20 Best Pop Albums of 2017

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

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Kelly Clarkson, 'Meaning of Life'
20
11/20

11. Kelly Clarkson, 'Meaning of Life'

The inaugural American Idol's live shows have always been electric affairs, with the Texas-born singer and her backing band tearing through soulful throwdowns. Her eighth album – and first on Atlantic Records, her new label now that she's fulfilled her Idol prize's contractual obligations – is her first to truly capture that vibe. The torch-y "Meaning of Life" and the enchanted "Slow Dance" show that she can still own a ballad, but it's the upbeat tracks – the refractions of Nineties R&B like the jittery "Heat" and the sinewy "Medicine," the Earth Wind & Fire-assisted statement of feminine intent "Whole Lotta Woman" – that put her still-formidable vocal power and forthright charm on full display. M.J.

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