The Best Albums of the Decade (No. 26-50)
As the decade comes to an end, CommRadio’s Arts & Entertainment staff has put together a list of the best albums of the 2010s. This article lists the albums ranked 26th through 50th. To ensure to capture the variety of sounds that came out over the past 10 years, each artist was limited to two selections on the list. Enjoy!
50. “Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry
Katy Perry released her most successful album to date, “Teenage Dream,” on Aug. 24, 2010. This was her third studio album, and it contained a mixture of pop and rock but also included some hip-hop, electronic and dance sound to it. This album became a relatable one for many people, as it focuses on love, self-empowerment, having fun and growing as an individual.
One of the great things about “Teenage Dream” is that Perry co-wrote every song on it and worked with great producers and songwriters including Benny Blanco, Ester Dean and Dr. Luke, to name a few. The album came out on top, as it was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 192,000 copies in the first week after its release. Following this great accomplishment, it was certified three times platinum and sold three million copies in the United States. It also made it onto the top 40 of the Billboard 200 year-end charts for a consecutive three years. In the U.K., it was certified four times platinum.
Perry ended up releasing seven successful singles from the album, including “California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “E.T.,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” “The One That Got Away” and “Hummingbird Heartbeat.” Overall, the album and singles released caused Perry to receive seven Grammy Award nominations, which included Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Record of the Year. This album was historical, as it was the second album to feature five No. 1 singles since Michael Jackson’s Bad. Perry was the first woman to achieve this accolade. —Emily Mugno
49. “24K Magic” – Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars’ smash-hit pop album is the embodiment of short, sweet and to the point, as “24K Magic” only features nine tracks and has a total runtime of only 33 minutes. Bruno Mars does not reinvent the wheel or anything on the album, but he delivers highly consumable pop-hits with no gimmicks.
“24K Magic” was released in November 2016 yet is still relevant in the mainstream media as we head into 2020. The album has been certified three times platinum by the RIAA in large part due to the success of the album’s lead singles. Five out of the nine songs were released as singles prior to the album, including “24K Magic,” “That’s What I Like” and “Finesse,” all of which were all great commercial successes as single releases.
“24K Magic,” the single, is certified five times platinum. “That’s What I Like” is certified an extraordinary seven times platinum and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. To this day, “That’s What I Like” is a staple on mainstream radio playlists as well as events such as wedding receptions and stadium sports.
“Finesse” was propelled into the mainstream spotlight as well when Cardi B provided a verse for the remix in 2018. Bruno Mars and Cardi B performed this live at the Grammys in 2018, boosting the song to the top of the charts. “Finesse (Remix)” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 100 and is certified four times platinum. —Connor Trask
48. “Vessel” – Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots consists of two people: Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. Their fans flock to see two people rock out with Dun on drums and Joseph on piano, guitar, ukulele and vocals. When the two come together, their energy alone causes fans to burst out screaming.
“Vessel” was the band’s first mainstream album off steadily rising record label Fueled by Ramen. Following Twenty One Pilots’ first two independently produced albums, “Vessel” shows maturity in the band’s lyrics and its genreless sound that scopes everything from sweet piano riffs on “Screen” and a simple yet perfect ukulele track on “House of Gold.”
“Trees” is one of the standout tracks on the album, and while it holds a stadium amount of energy in the studio version, it is the live version that encourages fans to stay until the end of the band’s shows. Holding drums in the audience, Joseph and Dun go into the crowd and end with a bang, as they blend in with the fans to play drums. This display defines Twenty One Pilots as band that doesn’t separate itself from the non-rock stars but rather looks just like two guys having fun.
“Vessel” made the band a household name, sharing Joseph and Dun’s thoughts on the importance of life and how key it is to keep your head up. As a result, Joseph and Dun have become faces that their fans can look up to for motivation and inspiration in their own music. —William Roche
47. “Brothers” – The Black Keys
For the Black Keys’ sixth album “Brothers,” released in 2010, it ended up being the record that finally broke the Black Keys into the mainstream with hit after hit and jam after jam. Starting with the subtle three-chord song “Everlasting Light,” “Brothers” crunches everything from blues notes to rock riffs to fill every awkward silence at a high school dance.
The album sold 73,000 copies in the United States, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and continues to remain popular for songs like “Tighten Up,” which is the band’s most successful lead single. “Howlin’ for You,” “Never Give You Up” and “These Days” are also standouts as the grooviest tracks on the album. The Black Keys ended up winning Best Alternative Rock Album at the 2011 Grammys for “Brothers.” They continue to be nominated and win awards for every album after “Brothers.” In 2013, the Black Keys were nominated for Best Rock Album for “El Camino,” and in 2015 they were nominated for Best Rock Album for “Turn Blue.”
The Black Keys are influential for refusing to be labeled as a single genre: They’re not blues or alternative or anything else. They’re just plain rock. They continue to make music, as they released “Let’s Rock” earlier this year in June. The album again received high praise from critics. If one thing is for sure, the Black Keys rock, and “Brothers” is the perfect jumpstart and highlight for the decade because the band’s sound will continue to resonate well into the new decade. —William Roche
46. “The Life of Pablo” – Kanye West
Kanye West has one of the best discographies in hip-hop history, and with “The Life of Pablo,” he showed that he can construct projects built for the times. “The Life Of Pablo” is an album built for the streaming era, so much so that it was even adjusted after it was released.
“The Life Of Pablo” has a little something from every Kanye era, like the sample-driven raps of “No More Parties in LA” or “30 Hours” and the stadium anthem shouts of “Famous.”
West used this album to create cultural moments. Whether it was the laughable “I Love Kanye,” or reigniting his feud with Taylor Swift on “Famous,” or the iconic drop on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” West always had something notable to add to the cultural mainstream.
“The Life of Pablo” may not have the narrative structure or genre-changing sound of some of West’s previous albums, but it does deliver multiple hits to his “essentials” playlists on streaming services, and that seemed to be the goal. —Jerome Taylor
45. “Daytona” – Pusha T
Pusha T’s fourth solo album, “King Push,” was originally scheduled to release in 2016. But that was before Kanye West heard it.
Allegedly, West heard the now-scrapped album and advised his longtime labelmate that the record would be a better, more cohesive project if he took the reigns. So on a whim, Pusha T let his colleague produce the entirety of “Daytona,” an album that finally lived up to the standard he once set as a member of the rap duo Clipse.
The Virginia rapper has had plenty of highs as a solo artist, including tracks like “Numbers on the Board” and “Nosetalgia,” but with this album, Pusha T distilled everything that makes him great down to seven tracks and just 21 minutes. In a musical landscape dominated by bloated track lists as a result of the streaming era, the brevity of “Daytona” is part of what makes it stand out.
The drug-dealing raps that fans first fell in love with on Clipse’s “Hell Hath No Fury” are back and better than ever, as Pusha T is laser-focused on each and every song, and Kanye’s grimy, soulful production is a perfect backdrop for the braggadocious lyrics and thrilling tales of street life. The album closes with “Infrared,” a song that is famous for the shots at Drake that sparked one of this century’s defining rap beefs.
All drama aside, it only takes one listen to determine that this is Pusha T’s best project and one of the best rap albums in recent memory. If you know, you know. —Caleb Wilfinger
44. “Bloom” – Troye Sivan
A follow-up to his impressive debut “Blue Neighborhood,” Troye Sivan sought out to explore the story of his own loss of innocence and descent into adulthood on his second album “Bloom.” Sivan meshes melancholy and bliss with ease as he set out to craft what has become his most personal album to date.
With the vulnerable “Seventeen,” Sivan delicately exposes the repressed shame he still holds stemming from his first sexual experience. Wrestling with his feelings of regret and affirmation from what is a truly difficult story of underage sex, Sivan crashes onto the record with nothing held back. The track “My My My!” helps to heal the wounds opened by “Seventeen.” A light-hearted expression of Sivan’s youth, the simple nature of the song helps to follow the thread of innocence which Sivan seems to be exploring.
The next track “The Good Side” helps to showcase how Sivan has reached maturity, as he expresses feelings of contentment with a previously painful breakup. However, the crown jewel of the album is the euphoric “Bloom.” Expressing often understated themes of male fragility and passion, Sivan brilliantly peels back the nuances of his sexual energy and provides the listener with a bold statement of his command of his sexuality in order to show that he has now taken power back into his own hands.
Sivan then transitions into a series of sensitive exhibitions of his feelings of dependency on the mellow “Postcard” and the haunting “Animal.” His range of emotional accessibility builds into a generous dazzling presentation for his listeners. Other notable tracks such as the breezy Ariana Grande featuring “Dance to This” and the fizzy “Lucky Strike” helped to solidify the album’s impressive revisiting potential.
“Bloom” helps to provide Sivan’s audience with an unashamed expression of his youthful queerness. His choice to expose the delicate sides of his personality and his personal life are exciting and enthralling. —Scott Perdue
43. “Harry Styles” – Harry Styles
After the abrupt breakup of the incredibly popular and beloved boy band One Direction, it was unsure where any of the remaining pieces of the group would go without one another. Harry Styles, however, would break onto the scene as a solo artist with his irreplaceable first single “Sign of the Times.” It was instantly recognizable that Styles was always meant to be independent.
Although Styles had been one of the biggest faces in the music industry for years, it’s rare when an artist releases a debut album with such depth and meaning. There is absolutely no room on “Harry Styles” for a filler track. Every song has purpose and reason to be a part of the tracklist.
Styles sifts through every possible range of emotions as he transitions from the sultry “Kiwi” to the thought-provoking “From the Dining Table.” Each moment on the self-titled piece is beautiful and rather unexpected. One doesn’t expect the gospel choir-like chant and screams in “Only Angel” immediately after “Sweet Creature,” which is unquestionably the best song of the entire tracklist.
“Harry Styles” is a coming-of-age tale, perhaps, seeking the innocence and experiences he lost during his time in the limelight as a member of one of the biggest bands of all time. Each track is completely made up of the experiences of a young adult as they experience love, sex and loneliness. —Jade Campos
42. “Invasion of Privacy” – Cardi B
2018 was the year the world was introduced to Cardi B, not just a reality star, but also as a rapper with her successful album “Invasion of Privacy.” The album was composed of many different sounds, including hip-hop, trap, Latin and R&B. She also featured some of music’s most popular artists, including Migos, Kehlani, Chance the Rapper, 21 Savage, SZA, J Balvin, Bad Bunny and YG.
Cardi released five singles off the album, which were “Bodak Yellow,” “Bartier Cardi,” featuring 21 Savage, “Be Careful,” “I Like It,” featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and “Ring” with Kehlani. “Bodak Yellow” was the first single released, and it peaked at the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. “I Like It” also reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with its Latin flare. This made her the first female rapper to have multiple chart-topping songs.
“Invasion of Privacy” has many themes, but one of Cardi’s popular songs from the album that wasn’t released as a single, “Get Up 10,” talks about her life story and what it took for her to get where she is today. This album ended up being more successful than anyone thought it was going to be, as she secured her first Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2019. —Emily Mugno
41. “Cuz I Love You” – Lizzo
Blending several influences and genres while still maintaining her infectious personality, Lizzo seems to have effectively landed on an aesthetic that finally sheds light on all the impressive dynamics of her talent. Broadcasting her messages of body positivity and self-respect, Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You” solidified her hold of the pop and R&B mainstream.
Transitioning between high-intensity tracks such as “Soulmate” and “Cuz I Love You” and sultry tracks such as “Jerome” and “Lingerie,” Lizzo exhibited the full range of her unique style. She also managed to flood the airwaves with music promoting female empowerment and love equality through tracks such as “Like a Girl” and “Better in Color.” “Cuz I Love You” also provided Lizzo with some of her most successful hits, including the iconic “Juice,” the confrontational “Truth Hurts” and “Tempo,” featuring Missy Elliott.
Lizzo showcased her sound at its strongest on “Cuz I Love You.” She effectively channeled her impressive ability to write catchy pop songs into one of the most memorable records of the decade. “Cuz I Love You” is Lizzo’s highest-charting and most widely acclaimed record so far. The generous amount of fizzy pop tracks and extensive selection of smooth R&B cuts on this record helped to solidify the album’s impressive relistening potential.
Without a doubt Lizzo’s best work so far, “Cuz I Love You” helped to cement her position in music history and her breakout status as a fresh pop sensation. Presenting the world with an unlikely pop star, Lizzo has forced the world to recognize the range of her talents and has stood firm as a magnificent voice for female resilience and universal tolerance. —Scott Perdue
40. “AM” – Arctic Monkeys
Sheffield, U.K. band Arctic Monkeys had been dominating the British charts for nearly a decade before “AM” shot the band into global stardom. In a decade that has seen hip-hop and electronic music take over the charts, “AM” might serve as one of the last times guitar-based rock music took over the charts.
While every Arctic Monkeys album to that point had been remarkable, “AM” brought an element of swagger that had not been seen from the band before. Frontman Alex Turner sings with an unending amount of confidence and bravado about love and romance, seemingly stripped of emotion but teeming with complexity and confusion: a sentiment that would go on to define our lives becoming more dependent on technology.
The guitars riffs are dark and sinister, the drums loud and syncopated. It’s a sound that stuck with listeners until the end of the decade. Songs like “Do I Wanna Know?” encapsulate the mood of the album. It’s a sound full of lust and bad intention. Another high point from the album is “I Want It All.” In the track, Turner sings in poetic fashion over a succession of power chords. It’s a remarkable indication of Turner’s growth as a songwriter, and singing “My sweet fireball, my sweet rigmarole,” about a love interest is near perfect.
While Arctic Monkeys have released a slough of chart-topping and influential indie rock records in the past 15 years, “AM” might be the only one to combine quality, consistency, diversity and pop appeal at such a high level. Additionally, it might serve as the last time indie rock was at the forefront of cultural influence. —Jim Krueger
39. “Emotion” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen, the Canadian pop star known across the globe for her ubiquitous 2012 hit “Call Me Maybe,” became a cult sensation with “Emotion,” her third studio album.
Jepsen spent the next few years following her rise to stardom on a quest to hone in on her own personal sound, and landed on the bright, bold synth-pop of the ‘80s with a modern sleekness applied to it.
“Emotion” has no shortage of tracks that could be hit singles and dominate the charts for multiple summers. But outside of lead single “I Really Like You”—a track that sounds like a serious callback to “Call Me Maybe”—there were no significant hits from this record. The album was considered something of a commercial flop, but it was indicative of a certain 2010s trend: the rise of the mainstream pop star working with indie producers as a way to reboot her career.
Working with collaborators like Dev Hynes and Rostam Batmanglij, Jepsen’s defining statement is a joy to listen to. From the opening horns and titanic chorus on “Run Away with Me,” to the washed-out synths of “All That” and the pulsating beat of “Warm Blood,” “Emotion” has all the marks, both instrumentally and from a songwriting perspective, of an excellent pop album.
Jepsen’s masterwork is all killer and no filler, and it ushered in the Canadian star as one of the most beloved cult artists of the decade. —Caleb Wilfinger
38. “Acid Rap” – Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape “Acid Rap” might not have been the biggest or the rap record of 2013, but the impact it had on the music industry was monumental and has been taken for granted.
“Acid Rap” is an incredible album. The high-pitched, raspy-voiced, then-only-21-year-old Chicago rapper was yet to become the universally loved musician he is today, but 53 minutes of music filled with themes of positivity, fear, psychedelia and introspection made him a rapper it seemed everyone could relate to. Tracks like “Juice” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses” were filling the airwaves of teenagers’ bedrooms across America, earning Bennett a headlining spot at music festivals such as Lollapalooza.
What makes this feat especially impressive is the fact that “Acid Rap” was distributed independently for free on websites SoundCloud and DatPiff only. With a single mixtape, Bennett debunked the belief that to be a successful chart topping musician, you had to be dependent on a corporate record label. We might take it for granted today, and we might despise the “SoundCloud rappers” who have benefitted from this, but “Acid Rap” did more to take power away from the corporate record labels’ stranglehold on young musicians than anyone else this decade. He proved there is no ceiling for an independent rapper.
With “Acid Rap,” Bennett defied the status quo and proved an artist can have an extremely successful career in the music industry as an independent artist giving out music for free. Its impact on improving the lives of young musicians and music listeners cannot be understated. —Jim Krueger
37. “Melophobia” – Cage the Elephant
Crafting “Melophobia,” which has often been referred to as the band’s best album, Cage the Elephant sought to follow a completely new direction with their third studio album in order to raise them above the music of their contemporaries. Facing the threat of fading into obscurity, Cage the Elephant decided to focus more heavily on freshening up their lyricism and style. The final result effectively showcased the band’s well-regarded fledgling aesthetic at its most potent.
Opening with the blistering “Spiderhead,” Cage the Elephant showcased its sound with a far more consistent intensity than it had ever been able to manage before. The band then allowed tracks such as the iconic “Come a Little Closer” and the slick “It’s Just Forever” to showcase the skillfully polished sides of its familiar sound. There were also tracks such as the mellow “Take It or Leave It” and the smooth “Hypocrite” which helped to solidify the revisiting potential of the record.
One of the most impressive tracks on the record is the exquisite “Telescope” which acted as a medium for lead singer Matt Shultz to work through his seasonal depression. A delicate track which showcased the range of the singer’s personality, “Telescope” helped to break down the aggressive persona that Shultz had been attempting to reinforce for the entire band’s career with songs such as the hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.”
Closing with the soothing “Cigarette Daydreams,” “Melophobia” exhibited Cage the Elephant’s sound with fresh, spectacular range. The band was effectively able to maintain the semi-punk slick sound that it had become popular for but was also able to expose several new dimensions of its sound.
Rebranding itself with spectacular zeal, Cage the Elephant proved with “Melophobia” that it was not a one-hit wonder, and that the band had much more to show the world. —Scott Perdue
36. “Sweetener” – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande’s revolutionary album “Sweetener” is her fourth studio album and it debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200. The album was also extremely successful internationally, as it topped the charts in Belgium, Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Grande didn’t release many singles from the album, as she only released “No Tears Left to Cry,” “God Is a Woman,” and “Breathin,” but she made the most of her single releases. The first single, “No Tears Left to Cry,” along with its music video, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. “God Is a Woman” was the second single released, and it peaked at No. 8. Finally, the third single, “Breathin,” debuted at No. 22 and peaked at No. 12.
There are very few artists who are producers of their own albums, but Grande was an executive producer for “Sweetener,” along with her manager Scooter Braun. She also had some big names involved on the album, including Michael Foster and Pharell Wiliams, to name a few.
“Sweetener” does a phenomenal job of showcasing Grande’s vocals, letting her audience know how powerful her voice is. The special part of this album is that Grande said that she was experimenting with her voice, as she decided to sing on her “sweet lower register,” coincidentally. She has a really diverse sound on this album and brought more R&B to her sound than she normally does. —Emily Mugno
35. “In a Poem Unlimited” – U.S. Girls
If there were two words used to describe 2018, they would be “girl power.” Meghan Remy, who goes by the stage name U.S. Girls, created one of the most compelling and contagious albums of the year. “In a Poem Unlimited” is female empowerment at its peak. With topics ranging from sexual harassment to the incredible comeback of women, there is never a dull moment on this record.
If the lyrical content wasn’t enough, the musical elements on this album are fresh and exciting. The funky, upbeat music paired with Remy’s unique voice is sure to leave listeners in awe. While U.S. Girls is certainly not a well-known name now, there is no doubt that it will be after 2018. “In a Poem Unlimited” is not only one of the top albums of the year but also one that will remain a hit for years to come with its ability to explore different genres all while providing genuinely good-sounding music. —Jenna Minnig
34. “DS2” – Future
There haven’t been many artists this decade who have matched Future in terms of the consistency and quality of his output. But his constant stream of albums and mixtapes can also work against him if you’re not already attuned to what the Atlanta rapper is doing.
However, if Future’s discography could be boiled down to one album, it might very well be his 2015 opus, “Dirty Sprite 2.” Thematically, the record isn’t too different from the three excellent mixtapes (“Monster,” “Beast Mode,” “56 Nights”) that preceded it. But “DS2” was the album that would go on to define his legacy for the remainder of the decade.
Over the course of an hour, listeners are submerged in Future’s world of hedonism, pleasure and pain. We drown in the codeine excretion of “Thought It Was a Drought,” revel in the violence of “Stick Talk,” and shed tears to the harrowing stories of “Blood on the Money.” By the time the last few seconds of “F*** Up Some Commas” plays out, the high has worn off.
The album could almost be joyless, if the beats—mostly by Metro Boomin and Southside—didn’t hit with such force. And while the emotional side of Future that most famously showed through on previous songs like “Codeine Crazy” or “Throw Away” was dialed back on “DS2,” the honesty and vulnerability came through when it counts. Songs like “The Percocet & Stripper Joint” and “Kno the Meaning” are career highlights and more than enough to make the deluxe edition worth you time.
The long-awaited sequel to one of his earliest mixtapes, “DS2” functions as a peak in Future’s mainstream impact as well as a microcosm of his career. It’s one of the best albums to come out of Atlanta in the last 10 years and a fabulous victory lap from one of the decade’s most influential artists. —Caleb Wilfinger
33. “Masseduction” – St. Vincent
One of the best artists of the decade, Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, had many great releases. St. Vincent is able to explore the celebrity condition beautifully on the heart-wrenchingly beautiful album “Masseduction.” The songs range from upbeat dance tracks like “Pills” to emotional ballads that can draw tears like “Happy Birthday Johnny,” to more pop-inspired tracks like “New York.”
How does she connect all these different styles? Well, St. Vincent takes the overarching theme of the celebrity condition and shows her own personal demons and struggles with it. This highly personal album does what all great introspective albums do: be personal without being corny or cheesy.
Themes of drug abuse, sexualization of celebrities, depression and other dark themes permeate the sometimes upbeat, sometimes somber record. Clark herself described the album as “first-person,” which is apparent throughout.
The instrumentals are absolutely fantastic on this album, with a futuristic pop sound being the main one employed. However, the album isn’t afraid to get minimalist when necessary. Each instrumental fits well with each song with no track feeling out of place.
Clark’s voice is beautiful, and she is able to convey emotion very well while still being understandable, which helps immensely on this project. She really shows why she is one of the best artists out there today on “Masseduction.” —Owen Paiva
32. “Swimming” – Mac Miller
One of the decade’s defining artists in the rap genre, Mac Miller, both entered and abruptly exited the music scene within the last 10 years, leaving fans with incredible albums and music that stretched beyond the 26 years he lived.
What’s regarded as Miller’s most engaging and personal album was released in August 2018, continuing the more soulful, smooth essence he established in “The Divine Feminine,” which Miller released just two years prior. “Swimming” showed the powerful and effective journey his career had taken within the decade, emanating growth and introspect within Miller.
The album is beautiful and captivating from beginning to end, touching on all aspects of the young artist's life. Unfortunately, the aspects are not as fun and genuine as Miller seemed to be; he had demons embodied into substance abuse issues and mental health problems but spoke about them with peace and dignity, never allowing the issues to take reign of the album. Miller stayed true to himself and his music throughout Swimming with grace and intelligence.
Tragically, Mac Miller died of an accidental drug overdose just a month after the album was released and just a few months before the “Swimming” tour began. Though fans continue to be broken and mournful, Miller truly gifted the music scene, specifically with “Swimming.” The album contains incredibly written songs such as “Self Care,” “2009” and “Small Worlds,” all diving deep into the substance abuse and demons that Miller continuously fought. “Swimming” truly swims through itself, moving gracefully through each song, telling a story and demanding to be heard. —Lilly Adams
31. “Anti” – Rihanna
Reaching her eighth studio album, Rihanna decided to play things a little less safe and shifted her focus to create an experimental masterpiece. Peeling back her sound to showcase the impressive range of her vocal ability, Rihanna presents her sound on “Anti” as its centerpiece by highlighting its potency as a backdrop. She journeys into an untapped in-depth exploration of the void, focusing on themes of darkness, texture and emotion.
Playing with a looser feel than before, Rihanna strikingly drifted from her well-known dance and club sound and instead moved towards a more distanced and minimalist aesthetic. Songs such as the opening track “Consideration” and the musical interlude “Woo” allowed Rihanna to express the nuanced aspects of her sound against a series of tight rigid compositions, while tracks such as “Desperado” and “Needed Me” allowed her to showcase the more unconstrained and confrontational dimensions of her charming personality.
Other memorable tracks such as the admittedly catchy “Work” and the exquisite “Higher” showcased a stark transition from polished and refined pop to bare and vulnerable soul. However, the undisputed crown jewels of the record are the tender “Close to You,” the brilliant “Love on the Brain” and the sultry “Kiss It Better.” The emotional musicality that Rihanna is able to invoke as she moves from blind confidence to anxious vulnerability is shocking and pleasantly surprising.
Charting an impressive course of experimental territory, Rihanna still manages to keep things impressively fresh. A bold exhibition of an alternative fledgling style, “Anti” is one of the most exciting additions to Rihanna’s already impressive discography. —Scott Perdue
30. “1989” – Taylor Swift
2014 was a year of growth and innovation for Taylor Swift as she tackled one of the most popular and awarded albums of her career, “1989.” The singer shocked everyone as she released her first full-length pop album. Yet it was the moment Swift truly became one of the most innovative artists of the decade.
For many, some of Swift’s greatest hits became the defining soundtrack of the year, so there’s no question as to why “1989” was awarded Album of the Year in 2016. Fans were first introduced to her new sound with the danceable “Shake It Off,” which instantly became a classic among Swift’s discography. However, as always, Swift was holding some of her most treasured pieces for the album including “Wildest Dreams” and “Blank Space.”
Even though Swift made a dramatic transition in style, it’s a testament to her abilities as a songwriter, as she takes a genre that is known for being repetitive, and sometimes meaningless, and creates something beautiful with it. Although they never reached the airwaves, some of Swift’s best tracks from the album were “This Love” and “Clean” for their raw beauty.
“1989” is purely innovative and one of the most cohesive albums of the decade. It’s clear that Swift put an incredible amount of thought and effort into her life-changing piece. “1989” is iconic to the point where it is an essential listen for everyone as they transition into their ‘20s. —Jade Campos
29. “Take Care” – Drake
Less than a year after Kanye West released his opulent opus, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” a half-Jewish rapper (and former cast member of “Degrassi”) from Canada released his second album. As it turns out, this was the record that would catapult Drake into superstardom.
The album arrived in the waning moments of 2011 at a time when artists like The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar were underground sensations and when blurring the line between rapper and R&B singer was still a genuinely radical concept.
There's such a specific indescribable but palpable mood to this record, and it starts from the opening piano riff on album opener “Over My Dead Body.” It feels warm, inviting and almost sincere: a far cry from what Drake albums today sound like. Over 17 tracks and 80 minutes, Drake constantly straddles the line between profound meditations on relationships (“Take Care”) and disturbingly relatable self-pity (“Marvin’s Room”). Backed by the beautiful, atmospheric production of longtime collaborator Noah Shebib, “Take Care” feels like a unique album that effectively puts an end to the era of hyper-masculinity in rap music.
It’s far from a perfect album (“Make Me Proud” and “We’ll Be Fine” are unnecessary). In fact, Drake’s fully realized statement would come a few years later with “Nothing Was the Same.” But as it stands, “Take Care” is a record filled with downbeat, tender and intimate soundscapes that was unlike most other contemporary rap and R&B albums at the time, and it continues to leave an impact on modern music eight years later. —Caleb Wilfinger
28. “Random Access Memories” – Daft Punk
“Random Access Memories” topped the charts in 32 different countries and also served as a comeback for music legend Pharrell Williams.
Beyond its hit single, however, “Random Access Memories” features an unthinkable amount of depth and musical mastery for a single album. Spanning 74 minutes, the album was the first from French electronic duo Daft Punk in eight years. Daft Punk was famous in the early 2000s for making music ahead of its time, but for “Random Access Memories,” the duo turned back the clock.
Funk guitarist Nile Rodgers was brought in to record the famous ‘70s-inspired riffs on “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance.” ‘70s pop star Paul Williams provided the vocals for the eight-minute track “Touch,” a song with multiple fascinating twists. There was also “Giorgio by Moroder,” a nine-minute track with a spoken word piece by Moroder himself. The line “My name is Giovanni Giorgio, but everybody calls me Giorgio,” has become as much of a meme today as it is a masterpiece.
Most of what Daft Punk did, however, was bring nuance to the ever growing world of electronic music. At the time of its release, techno music was mostly stereotyped as loud and abrasive Skrillex-style beats meant only for large crowds of less than sober youths. It was a world that Daft Punk in part helped create, but “Random Access Memories” tore all of that down.
Songs like “Instant Crush” brought a somber sound with well-placed synths and autotune used correctly. The transition from “Touch” to “Get Lucky” is one of the best song combos of the decade, and the closer “Contact” is truly the musical equivalent to taking off in a spaceship.
“Random Access Memories” is truly tough to describe. There is so much diversity and musical mastery in one album, and while no perfect album exists, seven years later, it is difficult to find a single flaw in this album. —Jim Krueger
27. “The Suburbs” – Arcade Fire
Continuing its impressive stride, Arcade Fire reached an even higher level of acclaim with its third studio album “The Suburbs.” Returning to its roots both metaphorically and literally, Arcade Fire decided to fill its double album with content which invoked nostalgia and childhood reminiscence. Receiving almost universal acclaim, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” is an impressive testament to the band’s unique style and was an overnight undisputed masterpiece.
Opening with the album’s title track, Arcade Fire boldly presents its sound at its freshest. The crisp soundscapes and heightened lyricism helped to exude the level of authenticity that Arcade Fire sought to produce with such a personal thematic direction. Showcasing its range, Arcade Fire moved from mellow tracks such as “Ready to Start” and “Modern Man” to far more electric tracks such as “Empty Room” and “Month of May.” Expressing several forms of musical diversity, “The Suburbs” seamlessly transitions between an extensive range of tones and moods. Tracks such as the reflective “City With No Children” and the somber “Wasted Hours” helped to solidify the album’s expertly handled exploration of several different thematic threads such as regret, innocence and youth. The revisiting potential of the album is unlike any other thanks to the generous number of tracks on the record, with each track feeling perfectly articulated and smoothly incorporated.
“The Suburbs” debuted at No. 1 on the charts in the United States, Ireland, Canada and the U.K. It rightfully won Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards and received several other significant accolades around the globe. Understandably argued as the band’s best album, “The Suburbs” proved quite impressively that Arcade Fire had no intention of slowing down and provided the world with one of the best testaments to the childhood experience ever recorded. —Scott Perdue
26. “2” – Mac DeMarco
Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco’s second album, appropriately titled “2,” best encapsulates the laid back and lo-fi style of indie music that has taken over the rock world this decade, and it’s inspired as many imitators as it has detractors.
DeMarco seems not to care too much about how he’s perceived in the music world, and that careless attitude is what drives “2” and makes it such a compelling album. DeMarco’s calm and reassuring voice, which lacks in range, and his jangly guitar are the two hallmarks of the album, and they carry it to heights few expected.
Songs like “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” and “The Stars Keep on Calling My Name,” are immensely catchy. Beyond that, DeMarco’s lyrics are charmingly worry-free. In “Ode to Viceroy,” DeMarco sings about his love for smoking cigarettes in light of the damage they do. “My Kind of Woman” is a love song without any pretension. Its beauty is in its candor, and its honesty in songwriting is exceptional.
All in all, “2” is an incredibly tight album, and the quality is remarkably consistent. It has a style that was at the time its own, and it’s a sound that came out of nowhere. That sound, however, is one that would define indie rock in this decade. There have been plenty of imitators, but no one can do it quite like Mac DeMarco.
In a decade that has been headlined by its seemingly nonstop anxiety inducing craziness, “2” stands as a counterbalance and an impressive counterbalance at that. —Jim Krueger
Jim Krueger is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Perdue is a junior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Caleb Wilfinger is a senior majoring in print journalism and political science. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jade Campos is a sophomore majoring in print/digital journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.
Lilly Adams is a junior majoring in film/video. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owen Paiva is a junior majoring in film/video. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jenna Minnig is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Mugno is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.
Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Roche is a junior majoring in film/video. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Connor Trask is a senior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Film/Video
Junior / Film/Video Studies
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Junior / Print/Digital Journalism
Senior / Journalism & Political Science