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The Seven Most Powerful Celebrity Couples of 2017

Liking each other and making sense aren’t always enough

(Getty Images/Elias Stein)
(Getty Images/Elias Stein)

Selena Gomez is tongue-tussling with Abel Tesfaye. Drake and Jennifer Lopez are cheesing it up in our Instagram feeds. Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix are somewhere out there doing some real-weird Jesus and Mary Magdalene role-playing. Mariah Carey has turned rebounding into performance art. Is it just me, or are the 2017 celebrity mating reports absolutely wild this year? We’re not even out of Q1, and I’ve already typed the phrase, “Are Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian the new Bey and Jay?” (I’m sorry.)

It’s still too early to call any of these pairings “power couples” in the traditional sense. Love is tricky. There’s no telling who will break up or who will get too distracted by the promotional opportunities and cross over into “fake couple” territory. At the moment, though, there are several strong couples who may make it — candidates who might hold our attention long enough that we may care about their eventual break-up.

The question is: Who are we rooting for? Who are at the top of the list? We have narrowed the contenders down to seven celebrity power-couples-in-waiting:

  • Selena Gomez and the Weeknd
  • Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix
  • Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian
  • Ariana Grande and Mac Miller
  • Jennifer Lopez and Drake
  • Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons
  • Mariah Carey and her backup dancer, Bryan Tanaka

Now we will judge them based on crucial power-couple criteria. The rubric is as follows:

How influential are they?

These are all famous people, but some of them are more famous than others. To fully determine the power part of the “power couple” eligibility, we’ll need to asses their careers and visibility.

Scoring: +10 points for every positive individual achievement; -10 for negative individual achievement. Couples will received a combined score.

How compatible are they?

Some couples seem like they’d naturally get along, have stuff to talk about, and enjoy the same movies and art openings and restaurants. Other couples are following a script their publicists handed them.

Scoring: +5 points for everything they seem to have in common; -5 for anything that seems totally fake. Used mostly to define if a relationship is “real” or “PR.”

How logical is their union?

This is different from “How compatible are they?” in that it has to do with outside forces — publicity, proximity, revenge. Does this pairing make sense within the order of the universe?

Scoring: +100 if it makes sense; +100 if it makes absolutely no sense in a good way; –200 if it is just plain disturbing.

Are they entertaining?

We do not know these people; they will never come to our dinner parties. So the most important criteria for a couple is: Do I want to read about them in US Weekly or on Just Jared or watch them on the red carpet?

Scoring: +50 points for every reason this couple is fun to watch; –50 for everything that makes them seem dull as dirt.

Bonus “Awwwwws”

Highly subjective points awarded for random likability.

OK, let’s do this.

Selena Gomez and the Weeknd

Total Running Time: Approximately 14 days
Approved Portmanteau: The Sleeknd

How influential are they?

Selena Gomez is both an actress (+10) and a singer (+10) who is recognizable enough to be on lots of magazine covers (+0, she hasn’t been on any in 2017). She’s starred in several Disney shows and original movies (+0). She has also starred in Spring Breakers (+10), Monte Carlo (+10), Neighbors 2 (–10), and Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire (+10). She now has a Netflix project (+0, who doesn’t?). She’s recorded five albums: three with the band Selena Gomez & the Scene (–30) and two on her own — only one of which was good (+10). She had the most-popular celebrity Instagram account in 2016 (+10). She survived Justin Bieber (+10).

The Weeknd is a musician (+10). For a while he enjoyed indie credibility because lots of “cool” people would whisper about his sexy mixtapes that they downloaded from invite-only torrent sites (+10). Then he sold out and went pop with Beauty Behind the Madness (+10), landed a song on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack (+10), and offered a Top-40 anthem for people who take too much molly and make sad booty calls (+0 because Drake is a pioneer in that field). Then he made Starboy (–10). Headlines still pull a Dowager Countess and ask, “Who is the Weeknd?” when they write about his new relationship (–10). Fuckboys use his lyrics to justify their fuckboy fuckery (–10).

Selena Gomez individual score (40) + The Weeknd individual score (10) = 50

How compatible are they?

A Google search of “Selena Gomez and book” turns up an image of her reading Fifty Shades of Grey (it was for a Funny or Die video but that’s what we’ve got to work with). The Weeknd recorded “Earned It” for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, so it appears they like the same movie/book (+5). The Weeknd previously dated Bella Hadid, and Selena Gomez is a “friend” of Gigi Hadid’s, so they sort of have friends in common (+5, and we’ll come back to this). They both make music, so can probably have in-depth conversations about “studio time” and “soundboards” (+5).

Score: 15

How logical is their union?

They are both young, and they both look cool in leather jackets, so this is totally logical on the surface (+100). But let’s look at this from a PR standpoint: Selena Gomez is a member of Taylor Swift’s Girl Squad alongside Gigi Hadid, sister of Bella. Depending on how far you feel “girl code” extends, Selena Gomez is making a nonsensical choice: angering the female-bonds gods just to make out with Starboy. This could easily turn into a Katy Perry–level feud (–100), unless the Sleeknd is a twisted plot to dismantle the Tay-ocracy, in which case they totally make sense (+100).

Score: 100

How entertaining are they?

On one hand, their couple nickname, Sleeknd, rules (+50). They recently “held hands at Dave & Buster’s” which is the most fun sentence you can write about any celebrity pairing (+50). (For example, Meryl Streep and Viola Davis held hands at Dave & Buster’s! Fun! Right?) And then they took their hand-holding tour to Florence, Italy (which is no Dave & Buster’s, but OK, +50). And they made Justin Bieber act petty (a bonus of only +20 — it’s not that hard).

But on the other hand, honestly they are both sort of boring celebrities. Selena Gomez is Fine; I admire her child-star reluctance, but she is also never very enthused about anything, which is less fun (–50). And have you heard Starboy? I’ve had naps that have been infinitely more exciting (–50).

Score: 70

Bonus “Awwwwws”

+150 for their role in ruining the Swift Squad.

Selena Gomez and the Weeknd Total Power Score: 385

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix

Total Running Time: Approximately 17 days
Approved Portmanteau: Joaura (pronounced wahr-ah)

How influential are they?

Joaquin Phoenix is a big movie star (+10), but he’s also a white guy in Hollywood (–10). His good movies include Gladiator (+10), Her (+10), Walk the Line (+10), To Die For (+20, that movie is excellent). He’s been nominated for three Academy Awards (+30), but he’s committed to that whole I’m Still Here thing (–10), and I sort of blame him for Shia LaBeouf’s performance art (+0, because I can’t decide if that’s good or bad).

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix in 2013. (Getty Images)
Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix in 2013. (Getty Images)

Rooney Mara is also a movie star (+10) who people respect a lot. She’s part of an NFL dynasty (+20 because she’s associated with two teams, the Giants and the Steelers). Her major roles include a “standout” part in The Social Network, the lead in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Carol (+30). She’s also been nominated for two Academy Awards (+20). But she played Tiger Lily in Pan (–20, because it was both bad and culturally insensitive).

Joaquin Phoenix individual score (60) + Rooney Mara individual score (60) = 120

How compatible are they?

They both seem very serious. Like, if they were given a choice between watching Silence or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, they would choose Silence every time (+5). Most importantly, it has been reported that the two of them took a couple’s vacation to We Care Detox Spa and Spiritual Retreat in Desert Hot Springs, California, during the weekend of the Golden Globes. Sources say they were holed up “sipping juices” and getting a “few colonics” (+5). Couples’ enemas are the new couples’ massages?

Total score: 10

How logical is their union?

Well, they are two people who want to share the experience of getting their intestines cleaned (automatic +100). They “found love” on the set of Mary Magdalene, which on one hand feels like a walking advertisement for the movie, but on the other sort of feels like it was ordained by God (+100). Also, they are starring in Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot in 2018 (+100), so we can probably count on the relationship lasting through that press tour at least.

Total score: 300

Are they entertaining?

No (–20), not at all (–20). God, really not even a little bit (–20).

Total score: -60

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix Total Power Score: 370

Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian

Total Running Time: Approximately 484 days, engaged for 29 days
Approved Portmanteau: Serena Williams

How influential are they?

Jesus. All of Serena Williams’s accomplishments could fill a book that I don’t have enough years on this planet to write, but some highlights: She’s won 100 titles (+1,000) and was in Beyoncé’s music video for “Sorry” (+10). She has a fashion line for the Home Shopping Network (+10).

Alexis Ohanian founded Reddit (+10). He is engaged to Serena Williams (+10).

Serena Williams individual score (1,020) + Alexis Ohanian individual score (20) = 1,040

How compatible are they?

They totally seem to get along, for real! They both like working out, or at least he’ll work out with her, which is brave (+5). They proudly wore a couples’ Halloween costume last year (+5). Serena uses Reddit (+5). In fact, she announced their engagement by posting a poem in the /r/isaidyes Reddit thread, which we’d all rather forget but does count as an expression of mutual interests (+5).

Total Score: 20

How logical is their union?

Serena Williams is a goddess. Alexis Ohanian is a tech bro and a mere mortal. It shouldn’t make sense, but in some weird, comforting way it does, so +100 for that. Also, Serena Williams deserves extra points for ditching Drake, Patron Saint of Fuckboys, and choosing the nice, earnest, goofy guy who posts 50 pictures of her on Instagram a day (+100).

Total Score: 200

Are they entertaining?

I will click on every news story that details how Alexis Ohanian sits courtside, gazing adoringly at Serena during one of her tennis matches (+50), while she acknowledges him by blowing him a kiss (+50) before destroying the competition (+50). This is what having it all looks like (+50). I cannot wait for their wedding photos (+50 — that’s what “futures” are, right?).

Total score: 250

Bonus “Awwwwws”

His Instagram is basically a Serena Williams shrine (+500).

Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian Total Power Score: 2,010

Ariana Grande and Mac Miller

Total Running Time: Approximately 157 days
Approved Portmanteau: Big Mac

How influential are they?

Similar to Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande is a pop star (+10) who started on a Nickelodeon show that wasn’t Hey Dude (+0). She recorded a bunch of YouTube videos of her doing impressions of other divas (+10). Then she released Yours Truly in 2013 (+10), which debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 (+10, though does that mean anything?). She followed that with My Everything (+10) and dabbled with EDM (+0) before giving us a Christmas mixtape (+0) and Dangerous Woman, an album full of bangers (+10). I don’t need the Billboard charts to tell me “Side to Side” is a goddamn masterpiece (+10). She’s regularly compared to Mariah Carey (+10), though Mariah barely acknowledges her (–10). Other contributions: Scream Queens (+10), making those cat-ear headbands a real “thing” (–10), Donutgate (+10), and a widespread media fascination with the fact that she likes to be carried around like a little baby (+0 because Mariah did it first, probably).

Total score: 80

Mac Miller is a rapper from Pittsburgh (+10). He collaborated with Anderson Paak on a song (ordinarily +10, but the points belong to Paak, so correction, +0). He’s considered a very successful independent artist because his first album, Blue Slide Park, debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2011 (+10). I personally have not listened to it or either of the other two albums (+10 for each) he released before releasing the Divine Feminine last year (+10). He has a neck tattoo (–10). Also, I don’t know, are we really taking Mac Miller seriously now (–10)? Really (–10)?

Total score: 20

Ariana Grande individual score (80) + Mac Miller individual score (20) = 100

How compatible are they?

They both have puppies (+5). They both really like social media (+5). They both love to say each other’s name (+5). They respect each other enough musically to collaborate on a song and star in a video together that requires them to make out through a hole in the wall (+5). They are both pretty short (+5).

Total score: 25

How logical is their union?

Mac Miller has an album out called the Divine Feminine which is a non-thirsty celebration of women and exploration of love. He gets to promote this album while also discussing how he’s celebrating and exploring his love with Ariana Grande, who has an album out called Dangerous Woman, a collection of enlightened, grown-woman fuck tracks that allows her to assert herself as a grown woman (+100). The images complement each other well.

Total score: 100

How entertaining are they?

The degree to which Ariana Grande Snapchats their relationship is highly watchable (+50 for dedication and consistency) but edging into overexposure territory (–50). It’s sort of cute when she makes fun of him on Instagram, but not cute enough to award actual points. The gossip about them is usually nauseatingly sweet, like when they were spotted “kissing and giggling in an Encino sushi restaurant” (–50, it’s no Dave & Buster’s). But I’m awarding double points (+100) for whatever it is about this relationship that makes Ariana go off on people — including Ryan Seacrest and Mac Miller fans — who question it.

Total score: 50

Ariana Grande and Mac Miller Total Power Score: 275

Jennifer Lopez and Drake

Total Running Time: Approximately 36 days
Approved Portmanteau: Dropez

How influential are they?

Jennifer Lopez and Drake both have enormous empires: Just think about the number of hit singles, TV shows, albums, films, Grammy awards, American Music Awards, MTV Music awards, and side hustles between the two of them. It’s overwhelming. If this were Game of Thrones and not just Game of Celebrity Couples, a marriage between them would unite the North and the South and destroy the White Walkers.

It’s truly impossible to tally the number of achievements and contributions from the two of them unless you are a computer named Watson running a single algorithm for 1,000 years. So each of them will get +50 for every year they have been active.

With that in mind, Drake gets +500–10 years active, not counting Degrassi. He gets a 200-point bonus for the “Hotline Bling” video, +50 for “TRUSS MI DADDY,” and a 100-point deduction for pretending Views was good.

Jennifer Lopez gets +1,300 — she debuted as a fly girl 26 years ago. She gets a 200-point bonus for Selena, a 200-point bonus for The Wedding Planner, and a 50-point bonus for That Versace Dress. She gets a 100-point deduction for Gigli and another 100-point penalty for Marc Anthony. (I’m sorry, I just never liked them together and this is my algorithm.)

Drake individual score (650) + Jennifer Lopez individual score (1,550) = 2,200

How compatible are they?

They both love the good life (+5), nice cars (+5), fancy restaurants (+5), silk sheets (+5) on California king beds (+5), VIP treatments (+5), and great vacations (+5). Drake is sort of a baby and Jennifer Lopez knows how to take care of babies (+5). They both probably have P. Diddy on speed dial (+5).

Total score: 45

How logical is their union?

I’ve argued the perfection of this union already, but let’s go through it again quickly. Whether Dropez is “real” or not, it’s a perfectly executed move from the PR playbook. This relationship only confirms their most desirable and marketable qualities. Jennifer Lopez is a beautiful, independent, ageless woman with a great ass who can make young men crawl on their knees to be with her. Drake’s entire song catalog only exists because he will crawl on his knees for powerful women with great asses (+100). They will dominate the red carpet of any awards show (+100). When they inevitably release a song together, it will be an automatic chart topper (+100), and the video will get millions of plays on YouTube (+100). Plus, I suppose it looks good for Drake to rebound from Rihanna with J.Lo (+100), but we all have to work very hard to ignore the fact that Drake is partially just doing it to get Rihanna’s attention (-200, because it worked).

Total score: 300

How entertaining are they?

There was a moment of novelty (+50), but unfortunately, we’ve seen this all from Drake before, right? The man only has a few moves (–50). The thirsty Instagrams (–50), lavish gifts like a $100,000 Tiffany necklace (+50, because OK, damn, good move), the dances that make it seem like his body was created to dance only with you (+50, because, really that never gets old). Before we know it, he’ll be on stage at the Grammys giving a version of that excruciating MTV VMA speech — except he’ll just swap in “Jennifer” where all the “Rihannas” were (–50). And Jennifer Lopez, though splendid and luminous, will never be as open or interesting about a relationship as she was during the high-profile Bennifer 1 era (–50).

Total score: 50

Jennifer Lopez and Drake Total Power Score: 2,495

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons

Total Running Time: 245 days, engaged for 21 days
Approved Portmanteau: Kir-Plem

How influential are they?

Kirsten Dunst! She’s given us so many gifts and joy. Interview With the Vampire (+10) — for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for being a precocious child bloodsucker (+10) — Little Women (+10), The Virgin Suicides (+10), Drop Dead Gorgeous (+10), Dick (+10), Marie Antoinette (+10), Bring It On (+10), and now an Emmy Award–nominated role (+10) in Fargo (+10).

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

OK, we have to acknowledge three things (I’m so sorry, Kirsten): Elizabethtown (–10), Sam Rami’s Spider-Man (–10), and that time she sang a folksy little song in Get Over It, one of the worst teen movies ever made (–10).

Jesse Plemons was Landry on Friday Night Lights (+20 — double points, that show gave us so much) and Todd on Breaking Bad (+0 — he was great, but Todd was the worst), and he played Edgar Allan Poe on an episode of Drunk History (+10). Now he is on Fargo (+10).

Kirsten Dunst individual score (70) + Jesse Plemons individual score (40) = 110

How compatible are they?

They are on the same TV show (+5), they both have light hair (+5), they speak in a similar manner about the “dramatic twists” on their television show (+5), he’s a very big fan of Dunst’s work (+5), and she binge-watched Friday Night Lights. Plemons, who has been criticized for his weight, also knows what it’s like to be a woman in Hollywood (+5).

Total score: 25

How logical is their union?

They play a married couple on a television show (+100). It worked for Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys!

Total score: 100

Are they entertaining?

People have deep, genuine love for both Dunst and Plemons (+50), so that alone means I’ll click on a headline about them — especially if we can get cute on-set anecdotes (+50). But they both just seem very nice, semi-normal (–50), and like they spend most of their time snuggling, cuddling, or kissing while wandering around L.A., which is nice (–50). Also they are sort of monochromatic (–50).

Total Score: –50

Bonus “Awwwwws”

Landry! (+200)

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons Total Power Score: 385

Mariah Carey and Bryan Tanaka

Total Running Time: Approximately 63 days
Approved Portmanteau: “Sweet, Sweet Fantasy”

How influential are they?

Mariah Carey presents a similar conundrum to Dropez. The list of achievements is too long to tally. For Mariah, I will just give her 100 points for each of the 27 years she has been active (+2,700), with a 200-point deduction for Glitter.

Bryan Tanaka is a professional dancer (+10) on Mariah Carey’s payroll (–10).

Mariah Carey individual score (2,500) + Bryan Tanaka individual score (0) = 2,500

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

How compatible are they?

They are both very interested in Mariah Carey (+5), all the things that Mariah Carey likes (+5), and dancing to Mariah Carey’s music (+5).

Total Score: 15

How logical is their union?

After Mariah Carey ended her relationship with billionaire James Packer, she needed to rewrite the narrative, quickly. Enter, hot, limber boy toy Bryan Tanaka, the ultimate rebound — a man who has always had a crush on Mariah, who is finally taking his shot to win the woman of his dreams. It makes sense (+100): The relationship has been unfolding in real time on her reality show on E!. Theoretically this should be a ratings boost as well as a big ol’ eff-you to James Packer. But the problem has been in the execution. Basically, the whole thing — the PDA-heavy Instagrams on a beach, the fights on Mariah’s World — are about as convincing as her performance in Glitter (–200).

Total Score: 100

Are they entertaining?

Again, Glitter (–50 and –50 again, because I’m insulted).

Total score: 100

Mariah Carey and Bryan Tanaka Total Power Score: 2,315

Winner

With 2,495 points, Dropez is the most powerful couple of 2017 so far! There’s so much to look forward to with these two: A year filled with Drake’s Instagrams that show him holding her belongings, their first couples’ vacation, an eventual duet, the eventual red carpet debut, and the inevitable Us Weekly headlines chronicling their intimate relationship and subsequent, explosive break-up. Treasure Dropez while you can.