A look at 2018’s top pop releases

By Paige Daniel

Thoughts Editor

Pop music is at a bit of a crossroads right now – it seems like anything has the potential to be a hit, while the pre-eminent pop stars of our youth crash and burn (sorry, Katy Perry).  

The charts are unpredictable as well, with hits coming out of left-field like Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” and the ex-Fifth Harmony underdog Camila Cabello somehow managing to snag a number one spot with “Havana,” despite how overwhelmingly the charts have been dominated by men (looking at you, Ed Sheeran).  

People even surmised that women in pop were facing a period of stagnation, as a slew of new singles by women failed to crack the top 10. The pop charts are hugely rap and R&B focused these days, with pure pop being pushed out in favor of hybrid styles that mesh trap, rock, R&B and rap.  

It’s not always the best to pledge allegiance to the charts as someone who is interested in the history and trajectory of pop music. I nailed down a few artists who are expected to release new music this year, but you may notice that few of them are “chart-toppers”; in the economy of pop, as some call it, there is a new precedent wherein fringe artists are still able to achieve a level of success. Even if you haven’t heard of them, they are making waves in their respective internet pools. 



Kimbra is a pop artist who hails from New Zealand, though you might remember her from Gotye’s hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.”  

That song sorely underutilized her abilities and is kind of disappointing when you compare it to everything Kimbra has done on her own. Her vocal flair is hard to describe without falling back on tired clichés – it’s that good.  

Her debut album “Vows” found her with one foot heavily in a traditional pop sound and the other aiming for the funk stratosphere, and then her second album, “The Golden Echo,” made it clear that she had decided to experiment even more.  

The three songs released so far from her new album, “Primal Heart,” are very high quality; “Everybody Knows” is a driving damnation of a characteristically bad person, while “Top of the World” has an unusual tribal beat and a surprising bass passage that will singe your eyebrows off. She just released a third song, “Human,” which continues to foretell the greatness of “Primal Heart.”  



No other current R&B artist has been wronged more by their record label than Tinashe. Originally introduced as Beyoncé’s eventual successor (which is just unfair), Tinashe only has one amazing debut album to her name, 2014’s “Aquarius.”  

She was put in production limbo by her label, and her attempt at a second album release ultimately sputtered and failed thanks to their halting efforts.  

Then she released a mixtape, “Nightride” (2016). “Nightride” allowed her to explore her taste for dark, nocturnal R&B while her label consistently screwed her out of major success.  

Poor label decision after poor label decision piled up; without giving her a choice in the matter, they paired her up with noted abuser Chris Brown for her song “Player” in the hopes of it charting (hint: it failed).  

She seems to be officially trying her hand at a second album release this year with the single “No Drama.” Maybe this is the year she breaks into a wider audience, but if she doesn’t, I’ll just keep her talent to myself and that’s fine too.  


Troye Sivan 

Troye Sivan is a pretty big deal for the online LGBTQ+ community, as his 2015 album “Blue Neighbourhood” found him dealing with explicitly queer themes in front of a bigger audience than is usually afforded for most LGBTQ+ artists. “Blue Neighbourhood” was just a glimpse of what he has to offer, so his yet-unreleased album looks promising.  

He made a slick entry in the worthy Jeopardy category of “music videos in empty warehouses” for his new song “My My My!” and also released “The Good Side” shortly before his performance on Saturday Night Live last weekend.  


Carly Rae Jepsen 

Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2015 album “Emotion” is a sleeper hit, lauded by critics and fans yet finding no major chart success. The lack of chart success doesn’t really matter when there is an online community so devoted to singing the album’s praises that they’ve been making memes about it since its release.  

Jepsen reportedly has a new album in the process of being completed; where “Emotion” played with a retro 80s sound, she claims this next album will be focused on disco.  

Her revivalist tendencies are never pastiche or hollow, and fans are already revving up the hype machine for her fourth release that is unnamed.  


Ariana Grande 

Ariana Grande by now is a superstar, and she has been teasing a new album in the works for a few weeks. “Dangerous Woman” (2016) is seriously one of the best pop albums in years (zero hyperbole there), which could partially be chalked up to its intense Max Martin contributions.  

This time around, she is working with legendary pop producer Pharrell Williams for her fourth album; this follows the tragic terrorist attack at one of her concerts that had people questioning when, or even if, she would return to the pop scene.  



Grimes barely hinted at a possible 2018 release in a reply to a fan on Twitter and I kind of freaked out, because my love for Grimes knows no bounds. The album is just an idea in my head and is probably stewing somewhere on Grimes’ laptop, but whatever, I’m definitely on this hype train. 

Grimes produces all her music herself (this is sort of a big deal, especially with there being a glaring absence of women producers in the music industry), and is unapologetically experimenting with each new release.  


Charlie Puth 

Okay. Let me explain this one. When I learned that Charlie Puth’s whole bland enterprise was initially put-on for the sake of drawing a wide audience, I couldn’t help but be simultaneously peeved and relieved. 

He claimed in an interview that his debut album, “Nine Track Mind,” was purposefully saccharine and lukewarm so as to appeal to the lowest common denominator and chart. Of course, he also said that attaining his level of success now allows him to do what he actually wants to with his music.  

He was one of the newer pop stars I abhorred the most, and it’s safe to say the tide has turned on that one given the quality of his recent singles, “Attention” and “How Long.” His expected release, “Voicenotes,” has been delayed after advertised to be out in the first months of the year.  

He is another producer like Grimes who insists on producing all of their music themselves, which again, is no small feat. And Puth is talented, as he is formally trained in music composition (he would know how to write a catchy pop song). I thought it would be a cold day in hell until I admitted I was looking forward to a new release from him, but he proved me wrong.  


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Daniel’s, Cahill’s top 25 albums of 2017

By Paige Daniel and Zac Cahill

Thoughts Editor and Copy Editor

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Zac and I joined forces for a special installment in the opinion section to share each of our top 25 albums of 2017. I know I said I hate lists, but this seemed like a necessary evil — there were too many great albums in 2017 to not compile a list!

Zac ranked his top 25 albums, though you should note that I am still raging against the list by not ranking mine with numbers. I guess that is some kind of protest. I hope our blurbs will compel you to check out an artist or band you haven’t listened to yet.

Now that 2017 is a wrap, it’s time to look back on some of the strongest releases of the year.

  1. Big K.R.I.T. – “4eva is a Mighty Long Time”

Bursting at the seams with nearly equal parts Southern-rap bangers and Gospel tracks, this is K.R.I.T.s largest, most ambitious and most exciting album yet.

Favorite song: “Subenstein (My Sub IV)”

  1. Phoebe Bridgers – “Stranger in the Alps”

Meditative and searching, Phoebe Bridgers’ debut is a unique and personal look at the highs and lows of relationships and their subsequent fallouts, whether positive or negative.

Favorite song: “Scott Street”

  1. Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

Coming after his groundbreaking record “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick’s latest is a victory lap without any of the complacence as he strives, once again, to prove his place as one of hip-hop’s greats – DAMN. doesn’t quite rise to its predecessor, but it finds Kendrick still at the same technical/songwriting peak.

Favorite song: “DNA”

  1. Julie Byrne – “Not Even Happiness”

Quiet and understated, Julie Byrne’s latest is a beautiful collection of acoustic folk tunes that vary from the blissfully serene to the utterly heartbreaking.

Favorite song: “Natural Blue”

  1. Björk – “Utopia”

One of the great musicians of our era, Björk’s new album finds her in the throes of love, and with much-appreciated production from Arca added to the mix, “Utopia” is a dense yet glistening art-pop album and a welcome addition to her catalogue.

Favorite song: “Losss”

  1. Thundercat – “Drunk”

A jazzy and invigorating hip-hop album, “Drunk” is playful yet profound, balancing the mundane of day-to-day actions with the complex emotions which arise as a result of these things; as affecting for its performance and composition as for its content.

Favorite song: “The Turn Down”

  1. Bleachers – “Gone Now”

A fun, emotional (Jack Antonoff could write a hit ballad with both arms tied behind his back) pop-rock record – a masterclass in the redemptive power of chorus vocals and larger than life pianos and simply one of the most entertaining albums of the year.

Favorite song:  “Everybody Lost Somebody”

  1. Iglooghost – “Neō Wax Bloom”

None of the instrumentals on Iglooghost’s latest are looped or sampled. Colorful and schizophrenic; jazzy and electronic; free-forming and expansive, “Neō Wax Bloom” is a mind-altering journey into itself and the best instrumental album I’ve heard in ages.

Favorite song: “Bug Thief”

  1. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Polygondwanaland

Impeccably performed and written, with their usual trademark prog-rock jams and end-of-the-world prophesying, “Polygondwanaland” is King Gizzard at their best (at least of 2017, in which they released a total of five albums) and most interesting.

Favorite song: “Crumbling Castle”

  1. Mount Eerie – “A Crow Looked at Me”

The most heartbreaking album of 2017. Phil Elverum’s descent into the raw emotions that consumed him following his wife’s death, “A Crow Looked at Me” is a real, palpable meditation on death and its effect on the living.

Favorite song: “Soria Moria”

  1. Paramore – “After Laughter”

Paramore’s best album to date, an out-of-left-field pop-rock album loaded with one good tune after another – not the technical peak of 2017’s music, but certainly a high point purely from a songwriting standpoint.

Favorite song: “Hard Times”

  1. Lorde – “Melodrama”

More bold, mature and artistic than we’ve previously seen her, Lorde’s “Melodrama” shifts her from young popstar to a more immediately affecting songwriter with an excellent ear for production and a lyrical attention to detail that is most praiseworthy.

Favorite song: “The Louvre”

  1. Vince Staples – “Big Fish Theory”

Vince Staples’ latest record is a brash, smart hip-hop album with some of the best production of the year. From its more EDM-inspired tracks to its slow-burners, “Big Fish Theory” is nothing if not a showcase of the sheer scope of Vince’s personality and technical skill.

Favorite song: “745”

  1. Fleet Foxes – “Crack-Up”

Their most sonically dense album to date, “Crack-Up” finds Robin Pecknold and company more introspective, musing about inner thoughts amongst perpetually swelling and receding instrumentation; Fleet Foxes’ best record to date.

Favorite song: “I Should See Memphis”

  1. HAIM – “Something to Tell You”

Some of the sweetest, catchiest soft rock of 2017; HAIM’s distinct personality and skilled performances make for one of the most simply fun albums of the year.

Favorite song: “Right Now”

  1. Charli XCX – “Pop 2”

A late-year release that helped solidify Charli’s position as one of the most exciting new voices in pop, “Pop 2” is an expansive, brilliant pop record, chock-full of self-confidence and relationship woes and drug use against some of PC Music’s most forward thinking, sweetly seductive production yet.

Favorite song: “I Got It”

  1. Alvvays – “Antisocialites

Shimmering and sweet as candy, featuring Alvvays’ signature jangly, dreamy guitars and keyboards, “Antisocialites” feels so sincerely wide-eyed in its indie-pop sentiments it’s impossible not to instantly fall in love.

Favorite song: “Plimsoll Punks”

  1. The National – “Sleep Well Beast”

The National’s best album since 2007’s “Boxer,” “Sleep Well Beast” finds Matt Berninger’s whiskey-soaked baritone crooning opposite some of the best-composed songs the band has ever compiled – the result is an album with such a deeply felt sense of mood and presence it’s difficult to shake off even after multiple listens.

Favorite song: “Nobody Else Will Be There”

  1. Brockhampton – “Saturation II”

One of the greatest breakout successes of 2017, “Saturation II” is one of three albums released by hip-hop boyband Brockhampton, and in my opinion the best. Stellar, energetic and full to the brim with the group’s infectious vibe; impossible to listen to without dancing.

Favorite song: “JUNKY”

  1. Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”

Josh Tillman’s most bare-bones album to date, and certainly his most dense in both lyrical subject and diction, “Pure Comedy” is ultimately immensely rewarding – Tillman’s witty ruminations on modern entertainment and capitalism are varied and chock full of timely lyrics alongside its lowkey yet gorgeous instruementals.

Favorite song: “So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain”

  1. Tyler, the Creator – “Flower Boy”

The hip-hop album of the year. A bright, creative new direction for the young rapper, one which ultimately proves itself to pay off in spades. “Flower Boy” improves on every aspect of Tyler’s repertoire – his flows and delivery are near-perfect and his production has never felt so in sync with his songs and which his self.

Favorite song: “Glitter”

  1. Feist – “Pleasure”

The most lo-fi yet best written of Feist’s albums, “Pleasure” is a collection of brilliant songs brilliantly performed; a catalogue of emotional meditation and an expert example of pure song-crafting.

Favorite song: “Any Party”

  1. Perfume Genius – “No Shape”

Ranging from musically stark to sweetly shimmering, “No Shape” is an intensely metaphysical record, an odyssey of sorts into the varied and complex elements of Mike Hadreas’ psyche. An album which feels simultaneously rooted in tradition and leagues ahead of its time.

Favorite song: “Valley”

  1. LCD Soundsystem – “American Dream”

An album about the death of our ideals, of our idols, of our own notions of self-fulfillment; a wise and necessary album of exciting sonic ideas and throwbacks as well as some of LCD Soundsystem’s best songwriting to date.

Favorite song: “how do you sleep?”

  1. St. Vincent – “MASSEDUCTION”

The glam-rock of the future. This latest bold statement of one of the most exciting artists of the 21st Century, St. Vincent’s latest album (and incarnation as an artist) is her boldest and most interesting work yet. It is an album which is bolstered simply by its across-the-board amazing songs and tangible aesthetic. The best collection of tracks released in 2017, period.

Favorite song: “Young Lover”


Fleet Foxes – “Crack-Up”

Robin Pecknold and co. pull no punches when it comes to the multi-layered instrumentals and dense lyrics on their most challenging album to date. Timely, complicated, and beautiful, “Crack-Up” is a necessary piece of art in uncertain times.

Best Track: “Third of May / Ōdaigahara”

Marika Hackman – “I’m Not Your Man”

Hackman deftly tackles romance, illness, dependence and youth on her second album that  nds her testing new sonic territory. Her way with words is enough to propel the heavier topics into a mangled gorgeousness that is worthy of great drama.

Best Track: “Gina’s World”

Japanese Breakfast – “Soft Sounds From Another


Michelle Zauner brings ethereality down to earth with her unflinching attention to memory, trauma and loss. Outer space has a new soundtrack.

Best Track: “Till Death”


On an endlessly re-playable and relatable release by one of R&B’s best new talents, SZA hits the sweet spot of emotional depth and catchy songcraft with “CTRL.” This album is like hanging out with your friends.

Best Track: “Drew Barrymore”

Kelela – “Take Me Apart”

Kelela definitely isn’t a mere mortal like the rest of us. There are far too many great moments on this risk-taking and intense album. Kelela makes statements, not songs.

Best Track: “Enough”

St. Vincent –


St. Vincent is a bona  de star and mixes sharp pop with her trademark oddball rock. Clever, touching and intelligent. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Best Track: “Slow Disco” Lorde – “Melodrama

Lorde is a pop prodigy with magical powers. “Melodrama” is about a party and its aftermath, its glitter and trash and popped balloons. She captures joy, euphoria and heartbreak in a matter of 40 compact minutes, but you’ll wish it never ended.

Best Track: “Perfect Places” Phoebe Bridgers

“Stranger in the Alps”

You’ll probably need some tissues for this one. Should come with a warning label.

Best Track: “Motion Sickness”

Hippo Campus “Landmark”

Sun-dappled and full of youthful vigor. There are a lot of fun guitar sounds on this album that make it perfect for a sunny day in May, but it holds up even after it gets dark out thanks to the depth of feeling and intent this young band provides.

Best Track: “Epitaph”

 Paramore – “After Laughter”

Hayley Williams graduated from a young emo to an adult emo who likes new wave now and she’s not afraid to cry in front of you. “After Laughter” is a happy album about being sad and you can dance to it, too.

Best Track: “Fake Happy”

Jay Som – “Everybody


If you feel lost in your twenties, Melina Duterte can relate. Fuzzy bedroom pop for when you call in sick and stay inside.

Best Track: “The Bus Song”

Declan McKenna – “What Do You Think About the


A 19-year-old wrote a rock album about… everything? Politics, religion, drugs, interpersonal relationships, generational anxiety, LGBTQ+ issues, suicide, poverty, corruption in the international sports community… it’s all there and handled with care by McKenna who is nothing short of a huge talent.

Best Track: “Brazil”

Laura Marling – “Semper


Friendships between women are the best. Laura Marling agrees with me and wrote some poetry about it.

Best Track: “Always This Way”

Demi Lovato – “Tell Me You Love Me”

Lovato ditched the vestiges of her Disney stardom for good this time and delivered a mature, cohesive collection of songs that successfully showcase the nuances of her powerhouse vocals.

Best Track: “Tell Me You Love Me”

Sampha – “Process”

Sampha takes alternative R&B to another level with his intricate compositions that are nearly futuristic in their grace and have a whole lot of heart.

Best Track: “Reverse Faults” Syd – “Fin”

Deliriously good pop R&B from a woman who knows exactly what she wants.

Best Track: “Know”

Perfume Genius – “No


A glorious, delightfully wonky and o -kilter exploration of where exactly love begins and ends.

Best Track: “Wreath”

Land of Talk – “Life After


Elizabeth Powell’s underrated band made a comeback that is as meditative as it is impulsive.

Best Track: “This Time” Grizzly Bear – “Painted


Ominously dark stuff  from a band that is constantly growing older and wiser.

Best Track: “Three Rings” Charli XCX – “No. 1 Angel”

Is this an album? Is this a mixtape? It doesn’t matter. Charli XCX is pushing the boundaries of pop and giving it her all. “No. 1 Angel” is a seriously wild and playful release that gets better the more you listen.

 Best Track: “ILY2”

Muna – “About U”

Muna is an all-girl synth pop band with an overwhelming amount of love to give. “About U” is less about others and more about the relationship we have with ourselves.

Best Track: “Everything”

 Remo Drive – “Greatest


This whole album is so recklessly fun you’ll forget where you are for its duration. Pop punk for when you  nd yourself thinking about home too much.

Best Track: “Art School”

Allie X – “CollXtion II”

Allie X plays into pop clichés and turns it into an art form – her smart and meticulous electropop is not to be tampered with.

Best Track: “Casanova” Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”

Lamar has been the one to beat for the past few years and this album proves he is not going anywhere soon. “DAMN.” seems like his response to the (racist) backlash against his second album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.” He will not let them have the last word in his story, and he lets the  ames fan his exit.

Best Track: “DNA.”

Tei Shi – “Crawl Space”

On her  first album, Tei Shi makes a mysterious contribution to the gallery of sleek pop that is in abundance these days.

Best Track: “Keep Running”


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