need to Know About the Music Business , who quantified the term. He said it in terms of sales and interest from the industry, and framed it as clout.
He has three categories, although there is a fourth, sorta, kinda. The people with the least clout, the ones with little to no say in anything and get relatively unfavorable contracts are pure newbies and those who sold under 100K albums. They have no track record or a poor one. This is 2009 numbers, so I suspect the amount is lower now.
Midlevel is 100-500K, or a newbie with six or so offers. They have a track record or people believe they gave “it.”
The top level is superstar. They don’t quite get what they want, but they have clout enough to get alot. They have enough name recognition to headline a tour, and to get a management willing to devote energy on them.
They have sold 1M. Adam has sold 1.3 million copies worldwide.