Album sales have dropped precipitously in the last few years, but the format isn’t dead yet, at least when our biggest stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake are concerned. But what about a stretch when most of those stars don’t release an album? In a year when Billboard replaced the album with “album equivalent units,” the biggest storyline in pop music was the absence of albums from the likes of Rihanna, Adele, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne. Think back to the buzziest pop moments of the year, and most of them were entirely separate from the album cycle: the “7/11″ video, the Shmoney Dance. Hell, Drake dominated his genre by releasing a few loosies and features.
With this changing role of the LP, the EP has seen a boost in relevance. Once the realm of half-formed ideas, album session scraps, and stopgap material for diehards, the EP is more important than ever as a statement of artistic purpose. For acts fighting to reach that top tier, the EP can help refine an aesthetic or identity, while labels can invest in a viral star and test the waters with an EP instead of rushing to production on a full-length flop for a Kreayshawn scenario.
So big-picture, it may have been a down year for pop, but at the increasingly vibrant EP level, some stellar things happened. Here’s our list of our 14 favorite EPs from 2014. More »