The year of 2012 was a really fun one for pop music. Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" dominated the charts through the summer. Psy had people dancing to a language they didn't understand. Taylor Swift transitioned from a country crossover artist to a legitimate pop powerhouse. And none of these artists' albums made our top five list.
Pop is all about hits, not albums. It's rare to find a pop artist who can create a cohesive work that sustains itself over the course of a listen. We found five.
It should also be noted that some of the best pop releases of 2012 weren't albums or singles. Carly Rae Jepsen, Haim, Solange, AlunaGeorge and Azealia Banks all put out fantastic EPs. Now, here are our top five pop albums of 2012.
1. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
In a year of divisive divas like Lana Del Rey and artists like Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen, who burned too bright for their own good, Ocean has managed to be almost universally well received without creating a sickening amount of buzz. Ocean is an artist with absolute command of his craft and his voice. Nothing misses the mark on Channel Orange, as Ocean makes the personal universal. You can’t help but feel the ache in your gut from Ocean’s unrequited love, but there’s this sleepy summertime warmth that numbs the pain.
Watch “Thinkin Bout You” from Frank Ocean's Channel Orange:
2. Grimes, Visions
What a weird album! Everything about Visions should be off-kilter and disjointed — dreamy, industrial electronic music with cartoonishly girly, pitch-shifted lispy vocals. That combination seems like it would appeal to a bloated '90s Euro-trash pimp or a totalitarian government trying to hide subliminal messages in pop songs. But Grimes makes it work. In a way, that’s what makes Visions so great. When you listen to the album, you feel like you’re witnessing a miracle — all of these elements are getting along when they’d normally be fighting.
Watch “Oblivion” from Grimes's Visions:
3. Jessie Ware, Devotion
Somehow Devotion, which is essentially an album of soul songs performed over glitchy beats, wound up under the umbrella of pop. And why not? The hooks are catchy and Ware’s voice creates perfect moments, alternating between power, sultriness and vulnerability. Plus, “Wildest Moments” is as good as any song released this year. In 10 years, the album may sound soooo 2012, released in the wake of the xx and the Weeknd, but Ware’s voice and songwriting are timeless.
Watch “Wildest Moments” from Jessie Ware's Devotion:
4. TOPS, Tender Opposites
Montreal’s TOPS create synth-heavy dance pop for people who don’t want to break a sweat. Their debut album manages the impressive feat of maintaining a dreamy quality from start to finish alongside the lo-fi realism of a band who physically plays every note. Tender Opposites invites comparisons to '70s AM Gold classics with its Bee Gees-style vocals and themes of magic and shininess. Yet it is packed with mid-tempo instrumental breaks that beg to accompany “Voices Carry”-style dialogue. In a good way!
Watch “Turn Your Love Around” from TOPS's Tender Opposites:
5. Kimbra, Vows
You may know Kimbra as the female singer on Gotye’s massive hit “Somebody That I Used to Know,” but you may one day know her as one of the greatest talents in pop music. Her debut album, Vows, was released this May in North America (it was released in 2011 in her native New Zealand), and didn’t dominate the charts like the Gotye hit that introduced her, but provided a stage upon which to showcase her vocal gymnastics. Kimbra’s lead vocals impress in any register as she accompanies herself with inventive four part harmonies.
Watch “Cameo Lover” from Kimbra's Vows:
on Dec 17, 2012