Calm before the storm: the best pop albums of 2014 so far

Mark Rocks

Hi there, I'm Mark!If you need me, I can usually be found writing about pop music while I wait for the next Girls Aloud reunion.

It’s no surprise that in the world of pop music, many artists choose to wait until the final quarter of the year to release their albums. It lets them capitalise on those all important Christmas sales, while staying fresh in the minds of those compiling ‘Best Of’ lists. With the beginning of quarter 4 just around the corner, I thought I’d take a look back at the best albums we’ve got so far in 2014. Now, this year has undoubtedly been a little … lacking. But that’s to be expected in the aftermath of 2013, with Miley 2.0, Katy’s all conquering Prism and Beyonce’s already iconic sneak attack on iTunes. Still, there have been some gems released this year, and here are three of my favourites, as well as a list of those capable of shoving a rocket up the ass of pop music in the final months of 2014.

Cher Lloyd

In every life of a pop star a little commercial disappointment must fall. Unfortunately, 2014 was the year when Cher Lloyd took one for the team with her underperforming sophomore album, Sorry I’m Late. It doesn’t seem to matter that Cher returned to the pop scene with one of the most surprisingly mature ballads to be released by a pop star (much less a reality show semi-finalist) in recent memory or that her album boasts top tier production from the likes of pop heavyweights Benny Blanco and Shellback. People just didn’t seem all that interested in the girl who gave them the single greatest X Factor audition of all time (controversial, but true). It’s a pity, because Sorry I’m Late is a dazzling collection of pop songs that deserves to be heard the world over.

Lana Del Rey

How do you follow a debut album of stunning pop ballads which became the fourth biggest selling album of 2012 in the UK? If you’re Lana Del Rey, you neglect the signature sweeping hooks which your fans have become accustomed to, forget how to properly enunciate and release an album like Ultraviolence. Yes, this album is divisive (it took at least 4 listens for it to truly click with me), but it’s also the bravest album to be released by an artist of Lana’s stature and is ultimately a far more rewarding listen than her debut. Each song on Ultraviolence weaves a story more tragic than the one before, and while none could be deemed an obvious single (although I am excited at the prospect of a video for Old Money) it’s refreshing to listen to an album as genuinely unconcerned with commercial success as this. Oh, and it’s the perfect middle finger to those who tore her authenticity to shreds in the beginning.

Lykke Li

When most of us go through a break up, we begin binge eating Ben & Jerry’s while testing the patience of our friends with our stories. Lykke Li takes a different approach. 2014 saw the Swedish star release the final part of her musical trilogy detailing “a woman in her twenties and her search for love and herself”, I Never Learn. It’s rare for a pop star to have even one truly heart wrenching ballad on an album, so Lykke Li’s decision to release an album comprised of nothing but remarkable power ballads was a pleasant surprise. From the fractured torment of first single ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone’ to the small glimpse of hope on album standout ‘Silver Line’, Lykke Li transforms her lowest personal moments into her biggest musical triumph and concludes her trilogy on an absolutely sublime note. Just don’t listen to it if you’re feeling a bit low. Seriously.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now we have my personal contenders for the next great album of 2014.

Ariana Grande

I know Ariana’s follow up to Yours Truly is technically due for release at the tail end of Q3, but I’m quite certain that the success she’ll receive as a result of it’s release will ripple right through Q4. My Everything signals Ariana’s full transformation into a pop star and is sure to solidify her position as the true break out star of this year.

Rihanna

There’s a reason pop music has been a bit lacklustre for the past two years, and that is the absence of the baddest chick in the game, Queen of the Navy, and owner of the most recognisable nipples in pop, Rihanna. By now we’re all practically salivating in anticipation for her eighth offering. Personally, I want an album that reflects her Instagram account: explicit and bearing a complete lack of humility. That’s not too much to ask, right?

Taylor Swift

Taylor has already begun teasing her next album, and I think it’s safe to say we are not ready. Red was her undisputed masterpiece and made Taylor a force to be reckoned with on charts the whole world over.  Rumours of Max Martin executive producing the entire follow up album may have me a little worried (it seems like she’s slowly saying goodbye to her country roots along with her curly hair), but one thing is for certain, when this album is unleashed it’s going to cause the biggest iTunes meltdown, like… ever.

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