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20 Best Pop Albums of 2016

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

20 Best Pop Albums of 2016

Rihanna, Lady Gaga and the 1975 made some of 2016's best pop albums.

Samir Hussein/Redferns/Getty, Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty, Chris McKay/Getty

Talk about "pop" usually means humongous hit singles, and 2016 sure had its share. But the full-length pop album was as healthy as ever, showcasing veterans like Rihanna and Britney Spears at their most revealing, and allowing a newer star like Tove Lo to come into her own. Guitar-based pop stood firm too, from those wry kids in the 1975 to those spunky old-timers in the Monkees. It was a year to listen past the hits to hear what pop stars are all about.

The 1975, 'I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet so Unaware of It'
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The 1975, ‘I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It’

The barely contained erotic energy and boundless hooks of the 1975 make them INXS for the Snapchat generation. The band's take on pop is jittery and malleable – they work with sumptuous synth-pop on the pulsing "The Sound," cover themselves in glam-era glitter on the posturing "Love Me" and give listeners a taste of their mini-epic ambitions on "Please Be Naked. But leader Matthew Healy's winking lyrics and his bandmates' ability to keep their eyes on the melodies, even when they're flipping through genres, make them especially vibrant. The 1975's self-aware bravado, circa-1988 retro production and knack for brain-Velcro melodies make this sprawling collection both a rock anomaly and a pop event. M.J.            

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