5 essential female pop albums to listen to this summer


As these five female artists know, pop isn’t a dirty word — and it’s always summer-ready.

For many, pop is synonymous with sell-out. But the female artists on this list made uncompromising, unapologetically fun mainstream records that are as much a megaphone for their personality as chart-toppers on the Billboard 100 then — and summer radio mainstays now.

Katy Perry avoided the sophomore slump while ramping up her genuine campy weirdness. Camila Cabello released a single that proudly showed her roots. Gwen Stefani proved that rock stars are legit even when they trade crowd surfing in fishnets for doll-faced backup dancers. Embattled pop queen Taylor Swift knew she wasn’t America’s sweetheart anymore and wrote 12 tracks that said she didn’t really care.

These are five essential pop albums, new and old, to listen to this summer by female artists who know pop isn’t a dirty word.

VANCOUVER, BC – APRIL 09: American-Cuban singer-songwriter Camila Cabello performs on stage during her ‘Never Be the Same Tour’ opener at Orpheum on April 9, 2018 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

Camila Cabello – Camila

Camila Cabello’s year started off with a bang that shows no sign of dying down well into spring. As a former member of American girl group Fifth Harmony, she’s no stranger to big hits, but as a solo artist, critics agree that it’s the second generation Cuban-Mexican’s Latin flair on that gives her debut album Camila a fresh feel.

After all, how could a song titled “Havana” not have a touch of Cuba’s rhythmic, always-summer sound?

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 17: Katy Perry performs on the opening night of her ‘California Dreams’ UK tour at Hammersmith Apollo on March 17, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Lupin/Getty Images)

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

Whether a passionate fan or simply one of the millions who acquired a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome thanks to the inescapable “California Gurls,” most would agree that Teenage Dream is Katy Perry’s magnum opus. For better or worse, the Santa Barbara star’s summer sophomore release launched an epidemic of earworms, with hopelessly infectious songs like “Teenage Dream” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)”. To this day, you can run, but you can’t hide from beach side barbeques blaring Perry’s bubbly brand of pop.

INDIO, CA – APRIL 10: Singer Kimbra performs onstage during day 1 of the 2015 Coachella Valley Music

Kimbra – Primal Heart

There is something extremely familiar about New Zealand singer Kimbra, yet it’s not easy to place. Mentally time-traveling to the simple, pre-election days of 2012, you’ll find that her lovely vocals helped Gotye win two Grammys including Record of the Year for the omnipresent “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

Her new album, Primal Heart, has a few more throwback names attached to it, with lead single “Everybody Knows” produced by Song of the Summer alum Nelly Furtado and British electro-queen Goldfrapp. As expected from such eclectic producers, the track is beautifully noncommittal about its genre, with a pop base sprinkled with R&B and an electronica chorus.

LOS ANGELES – NOVEMBER 14: Singer Gwen Stefani of No Doubt opens the 32nd Annual American Music Awards performing her single ‘What You Waiting For’ on stage at the Shrine Auditorium November 14, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

The No Doubt frontwoman traded in her ska-rock roots for a synth-heavy path to pop stardom with Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Sound familiar? Taylor Swift followed a similar playbook, trading guitars for shimmery 1980s beats and stadium size chants like “Shake It Off,” reminiscent of “Hollaback Girl”.

Still, no one can quite replicate the energy and range of Stefani’s debut solo album, providing sunny sugar-and-spice tracks like “Rich Girl,” moonlight ballad “Cool” and hyper-energetic “What You Waiting For?”.

NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 08: Taylor Swift performs onstage at the Z100’s Jingle Ball 2017 on December 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Taylor Swift – Reputation

Whatever your opinion is of the former country star, objectively speaking, 1989 is a near-perfect pop album for this summer and all to come. But it’s become Taylor Swift‘s burden to bear.

Reputation was released late last year and although generally positively reviewed, it’s no mainstream pop tart by comparison. But that shouldn’t imply that there aren’t any tracks that sound like a sunny day’s ride in a convertible. In fact, there are many. Try lounging on a beach with “Delicate” and “Gorgeous” or scream-singing “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” in the car with the windows down and extremely annoyed neighbors at a stoplight.

Next: 5 essential female hip-hop albums for the summer

Despite women breaking record after record on the charts, it’s been awhile since a female artist was behind the official song of the summer. With new albums from British indie delight (and GLOW actress) Kate Nash, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ariana Grande, we hope for a lady-led invasion of the Billboard 100.