20 Best Pop Albums of 2017

Kesha, Harry, Taylor and more of the year in hooks

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Aimee Mann, 'Mental Illness'
20
14/20

14. Aimee Mann, 'Mental Illness'

Aimee Mann has called Mental Illness, her first album in five years, her "saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they're-all-waltzes-so-be-it-record" release to date – and like the title itself, that description is both tongue-in-cheek and tartly honest. Embracing her most dour, dreary and dire moods has freed Mann to fully explore her sardonic fits of despair in lyrics that, as always, are both allusive and precise. Mental Illness brims with tweaked commonplaces – "Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly," "Falling for you was a walk off a cliff," "Boy, when you go, you go/3,000 miles, just so I'll know/You never loved me" – that rejuvenate pop's romantic clichés. And the arrangements, all expertly worried-over soft rock, perfectly complement Mann's vocals, which barely conceal a seething pain underneath her icy reserve. K.H.

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