Pop pianists spent the entire last century molding our music. From Scott Joplin to Jerry Lee Lewis to Elton John, ebony and ivory have been working together in harmony, and they haven’t stopped since Y2K. Since it would take much longer to highlight every incredible pop pianist in history, we’ve narrowed our list to a small selection of the best modern pop piano players of this century (so far)!
Alicia Keys began training in classical piano, studying composers like Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart. By twelve, she was composing and by age thirteen she was immersed in the world of the music business. Keys fought for creative freedom, crafting her own sound despite industry pressure to conform to a certain look and style. Now with 15 Grammy wins and 29 nominations and awards from the NAACP, MTV, the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and Billboard Music, to name a few, there is no doubt this icon helped set the musical tone for the century.
When John Legend is brought up, many people think of his 2013 hit, “All of Me.” But Legend has woven his way through music throughout the 2000s. Along with playing and singing on the albums of artists like Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, the Black-Eyed Peas, Fergie, and more, Legend’s Grammy-nominated song “Ordinary People” hit number 4 on Billboard’s charts. In 2005, he also performed in the iconic campaign video, “Yes We Can,” by will.i.am, weaving him into US history as well as music history.
The Piano Guys
Although not known for performing original pieces, this two-man group consisting of cellist Stephen Sharp Nelson and Pianist Jon Schmidt transform pop music like no one else does. What began as a simple marketing technique to promote their piano store by covering pop songs fused with classical pieces has led to a YouTube channel with over 2 billion views and eight records. They are known to push the limits of the genre and the piano itself as they perform in ice caves, on top of mountains, and on top of moving trains. Though unconventional, they’ve certainly earned their place among the best modern pop piano players.