Breaking the mould: Pop Rebels that appeal to the masses
Rihanna, Zayn Malik and Sia are three singers who appeal to the masses by daring to be different
Mainstream appeal is such a royal bore these days.
For singers Rihanna, Zayn Malik and Sia, the way to go is to go against the grain.
And they have done just that with their much-hyped new releases.
Call them antidotes to the manufactured cookie-cutter products of today's pop industry, but these artists are unapologetic - and the world is lapping it up.
The Barbadian pop star has been unapologetically bad-ass over her career, which translates into her devil-may-care attitude and catchy, edgy bangers.
Yet, she shows off an uncharacteristically mellow, tender side in her latest offering Anti, a stripped-back album where she trades radio-friendly pop hits for introspective ballads.
Has the 27-year-old gone soft, undoing years of painting herself as a rebel?
Slower songs like Kiss It Better and Never Ending are certainly no Bitch Better Have My Money or We Found Love, but they unveil a Rihanna that can only come with maturity.
She told MTV News last year: "I've made a lot of songs that are just really, really big songs. Not that they weren't real music, but I wanted to focus on things that felt real, that felt soulful, that felt forever...
"I find that I get on stage now, I don't want to perform a lot of my songs because they don't feel like me, so I want to make songs that are timeless."
Anti, which comes four years after her last release Unapologetic, was accidentally leaked by US rap mogul Jay Z's streaming service Tidal two days before its scheduled Jan 29 release, forcing her to make it available for free download temporarily on the platform.
And it looks like Rihanna's gamble to be her own antithesis has paid off.
Featuring elements of R&B, soul and dancehall, Anti was downloaded 1.4 million times in just 15 hours, but debuted at a disappointing No. 27 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
A week later, it achieved a major rebound by soaring to the top spot and unseating Adele's 25, scoring the biggest jump on the chart in eight years.
ZAYN MALIK: ANTI-BOY BAND
It took former One Direction member Zayn Malik five years before he decided he had had enough of being part of the successful UK boy band. He left the group last year, causing a fan meltdown.
In a recent interview with London-based radio DJ Zane Lowe, the 23-year-old English singer said: "I think I kind of always wanted to go, from the first year. I never really wanted to be there... When I realised the direction we were going in, mind the pun, I realised it wasn't for me because I realised I didn't have input or give my opinion because it didn't fit the grain of what we were as a band."
Since quitting the quintet, Malik broke off his engagement with British girl group Little Mix's Perrie Edwards, went solo and is now known as Zayn, in a bid to shed his teenybopper image.
As if that wasn't obvious enough, the music video for his debut solo single Pillowtalk is a steamy clip that sees him seducing and locking lips with his US model-girlfriend, Gigi Hadid. The song is from his debut album, Mind Of Mine, due next month.
Sexy bad boy Zayn is here to stay and already he is getting into a fair bit of trouble after pulling out of two prominent media interviews at the last minute. Perhaps he's just too busy celebrating - Pillowtalk hit the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 1, going where One Direction never did.
In an industry where impossibly good looks and perfection are everything, the infamously press-shy Sia chooses to hide most of her face behind a black-and-blonde (formerly fully blonde) bob wig.
While stars are more than willing to overshare their entire personal lives and a never-ending stream of selfies on Instagram, the Australian singer-songwriter only recently jumped on the bandwagon, but she keeps her feed strictly career-related.
Only recently too, has the 40-year-old made more frequent appearances on US talk shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to promote her latest album This Is Acting - with signature hairpiece in place, of course.
For Sia, reclusiveness is her instinct, and it's exactly this air of mystery that invites even more attention.
The electropop follow-up to 2014's mega-successful 1000 Forms Of Fear, This Is Acting happens to be a collection of songs written by Sia that have been previously rejected by singers like Adele, Rihanna, Shakira and Beyonce.
Opening track Bird Set Free was "too much like a Sia song", according to Adele's management.
Cheap Thrills was turned down by Rihanna's management who said they wanted another Diamonds (which Sia penned).
This Is Acting debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart in the past week with 81,000 units (including 68,000 in pure album sales), making it her best sales week yet.
Said Sia, who married documentary film-maker Erik Anders Lang in 2014, to The Guardian: "(I think) that for two years, I just have to get on this mouse-wheel and go round the world talking about myself and singing the same songs.
"I respect the women I write pop songs for because they work hard in a way I could never do. My whole modus operandi is a four-hour work week. I'm just trying to work out strategies for getting the most out of my life, so that I can spend time with my friends, my dogs and my husband."