10 Best Albums of 2014
2014 was a fantastic year for new albums. From the record-breaking dominance of Taylor Swift's first full-pop effort, '1989,' to a valiant demonstration of musical evolution on the part of One Direction with their most cohesive album to date, 'Four,' the new releases this year saw a resurgence of '80s pop -- minus the cheese. (Well, mostly.) While some albums -- Nicki Minaj's 'The Pinkprint' and Charli XCX's 'Sucker' -- sadly missed the cutoff point, since we're publishing this list in early December 2014, we had plenty of others to choose from.
Because we could only choose 10, we had no choice but to leave out a few great music releases. Honorable mentions include 'In Technicolor' by Jesse McCartney, 'Sheezus' by Lily Allen and 'Sorry I'm Late' by Cher Lloyd.
Here's the list of the best albums of 2014.
Certainly the darkest album on this list, Lana Del Rey's 'Ultraviolence' demonstrates a moment in the pop-o-sphere that had been otherwise lacking in mainstream music for a while. It's dark, sexy, honest and takes itself way too seriously. But there's a charm and a charisma in Lana's refusal to back down from subject matters too taboo for her contemporary fellow pop starlets. 'Ultraviolence' is just as catchy and poppy as everything else on the radio, but Lana tricks you into believing it isn't.
Jason Derulo has been trying for a very long time, it seems. His first album had some serious potential, but his second album suffered the typical sophomore slumpery we've grown to expect from promising new acts. Then he regrouped and released 'Talk Dirty.' Considering this video was one of the results of the title track, we can't say we're mad at it. It's a fun album -- albeit a bit sexed up -- perfect for a night out or even a night in, depending on who you're with.
If you managed to avoid the entirety of 2014 without hearing the infectious 'Fancy' from Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX you are either a ghost or just got wi-fi, in which case -- welcome to the 21st Century. For the rest of us, 2014 was the year Iggy made sure to be inescapable when it came to the pop music landscape. Packed full of features that put even Calvin Harris to shame, 'The New Classic' made waves with its infectious hooks, controversial accent and sheer unavoidability. Talk about an earworm; Iggy hooked into our brains and never let go.
Ed Sheeran has quickly risen to the top of everyone's list of Songwriters to Accost in an Attempt to Get a Decent Yet Respectable Hit Song. And while he's written some fantastic tracks for others (One Direction's '18' is a favorite, naturally), he's clearly kept the best for himself. 'X' is an elevated version of what we've come to love about Ed's songwriting -- sometimes sharp, sometimes sweet, always catchy and heartfelt. Sometimes more of the same is exactly what pop music needs.
What a time to be alive: Fried Oreos are available at local pizzerias, the advent of the Internet has made social interaction more of a hindrance than a necessity, and boy bands have made a glorious, swoop-haired comeback. The Vamps materialized seemingly overnight from overseas with perfectly coiffed hair, charming accents and killer smiles. The best part? They totally deliver on the musical front, too. 'Meet the Vamps' is an album full of catchy pop hooks and laden with enough subtle sexual innuendo to keep it interesting for Mom and Dad without embarrassing the Vamps' tween fanbase.
The Jonas Brothers seem to be thriving in their personal lives: Joe is newly single in New York and Kevin is enjoying life as a new father and burgeoning app-creator, but Nick is the current breakout star of the family. He got rid of the promise ring and amped up the sex appeal -- a typical child star move for maturity. Lucky for Nick, it isn't as contrived a move as it could have been. We have to hand it to him -- with all its sass and sex appeal, 'Nick Jonas' is the Justin Timberlake moment we expect to see from Zayn Malik in five years.
Ariana Grande may be no elusive chanteuse (yet!), but it looks like she's well on her way. Claims of diva-like behavior, disregard for fans and temper tantrums have done nothing to get in the way of the pint-sized Grande's ultra-success. While it seems everyone else in pop was busy referencing the '80s, Ariana took it back to the '90s -- the deep cuts on 'My Everything' focus more on soul and R&B from an era where female divas like Mariah and Whitney were all the rage. We might not know what she's saying half the time, but the girl sure can sing.
While this one earns zero points in creativity when it comes to its name (self-titled? You're better than that. Be better), we have to applaud 5 Seconds of Summer for managing to do what no one thought possible -- stepping fully out of One Direction's shadow to become a power-pop force to be reckoned with on their own terms. We love that 5SOS are a vague throwback to the MySpace scene days -- 'Social Casualty' might be considered outright plagiarism by some, if it weren't so obviously a combined homage to Fall Out Boy's 'Sugar We're Goin Down' and Green Day's 'Minority' -- but also totally, unapologetically pop.
Even the most diehard Directioner knows that boy bands have a shelf life. They typically go stale somewhere between albums two and three, when they decide on one last world tour where it's clear nearly everyone is phoning it in. One Direction seem to have escaped that fate so far, and 'Four' has proven to be their most cohesive effort yet. A blend of '80s power-rock, pop-rock and a total lack of pretension is what makes this album work so well. Plus, any era that gives us more of this work of art is something we can absolutely get behind. Keep up the evolution and you may be on to a Beatles-esque 'Revolution,' boys.
It's pretty safe to say Taylor Swift is having the best year of her life. The good thing about this is just how much the rest of us benefit from it. '1989' is the pop album we never knew we wanted from the pop star we never knew she'd be -- totally self-aware, clever and mature. Taylor has never been more tongue-in-cheek, more daring, more jaded. It's a little sad that it's come to this -- long gone are the days of fairytales and hopeless romanticism -- but anyone who's ever dated in New York City gets where she's coming from. And if the alluring 'Style,' the Lana Del Rey-esque 'Wildest Dreams' and the album's true New York anthem, bonus track 'New Romantics,' are the results? Well, we'd have to say the countless heartbreak was worth it.