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20 Best Pop Albums of 2018

Camila Cabello, Ariana Grande, Robyn and more of the year in hooks

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This year has seen ambitious returns from old favorites and groundbreaking debuts from a collection of new artists changing the genre’s look and sound. A new identity for the genre has emerged, and its vision of the future is extraordinary. Here’s the year’s best.

ROBYN Honey
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Robyn, ‘Honey’

What’s pop without Robyn? Well, in the years since Body Talk debuted, her world-wearied synth-pop was jacked and flipped by everyone from Lorde to Carly Rae Jepsen, showing that we’re never too far from the Swedish star. Her return this year was as dramatic as one would hope, following a year of fans begging for an official release of new song “Honey” after it was featured in the final season of Girls. Finally, she gave us “Honey,” dammit, and then some: Her full-length LP is a nine-track doozy of pop melodrama, riding on waves of gorgeous, hypnotic, dancefloor-drowning synths.

 

Bradley Cooper Lady Gaga A Star Is Born
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Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, ‘A Star Is Born Soundtrack’

The insane pop world of 2018: Always remember it this way. Lady Gaga goes back to her Seventies soft-rock fantasy and rediscovers her voice as an artist – like she sings, it’s “buried in my soul like California gold.” Bradley Cooper directs his rock-star trip and proves he’s got the Eddie Vedder growl to go with his Eddie Vedder jackets, especially in the Jason Isbell ballad “Maybe It’s Time.” And when Stefani Germanotta belts those Deep Estefan piano ballads, she proves that for all her lofty art concepts, what’s always made her a legend is that mother monster of a voice.

Ariana Grande Sweetener
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Ariana Grande, ‘Sweetener’

Ariana Grande has had an extremely less-than-enviable couple years: tragedy, heartbreak and loss have all coincided during the process of not only writing and recording her incredible album Sweetener but also while promoting it. Her 2018 LP turns the tartest of lemons into the tastiest lemonade with its Pharrell and Max Martin-assisted, left-field R&B-pop. Tracks like the clubby “No Tears Left to Cry” and Imogen Heap-interpolating “Goodnight n Go” are some of her most experimental and personality-capturing songs yet. Thank u, more please.

Camila Cabello Camila
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Camila Cabello, ‘Camila’

The year’s most exciting debut album lays incredible groundwork for what will ultimately be a long career. Camila is a brilliant statement of intent: mature without theatrics, grounded in her history and, of course, deliciously catchy. Runaway hit “Havana” set the tone, with Cabello reminding us that she wasn’t going to just hit the trends when it came to securing her pop voice. Instead, Camila melds together touches of rock, old-school latin pop and traditional singer-songwriter cues for an indelibly honest portrait of the artist as a young woman.