New releases by three pop icons reveal their extreme attempts to protect themselves from the damage caused by fame. Pop stardom has never seemed less aspirational

The mechanisms of pop stardom have never been subject to as much scrutiny as they are now. Britney Spears’ conservatorship struggle exposed their potential for (alleged) abuse. Raye recently split from her major label, Polydor, after she reached breaking point and shared her frustrations about not being allowed to release her debut album despite signing in 2014 and helming numerous massive hit singles. Former X Factor winner Rebecca Ferguson has called for a parliamentary inquiry into alleged widespread music industry wrongdoing. That labels should root out exploitative and predatory behaviour and protect exposed young stars is a baseline requirement. But increasingly it seems that the existential state of pop stardom – particularly for young women, subject to greater scrutiny than their male peers and often held to contradictory standards – is intolerable beyond any level of protection.

Related: ‘I had no confidence, no money’: the pop stars kept in limbo by major labels

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