Pop has been a bit tumultuous this year with some big highs and some crushing lows as the idea of what makes pop music good was challenged and redefined in the wake of the growing change from EDM-pop towards more R&B, dance, and traditional pop sounds.
While not necessarily a bad thing, it was certainly momentous enough to warrant assessing. We’ve had falls from grace and rising from the ashes on both sides of the pop spectrum. Check out my top five pop albums of 2013 to look at what the past twelve months has had to offer.
5. Selena Gomez – Stars Dance
Back on the market following a break up from her tumultuous relationship with Justin Bieber, Disney starlet turned proper actress and singer Selena Gomez channeled her energy into creating an incredibly solid album full of dance-pop that feels very much on trend with current musical favorites. Lead single ‘Come & Get It’ is a bhangra-inspired seduction ode that indicates just how far young Ms. Gomez has come, while songs like the dubstep-influenced ‘Slow Down’ and the Sleigh-Bells-homage ‘Birthday’ are aural treats.
Best of all are songs like the anthemic break-up anthem ‘Forget Forever’ which turns pain into joyous dance and bonus tracks like the irreverent ‘Nobody Does It Like You’ and the ecstatic ‘I Like It That Way’ which show that while Gomez might be finding her way in the world, she’s still finding time to dance her cares away.
Try it if you like: Britney Spears
4. Charli XCX – True Romance
British indie-pop darling Charli XCX has already endeared herself to the pop world by co-writing ‘I Love It’, one of the biggest singles of the year, but her own LP and debut album True Romance was more than stuffed with pop gem after pop gem that won her plenty of fans and a new wave of love from the Tumblr generation.
Dark pop tunes like ‘Black Roses’, which sounds like a dance in a graveyard, the auto-tune twisting ‘You (Ha Ha Ha), and the eighties-evoking ‘Stay Away’ are big pop tunes about love, lust and loss, the primary palette of emotions made darker and much more interesting by Charli who uses the deep electronic-pop production and her knack for crafting songs to geat effect. Here’s hoping she brings a second album around as soon as possible.
Try it if you like: Marina and the Diamonds
3. F(X) – Pink Tape
Unless you’re well entrenched in K-pop, this five-piece girlband might have slipped you by but they are well worth examining. (F)X is one of the best girl groups in the whole of South Korea and their second studio album Pink Tape reinforced their strong foundations with solid pop tunes and cracking production.
From the classy pop tune ‘Shadow’ (co-written by British pop greats Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Cathy Dennis) to the bonkers and brilliant ‘Toy’ to inviting and endlessly-repeatable lead single ‘Rum Pum Pum Pum’, Pink Tape is one of 2013’s best albums in terms of the kind of pop music that is pure enough at its core to be well worth leaving your comfort zone for.
Try it if you like: Girls Generation
2. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
While she might not have been the biggest star on the planet this year, and certainly not the most controversial, the semi-triumphant return of Lady Gaga produced the year’s most inventive and bizarre pop album that was two parts ambition, two parts pop, and a solid hint of artistic pretension. Welcome to ARTPOP, ladies and gentlemen.
The album is certainly uneven at times – whiny ballad ‘Dope’ needs exorcising immediately for a start – but the highs on ARTPOP are really high. The earworm hooks of ‘Venus’ and ‘Sexxx Dreams’, the anthemic choruses of ‘Manicure’ and ‘Gypsy’, the career-highlight-middle-eights of ‘G.U.Y’ and ‘Mary Jane Holland’ – all of them are solid pop songs that if you remove the guise of being an artist are by-and-large some of the biggest and best pop songs for the past few years. Listen to the album with an open mind and I suspect you’ll find them there too.
Try it if you like: Lady Gaga
1. Icona Pop – This Is… Icona Pop
With the quintessential single of 2013 (‘I Love It’) under their belts – sorry not sorry to ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘We Can’t Stop’ – Swedish pop duo Icona Pop released their first worldwide album This Is… Icona Pop to much acclaim from fans and purveyors of pitch-perfect pop.
With some of the best cuts from their self-titled debut album included in the tracklist, every song is a mass of incredibly danceable beats and earworm hooks – promo single ‘Girlfriend’ is a fun anthemic blast perfect for summer road trips while ‘We Got The World’ and ‘All Night’ are instantly hummable blasts of sonic fun. Other songs such as the riotous, Shellback-produced ‘On A Roll’ and ‘Ready For The Weekend’ are dance-pop at their finest, and a true indication of Icona Pop’s skill at crafting world-class pop. I am incredibly excited to see what they’ll bring to the stage in 2014, and hopefully with more hits like ‘I Love It’ under their belt, the world will be their oyster.
Try it if you like: Robyn
So what are your top pop albums of 2013? Let me know in the comments below!