Sunday, July 30, 2017

12 Tragically Underrated Pop Albums You Should Go Listen To

Originally posted on the Kelly Alexander Show, which you can check out here!

People with good taste will appreciate these criminally underrated albums.

1. Ashley Tisdale – Guilty Pleasure (2009)

I mentioned this album in my list of underrated artists, but it deserves to be mentioned here too. This is possibly one of the best pop rock albums I’ve ever listened to and Ashley Tisdale got the image down really well (how beautiful is that album cover?) but apparently it didn’t do much for her or her label at the time because it’s not all that well known. Go listen to it.
Best songs: “It’s Alright, It’s OK”, “Masquerade”, “Overrated” and “How Do You Love Someone”
2. Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne (2013)

Avril Lavigne’s self-titled fifth studio album is probably among her best (you might recall the popular lead single “Here’s to Never Growing Up” from the summer of 2013) but it’s not appreciated nearly as much as it should be. The media seems to remember the Avril Lavigne from the early 2000s the best, which is also good because she was just as iconic when she first came on the scene, but her more recent albums should also be receiving the same praise and mainstream exposure. My theory is that this album wasn’t as huge as it could have been because it was Lavigne’s first since parting ways with RCA Records after her 2011 album Goodbye Lullaby, and there’s always a bit of behind-the-scenes transition when that happens and, as a result, sometimes the music and its performance suffers the consequences.
Best songs: “Rock N Roll”, “Here’s to Never Growing Up”, “Bitchin’ Summer” and “Sippin’ on Sunshine”
3. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion (2015)

Any feelings or prejudices you have against Carly Rae Jepsen aside, her third studio album Emotion is her champion effort at an amazing pop album. It’s just a really good album: original, refreshing and catchy, depending on how you define catchy. But, as I outlined in Jepsen’s entry on my list of underrated artists, I think no one really takes her seriously now because she’s become typecast as solely a bubblegum pop starlet who sings only about getting guys to notice her. She’s actually matured as a singer and you can hear that very clearly on Emotion. I recommend putting your prejudices against Ms. Jepsen aside and opening your ears to this album, whether it’s the whole thing or just a few songs.
Best songs: all of it, but “Run Away With Me”, “I Really Like You”, “Gimmie Love”, “Your Type” and “Making the Most of the Night”
4. Natasha Bedingfield – Strip Me (2010)

You probably remember Natasha Bedingfield from the mid-2000s, when her radio-friendly and earworm singles like “These Words”, “Unwritten” and “Pocketful of Sunshine” were popular. But, I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard much of her third studio album Strip Me, which is definitely my favorite album of hers (my undying love for “These Words” and “Unwritten” aside). Neither the album nor its two singles, “Touch” and “Strip Me”, saw much success on the Billboard charts in the United States (which was a big difference from her second studio album, which debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart), but Strip Me did see moderate success on some European music charts. Some critics also found it unoriginal and said that Bedingfield failed to produce anything outstanding, but I respectfully disagree. In any event, this tragically underrated dance-pop album has some great tunes so if you jammed to “These Words” and “Unwritten” circa 2006, I highly recommend.
Best songs: “Touch”, “No Mozart”, “A Little Too Much” and “Weightless”
5. Hilary Duff – Breathe In. Breathe Out. (2015)

First of all, let me just say that I don’t understand why the music industry and we as a society decided to put artists like Hilary Duff on the backburner in favor of more problematic pop singers (*cough* Taylor Swift *cough*). In other words, Hilary Duff was always talented and is so unproblematic (e.g. never had to cause drama with other stars or invent an inappropriate dance move all to draw attention to herself), so it’s a shame we let her drift away from the music industry for almost a decade—Breathe In. Breathe Out. was her first album in 8 years, and the long-awaited follow-up to 2007’s Dignity. It’s such a catchy pop album with great performances as well as some folk-pop vibes thrown in there and it’s truly a travesty that Duff’s long-awaited comeback to music didn’t blow up like it should have. It wasn’t a flop in the charts, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less underrated and you should go listen to it and appreciate it and while you’re at it go download some of Duff’s older tunes and appreciate those too because clearly this generation is NOT what dreams are made of!
Best songs: all of it, but “Sparks”, “My Kind”, “Lies”, “One in a Million” and “Stay in Love”
6. Jennifer Lopez – Love? (2011)

Most probably J.Lo’s best pop album with the best singles since her 1999 debut, On the 6. Almost all of my favorite Jennifer Lopez songs come from this album and aside from “On the Floor” with Pitbull, none of the other songs or singles got much appreciation. Critics pounced on it as lacking personality and merely being a product of the pop music machine, but I think it’s good at what it’s doing. Love? isn’t exactly an album I would recommend regardless of whether or not you like J.Lo (you kind of have to like her at least a bit in order to appreciate it), but if you like the hits, I do recommend checking it out.
Best songs: “(What Is) Love?”, “On the Floor” and “Papi”
7. Kesha – Warrior (2012)

It’s a damn shame that Kesha’s second studio album didn’t get the appreciation it deserved. It didn’t have as many singles nor did it receive the same exposure as her 2010 debut, Animal. Kesha took a lot of heat from critics on her first album, who interpreted her frequent use of auto-tune in her music as a lack of genuine talent. Warrior was said to have revealed the authentic Kesha with less manipulated vocals, and regardless of whether or not that’s true, the album is still exceptional. How many artists do you know who have seamlessly blended electropop with rock? A part of me wonders if Kesha’s lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke (which followed in 2013) might have retroactively had a negative impact on Warrior’s exposure and chart performance, but that’s something we might never know. And just a reminder that Kesha’s third studio album and first in almost five years, Rainbow, is due out on August 11!
Best songs: all of it, but “Warrior”, “Die Young”, “C’Mon”, “Thinking of You”, “Wherever You Are” and “Dirty Love” (which features Iggy Pop!)
8. Jessica Sanchez – Me, You & the Music (2013)

It’s actually unforgivable that the music industry let Jessica Sanchez fade away. You may remember her as the runner-up from the eleventh season of American Idol in 2012, after which she began work on her debut studio album, Me, You & the Music, which followed in 2013. The album would not be considered the absolute best of all-time, but it was a good debut that left room to grow but apparently that won’t be happening anytime soon, considering she’s no longer associated with Interscope Records or 19 Entertainment, which were the labels associated with Idol at the time. It also wouldn’t be outrageous to assume that the labels weren’t all that interested in Sanchez for the long haul; it seems as though they were just fulfilling an obligation to Idol to sign her and produce an album and then once that was done, they were done. Sanchez isn’t up to much these days, apart from the occasional original song or cover released on YouTube or iTunes, but I feel like she really could have *happened* if anyone was actually invested in doing it. Sad!
Best songs: “Tonight” (feat. Ne-Yo), “Crazy Glue”, “Don’t Come Around”, “No One Compares” and “Plastic Roses”
9. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die (2012)

How does one even begin to describe Lana Del Rey? She created something that was entirely original and unique; a style of music that combined baroque pop, dream pop and alternative music along with a deep, mature voice. While Born to Die, her major-label debut, received generally positive reviews, it also took heat from music critics for being immature, melodramatic and repetitive (because apparently we can’t have depressive but realistic lyrics and still call it pop music; we all have to produce upbeat, radio-friendly pop songs). Combined with a widely panned performance on Saturday Night Live after the album came out, people started to question Del Rey’s sincerity, but she still developed a passionate fan base. Born to Die is most definitely her best album that contains an incredibly original and unique sound that she has yet to replicate on her follow-up albums. Del Rey also invented this original pop sound that set the stage for artists like Lorde, who would come on the scene a mere year later and take credit for “revolutionizing” and “saving” pop music by breaking the mold (music critics are hypocritical that way). I didn’t really get the hype surrounding Lana Del Rey until recently, when I sat down and decided to open my ears to her music. If you’re looking to start listening to her, Born to Die is a must.
Best songs: “Born to Die”, “Video Games”, “Blue Jeans”, “Summertime Sadness” and “Dark Paradise”
10. The Veronicas – The Veronicas (2014)

One of the best pop rock albums ever. The Veronicas, an Australian duo, have been around since the mid-2000s, but their self-titled third studio album came after a 7-year hiatus and it was definitely worth the wait. Highly recommend. I also hope that The Veronicas are more popular in their native Australia than they are in North America because they’re super good. Their fourth studio album is supposedly due out sometime this year and I’M WAITING!
Best songs: all of it, but “Cruel”, “Born Bob Dylan”, “If You Love Someone” and “Cold”
11. Demi Lovato – Confident (2015)

“Well you say I’m complicated, but you’ve had me underrated.” The bridge of the title single, “Confident”, is the best way to describe this album as well as Demi’s entire career. I won’t get into all the reasons I think Lovato is underrated but I will say that Confident didn’t get the buzz that it deserved. If you listen to it in full and compare it to the lyrical content of her previous two albums, Unbroken (2011) and Demi (2013), there’s a definite sign of a maturing musical style and I’m excited for what the future holds.
Best songs: “Confident”, “Stone Cold”, “Lionheart”, “Stars”, “Mr. Hughes” and “Old Ways”
12. Britney Spears – Glory (2016)

It’s difficult to say that this album is technically underrated or more unknown than other albums, because Britney fans definitely took care of making sure people know how great Glory is, but I still feel like it didn’t get the mainstream attention it deserved. Glory is literally one of Britney’s best. To think that she went from the colossal flop of Britney Jean (2013) to this is revolutionary. She hasn’t been this musically inventive since the In the Zone days. Recommend!
Best songs: literally all of it. I’m not even exaggerating. It would actually be easier to list my least favorite songs, but why would I wanna do that?

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