(edited June 26, 2009) Michael Jackson, how did I miss you? “Thriller” and “Bad” should both be on this list. “Dangerous” is damn close. Please accept my apologies in this article.
I hate constantly hearing the cry of “The Album is Dead” or “the iPod has killed the Album.” Since I got my iPod several years ago, I have listened to more full albums more frequently than I EVER did. Having my whole library with me all the time make it just so easy to listen to whatever best suits my mood at the moment.
Pop artists often get the shaft. They are often thought of as just “singles” artists. While many pop albums have sold very well, they are often forgotten in critics “all time” roundups. I can also face it, many times, the albums were of-the-moment and just don’t hold up well. So as a fan of pop music, I wanted to looks at the albums that have held up, and the new ones I believe will still be classics.
I tried to stay with artists that are strictly viewed as pop artists. While many singer-songwriters, rockers, synth-pop acts, dance artists, etc… have had many hit singles, I limited the list to my definition of pop artists. I’m sure many of you listen to their singles or have a greatest hits compilation or have cherry picked tunes from iTunes, but I urge all of you to check out these full albums, the journey is worthwhile.
Monster hits, lush production, George’s great voice, artistic integrity… this album has it all. George Michael was at the top of his powers with his debut Solo Album. Dance hits, ballads, and he even created a new jazz standard, taking “Kissing a Fool” to the top 10. While there aren’t many songs that weren’t hits, most of the album cuts could have fared equally well on the charts. Choice Album Cuts: “Look at Your Hands” and “Hand to Mouth”.
2. Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 – 1989
Janet flooded airwaves for over two years with 7 top 5 hits from this album. The amazing part was how cohesive all these pop nuggets were in her creative vision. Her pairing with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis ushered in a new era where the producers were often as big a star as the artists… a dubious achievement, yes, but the album is so good, that I can forgive what it wrought. Choice Album Cuts: “Livin’ In a World (They Didn’t Make)” and “State of the World”
3. Justin Timberlake – Futuresex/Lovesounds – 2006
The “producer power” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis wrought turned into albums that were a mismash of various producers with no cohesion. Justin Timberlake wisely pulled out of this for his second Solo CD to work exclusively with Timbaland. The pairing was heaven. The CD is filled with smart songs, creative production, and a feel of pop experimentation I haven’t heard since the 80’s. Choice Album Cuts: “Losing My Way” and “Damn Girl”.
4. Madonna – Like a Prayer – 1989
Has any pop artist sold as much as Madonna while still being considered a “singles” artist? Those who think that need to revisit this classic. She travels the gamut of styles and experiments with styles while delivering her most fiercely revealing CD ever. Despite the fact that no track sounds like the others, as a whole, the CD is a cohesive trip, and a reminder of why she has endured in this business for over a quarter-century to date. Choice Album Cuts: “Dear Jessie” and “Love Song”.
5. Scissor Sisters – Ta-Dah – 2006
If American Radio were a little less homophobic, The Scissor Sisters may have had as phenomenal success in America as they did overseas. The fact that this album was not as massive as their debut remains a puzzler to me. The album is tasty front to back, and cohesive in a way their debut wasn’t. They perfectly meld their 70’s glam-pop with a modern sensibility, and each song worms its way into your head to remain forever. Choice Album Cuts: “The Other Side” and “I Can’t Decide”.
6. Annie Lennox – Diva – 1992
Annie Lennox shook off The Eurythmics with a grand solo debut. While the hits weren’t massive, she proved that a pure pop album could be made for mature adults. Her voice is haunting and full, and the production brings pure pop delight to songs that as written could have gone in so many directions. The 90’s were brutal to pop music, but this album will endure. Choice Album Cuts: “Money Can’t Buy It” and “Legend in My Living Room”.
7. Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual – 1983
In 1983, Cyndi Lauper burst onto the pop scene at 30, an age where most artists have hung it up if they haven’t made it yet. The album was perfect marriage of musical and personal style, forever defining her as “So Unusual”. Although many of the songs were picked for her, she was allowed to have a hand in rewriting them, brining her unique perspective to timeless hits. Choice Album Cuts: “When You Were Mine” and “I’ll Kiss You”.
8. Pink – Funhouse – 2008
Maybe I’m being premature on this one, but if anything, I expect this album to climb the list. Pink shifts effortlessly between organic ballads, raw bluesy pop and Rock-Pop Sheen throughout this album. Producer Max Martin has truly met his artistic match with Pink, and I expect this to be fueling the airwaves for several more singles. Choice Album Cuts: “It’s All Your Fault” and “Bad Influence”.
9. Christina Aguilera – Stripped – 2003
The singer who never met a melisma she didn’t love delivers a mature and confident album here. While many of the singles went for a youthful appeal, there is plenty of incredibly strong material to appeal to the adults as well, and best of all, it all fits together remarkably! Choice Album Cuts: “Soar” and “Cruz”.
10. Daniel Bedingfield – Gotta Get Through This – 2002
While Daniel only had two minor pop hits in America, this Album filled the European Airwaves with single after single for over two years. According to legend, most of the album was recorded in his home before he was signed. I’m not sure for the reason behind his equally dramatic flameout and disappearance overseas, but this “one-album wonder” still outshines his sister in my book. Choice Album Cuts: “I Can’t Read You” and “Inflate My Ego”.
Duran Duran – The Wedding Album – 1993
Duran Duran’s “comeback” album in the 90s is hands down their best album effort. Choice Album Cut: “None of the Above”
Kylie Minogue – Fever – 2002
Non-stop fun, this album is the best way to shake a bad mood ever invented. Choice Album Cut: “Give it To Me”
So perhaps I mightÂ never write or produce an album that sells as much as these albums, but I would be satisfied if I helped an artist craft a cd as perfect as any one of these! If you like a lot of my choices, I urge you to check out the albums you may not be as familiar with!