Top 10 Pop Albums of 2006

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Pop music is a funny term to some. Most people confuse “pop” as limited to artists like Britney Spears, ‘N Sync and Fergie. While all three artists are pop, or were, in the case of ‘N Sync, pop is so much bigger. Difficult to define, pop can be broken down as any music at the forefront of mainstream media coverage and playtime. Pop music might not always be the most riveting form of music, or the most connected with social change, but it usually makes people happy, and gives them something to sing along to. Here are the Top 10 Pop Albums of the 2006, which helped to shape and define pop music throughout the year.

pop_nellyfur.jpg10. Nelly Furtado – Loose
After Folklore went five miles east of nowhere, and Nelly had a baby to feed, it’s no surprise that she had to rethink strategy. She didn’t really sell-out like her hardcore fans would say. Nelly had roots in hip-hip long before Loose hit the stores, but this album did polarize fans opinions. “Promiscuous” was the first song released this side of the Atlantic and immediately cut a very striking line between old fans and new fans. The song became the year’s breakout number one and was Timbalands’ first notch towards producer of the year. With slicker production, and hooks that you can actually listen to and remember, Loose does what any good pop album is supposed to, capture the publics attention.

pop_beyonce.jpg9. Beyonce – B’day
No matter what you say about Beyonce, that she’s shameless when it comes to getting media attention, that she revisited her past on this album more so than setting up her future, or that she doesn’t spend nearly enough time writing albums, she still knows how to drop a great pop song. B’day definitely would be better had she spent more than a month on it, but if this is what she can do in a few weeks, we all have to give her credit. The well-deserved comparisons to Amerie aside, Beyonce has shown again why she is one of today’s most versatile and talented artists, deserving of most of the face time she craves.

pop_thefray.jpg8. The Fray – How To Save A Life
The Fray, as much as they might detest it, have become a TV band. If they’re ever able to be taken seriously in the future is yet to be seen, but they have talent and this album is filled to the brim with TV ready hooks. Grey’s Anatomy, E.R, Scrubs, it doesn’t matter, it’ll work.

pop_justtim.jpg7. Justin Timberlake – Futuresex/Lovesounds
After leaving ‘N Sync behind with his debut, Justified, Justin Timberlake now had to distance himself from Janet Jackson and the super bowl fiasco. Wisely deciding against another re-treaded Neptunes production on this album, Justin matures both sexually and musically under the tutelage of producer of the year, Timbaland. The album is slick and follows an arch and theme which you’d most likely never see from an ‘N Sync record. Justin finally proves that he deserves a lot of the praise he’s received the last few years.

pop_archmonkeys.jpg6. The Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m
Hitting number one in the UK in your first week out is one thing, doing it with your first CD is another, and becoming the fastest selling CD in the countries history out of the gate is of an entirely different breed. The Arctic Monkeys took the sleazy bar band sound to the top of the charts this year and had glossed over pop acts covering their songs within months. Whatever People Say… doesn’t disappoint and leaves you waiting for the sequel.

pop_johnmayer.jpg5. John Mayer – Continuum
Tired of the comparisons to Dave Matthews, John set out the last few years to shrug off any similarities by testing the blues scene and with Continuum we get a happy medium between rock, pop and the blues. Borrowing from his last venture, Try, Mayer released Continuum to rave reviews in ’06 and while some of the album seems samey or at least seems to have followed some familiar paths, there’s no denying the quality.

pop_dixiechicks.jpg4. Dixie Chicks – Taking The Long Way
Fighting for your rights has never sounded so sweet and telling the world you’re ashamed of George Bush never should have brought the girls to this point. They’ve fought back death threats, CD and radio boycotts and a media black out and as a result, we have Taking the Long Way. While this is definitely not the huge departure from country Natalie Maines would have you believe, the album rides on songs of a higher quality than any of their blockbuster CDs, save Home.

pop_keane.jpg3. Keane – Under The Iron Sea
Picking up where Coldplay left off, Keanes first album was a wonder, this, their second set, expands on the first album and leaves behind some of the piano work that made them famous. Keane show here that not only can they do Coldplay better than Coldplay, but that they have so much more to offer as well.

pop_mjb.jpg2. Mary J Blige – The Breakthrough
Technically released in 2005, but close enough to 2006 that we don’t give a shit, The Breakthrough has helped Mary J regain much of the hype that has followed her throughout her career and with nine Grammy nominations under her belt, the fact that this album has quality won’t soon be forgotten. Mary has truly crossed over, and the sales of The Breakthrough show she’s found a whole new audience.

pop_gnarlsbarkley.jpg1. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere
Super duo Dangermouse and Cee-Lo came together under the banner of Gnarls Barkley in 2006 and “Crazy,” their first single, was the breakout hit of the year the world. It was different, it was fresh, and the album that it was spawned from has won the world of critics over for the exact same reason. There have been four video releases since “Crazy” and none have made a dent on either the charts or in the minds of the people. Although not an easy listen, St. Elsewhere is a great record; it’s just not very commercial. That combined with the attention garnered make it Format’s pick for the top pop album of 2006.

Craig Palmer

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