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10 Pop Albums for People Who Hate Pop Music

on August 15, 2018, 12:00pm
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Robyn – Body Talk (2010)

Robyn - Body Talk

If you’re an indie snob who thumbs your nose at the slightest mention of top-40 radio, here’s an exercise that might cure you of that particular affliction: Listen to the first 15 seconds of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” and pretend it’s a B-side off LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening. The Swedish pop star’s Body Talk was released the same year as that James Murphy classic, and it has the same tendency to look backwards as well as forwards (“Fembots have feelings too,” Robyn reminds us in the retro-futuristic electropop gem “Fembot”). A compilation of the best dance pop tracks Robyn released in the span of one wildly productive year, Body Talk is some next-level shit. If nothing else, it serves as a beacon of pop’s potentiality and a reminder to “Call Your Girlfriend” as soon as you get a chance. –Collin Brennan


Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady (2013)

Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time

Nothing about The Electric Lady should work within the context of pop music. This is a high-concept album about a rebel android that’s as consistently disorienting as it is wildly, maddeningly inventive — the product of a mind that can’t sit still and an identity that refuses to be boxed into a corner. The reasons Janelle Monáe succeeds at this high-wire act start with her voice; legends no lesser than Prince, Miguel, and Erykah Badu appear in the album’s first half, and not once does Monáe sound outclassed by her counterpart. To those who think pop music’s gone stale in the years since The Purple One’s heyday, I implore you to take the groovy “Dance Apocalyptic” on a ride through outer space or to lose yourself in the blissful balladry of “Sally Ride”. –Collin Brennan


Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time (2013)

Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time

In many ways, Sky Ferreira’s 2013 solo debut is a defiant middle finger waving in the face of those who narrowly view pop music as hollow schlock. Night Time, My Time is chock-full of gnarly rock and roll attitude, drawing inspiration from ’80s new wave and post-punk while also adding a generous dash of ’90s grunge. But even the deviations away from pure pop formula can’t change the fact that the 12-song set is ludicrously catchy from top to bottom. As anti-pop as it might seem, Ferreira nonetheless made an indisputably great pop record on her first shot out of the gate. –Ryan Bray


Ryan Adams – 1989 (2015)

Ryan Adams -1989

This list is full of great pop records, but none live out its thesis quite as exactly as Ryan Adams’ re-treatment of 1989. Maybe Taylor Swift’s pop coming-out party is a little too polished for your tastes, but even the snobbiest of music fans will find it hard to resist the way Adams brings Swift’s sugary pop into his world of wounded-yet-sweet guitar rock. He reveals the heart of the record that lives underneath the glitz, and the end result almost challenges the harshest of Top 40 cynics not to buckle. When all is said and done, don’t be surprised if you break down and give T Swift’s original an honest listen. –Ryan Bray


Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death (2016)

Tegan and Sara - Love You to Death

Tegan and Sara’s emo-flecked brand of indie rock went through many subtle permutations before 2016’s Love You to Death, but their songs were always rooted in that quintessential chromosome of pop’s determination system: unshakable, unfuckwithable hooks. All they needed was the slick production to match, and Love You to Death is nothing if not slick. Synth-washed single “Boyfriend” is pure bubblegum, an empty-calories banger that benefits from the duo no longer pretending they were anything other than a pop powerhouse. If you’re an alternative-minded teenager (or adult!) looking for a backdoor into mainstream radio, here’s your map. –Collin Brennan

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