Music writer Mesfin Fekadus top album picks ( twitter.com/MusicMesfin):
1. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly: Executed perfectly (or close to it), there are a few elements to creating a perfect pop album: great songwriting, groovy melodies and vocals that capture and reel you in. With the help of Kenneth Babyface Edmonds, 20-year-old Grande crafted an album that harks on 90s R&B and highlights her gorgeous, rich tone that mirrors Mariah Carey and, at times, Toni Braxton. Yours Truly is truly a gift.
2. Dawn Richard, Goldenheart: While Danity Kanes reunion was somewhat exciting, Richards solo project was electrifying. The singer, who was also part of the Diddy-Dirty Money trio, is in perfect form on Goldenheart, where she explores various R&B and pop sounds, including beats that are electronic, smooth and down-tempo. The album tells stories of Richards struggles in music, the good and bad times in love and more making for a rousing, breathtaking listen.
3. Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest: The Grammys got it right Bareilles third release, The Blessed Unrest, is one of the years best, thanks to its mix of upbeat and classic-sounding piano tunes, all anchored by the performers sweet and powerful tone. Bareilles is an exceptional songwriter who puts on a live show that brightens your day and week.
4. J. Cole, Born Sinner: This year featured anticipated albums from Jay Z, Kanye West and Drake, but J. Cole has the rap album of the year. Born Sinner, his sophomore release, is full of smart rhymes that forces the listener to think. Hes a born winner.
5. Beyonce, Beyonce: Yes, Beyonces new album was just released this month, but its still one of the best offerings this year. The R&B queen gets major props for literally slapping the world in the face with an album full of progressive R&B tunes that feel fresh and appealing. The impressive batch of tracks from the addictive numbers Drunk in Love and Blow to the beautiful and soft Heaven showcase the singers growth and easily puts her ahead of the competition. Beyonce is larger than life.
6. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience 1 of 2: Mr. SexyBack is also Mr. ComeBack. Timberlake returned to music after seven years with a 10-track album that didnt follow trends in pop, but still became 2013s most successful album. Along with Timberland, the prince of pop has mastered the falsetto and maintains a smooth, mid-tempo sound throughout the 70-minute adventure. The songs feature the traditional Timberlake transition how could you not adore Strawberry Bubblegum and these are tunes that only he could sing.
7. Fitz and the Tantrums, More Than Just a Dream: Fitz and the Tantrums second album, More Than Just a Dream, is a wonderful mesh of soul and pop sounds that is upbeat and irresistible and leaves you wanting more. Fronted by singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, this group is one to look out for.
8. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady: Monaes latest album shows that the already masterful singer has grown in the three years since she released her full-length debut, The ArchAndroid. The Electric Lady is almost as great as that work of art and features must-listen songs like Primetime, a duet with Miguel that is arguably the years best R&B song, and the Prince-assisted Give Em What They Love, where Monae holds her own. The title track is just as addictive. All hail this queen.
9. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz: Its sad that Miley Cyrus literally acts like a wrecking ball when her album is actually a gem. Bangerz is simply that banging. Instead of singing expected radio pop tunes, Cyrus takes risks on whats become her official music breakthrough, and it shows that theres more than meets the eye for this wild child. Wrecking Ball is one of the years best pop songs, FU and Do My Thang are full of swag and the Britney Spears-featured SMS (Bangerz) is ridiculously catchy. If only Cyrus could just focus on singing, instead of sinking.
10. Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob: Canadian sister duo Tegan and Sara have formed a pop album with feel-good songs that sound great. From the rising hit Closer to the multilayered groove I Was a Fool, the Canadians group eighth album is a journey of synth-pop and easy listening.