Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Top Five Albums From the World of Poptimism

Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Top Five Albums From the World of Poptimism
Pop music truly closed the gap between the chart-toppers and critics this year, as some of the biggest mainstream successes were also some of the most acclaimed. Below, find five of the best.

Don't forget to head over to our 2014 in Lists section to see more of our Year-End coverage.

Top Five Albums From the World of Poptimism:

5. Sia
1000 Forms of Fear

Widely known as a songwriting force, Sia took some time to release her very own album this year, 1000 Forms of Fear. While 2010's We Are Born was a sizeable disappointment, Sia's sixth studio album proves that the Australian artist can pen great songs for herself that highlight her own unique voice.

4. Lana Del Rey
Ultraviolence

Lana Del Rey will likely never fully shake the media's attention on the enigma that is her personal narrative, but it's Del Rey's music that continues to captivate audiences. Teaming up with producer Dan Auerbach, Ultraviolence hooks us on the full package, using Del Rey's pouting moodiness to great advantage.

3. Ariana Grande
My Everything

Slowly distancing herself from her comparisons to Mariah Carey, pop youngster Ariana Grande released My Everything, her Yours Truly followup. Grande experiments more, singing about more mature subjects while inviting along compatible collaborators such as Zedd ("Break Free"), the Weeknd ("Love Me Harder") and Childish Gambino ("Break Your Heart Right Back").

2. Sam Smith
In the Lonely Hour

The masses were charmed by the soulful balladry and lovelorn confessions on British singer Smith's debut, In the Lonely Hour. "Stay With Me" and "I'm Not the Only One" stood out on the charts among the more uptempo anthems (even competing with himself on the Disclosure dance hit, "Latch"), achieving Adele-ish success without sacrificing his honed sound.

1. Taylor Swift
1989

Although it can be argued that Taylor Swift has always been a pop artist on a songwriting level, 1989 served as her first official foray. Trading in country roots for glossy synths, Swift's songs find an even better fit in these new sonic settings, producing some of her best-received songs yet, including the edgier "Style" and the self-aware wink of "Blank Space."