The top 10 albums of the 2010’s
The ’10s, as weird as that is to say, are officially coming to an end. A progressive decade full of political unrest, social justice movements and lots of fantastic music. When looking back at the albums from this past decade, there are a plethora of ground-breaking projects to choose from. The criteria I took when trying to pick out these projects was commercial success, critical acclaim, awards and cultural impact.
Number 10: “1989,” Taylor Swift (2014)
From the late 2000s throughout the 2010s, there has arguably been no larger name in American Pop music than Taylor Swift. Starting as a young pop-country star, this past decade saw the “Teardrops on my Guitar” singer taking a massive leap away from the genre and into a pure pop state. In “1989,” Swift dives head first into the world of synth-pop, something far from her original style. Some of the massive chart-topping singles on the album include: “Shake it Off” and “We are Never Getting Back Together.” The single “Blank Space” topped Swift’s own “Shake it Off” on the Billboard Top 100, making Swift the first female artist to ever do this. From top to bottom the album is filled with iconic jams that you just cannot help but dance to. No matter how much you claim that you dislike these pop jams, I guarantee you know them word for word.
Number 9: “I Love You, Honeybear,” Father John Misty (2015)
Shifting genres with this next selection, American Folk artist Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty is known for his descriptive yet quaint songwriting. In his second studio album, “I Love You Honeybear,” Tillman comes with an extremely personal project. The record is full of satirical tunes and dark turns as it travels through Tillman’s vast psyche. While you would not have heard this album on any popular radio station at the time, it was met with praise from critics across the board. It topped 2nd on the 2015 Billboard Top 100 Folk Albums list and sold the most copies of any project in Tillman’s career. The songwriting on the album is innovative, personal and hilarious, as the record is one of my all-time favorites in the genre.
Number 8: “Random Access Memories,” Daft Punk (2013)
After taking an eight-year hiatus from commercial music, the French electronic duo Daft Punk shook up the world with this dreamy electro-pop record. Steering away from the minimalist qualities of their previous projects, Daft Punk stepped fully into the world of pop on this record. Songs like “Get Lucky” featuring Pharell Williams and “Doin’ it Right” see Daft Punk at its poppiest. The album was met with both critical acclaim and commercial success, with a Metacritic score of 87 (the duo’s highest to date). It also took home several Grammys, including the coveted Album of the Year award for 2013. With generation defining hits and an ‘80s aesthetic that would infect the masses, “Random Access Memories” earns the number eight spot on my list.
Number 7: “Modern Vampires of the City,” Vampire Weekend (2013)
If you are anything like me, you have mainly known Vampire Weekend for one thing and one thing only, A-Punk in your car’s autoplay. Jokes aside, indie rock band Vampire Weekend came to play with their third studio album, “Modern Vampires of the City.” The album tackles themes of anxiety, existential panic and religion, as it gives some of the bands most insightful and thoughtful work to date. Met with outstanding critical acclaim, notoriously harsh music critic website Pitchfork gave the album a 9.3. The vocals and music flow in bittersweet harmony together, as I believe this album is a pillar in the genre of Indie Rock.
Number 6: “Lemonade,” Beyonce (2016)
Accompanied by an hour-long film, Beyonce’s sixth studio album “Lemonade” is an empowering and rebellious R&B album. After her husband Jay-Z’s cheating scandal went public, Beyonce took to the studio to respond. There are several blatant shots on the record with such tracks as “Hold Up” and “Sorry.” With the third wave feminist movement that was, and still is, going on in the country, “Lemonade” provided the soundtrack to a new progressive generation. With a Metacritic score of 92, a number one debut on the Billboard Top 200 and a bunch of Grammy noms, “Lemonade” is a decade defining album.
Number 5: “The Money Store,” Death Grips (2012)
“It is the perfect amount of noise,’’ said self-proclaimed campus music historian Luke Orlando when I had a chance to discuss the importance of this project with him. “It is the maximum amount of sound you can put on a track and still be able to call it music,” Orlando continued, “It was groundbreaking for its time.” “The Money Store,” is the debut studio album by the alternative rap group Death Grips. The album was immediately recognized for its unique sound and was met with widespread critical acclaim. An aggressive sound that would capture the ears of experimental artists across the board, “The Money Store” and the Death Grips as a whole has had an everlasting influence on the industry and the rap game since its release.
Number 4: “The Suburbs,” Arcade Fire (2010)
Stretching back to the start of the decade comes the third studio album from Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire. “The Suburbs” is a deeply personable and thematic album dedicated to the suburbs of Texas, where lead singer, Win Butler, grew up. Much like the rest of the albums on this list, this project was met with critical acclaim and won Album of the Year at the 53rd Grammy Awards. Butler covers the album with glimpses into his distraught mind and childhood. The lyrical content and musical composition fuel an aesthetic that would become a mold for future indie bands for years to come.
Number 3: “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean (2013)
At the beginning of this article, I talked about how I would also include cultural impact as a deciding factor in this list; “Channel Orange’s” placement is just that. R&B and Pop artist Frank Ocean’s debut studio album is a generation defining project. It is a record soaked in themes from the internet era that any Gen Z or Millennial teen could relate to. While extremely relatable at times, the project is also personal to Ocean and his own struggles with relationships and growing up. The production is floaty and dreamy with a hint of funk at times and Ocean’s vocals and songwriting are nothing short of incredible. “Channel Orange” is a Gen Z night out in an album, with a hint of the morning after.
Number 2: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Kanye West (2010)
After his sound-changing “808s” and “Heartbreaks,” fans were close to writing off Kanye West as a rapper. After his VMA’s outbreak against Taylor Swift, fans were close to writing off Kanye West as a person. However, in typical Yeezy fashion, he silenced his doubters and critics with his biggest project to date: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Not just a mouthful of a title, the project is stuffed to the brim with some of Kanye’s best lyrics and most innovative production. Coming to bat with four of West’s biggest singles: “Runaway”, “All of the Lights”, “Monster” and “Power,” the rapper paints an image of his own darkest and twisted fantasies. The album represents a turning point in Yeezy’s career. West was no longer the “Through the Wire” humbled producer-gone gospel rapper; he was a larger than life materialistic icon. The track “Runaway” is one of my all-time favorite hip-hop songs and it is Kanye at his best. A nearly ten-minute long ode to his own mistakes and the embracement of them, “Runaway” changed the way people saw hip-hop. It changed the way people constructed their music; the typical hip-hop form had been turned on its head. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is one of the greatest albums of all time, regardless of its decade.
Number 1: “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Topical relevance, critical acclaim, commercial success, cultural impact; Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album “To Pimp a Butterfly” possess all of these and then some. The album has billboard hits (“Alright” and “King Kunta”), phenomenal political commentary and some of the smoothest jazz and funk riffs to ever be placed on a hip-hop record. Much like “Lemonade” became the soundtrack for a generation of independent women, “To Pimp a Butterfly” became a soundtrack for equal rights movements alike. The album feels like Lamar’s response to the endless reports of police brutality and racial discrimination in America, along with his criticisms of the black experience in Hollywood. The record is no stranger to critical success either, with a whopping 96/100 average score on Metacritic and a couple Grammy noms, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is universally recognized as a staple of American music.
Kyle Delorey, a senior, studies Graphic Design and Marketing. He is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.