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by Rachel Devitt

December 20, 2013

Top 25 Pop Albums of 2013

by Rachel Devitt  |  December 20, 2013

In case you hadn't noticed, Justin Timberlake started making music again this year. Caught that one, did you? OK, well, did you pick up on the fact that Miley Cyrus is (a) not a girl, not yet a woman; (b) enjoys twerking; and (c) has a tongue? Those are the Big Stories that sort of bookended the Year in Pop. Two seemingly very different stories, one steeped in highly respected grown-n-sexy, the other dripping in sexed-up "scandal" and youthfulness. But look a little closer, and the two aren't quite so different: These are both former child stars, working very hard to establish a recognizable artistic identity via a multipronged, heavily stylized, carefully thought-out aesthetic strategy. Sure, one's dressed up in the designer suit and tie of a vintage soul slinger with serious hip-hop cred, and the other has strapped on her big-girl twerk pants (or lack thereof) and a naughty, naughty foam finger. But those are just different costumes, designed to fit the respective new roles J.T. and M.C. took on in the same project: transformation and the establishment of one's (new) self.

That project was reworked and revamped time and again in the pop-verse this year. Several other of the year's biggest and best albums were made by Miley and Justin's fellow former child stars, artists like Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Avril Lavigne, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears and Zendaya. Meanwhile, established artists like Robin Thicke, Ciara, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk, Kelly Rowland and Fall Out Boy tried out new tacks aimed at reinventing themselves and re-targeting the pop charts (most striking case in point? Avicii, the DJ-turned-folktronica pop star?!). And several up-and-comers, such as Lorde, Icona Pop and Sky Ferreira, put out albums meant to build on the strength of a smash single or a buzzy reputation and showcase a range that proved they were more than a one-trick pony.

Sure, there were exceptions to this rule of reinvention, not the least of which was our pick for the year's No. 1 pop album, M.I.A.'s complex, spikey yet surprisingly vulnerable Matangi. But then, Maya's never been one to follow the pop rules. Next year's theme idea: Rule-breakin'! But for now, enjoy our picks for the year's top 25 pop albums.

  1. M.I.A., Matangi
  2. Paramore, Paramore
  3. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
  4. Ciara, Ciara
  5. Selena Gomez, Stars Dance
  6. Lorde, Pure Heroine
  7. Lady Gaga, ARTPOP
  8. Fall Out Boy, Save Rock and Roll
  9. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
  10. Serena Ryder, Harmony
  11. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
  12. Kelly Rowland, Talk a Good Game
  13. Ellie Goulding, Halcyon Days
  14. Demi Lovato, Demi
  15. Jillette Johnson, Water in a Whale
  16. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
  17. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
  18. Zendaya, Zendaya
  19. Avicii, TRUE
  20. Avril Lavigne, Avril Lavigne
  21. Britney Spears, Britney Jean
  22. Robin Thicke, Blurred Lines
  23. Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time
  24. Haim, Days Are Gone
  25. Icona Pop, This Is … Icona Pop

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