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Top 10 Albums of 2014 by Various Artists
Top 10 Pop Albums of 2014
With 2014 officially behind us, it is time to commemorate the eventful year in Pop music. From breakout Brit Sam Smith to acapella group Pentatonix, Top 40 radio has been filled with catchy choruses and lively melodies. Without further ado, here are my picks for the top 10 albums of 2014!
Number 10: V, Maroon 5
Maroon 5 has been slowly leaving behind their rock roots and evolving into a pop band ever since their first album, Songs About Jane, was released in 2002. While only a few of the songs in V will let you experience the emotions found in Songs About Jane, almost every one of them could be found under the definitions of “catchy” and “dance-provoking.” V displays a variety of tunes, from the funky “Feelings” to the soulful ballad of “My Heart is Open,” which mimics “She Will Be Loved.” What makes Maroon 5 special is the stratospheric falsetto of frontman Adam Levine, which is exaggerated in “Sugar.” Maroon 5 also produced three huge radio hits with this record, more than anyone else on this top ten list. These summer smashes included “Maps,” “Animals,” and “Sugar.” This album only has one downside, but a very important one: after a while, each of these songs begin to sound annoying and similar to each other. For example, I have listened to "She Will Be Loved" time and time again and each time I have felt something different when I listened to each song. When I re-listened to this album, however, I felt that I had already heard everything the first time. Overall, V is a great blast of pop music with catchy hooks, but it is not as powerful as some of their previous works they have done or any of the other albums on this list.
Number 9: My Everything, Ariana Grande
My Everything features many catchy songs that showcase how Ariana Grande is arguably the most talented female artist in the business. Petite but powerful, her lyric soprano belting range is so effortless to her, and she proves that in the pre-chorus of “Problem.” “Just A Little Bit of Your Heart” is a timeless pop ballad that showcases the emotional side of her voice and her head (soft) voice is as smooth as ice in “Best Mistake.” However, this album failed to one-up Yours Truly, her previous album, and did not rank in the top half of this list. This is due to the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) route she chose. My Everything lacks emotion, especially compared to Yours Truly. Also, some of the guest rappers were unnecessary, especially those in ballads, as they disrupted the flow of a couple songs. This still doesn’t knock Grande out of the top 10, however, as she delivered textbook pop hits with “Break Free” and “Love Me Harder.” “Bang Bang,” which features powerhouse vocals from Jessie J and a killer rap verse from Nicki Minaj, is also nothing short of electrifying. My Everything can not compare to Yours Truly, but Ariana managed to deliver a great pop album with her phenomenal voice.
Number 8: Ghost Stories, Coldplay
If I had to pick one word to describe Coldplay’s seventh album, it would be “magical.” Every song has an instrumental that seems so extraterrestrial, making Ghost Stories the perfect soundtrack for an evening with the stars. Chris Martin’s haunting voice tops off the record sublimely, particularly when he transitions into his mystifying falsetto. The album’s unique factor is how much emotion it delivers, a part of music that Top 40 radio is desperately lacking. Distraught from losing his wife of 10 years, “True Love” is an inevitable tear-jerker due to the feelings produced by Martin. He pleads from the trench of his heart; “Just tell me you love me/If you don't then lie/Lie to me/And call it true/Call it true love.” The entire album is definitely “haunted” by the split, and Coldplay have become one of the only bands that can deliver the true feelings of love. Each song focuses your mind to listen to each word delivered by the heart-broken frontman, also proving superior songwriting and melody creation. Coldplay takes a short break from the sorrow with “A Sky Full of Stars,” the album’s lone hit. The song is an uptempo dance tune, but your mind will still ponder the otherworldly lyrics for days. If you have recently gone through a bad breakup or you just want to calm your mind for a little while, surrender an hour to the magical Ghost Stories. Feel better? I thought so.
Number 7: Black Star Elephant, Nico and Vinz
“Am I Wrong” for thinking that Black Star Elephant topped the Queen of teenage stars? No! Each song on the album is a huge gasp of fresh air from the super auto-tuned pop that the radio has been constantly blaring. Why? While extremely unusual for Top 40 radio, almost every song hosts a unique African influence. Their style is transparent as glass in “Intro,” which features no English words and an African beat, but you can also hear traces in their pop songs like “Am I Wrong.” Of course, a tribal sounding album would not be complete without the inclusion of tribal instruments, chanting, and multiple languages! Aside from the unique sounds, the album includes many meaningful lyrics that are scarcely found in pop music. For example, “Arrival” preaches “Don't look outside yourself/You have everything/You have everything inside there/Trust/Have faith/And be free/My son/Use the knowledge/And sing your song.” Vocally, Vinz’s soulful baritone voice and Nico’s Chris-Brown-like-tenor-voice harmonize seamlessly together. Lastly, one could not discuss Black Star Elephant without mentioning that it achieved greater chart accomplishments than any other afro pop album in a long time. “Am I Wrong” peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Top 40 charts and “In Your Arms” was another Top 40 radio hit. Ultimately, Black Star Elephant is refreshing to listen to each time you hear it, from the pop head-bobbers to the tribal chants!
Number 6: No Sound Without Silence, The Script
Perhaps the most underrated album of 2014, No Sound Without Silence is a perfect blend of the soft pop/rock music that The Script forges so beautifully. The only radio hit was “Superheroes,” which sounds an awful lot like the only hit on their last album, “Hall of Fame.” However, the treasure chests were hidden well under the surface of the Top 40 charts. “Army of Angels” delivers a soothing melody with sublime analogy-filled verses: “This world’s a war zone/But I’ve got a shield/And I won’t surrender/Cause your love feels/Like an Army of Angels.” The Script kicks the intensity up a notch with “The Energy Never Dies” and later explodes with the full-on Irish rock song “Paint the Town Green.” This song will make the listener feel like they are having a little too much fun in the pub on Saint Patricks Day! However, the best song on the album is the emotionally charged “Flares,” which includes a beautiful piano accompaniment and a heart-wrenching falsetto topped chorus. The lone downside to No Sound With Silence is how similar it sounds to their previous albums, which is why its Billboard peak position in the U.S was a measly 10 and only delivered one hit. If the Script ever want to make another “Breakeven,” they’ll need to start exploring more genres.
Number 5: Shakira., Shakira
Shakira has proven herself to be the top Latino pop artist in the game, and she gets to keep her crown after releasing her self titled 10th album. Shakira included many genres in the album, from the bubblegum pop song “Spotlight”, the reggae jam “Cut Me Deep” which features “MAGIC!,” and the electronic “Empire.” Dauntless and daring, Shakira even collaborated with Blake Shelton for the country western duet, “Medicine.” The Colombian born singer also displayed her ethnicity with the ballad “Loca por Ti” and the Spanish remix of her hit song “Can’t Remember to Forget You.” While the album shows as much diversity as an immigration station, she also provided a hearty amount of radio hits to compliment the record. Even though Shakira did not showcase as much vocal ability as most of the other artists on the list, her originality is what pins her in the top five.
Number 4: That’s Christmas to Me, Pentatonix
Pentatonix, the winners of season three of the Sing Off, notified the public that they weren’t just any other acapella group with their new holiday album, That’s Christmas to Me. Their beautifully woven harmonies shine all throughout the album and are accompanied solely by the wonderfully talented beatboxer Kevin Olusola. That’s right: the only instruments Pentatonix used on the album were their voices! Pentatonix modernized classic songs “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” They stayed more traditional with their angelic cover of “Silent Night.” Pentatonix even included a gorgeous original Christmas tune, “That’s Christmas to Me,” and a bonus cover of “Let it Go” from Frozen. If you like acapella music, this is the group to listen to! From the bass to the countertenor, each member of Pentatonix is superiorly talented and they blend together better than any other acapella group in the business. That’s Christmas to Me comfortably claimed the #4 position in my best pop albums of 2014, and it surely won’t be the last you’ll hear from them!
Number 3: X, Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s X multiplied everything we’ve seen from him in the past. Multiply’s success on the charts is right up there with Taylor Swift. Three songs from the album - “Sing,” “Don’t,” and “Thinking Out Loud,” are unavoidable on the radio. But what sets Ed apart from so many other pop singers is his vocal versatility. While singing ballads like “Thinking Out Loud,” he displays the smooth, soulful layer of his voice that his previous album was headlined with. “Photograph” emphasizes his wonderful falsetto and “The Man” showcases his newly revealed rapping abilities. The album lyrics show way more maturity than +, his prior album, but they still can capture deep emotions better than any other pop artist. If he’s already added and multiplied, what will his next album be called, ^2?
Number 2: 1989, Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift was finally completely sucked into the almighty black hole of pop music with her latest release, 1989. While other country artists that attempted the transition to pop have disappeared from the charts, 1989 sold over a million copies: in the first week! Taylor may have gone overboard with pop on her lead single “Shake it Off,” where the chorus melody may remind many of a cheerleading chant about self-esteem. But have no fear, her signature narratives shine as bright as ever on the rest of the album! While songs like “Blank Space” are instant pop hits, she shows her vulnerable side with songs like “Clean.” Even while Swift transferred to a genre filled mostly with dull lyrics, she includes many clever phrases to prove she can still write a meaningful song: “They are the hunters/we are the foxes,” “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes,” and “I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” to name a few. All of these relatable lines give teenage girls plenty of material for their Instagram bios as well! Being made by Taylor Swift, each song is of course irresistibly catchy and a blast to dance and sing along to!
Number 1: In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith
Soulful and sincere, In the Lonely Hour has topped charts all year, headlined by megahits “Stay with Me” and “I’m Not the Only One.” Perhaps the best element in the album is how Smith uses only his natural voice and a couple of instruments on each song, which proves he doesn’t need computer synths or auto-tune to show his talent. The greatest example of this is in “Not in That Way,” a song that features the rich, poignant falsetto he uses throughout the album and his wickedly soulful chest and middle registers. The only accompaniment to the song is a finger plucked electric guitar, leaving plenty of room for the tears to fall. Smith also pleads so heartfully on “I’ve Told You Now,” a song that deserves just as much popularity as “I’m Not the Only One.” But the clear gem on the album is obviously “Stay With Me,” the summer hit that the radio and public couldn’t get enough of. With his tear-jerking soulfulness and his crooning falsetto, Sam Smith easily clinches the #1 spot.