New Releases

Memphis

Justin Bieber

Swap It Out

Justin Bieber

Backpack

Justin Bieber

Midnight Memories

One Direction

Stars Dance

Selena Gomez

Salute

Little Mix

Better Together

Fifth Harmony

AM

Abraham Mateo

Christmas With Nick & Simon

Nick & Simon

The EP from the Sea

Bark Bark Disco

Wild Heart

The Vamps

Miley Cyrus

Jaskaran S. Dhillon

Retrospectives

Various Artists

Live Love & Party

Seany-Doo

Festival Bangers (Worldwide)

Various Artists

New York Generation

Tony Burton

An Instructive Amusement

Cozy Catastrophes

Straight Up Vocal House!

Various Artists

Despedida

Julio Sol

Top Albums

Teenage Dream

Katy Perry
All Katy Perry wants is the spotlight, and she’ll follow the path of others to get there, raising eyebrows à la Alanis, strutting like Gwen Stefani, and relying on Britney’s hitmaker Max Martin for her hooks. She never breaks away from the expected lite club beats that transition from day to night without a hitch or the chilly, stainless steel ballads designed to lose none of their luster on repeat plays. Perry acknowledges some trends -- she salutes KeSha on “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” replicates Ryan Tedder’s glassy robotic alienation on “E.T.,” but tellingly avoids ripping off Lady Gaga. Perry is at her best when she’s delivering sleek singles like “Teenage Dream” and “Hummingbird Heartbeat” with efficiency.

Pitch Perfect Soundtrack

Various Artists

M!ssundaztood

Pink

The Hits--Chapter One

Backstreet Boys
The Backstreet Boys were the first and best of the boy bands of the great teen pop bands of the late '90s/early 2000s, even if 'N Sync eventually usurped their title of "the biggest boy band." Their reign seemed long, but it really wasn't -- only three albums before the bottom started to fall out with 2000's Black & Blue. If everything had gone right, Black & Blue would have ruled the charts for about two years, but about a year after its release, the group and their label unleashed The Hits: Chapter One, a sure sign not only that Black & Blue didn't perform to expectations, but they were worried about the shifting tastes of their audience. Instead of reviving interest in the group, the collection instead felt like it was closing the door on their period of dominance (and it initially sold that way, too, barely making a dent on the charts). Even if it is a bit of an inadvertent last will and testament, it's a hell of a summation of the group's glory days, offering definitive proof that the group wasn't just the best of their breed (boy bands, that is; thrushes like Britney, Christina, Mandy, and Jessica are not taken into account here), but that their best moments transcend their era -- and there's really no other way to describe such lovely pop tunes as "I Want It That Way," "As Long As You Love Me," and "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," three songs that would have sounded perfect in any era (and their vocals would have worked in any era, too). Those are just the ballads -- the dance-pop numbers may be more tied to their era, but "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Larger Than Life" are infectious pop nonetheless. If the rest of the singles that fill out this 13-track collection aren't quite as good as those five songs (although "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely" is), they nevertheless are well-crafted, and those aforementioned singles are among the best mainstream pop of its time -- which is not only reason enough for this collection to exist, it's reason enough for pop lovers of any age or generation to have this as part of their library.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

My World 2.0

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber's My World 2.0 arrives just over four months after the Top Ten My World and is to be considered the second half of the Canadian pop star’s first release, rather than a true follow-up. It does pick up where the brief My World left off, as it mixes peppy dance-pop with lovelorn ballads, mostly within a pop-R&B framework. The ten-song set is led by "Baby," featuring Ludacris.

Andy Kellman, Rovi

Greatest Hits: My Prerogative

Britney Spears
Greatest Hits: My Prerogative appeared at the tail end of a year where Britney Spears was married twice, canceled a tour, injured her knee, lost the movie role of Daisy Duke to rival teen pop diva Jessica Simpson, was a punch line in Fahrenheit 9/11, and had countless paparazzi shots of her drinking and making out in public. It was enough high-profile shenanigans for a career, and it was par for the course for Britney, who hadn't been out of the pop culture headlines since she released her debut album, ...Baby One More Time, in January 1999. In the nearly six years separating that debut album and the release of Greatest Hits in November 2004, Britney was omnipresent, representing both the entire teen pop phenomenon of the turn of the millennium, plus the teasing, Maxim-fueled sexuality of the time; it's not for nothing that Tom Wolfe name drops Britney Spears, not archrival Christina Aguilera, in his 2004 novel I Am Charlotte Simmons -- Britney alone captured the era, which in turn is captured on this 17-track hits collection. If Bob Dylan had a hard time being a voice of a generation (which he does acknowledge in his autobiography, Chronicles), imagine the weight put upon this simple Louisiana girl who just wanted to be famous and became a cultural icon instead! During those six years, she kept turning out product, selling herself with increasingly racy photographs, all the while being used as an example of everything that's wrong with pop culture, or even worse, as the subject of cultural theses explaining pop culture. No wonder that after six years of mind-boggling fame she wanted to abandon her career for motherhood -- it's exhausting being in the limelight, even for a shameless pop star! So, Greatest Hits arrived at a perfect time -- just as her star was fading, just as the teen pop era grew to a close, and just as she readied herself for retirement.

As a time capsule, Greatest Hits does its job well. It has all of her hits outside of "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart," a largely forgotten ballad from her debut released just before her second album, Oops!...I Did It Again, and it contains two very good previously unreleased tunes, including the In the Zone outtake "I've Just Begun (Having My Fun)," an infectious spin on No Doubt's "Hella Good" that betters most of the songs that were featured on the album (it also has a useless remake of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," which seems to exist solely for its video). Clearly, this is the album not just for the casual fan, but for any fan of Spears, because like most teen pop singers, her albums are notoriously spotty affairs, memorable largely for the singles themselves. What is surprising is that those singles -- all presented here in their hit forms, which means this has the "Stop Remix" of "(You Drive Me) Crazy," not the album version -- are somewhat less than the sum of their parts when collected together. The similarities in Max Martin's clanking, insistent writing and production become blindingly evident, and Britney's thin, squeaky voice wears thin over the course of 17 songs. Also, the song selection and sequencing emphasize keeping the perfect beat over chronology, which not only makes it a little harder to listen to as an album, it puts the focus on the individual songs, which seem neither as hooky or catchy as they did when they were initially on the radio. There are exceptions to the rule, of course -- "...Baby One More Time" still retains its punch, "Oops!...I Did It Again" is so silly it's hard to resist, "(You Drive Me) Crazy" is fluffy dance-pop at its best, and "Toxic" is a delirious, intoxicating rush -- but they're all better as individual moments, even if when taken together, they do illustrate the cacophonous monotony of her music and, yes, her time quite well. So, even if it isn't a great listen as a cohesive album, Greatest Hits does perform the valuable function of offering all of Britney's hits in one place, and it does work as a portrait of the time when Britney Spears was the defining figure of American pop culture. But if you compare it to The Immaculate Collection, which captured the time when Madonna was the defining figure of American pop culture and does work as an album, it's clear that a cultural artifact isn't necessarily the same thing as great music. [Greatest Hits was released with a limited-edition bonus remix disc in its initial pressings. All the remixes are previously unreleased, but only two are noteworthy: there's a "Chris Cox Megamix" medley of all her big hits, plus a "Hi-Bias Radio Remix" of "Everytime" that proves that the song is better as a dance tune than a ballad.]

Midnight Memories (Deluxe)

One Direction

Stars Dance

Selena Gomez

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
All of 16 when she recorded this debut album, country-pop singer Taylor Swift's considerably strong voice straddles that precarious edge that both suggests experience far beyond her years and simultaneously leaves no doubt that she's still got a lot of life to live. It's a fresh, still girlish voice, full of hope and naïveté, but it's also a confident and mature one. That Swift is a talent to be reckoned with is never in doubt: her delivery on tracks like the uptempo "The Outside," the spare acoustic ballad "Mary's Song (Oh My My My)," and especially the leadoff track, "Tim McGraw," which was the first single from the album, is that of a seasoned pro, despite Swift's newcomer status. "Tim McGraw" may also be the album's highlight -- not a teenager's tribute to the country superstar, it instead uses McGraw as a marker in a lover's time line: "When you think Tim McGraw/I hope you think my favorite song." It's a device that's been used countless times in as many ways, that of associating a failed affair with items, places, and people, yet it works as a hook here and manages to come off as an original idea. Swift wrote or co-wrote every song on the record, a fairly remarkable feat considering the sophisticated manner in which she treats matters near and dear to the heart of one her age ("Now that I'm sitting here thinking it through/I've never been anywhere cold as you"). Producer/mentor Nathan Chapman has applied to some of Swift's songs a gloss that not all of them really require and in some cases would do better to shed. But Swift has no trouble overcoming any blandness taking place around her. She's come up with a commendable starter album that's as accomplished as any by a ten-year veteran who's seen a lot more road and felt a lot more emotion. Swift's young age may be a major point of interest in bringing listeners in, but by the end of the record she's succeeded in keeping them. [Big Machine reissued the album with bonus tracks in 2008.]

Take Me Home

One Direction
Less than a year after the release of their debut Up All Night, teen sensations One Direction follow up on that success with Take Me Home. Lead single "Live While We're Young" continues in the same sunny spirit as their breakout megahit "What Makes You Beautiful," while "Little Things," the second single, is a refreshingly bare acoustic ballad written by Ed Sheeran—who also penned the album's other standout composition, "Over Again." Backed by a variety of hit producers, 1D further polish their sleek pop sound as they push toward proving they're more than a Simon Cowell-manufactured phenomenon.

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

Story of My Life

One Direction

Better Together

Fifth Harmony

Unbroken

Demi Lovato

Never Say Never

Brandy
Shortly after the release of her eponymous debut in 1995, Brandy became a star. Not only did the album sell well, but she starred on UPN's Moesha and Disney's made-for-TV Cinderella, all before she released her second album, Never Say Never, in 1998. Needless to say, there was much more riding on the second record than the debut and, fortunately, she follows through with Never Say Never, delivering an album that rivals her first. Brandy wisely decides to find a middle ground between Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige -- it's adult contemporary with a slight streetwise edge. As with most adult contemporary albums, the record is bogged down by some filler, but Brandy's delivery has improved and her subdued vocals can make mediocre material sound convincing. Still, what makes Never Say Never a winning record is the quality songs and production. The smooth Monica duet "The Boy Is Mine" and the tripped-out "Top of the World" (which features a rap from Mase) are two examples of what Brandy can achieve when everything's in the right place, and they help make Never Say Never a better, more adventurous record than her debut. [Atlantic released an edition with a bonus CD featuring a pair of remixes, a pair of videos, and a biography and interview.]

Teen Beach Movie

Various

Believe

Justin Bieber
Hit single "Boyfriend" pushed 18-year-old Justin Bieber toward manhood with its sexy, moody sound, though the actual tone of Believe is set by the album's opening track, the club-ready "All Around the World," featuring Ludacris. The electro dance vibe continues on "As Long as You Love Me," featuring Big Sean, and "Beauty and a Beat" with Nicki Minaj. On the titular inspirational arena anthem, Bieber belts out his appreciation for his loyal fans backed by a choir, while on "Fall" he persuades a hesitant love to open her heart because "you can't fly unless you let yourself fall."

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

Sticks & Stones

Cher Lloyd
On British singer/rapper Cher Lloyd's U.S. debut, radio-friendly teen pop meets playful street sass. The former X Factor contestant's breakout single "Swagger Jagger" and the platinum-selling "Want U Back" are featured here, along with "Oath," an anthem honoring unconditional friendship featuring fellow Simon Cowell teen rap protégé Becky G. "Grow Up" is a bubblegum rap tune featuring Busta Rhymes, while "Playa Boi" is an audacious remake of Neneh Cherry's hit "Buffalo Stance." The album title, Sticks & Stones, embodies Lloyd's sensibility; say what you want about her artistry, she's climbing the charts regardless.

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

My Way

Usher
Usher proved that he had a strong, soulful voice with his self-titled debut, but he fulfilled his potential on his second record, My Way. What makes Usher distinctive from his urban loverman peers is the fact that he doesn't oversing; he simply delivers his songs soulfully. Unfortunately, he falls prey to uneven material, just like any of his peers, but there are more strong songs on My Way than many contemporary R&B albums from the late '80s. Both Jermaine Dupri and Babyface contribute seamless productions and fine songs; respectively, "You Make Me Wanna..." and "Bedtime" are their best ballad contributions. Even if the ballads are usually seductive and romantic, cuts like the funky "Just Like Me," which features a cameo from Lil' Kim, might make you wish Usher didn't play it cool all of the time. And while it's refreshing to hear a hip-hop/urban R&B album clock in at a reasonable running time, it would have been nice if the tenth track was something other than a remix of "You Make Me Wanna...." Nevertheless, it's a strong second effort that showcases Usher at his best. [My Way, Rovi

Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection

Katy Perry

Salute

Little Mix

Let Go

Avril Lavigne
Talk about pressure -- being under 21 and having a record deal no longer qualifies as extraordinary. And as mass-produced teen pop makes its exit and a glut of young singer/songwriters enter, child prodigies no longer have built-in marketing appeal. So if newcomer, 17-year-old Avril Lavigne truly wants to be "Anything But Ordinary," as she sings on her debut album, Let Go, she'll have to dig deeper. Luckily for Lavigne, aside from youth, she does have talent. Her debut runs the gamut from driving rock numbers like "Losing Grip" -- where Lavigne shows off her vocal range, powering into the anger-fueled, explosive rock chorus -- to singer/songwriter pop tunes like "My World," where Lavigne fills listeners in on the past 17 years of her life. Lavigne handles a variety of styles deftly, but she still has some growing up to do lyrically. "Sk8er Boi" has a terrific power pop bounce, but shows her lyrical shortcomings: "He was a punk/She did ballet/What more can I say" -- a lot. The phrasing is awkward and sometimes silly: "It's funny when you think it's gonna work out/Till you chose weed over me you're so lame," she sings on "Too Much to Ask." Not surprisingly, the standout track is the first single, "Complicated," a gem of a pop/rock tune with a killer chorus. But listen carefully and you'll realize that "Complicated"'s sing-song melody borrows just enough from Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me" to make it familiar and likeable. Nonetheless, the song is a knockout radio hit. Lavigne, a self-professed skater punk and labelmate of Pink, shares her "Take Me As I Am" credo as well. And that said, it's hard not to look at this record, executive produced by Arista label head Antonio "L.A." Reid, who is thanked by Lavigne for allowing "me to be myself," and feel cynical about the music industry's willingness to reproduce a hit over and over. Lavigne, however, is a capable songwriter with vocal chops, and at her age, one imagines, she is still finding her feet, borrowing from the music she's grown up listening to. The problem is Lavigne is still so young she's listening to the radio hits of the '90s and early 2000s: she's Pink when she's bucking authority, Alanis Morissette when she's angry, and Jewel when she's sensitive. Let Go shows promise, but the question is whether Lavigne and only Lavigne will shine through on her next effort.

Christina Saraceno, Rovi

One Of The Boys

Katy Perry
Katy Perry distills every reprehensible thing about the age of "The Hills" into one pop album. She disses her boyfriend with gay-baiting; she makes out with a girl and she doesn't even like girls; she brags to a suitor that he can't afford her, parties till she's face-down in the porcelain, drops brands as if they were weapons, curses casually, and trades under-the-table favors. In short, she's styled herself as a Montag monster. Perry is not untalented -- she writes like an ungarbled Alanis and has an eye for details -- but that only accentuates how her vile wild-child persona is an artifice designed to get her the stardom she craves.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Austin & Ally

Ross Lynch
The debut album from singer/actor Ross Lynch is also the soundtrack to his Disney TV show, "Austin & Ally". On the show, Lynch, who looks a lot like former teen pop idol Aaron Carter, plays a mischievous vocalist who posts an online video of a song written by his strait-laced, stage fright-stricken friend Ally. The vid goes viral and hijinks ensue. Musically, the album flows from the One Direction style dance-pop of "Heard It On the Radio," to Justin Timberlake-sounding cuts like "Illusion," to even more contemporary sounding songs like the very Maroon 5-ish "Double Take." In that sense, Austin & Ally will definitely appeal to its pre-teen demographic and might even charm a few more grown-up fans of catchy, radio-ready dance pop.

Hello My Name Is...

Bridgit Mendler
With her debut Hello My Name Is…, Bridgit Mendler steps into a growing line of fellow Disney kids turned teen pop stars. The star of the Disney Channel series Good Luck Charlie and the film Lemonade Mouth shows off her vocals with an array of playful, straightforward pop, including the hit single "Ready or Not."

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

Top Songs

Story of My Life

One Direction

Firework

Katy Perry

Come & Get It

Selena Gomez

What Makes You Beautiful

One Direction

The Climb

Miley Cyrus

Party In The U.S.A.

Miley Cyrus

Call Me Maybe

Carly Rae Jepsen

Slow Down

Selena Gomez

Confident

Justin Bieber

All That Matters

Justin Bieber

Move

Little Mix

Best Song Ever

One Direction

As Long As You Love Me

Justin Bieber

La Da Dee

Cody Simpson

Rock Your Body

Justin Timberlake

Cry Me a River

Justin Timberlake

Just Like A Pill (Main)

Pink

Glad You Came

The Wanted

Nice & Slow

Usher

Wings

Little Mix

Miss Movin' On

Fifth Harmony