Ten Flawless Pop Albums

1. The Writing’s On The Wall by Destiny’s Child

If it weren’t for the amazing production of Destiny’s Child second record, The Writing’s On The Wall, Beyonce would’ve probably never happened. There would be no single ladies asking to put a ring on it, no halos, maybe even no Jay-Z! When the album was released, Destiny’s Child weren’t a big deal. They had one hit with Wyclef Jean called “No, No, No” and the rest of their shit was indistinguishable from all of the other R & B groups out at the time. The girls knew this was their last chance at being major so they pulled out all of the production stops by hiring Rodney Jenkins, Missy Elliott and Kandi Burruss to create the songs. Oh yeah, and I guess Queen B also wrote some songs but you know how that goes. “Bills, Bills, Bills”, “Jumpin, Jumpin” and “Bugaboo” were on point/the soundtrack to my middle school career but “Say My Name” felt like the centerpiece. It was a beautiful mid-tempo slice of slinky heaven, and you best believe I played it on repeat. Even beyond the singles, the album was strong and cohesive. Many pop records have fillers but The Writing’s On The Wall was consistent in creating a cool vibe.

2. Autobiography by Ashlee Simpson

Don’t hate. Ashlee Simpson’s debut album, Autobiography, is shockingly good. Really good actually. It’s a pop/rock record full of heavy hooks and sing-along choruses. Of course, that’s no thanks to Ashlee. Super producer John Shanks and Kara DioGuardi made the bulk of the album while Ashlee just kind of hung out and wrote in her notebook. But in the game of pop, it doesn’t really matter who did what, just so long as it sounds good. “Lala” and “Pieces Of Me” are amazing pop songs and sort of had me alternately weeping and dancing. All of the songs are actually super cheesy but it’s sort of what makes the record great. They capture Ashlee as a teenager complaining about everything, which I appreciate more than something that’s drenched in lame metaphors. There’s nothing worse than a teenager acting like an old poet.

3. Self-titled by Third Eye Blind

Oh my god, Third Eye Blind’s first album is so good. I’m listening to it now over a decade later and it’s still flawless. It kind of represents the best 90s pop/rock, and even though it’s full of their poppy singles like “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper”, it also has stellar lesser-known songs like “I Want You” and “Motorcycle Drive-By”. Wanna hear something super cool? I saw Third Eye Blind when they were touring behind this record. I went with my best friend in 6th grade and I remember my mom went with us mostly to protect our lungs from the pot smoke in the venue. Oh man, it ended up being so much fun. I remember Stephan Jenkins said “fuck” like 8,000 times, which seemed so scandalous at the time. God, remember when curse words were shocking? Weird.

4. One In A Million by Aaliyah

One In A Millon is the reason why I cried when I heard the news of Aaliyah’s death. It is just a straight up magical record from start to finish. It’s also part of music history because it’s where Missy Elliott and Timbaland made a name for themselves. They were relatively unknown when Aaliyah scooped them up and had them produce the majority of the record. Singles like ‘One In A Million” and “If Your Girl Only Knew” didn’t sound like traditional R & B pop songs. The sound was fresh and unlike anything else out at the time. She ended up ditching them for her follow-up record though, which turned out to be a smart move. Instead, she hired a dude named Playa to produce her third and last record. The end result was similar to One In A Million: Unexpected, original and solid.

5. Mizzundastood by Pink

Before Pink made her second album, Mizzundastood, she was known as an R & B singer. Do you remember that? Because I try really hard not to. Anyway, Pink was clearly like, “I hate R & B and I’m not black, LaFace, so I’m going to do something different.” This time around, she brought in power lesbian/4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry to produce a confessional pop record. At the time, everyone was making disposable pop albums but Pink dared to make something that was both catchy and personal. Sounds like a “no duh!”, right? Well, the album ended up being a major success. Afterwards, every pop singer was knocking on Perry’s door asking for help in making their own sappy raw album.

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Megan

    *commercial pop albums. It should really say that in the title

    • notmarykate

      Yes, because only indie acts can produce good music worth of being listened to (the irony of using those words in such a sentence is not lost on me). Seriously, this sort of counter-culture hubris is every bit as bad as the mainstream trash it seeks to discredit. Get over yourself already.

      • Megan

         I was not saying this list is commercial therefore is bad, I’m just saying that if you were including both mainstream and independent “pop” albums then this list would look a lot differently. Stop trying to find an excuse to point and yell hipster

      • http://www.facebook.com/iamahmad Ahmad Radheyyan

        Everyone chill out and listen to some Ashlee Simpson. 

        I’m glad this article was posted, so I could finally get over her SNL fuck-up and actually appreciate her music.

    • your cousin

      “commercial pop”? Isn’t that a bit redundant? I feel like you don’t know what “pop” means.

      • Megan

        oh my goodness that is very, very silly

  • http://facebook.com/sdouglas Scott

    *from the 90’s and early 2000’s

  • Bernard

    I prefer ‘Bittersweet World’ over ‘Autobiography’.

    John Shanks has the tendency to layer everything over and over and over until it sounds like one big mush of sound.

    SO happy Kelly made the list though.
    (And ‘Blackout’ is indeed the best Britney-album EVAH, but that’s a given.)

  • Josh

    Rhythm Nation 1814.

  • Shanayay343

    As opposed to “indie” pop albums, which, of course are inherently better because they inevitably sell less, giving the 15 hipsters who purchase them +39427 hipster points. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=746120455 Chantelle Gates

    kind of a shit list, but whatever. To each their own.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    seriously?

  • BONT

    These are seriously all classics, cool or not.

  • Ro

    I love all of these albums… my favorite part of The Writing’s on the Wall was the commandments at the end of each song. “Thou shall not bug… Thou shall not think you got it like that.” I wonder what LeToya and LaTavia are up to now.

  • Ro

    I love all of these albums… my favorite part of The Writing’s on the Wall was the commandments at the end of each song. “Thou shall not bug… Thou shall not think you got it like that.” I wonder what LeToya and LaTavia are up to now.

  • http://twitter.com/iamdanluke Dan

    Britney “The Blackout Years” were so #dark

  • Dan

    I really like this list.  For my two cents, I would sub in 
    – Impossible Princess – Kylie Minogue  (This is to Kylie’s career what Blackout is to Britney’s). 
    – Different Class – Pulp (This album is just perfect- every track is amazing)

  • Arthur

    Where’s “Robyn,” by Robyn?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Javannie-Owen/727585903 Javannie Owen

    I love all the albums on the list! Still play them non-stop

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    Played guitar hero today. Spiderwebs by No doubt anyone?

  • michael kramer

    ‘9 albums that remind me of my childhood (and amy winehouse cuz she’s a diva lol)’

    • michael kramer

      also i feel like a really passionate argument could be made on my part for love angel music baby

      that album was sick

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathon-Ferrari/100001319787228 Jonathon Ferrari

    I would like to point out that all of Third Eye Blind’s albums are awesome.

    • Annie

      except for ursa major :/

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonathon-Ferrari/100001319787228 Jonathon Ferrari

        except for ursa major…

      • http://twitter.com/790FM Frank

        really? i loved ursa major…

    • Annie

      except for ursa major :/

    • Annie

      except for ursa major :/

    • Annie

      except for ursa major :/

  • kristinjames

    blackout is by far the best britney album. circus and whatever her new one is don’t even compare

  • http://paopucake.tumblr.com rina

    omfg running! thanks for the reminder

  • Poonam

    No Jay-Z if Beyonce didn’t make it on her own after Destiny’s Child? That’s the most ridiculous statement in this piece. Come on, Ryan!

  • Austin

    SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS MY LOVE OF PURE POP.
    agree with all of these, but one of them needs to be kicked out for S Club 7’s truly perfect “S Club.”
    that is all.
    also, marry me ryan.

  • GUEST

    Love the first Third Eye Blind album.

  • http://twitter.com/hellllnawww annisah

    aaliyah is king!

  • Lou

    Frank beats Back to Black in EVERY way

  • microfiche

    FUTURESEX/LOVESOUNDS

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