20 Best Pop Albums of 2016

Rihanna, Gaga, the 1975 and more of the year in hooks

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Ariana Grande, 'Dangerous Woman'
20
11/20

11. Ariana Grande, 'Dangerous Woman'

Max Martin lent his unflagging instinct for a hit to the three big singles here, each carefully crafted by the Swedish maestro's minions to flatter and flaunt Ariana’s breathy cravings and titillating mini-Mariah swoops. The title track is a guitar-prickled Bond theme in the making, "Into You" offers the singer an obscenely slinky bass to ride to new depths of obsessive carnality, and the reggae-pop lope of "Side to Side" has a wobbling gait. But the stuff that didn't make it to radio – including the retro vocal showcase "Moonlight," the deep house homage "Be Alright" and the title-says-it-all "Touch It" – is just as worthy of your acquaintance, as are ace vocal assists from Future, Lil Wayne and, least expectedly, lost soul oddball Macy Gray. K.H.

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