Top 20 Pop Albums of 2015

01
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20. Leon Bridges - Coming Home

Leon Bridges Coming Home
Leon Bridges - Coming Home. Courtesy Columbia

26-year-old Leon Bridges played his retro 60s style soul music in the Fort Worth, Texas area until he received a recording contract from Columbia Records in 2014. He headed out on the road in January 2015 and by summer built up strong anticipation for his debut album Coming Home. It did not disappoint and debuted in the top 10 of the album chart. The title song broke Leon Bridges on to the adult pop radio chart, and by the end of the year he earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Album.

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02
of 20

19. Bob Dylan - Shadows In the Night

Bob Dylan Shadows In the Night
Bob Dylan - Shadows In the Night. Courtesy Columbia

2015 has been a year to celebrate Frank Sinatra. December 12th was the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth. Bob Dylan, himself a living legend, kicked off the celebrations early with Shadows In the Night released in February. It is a collection of covers of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. The presentation is a loving, idiosyncratic celebration of some of the best popular songs of all time. The album was a top 10 success in the US and it debuted at #1 across the ocean in the UK. 

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03
of 20

18. Meghan Trainor - Title

Meghan Trainor Title
Meghan Trainor - Title. Courtesy Epic

One of the biggest pop stories of 2014 was the arrival of Meghan Trainor with the ultra-catchy "All About That Bass." Her debut single went all the way to #1 and earned Grammy Award nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. She followed that success with the release of her debut album Title in January, 2015. In case of any concerns she is a one-hit wonder, the album spun off three more major pop hits including "Lips Are Movin'" and "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" that broke into the top 10. The album sticks to the girl group inspired groove of her debut hit for a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to a new star.

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04
of 20

17. Shawn Mendes - Handwritten

Shawn Mendes Handwritten
Shawn Mendes - Handwritten. Courtesy Island

17-year-old Canadian Shawn Mendes first gained widespread exposure by posting six-second interpretations of popular songs on the social media network Vine. He was signed to Island Records in 2014 and released his debut single "Life of the Party" that June. Sales were strong enough to catapult him into the top 25, but pop radio largely ignored the song. With solid touring support, his debut album Handwritten was released this April and it went straight to #1 selling over 100,000 copies in its first week. It is an endearing collection of contemporary pop. This time radio ultimately paid attention and by the end of the  year the song "Stitches" was a top 5 smash.

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05
of 20

16. Sara Bareilles - What's Inside: Songs From Waitress

Sara Bareilles What's Inside
Sara Bareilles - What's Inside: Songs From Waitress. Courtesy Epic

Sara Bareilles' most recent studio album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year. For her latest project, she wrote songs for an upcoming Broadway musical Waitress. To introduce the songs in advance of the show, Sara Bareilles made her own recordings that make up this album. The songs are clever, heartfelt, and catchy. Long-time fans of the singer-songwriter will be pleased when they hear it. It became the artist's fourth consecutive top 10 charting album. 

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06
of 20

15. twenty one pilots - Blurryface

twenty one pilots Blurryface
twenty one pilots - Blurryface. Courtesy Fueled By Ramen

The duo twenty one pilots play music that ranges widely across genres including rock, pop, and hip hop. Their sound has occasionally been labeled "schizophrenic pop" to acknowledge the wide range of styles. The album Blurryface represents their big break into the mainstream. It debuted at #1 on the album chart upon release this May. The single "Stressed Out" with its dark bouncing beat has broken into the top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100.

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07
of 20

14. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho

Fall Out Boy American Beauty American Psycho
Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho. Courtesy Island

Two years ago Fall Out Boy returned from a four year hiatus with the #1 charting album Save Rock and Roll. This year they proved that success was no fluke. American Beauty / American Psycho pulls a range of pop culture influences into the group's post-hardcore sound. Among them are sampling of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" on the top 10 pop hit "Centuries" and sampling of the theme song from the 60s comedy The Munsters on "Uma Thurman." The album debuted at #1 and has been certified gold for sales. 

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08
of 20

13. Justin Bieber - Purpose

Justin Bieber Purpose
Justin Bieber - Purpose. Courtesy Def Jam

Any observers who wrote Justin Bieber off after a string of negative tabloid publicity and well publicized public bad behavior were forced to swallow their pride this fall and admit he may have a strong career ahead as an adult pop artist. Over the summer his vocals helped the Skrillex and Diplo single break into the pop top 10. The catchy electro-pop of his own "What Do You Mean?" began publicity for Purpose by storming to a #1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming Justin Bieber's first #1 hit. It was followed by two more singles reaching the top 3 and the most positive critical reviews of his career.

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09
of 20

12. Grimes - Art Angels

Grimes Art Angels
Grimes - Art Angels. Courtesy 4AD

Canadian Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, records on the avant-garde electronic end of pop music. The music video for the song "Oblivion" from her 2012 album Visions brought widespread positive acclaim. Art Angels has received equally strong critical acclaim and has become Grimes' biggest commercial breakthrough. It debuted inside the top 40 of the overall album chart and topped the alternative album chart. Janelle Monae appears as a guest vocalist on the album. The single "Flesh Without Blood" broke into both the dance songs and rock songs charts.

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10
of 20

11. Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late

Drake - If You're Reading This Its Too Late
Drake - If You're Reading This Its Too Late. Courtesy Cash Money

Drake's mixtape If You're Reading This It's Too Late was released without advance publicity in February 2015. It is one of the strongest collections of songs of his career so far. They focus strongly on his personal life and his own internal demons. The album debuted at #1 and has sold more than one million copies. 

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11
of 20

10. Coldplay - A Head Full of Dreams

Coldplay A Head Full of Dreams
Coldplay - A Head Full of Dreams. Courtesy Atlantic

Coldplay's 2014 album Ghost Stories was recorded in the wake of lead vocalist Chris Martin's breakup with his wife Gwyneth Paltrow. It is one of the most downbeat albums of their career. By contrast, their December 2015 release A Head Full of Dreams is upbeat and celebratory reveling in the ongoing beauty of life even after bad things happen. Due to the dominance of Adele's 25, A Head Full of Dreams broke Coldplay's string of four consecutive #1 albums having to settle for a #2 placement. However, it was a welcome addition to the upbeat spirit of the Christmas season.

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12
of 20

9. Selena Gomez - Revival

Selena Gomez Revival
Selena Gomez - Revival. Courtesy Interscope

For her first album after exiting the Disney music empire, Selena Gomez elected to give her album the bold title Revival. The title is appropriate as it finds the artist digging deeper into an R&B sway and the darker side of electronic dance pop. She proves that she is a consummate pop artist who can explore new territory without sacrificing her pop radio appeal. Revival is Selena Gomez' second solo album to debut at #1 and it includes the top 10 smash hits "Good For You" and "Same Old Love."

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13
of 20

8. The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness

The Weeknd Beauty Behind the Madness
The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness. Courtesy Republic

Canadian R&B artist The Weeknd is one of the biggest breakout pop stories of 2015. Early in the year he landed inside the pop top 5 for the first time with his song "Earned It" from the soundtrack to Fifty Shades of Grey. However, it was not adequate preparation for the ultra-catchy Michael Jackson inspired "Can't Feel My Face" which became the artist's first #1 pop hit. It was followed to the top by "The Hills" and the album Beauty Behind the Madness. While the excitement of the music on the album can flag a bit, it proves that The Weeknd intends to be a dominant force in mainstream pop while retaining an element of edginess in his sound and lyrical content.

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14
of 20

7. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Courtesy Mom + Pop

Some observers were surprised by Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett's Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist. However, for those of us who had been listening to her arresting debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit since March, it was more a well-deserved recognition. Her style of deadpan delivery atop crunchy garage rock worms its way deep into your head and refuses to let go. The album broke into the top 20 of the US album chart while topping the folk, alternative and rock charts.

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15
of 20

6. Janet Jackson - Unbreakable

Janet Jackson Unbreakable
Janet Jackson - Unbreakable. Courtesy Rhythm Nation

One of the most welcome returns to form of 2015 came with Janet Jackson's Unbreakable, her first new studio album in seven years and arguably her best effort since 2001's All For You. She returns to working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis throughout the album, and it all sounds timeless with an ingratiating groove that goes down easy. Unbreakable topped the album chart upon release in October. The title single broke into the top 5 of the adult R&B radio chart.

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16
of 20

5. Madonna - Rebel Heart

Madonna - Rebel Heart
Madonna - Rebel Heart. Courtesy Interscope

Another grand return to form came earlier in the year. Madonna broke into the mainstream pop radio top 40 with the single "Living For Love" and the album opened on the chart at #2. It creates a positive balance between recognition of the artist's glorious past and contemporary dance pop sounds. is arguably her strongest overall album since 2000's Music

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17
of 20

4. Troye Sivan - Blue Neighbourhood

Troye Sivan Blue Neighbourhood
Troye Sivan - Blue Neighbourhood. Courtesy Capitol

20-year-old South African born Australian artist Troye Sivan created a strong buzz with his 2014 EP Tryxe that broke into the top 5 of the album chart. It included his first chart single "Happy Little Pill." The songs have an icy electronic feel balanced by the warmth of the artist's intimate lyrics. This album feels like a natural next step for fans of Lorde. These songs are engaging the first time around, and they have a depth that strongly rewards deeper listening. Blue Neighbourhood debuted in the top 10 of the album chart and includes the single "Wild."

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18
of 20

3. Carly Rae Jepsen - E-MO-TION

Carly Rae Jepsen E-MO-TION
Carly Rae Jepsen - E-MO-TION. Courtesy Interscope

One of the big pop mysteries of 2015 is the failure of Carly Rae Jepsen's "I Really Like You" to turn into a major pop smash. It sounded like a logical hit and managed to edge into the top 30 at mainstream pop radio, but the song is better than that. The album E-MO-TION is even better. It is the sound of a confident artist fully embracing contemporary pop. If you want a sweet, clean pop album for shameless singalongs, this collection is for you. If the two big albums of the year are a little heavy for year, Carly Rae Jepsen has a big pleasing surprise.

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19
of 20

2. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly. Courtesy Interscope

On first approach, Kendrick Lamar's sprawling hip hop masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly might seem like one of those albums you are "supposed" to like but is difficult listening. However, once you dig deeper into the music, you might be surprised. The album is full of unexpected hooks along with lyrical revelations. The album is a logical product of contemporary US concerns about police violence, but it is more timeless than that echoing such classics as Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On.

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20
of 20

1. Adele - 25

Adele 25
Adele - 25. Courtesy Columbia

We all knew that Adele's next album would be an instant seller. However, I don't think many of us expected it to be the massive success 25 has become. That success is well deserved. This is one of the world's great singers at the peak of her powers. There is not a wasted track, and on many songs she continues to push in new directions. This is an album that will be savored for many years to come...or until Adele's next release. Few singers have ever commanded such respect that a simple, "Hello it's me," could cause the world to fall at her feet.

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