13 Great Pop Albums That Were Overlooked & Underrated In Their Time: From Gina G To Little Boots
At some point or other, we, as pop fans, all fall hard for an album that completely tanks on the charts. Sure, the artist in question may eke out a hit single or two, but for whatever reason, the universe seems to reject the notion of the parent album finding any major success. Sorry, Carly Rae Jepsen.
But that’s where we, your music-loving pals at Idolator, come in. Because in the few spare moments when we’re not cranking out the daily goings-on with your favorite artists currently tearing it up in the land of pop, we often pine away wistfully for the days of yore, when we’d champion our own personal fave flops in vain. Eventually at one point we decided, screw that — let’s just make a list!
So head below to find our roundup of 13 overlooked pop albums from the past 20 years that deserve to be revisited.
Little Boots, Hands (2009)
Vastly underrated, English singer-songwriter Little Boots’ 2009 debut LP Hands effortlessly spewed synth-pop goodness. From her seismic electro-pop album opener “New In Town” to the Euro-dance soundscapes of Kylie Minogue-inspired number “Stuck On Repeat,” Hands was as vulnerable as it was infectious. It also might’ve helped that the pop singer’s collaborators happened to be producer extraordinaire Greg Kurstin and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, so hats off to those guys as well. Nevertheless, after premiering at #5 on the UK Album Chart, the disc plummeted to the 40th spot in its second week, which was rather disgruntling for the pop music world and Little Boots fans alike. Perhaps some felt she was trying too hard, but it’s also possible that the album was just way before its time — we chose to believe the latter. — RACHEL SONIS
Holly Valance, State Of Mind (2003)
Britney Spears’ Blackout is often praised for bringing electro-pop to the masses, despite the fact that Holly Valance attempted it four years earlier on 2003’s sadly overlooked State Of Mind. At the time, the Australian diva was considered to be the second coming of Kylie Minogue. They both found fame on the same soap opera (Neighbours) and conquered the charts both at home and in the UK with their debut LPs. But then it all fell apart for Holly.
The title track, “State Of Mind” — still a dizzying rush of frantic electro — was a hit (the super sexy video had something to do with it) but most pop fans missed out on the sublimely sexy “Desire,” relentlessly catchy “Everything I Hate” and arresting Rick Nowels-produced bedroom adventure “Action.” There’s way more to State Of Mind than club bangers; Holly even succeeded at mid-tempo synth-pop! (“Ricochets” is still an unexpectedly gorgeous listening experience). Eventually, the then-21-year-old threw in the towel and returned to acting when the LP tanked. But she still has a near-perfect pop album in her discography, which is more than most veterans can say. — MIKE WASS
BoA, BoA (2009)
Well before Psy or Billboard’s K-Pop charts or any of that, there was BoA, Queen Of K-Pop, making her quiet crossover into the American market in 2009. After dominating the South Korean and Japanese music scenes for years (for the unfamiliar, she was often referred to as the Britney of South Korea in the ’00’s, in terms of popularity), the multilingual talent tapped American producers like Sean Garrett, Bloodshy & Avant and Brian Kennedy to craft her first-ever English album. The record barely scratched the charts — a criminal oversight, considering that the tightly crafted dance-pop record is essentially Britney’s Blackout Part 2. From “Eat You Up” to “I Did It For Love” to “Energetic,” the album’s non-stop top notch pop that deserves so, so much more than the dust it was dealt. — BRADLEY STERN
Richard X, Richard X Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1 (2003)
These days we know British musician Richard X as the producer behind releases by Annie, Will Young and, most recently, Erasure. But 11 years ago, way before Disclosure, Calvin Harris and Rudimental were in the pop game, X delivered a pioneering, feature-heavy album packed with top-notch collaborations with the likes of Sugababes, Jarvis Cocker, Kelis and, yes, a then-unknown Annie.
“I liked soul and R&B records, and bringing that into pop — mainly electronic synth pop,” Richard X told Idolator last year for our 10-year anniversary piece on his one and only album. “It was also as much about the imagery and how that fitted or created a new aesthetic, and that was more important than if tracks just fitted in the same musical key.”
Sadly, while singles off the LP like “Being Nobody” (with now-disbanded pop act Liberty X) and “Finest Dreams” (featuring Kelis) became sizable UK hits, the album itself failed to make much of an impact on the world’s music charts at large. That said, it’s still one of the best releases of the new millennium in our book, and it’s one definitely worth your attention — if you can find it. Alas, Richard X Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1 is currently absent from both iTunes and Spotify. — ROBBIE DAW
Gina G, Fresh! (1997)
With her flame-red hair and dance-pop sensibilities, Gina G was like the Kiesza of the ’90s. (Though, let’s see Kiesza top posing for an album cover clothed in nothing but chocolate icing!) The Australian singer rose to prominence in 1996 when she represented the UK (I know — confusing) in the Eurovision Song Contest with her Grammy-nominated classic “Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit.” Yep, Gina was even doing elipses two years prior to Britney.
Her debut album Fresh! served up a few more hits, like “Gimme Some Love” and “I Belong To You” (both of which were produced by the Metro team, pre-Cher “Believe”), but the real gems on this overlooked LP are galloping Euro-dance tracks like “Higher Than Love” and “Follow The Light.” Album closer “It Doesn’t Mean Goodbye” even showed that, much like Robyn today, Gina was pretty adept at strobe light laments.
Fresh! reached #12 on the UK album chart, while failing to even make a dent in the States, despite the Billboard Hot 100 success of “Ooh Aah…” Eventually Gina G got into a legal battle with her main collaborator Steve Rodway (aka Motiv8), and things with her career were never quite so fresh again. — ROBBIE DAW
Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe (2012)
Ah, the terrifying sophomore slump: The one thing that might make or break a music career, and if anyone undeservingly felt its dreaded effects, it was Santigold. Coming off a successful self-titled debut, the Philadelphia-born singer’s second attempt was received…with little recognition. However, the album itself contains alternative-dance gems like the ever-menacing “Disparate Youth” as well as eerie electropop zinger “The Keepers.” And, please, let’s not forget the glorious Karen O collabo “Go,” which is possibly the most daring track on the LP and, as YouTube commenter lulu soreal said, “gets shit done.” — RACHEL SONIS
Rachel Stevens, Come And Get It (2005)
While everyone loves an amazing pop troupe like S Club 7 or the Spice Girls, the individual solo endeavors are responsible for yielding some of the most unjustly overlooked pop gems on the planet. Case in point? S Club 7 darling-turned-UK pop princess Rachel Stevens‘ utterly brilliant (but brief) solo career, which spawned two excellent records. She got it right with her first album (Funky Dory), but it’s her second album that truly sealed the deal as a modern pop masterpiece. The LP is full of crucial, single-worthy selections by powerhouse producers like Xenomania, Richard X and Fraser T Smith. From throbbing synth-pop cuts like “So Good” and “Crazy Boys” to massive kiss-off anthems “I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)” and swirling midtempos like “Nothing Good About This Goodbye,” there’s simply not a dud in the bunch. It’s too bad the world didn’t come and get it — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. — BRADLEY STERN
Heidi Montag, Superficial (2010)
Heidi Montag’s one and only LP, 2010’s infamous Superficial is perhaps best remembered for being a commercial disaster. It peaked at #41 (on the Heatseakers chart) and sold an approximated 1000 copies in its first week of sale. And yet, it easily ranked as one of the best dance-pop albums to not hit the shelves — it was digital only — in a year that produced an unusually large batch of classic pop offerings, including Robyn’s Body Talk, Kesha’s Animal and Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite.
So what makes Superficial such a (not at all) guilty pleasure? Obviously, a lot of the credit is due to the now eye-popping list of collaborators. Heidi benefited from the genius of songwriters Cathy Dennis (Britney’s “Toxic”), Stacy Barthe (Miley Cyrus’ “Adore You”) and The Runners (RiRi’s “California King Bed”) and the gun producers who expertly covered the forgotten princess of pop’s vocal shortcomings. Highlights include the brag-pop moment “Look How I’m Doing”, alcoholic anthem “One More Drink” and somewhat disturbing bedroom romp “I’ll Do It”. Oh and revisit quasi-ballad “Twisted” to experience the full force of Heidi’s…distinctive voice. — MIKE WASS
Kelis, Flesh Tone (2010)
I won’t spend too much time ranting about how underrated Kelis’ fifth album is — much like Kelis herself. You know. From “Intro” to “22nd Century” to “4th Of July (Fireworks)” to “Scream” to “Brave,” every song is an innovative killer, and French house trip Flesh Tone should have been the one to finally put Kelis on the map. Sigh. — ROBBIE DAW
Emma Bunton, Free Me (2004)
S Club 7 isn’t the only troupe that supplied us with devastatingly overlooked solo efforts: The legendary ladies of Spice have all provided us with at least one incredible solo song or two. Perhaps the most overlooked? Baby Spice — err, Emma Bunton. Following her debut solo effort A Girl Like Me, the honey-voiced pop diva returned in 2004 with an impeccable follow-up called Free Me, a collection of breezy ’60’s pop-leaning jams and romantic Latin-tinged odes. It was a bold shift in sound, full of quirky-yet-cute cuts like her cover of Marcos Valle‘s “Crickets Sing For Anamaria” and “Amazing,” her lush duet with Luis Fonsi. True, the album did yield 3 Top 10 records — the mesmerizing “Free Me,” “Maybe” and “I’ll Be There” — but as far as US audiences are concerned, no one would ever know. — BRADLEY STERN
Dannii Minogue, Girl (1997)
How to surmise the mind-bending genius and uniform flawlessness of Dannii Minogue’s 1997 LP Girl in two sentences? It’s basically impossible, but here goes: While the diva’s 2003 opus Neon Nights is understandably considered to be her defining moment (it was certainly her most successful), there’s so much to love about the album that preceded it. Namely, it features a bunch of early Xenomania productions that surpass anything they dished out to UK girl band Girls Aloud and displays an almost demented willingness to experiment.
When it comes to highlights, lead single “All I Wanna Do” is right up there. A massive hit in Australia and the UK, the soaring anthem reintroduced Dannii as a foxy dance diva — quite a change from the R&B sound of 1993’s Get Into You. The album delivered another minor hit (“Everything I Wanted”), but the real gems are haunting goth-pop monster “Disremembrance,” the biting “So In Love With Yourself” and art-pop adventure (Sorry, Gaga — Dannii did it first) “Everything Changes Underwater.” Oh, and who could forget her cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”? It became an instant classic in gay bars across the Commonwealth! — MIKE WASS
Lindsay Lohan, A Little More Personal (Raw) (2005)
Yes, you are reading this correctly.
Lindsay Lohan’s singing career might have been short lived, but it certainly shouldn’t go unnoticed. Although her glitzy debut album Speak showed off her party-girl image, her sophomore disc spoke to the darker, more vulnerable side of this pop wild child. An ambitious project, yes, but credit should be given where credit is due: Whether it’s her notorious image that made her falter or not, Lindsey’s glorious pipes really shine through in songs like “Black Hole,” “I Live For The Day,” and of course, “Confessions Of A Broken Heart (Daughter To Father).” So, here’s to you, Li Lo. After all this time, you still got it. — RACHEL SONIS
Deuce, On The Loose! (1995)
Great Britain cranked out some fun, guilty pleasure mixed-girl-and-boy pop groups in the late ’90s (we’re looking at you, Steps, Scooch and S Club 7), but the one that preceded them all was Deuce. To look at them, they were kind of like the UK’s far cheesier answer to Ace Of Base, yet their one and only album, produced by Phil Harding and Ian Curnow, was an absolute tour de fantastic.
Deuce’s three techno-pop singles off the LP, “Call It Love,” “On The Bible” and “I Need You,” still have a timeless quality, especially given that similar ’90s dance flourishes are now found in today’s pop scene. But much like the bulk of the albums we’ve highlighted in this roundup, you’ll do yourself a great service also checking out the non-singles — especially the synth-heavy dance romps “Rumours” and “Talk To Me.”
Note: On The Loose! is a hard one to find, and your best bet is eBay. — ROBBIE DAW
What are some of your own favorite albums that were underrated and overlooked in their time? Let us know below!