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Best Of 2012

Top 25 Pop Albums of 2012

by Rachel Devitt

Top 25 Pop Albums of 2012


Hey, pop fans! Let’s process. It’s been kind of a weird year, hasn’t it? On one hand, we’ve had this kind of streamlining of the pop charts. Many of our favorite artists spent 2012 continuing 2011’s EDM rehabbing: slicking up (and slicking down) their sound with beat after relentless, swirling club beat; vocal after icy, purred vocal; and debauched theme after sun-greeting, club-closing, young-forever debauched theme, so that a listen to pop radio can sometimes feel like a hazy flashback to a blackout-drunk but super-awesome night you almost remember. It’s one hell of a party, but it can start to feel like the room is spinning when One Direction blurs into Nicki blends into Ke$ha fades into Bieber who sounds like Pitbull (whose re-release of I Am Armando and comp of early Original Hits demonstrate just how much the dance-pop prince’s sound has morphed over the years).

On the other hand, in the midst of all these drunken, dizzying club denizens, a small but scrappy collection of weirdos, artsy types and iconoclasts staged a kind of guerrilla takeover of the charts. Melancholic avant-R&B hipsters like Frank Ocean and Miguel mingled with indie pop eclecticists like Kimbra and Gotye (who still seems surprised, like the rest of us, that “Somebody That I Used to Know” was as much of a smash as it was). And then you had the kids who just spent the year messing with established models: fun.’s neo-pub-rock/emo-arena-anthems; Alex Clare’s singer-songwriterly, high-drama dubstep pop; Ellie Goulding’s charmingly warped electro fairy tales. And, of course, there were also those pop stars who kept polishing the styles we’ve always loved them for, but with a deeper, richer shine to them, like Norah Jones’ salty ’n’ sweet, gorgeous mess of an adult-alt breakup album, Adam Lambert’s catwalk disco strut and, of course, P!nk’s balls-to-the-wall everywoman pop rock.

A year as weird as this one deserves an end-of-year roundup just as strange and wide-ranging, right? Right. So our Top 25 incorporates boy bands and art poppers, soul slingers and dancing queens. In other words, the same kind of mixed bag that has kept us all interested -- and dancing -- all year long.

25) Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game
24) Brandy, Two Eleven
23) Melanie Fiona, The MF Life
22) The Wanted, The Wanted
21) fun., Some Nights
20) Christina Aguilera, Lotus
19) Adam Lambert, Trespassing
18) Elle Varner, Perfectly Imperfect
17) Dev, The Night the Sun Came Up
16) Marina and the Diamonds, Electra Heart
15) Gotye, Making Mirrors
14) Usher, Looking 4 Myself
13) Pitbull, Global Warming
12) Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
11) Ellie Goulding, Halcyon
10) Norah Jones, Little Broken Hearts
9) Justin Bieber, Believe
8) Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday … Roman Reloaded
7) Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe
6) Alex Clare, The Lateness of the Hour
5) Ke$ha, Warrior
4) Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE
3) Kimbra, Vows
2) Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dreams
1) P!nk, The Truth about Love