Dance music remains a huge influence in pop music this year, but hip hop made a comeback in a fusion with pop. These are the 10 best pop albums of the year.
The big story of this album is that Drake fulfilled the huge expectations for his debut release. He was already a major pop artist based on the massive hit single "Best I Ever Had." Here he got reflective on his life including thoughtful meditations on fame in the single "Over." Drake moved out from under the shadows of Kanye West and Lil Wayne to establish himself as the top young rapper in the industry. That was no small feat to accomplish.
There may be a certain manufactured quality on Teenage Dream, but Katy Perry wades into the crowded field of mainstream pop and asserts herself with unique style that provides an emotional soundtrack relating directly to the lives of her fans. The three #1 hits "California Gurls," "Teenage Dream," and "Firework" are all likely to endure as strong examples of mainstream pop craft. Dig a little deeper dropping your musical prejudices as you do and each song has its appeal and value. Katy Perry proved with this album she is planning to stick around.
Mainstream pop has found a new troubadour in the mode of Billy Joel and Elton John. Bruno Mars' songs aim for the romantic heart of contemporary pop music. Most of the time they reach their target. Bruno Mars seemed to be everywhere in 2010 as songwriter, producer, and performer and deservedly so. Pop music has found its song-based center again and that is Bruno Mars.
Topping the list of indie music in 2010 that would appeal to most any mainstream pop fan is this album by the group Best Coast. It has a decidedly lo-fi sound, but these songs have pure pop melodies that will sink in the first time through. Listening to Crazy For You is like making your way through a box of candy telling yourself you will stop, but then you need to enjoy just one more...
Commercially, this album wasn't the success Maroon 5 would have hoped for. However, it is easily the most satisfying listening experience of the band's three albums. Legendary pop-rock producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange pushed the group a little harder to tighten up their sound and brought in more rock elements. Maroon 5 also expands their range of musical styles. Hands All Over sounds like a project perfectly realized from initial conception to completion.
There is no pop artist more mistakenly overlooked by pop radio in the US than Robyn. The electronic Euro-pop style makes most of these songs instantly accessible sonically. However, the lyrical daring and subversive tone elevates the music here to the level of art. This album appeared over the year when Robyn released two Body Talk EPs earlier and then pulled the best songs from those together with new material to create the ultimate Body Talk collection. If you are a pop fan and unfamiliar with the music of Robyn, it is mandatory you correct that mistake right now.
Diddy pulled off what is possibly the biggest pop music surprise of the year. Last Train To Paris is masterful. With such a huge guest list and his two-woman partners Dirty Money, Diddy is almost more a host of this project than the central artist. However, Last Train To Paris exudes his impresario image. The sound is instantly engaging and has a Euro sheen that sparkles. Rap, house and disco seem to be the primary foundational points. The legendary ego is here as well, but step around that and you will find few more pleasurable listening experiences in pop this year than the sweet, melodic heartbreak of Last Train To Paris.
The true magic of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is that Kanye West really can not, despite how much he tries, present an over-inflated image of his talent. There is no one in popular music today who can touch the sheer complexity and immediacy of the music he records. There are songs here to like and there are songs you may not want to hear more than once. You may shake your head about why he did what he did and then you will hear the next track as perfection. Each album seems to leave us asking if Kanye West can really add to, much less top, what came before, but we've been asking that now through five albums.
After the backlash that greeted Taylor Swift's Grammy Award Album of the Year victory in early 2010, it seemed impossible her next album would live up to the demands of a fickle public. When fall arrived and promo singles appeared from the upcoming Speak Now, it began to seem Taylor Swift hade all the aces up her sleeve. Speak Now is a highly personal, intimate musical document that pulls listeners in with both humor and grace. The songs are more mature. The singing is significantly improved, and we now know there is no shrinking violet underneath the skin of Taylor Swift. For matching and going well beyond powerful expectations heaped upon her by a skeptical public, Taylor Swift's Speak Now deserves to be named the top pop album of 2010.