As the 2010s come to an end, and the music industry continues to change, we take a moment to celebrate the best albums of the decade.
1) Melodrama (2017)
There are great albums, and then there are perfect once-in -a-lifetime albums. Lorde’s Melodrama is one of the latter. Lorde, along with Jack Antonoff, perfectly tap into a new level of synth-pop excellence that lays the perfect canvas for their effortlessly detailed lyricism to paint its picture upon. Every song, every beat, ever syllable is perfect, so meticulously crafted that its impossible to point out a single flaw. Melodrama is a masterpiece on every level, that pulls you under its ocean, only allowing you up for breath for a brief moment before the next tidal wave of a song clobbers you and pulls you back down.
2) RED (2012)
Largely credited with being the album that bridged the lives of country star Taylor Swift and pop star Taylor Swift, RED is almost a time capsule in a way. It’s marvellously long, and experimental, with Swift approaching her sound with reckless abandon. She holds no punches on this record and that’s what is so great about it. If her earlier albums blended genres, then RED smashed through them with Swift grabbing at every sound she could and executing them flawlessly. The album is a sonic mess and is one of the few occasions in music where that not only doesn’t matter, but actually benefits the record. At the end of the day, RED is transcendent, an immaculate collection of songs that explore every facet of heartbreak, a collection that Swift may possibly never usurp.
3) Lemonade (2016)
In contrast to the gut-punch of RED, Lemonade is defiant in the face of heartbreak. Beyoncé rallies herself, knowing what she’s worth and demanding every ounce of it. Lemonade is as much as an album as it is a movement, forever changing the trajectory of Beyoncé’s artistry and legacy. The album seamlessly shows the range of one of music’s greatest performers as she stomps through Rock and Funk and Americana, empowering each of us along the way.
4) Born To Die: Paradise (2012)
Ms. Star Spangled Banner herself, Lana Del Rey wonderful debut was elevated even more with the release of the paradise edition. Her sumptuous debut is filled with cinematic moments, and drips with elegance and patriotism, a sound many have tried to replicate, but so few have managed to (including Del Rey herself). Its brilliance is clear and its influence is undeniable, easily securing itself among the finest debut albums in history.
5) good kid, M.A.A.D city (2012)
Feasibly one of the greatest rappers ever, Kendrick Lamar is easily one of the best talents to reach stardom this decade. The album is a tight cohesive unit that explores the concept of youth and race in America. Every moment is wonderfully earned, and no song feels out of place despite the lengthy runtime. While his latest albums all have wonderful cohesion and timely lyrics, it is his breakthrough record that remains his greatest.
6) Dirty Computer (2018)
An underrated masterpiece is what Dirty Computer is. Monae’s expansive and gorgeous deep dive into sexuality, race and America is a fabulous example of what talent can do when its let run wild. Monae proves herself one of the most compelling artists of our generation, with her raw lyricism and sound that leans into the past and looks to the future, Monae blazes a trail we hope many may follow.
7) Carrie and Lowell (2015)
Sufjan Steven’s 2015 record is a quietly triumphant rumination on death and family, that pours feeling over the softest of sounds. The record is as much an album as it is a diary, with every lyric wondering and prodding at the meaning of life, all while coated in the warmest of productions.
8) Golden Hour (2018)
One of country’s most progressive stars, Kacey Musgraves doesn’t really care what people think of her; she merely makes what she makes. Golden Hour is just proof that what she makes is great music. A beautiful love letter to her husband, Golden Hour is laced with a sense adoration and romance that will have you walking on sunshine.
9) Heaven (2011)
Aptly named, Rebecca Ferguson’s debut is a jazzy easy listen that is soaked with warmth. Like a fire on a cold winter’s night, this album masterfully uses one of Britain’s most unique and interesting voices to make you feel like everything is gonna be alright.
10) Channel Orange (2012)
Its perhaps a bit controversial to say its better than Blonde, but Channel Orange simply is. Ocean’s song-writing is so wonderfully layered and complex, his vocals so wonderfully smooth and emotional and his themes so wonderfully indulgent. His study of unrequited love perfectly textured and thought-provoking that just as you begin to figure out what he’s trying to say in one lyric, another one hits you over the head.
11) reputation (2017)
Perhaps more controversial than saying Channel Orange is better than Blonde, is saying that reputation is great, but I’m brave enough to say it for us all. When Whitney Houston said “Wow, what a moment”, she was talking about reputation, because this record was a MOMENT. Following in the footsteps of Britney’s Blackout, with it’s dark, campy concept, and its harsh, unrelenting pop, this album is one of pop’s greatest pivots. In a decade’s time when some music critic from Pitchfork writes a think piece on why this is Taylor Swift’s greatest achievement, you can think of this list.
12) Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019)
Del Rey still hasn’t captured the magic of her debut, but she captures something else entirely on Norman Fucking Rockwell. With its mature lyrics and meandering production, Del Rey is as melancholy as ever, but this time its different. Here, she turns her back to the America she once celebrated, as the country she once adored falls to pieces around her like a love lost. It’s a marvelous depiction of the world we live in, whether that world is worthy of such a depiction I remain unsure.
13) Pure Heroine (2013)
In hindsight, its easy to see the talent that would create Melodrama mere years later. Pure Heroine flipped the pop world upside down, with it’s sparse, minimalist production and celebrity defiant lyricism, it fought everything that made pop music pop music and became a hit because of it.
14) Harry Styles (2017)
Although uneven, the former boyband star proved his talent could be used for good as he tried on euro-rock, indie-rock and various other sounds for size. His sophomore record, Fine Line, is perhaps a better album, but it is merely weeks old. His debut, on the other hand, has already stood the test of time, and the best parts of it hold up extremely, extremely well.
15) Electra Heart (2012)
A defining era in pop music, Electra Heart is perhaps the crown jewel of concept albums. While Halsey clambers to finally make a decent character album and appears no closer to doing so, Marina (who has dropped the diamonds) nailed it in one. This album is underrated, and its impact even more so. I mean, Marina even killed her alter-ego before Taylor made it cool. If that’s not impact, I don’t know what is.