There was a time when Miley Cyrus was in the running for America’s Sweetheart – at least until her 2013 VMAs twerkfest with Robin Thicke let the world know that the former Hannah Montana was no longer a child. Not only did her backside popping bring the dance move to millions of screens, but it helped push the word “twerk” into the Oxford Dictionary.
Of course, Cyrus was far from the first to do the dance move, which traces its lineage to West Africa, where the Mapouka dance — which emphasizes moving the backside — has been going on for centuries. That dance never went away. It gradually evolved throughout the African diaspora until it became a major part of New Orleans bounce music culture in the 1990s, also impacting reggae and dancehall music.
Big Freedia, the Bounce Queen of New Orleans, had been twerking for years before Miley came along. Heck, after the 2013 VMAs, Freedia set a Guinness World Record for the most people twerking simultaneously, which went down in New York City’s Times Square. Since then, everyone from Lizzo to City Girls has continued to booty pop on camera, on stage and in our hearts.
But Freedia and Miley aren’t the only artists shake their tail feathers. Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Lizzo and even Taylor Swift have gotten their twerk on. Take a look at the top 13 twerkers in pop music. Some get a reluctant pat on the back for effort. Others get a round of applause for skill.