|His works have been recognized ever since he’s started dropping them, and his dedicated legion of fans can explain to anyone why Kanye West is the only one in the game who does it like him / Photo by: Jason Persse via Flickr|
As we near the end of the decade, it is should be worthwhile to look back at the artistic expression of artists and musicians who have produced memorable works of art for our enjoyment. Usually, chart performance and overall good album quality are mutually exclusive. But while that doesn’t mean that only the latter is to be recognized, selling singles and songs for hype is still different from albums that are produced with so much love and effort.
In this current decade, here are some of the best albums to ever grace our ears so far.
Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010)
Truly, West’s impact on the hip-hop musical genre cannot be understated. His works have been recognized ever since he’s started dropping them, and his dedicated legion of fans can explain to anyone why Kanye West is the only one in the game who does it like him. According to men’s magazine Esquire, West’s 2010 magnum opus was such a memorable piece of work that after its release, “musicians were still attempting to make music that sounded like Kanye West’s ‘Dark Twisted Fantasy.’”
Beyoncé, “Lemonade” (2016)
The music world was once again shaken to its core when the one and only Queen Bey came bounding up again with an explosive, almost tell-all album called “Lemonade.” Even at first glance, fans could already tell that this was going to be an emotional ride, and they were correct. From the spitting anger that she had in “Don’t Hurt Yourself” to the desperate way she sang in rasped vocals in “Sandcastles” smack-dab in the middle of the record, that emotional ride was extremely personal.
According to music news website Billboard, the album’s appeal also lay in the way it handled topics of self-love, racism, classism, and black culture and feminism, all unfolding in the background of the rich tapestry of Beyoncé’s own life.
Frank Ocean, “Channel ORANGE” (2012)
Usually, the oft-starved atmosphere of the music industry forces artists to keep themselves and their music available at all times—not Frank Ocean. Known for his sparse appearance and even sparser album releases, Ocean nevertheless oozes honesty and vulnerability in his work, which is enough for him to grow a fanbase. “Channel ORANGE” made this list for Ocean’s impressive command of a mix of hip-hop, pop, and R&B in a seamless soundscape that had a coherent and character-filled tracklist.
|Known for his sparse appearance and even sparser album releases, Ocean nevertheless oozes honesty and vulnerability in his work, which is enough for him to grow a fanbase / Photo by: david_hwang via Wikimedia Commons|
Taylor Swift, “RED” (2012)
Things were simpler in 2012, it seemed, and that’s true for the most controversial artist of the decade, Taylor Swift. When “RED” came out, it was the same Swift sound but with a lot more edges to it. Billboard described the album as the one where Swift seemed to really be genuinely interested in producing more and more pop songs, the time when people were speculating where she wanted to go sound-wise.
Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp A Butterfly” (2015)
It didn’t hold back on its truth and that’s what people liked about it. The same thing critics claimed they didn’t like before. At least that was how it first seemed to critics from The New York Times. In a report by the AV Club, an online newspaper and entertainment website, critic Jon Caramanica “worried that the innumerable twists Lamar led the listener through might serve to obscure his intent” when, at its heart, “To Pimp A Butterfly” spoke candidly of that dissatisfaction, that irritating twist and turn.
|In a report by the AV Club, an online newspaper and entertainment website, critic Jon Caramanica “worried that the innumerable twists Lamar led the listener through might serve to obscure his intent” when, at its heart / Photo by: Merlijn Hoek via Wikimedia Commons|
Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour” (2018)
An artist growing into their sound is always a wonder to watch. That’s what Kacey went through after she released “Golden Hour” in 2018. The difference of “Golden Hour” to Kacey’s “Same Trailer, Different Park” in 2013 is that the first sounded steadier, with Kacey seemingly having grown into a more stable sound. AV Club described it as having a dreamier pop-country sound “under a gently psychedelic Sun.”
Rihanna, “Anti” (2016)
Rihanna fans might like dunking on her lack of music for the past few years as she’s been busy with running her Fenty empire but deep inside, they know that it’s just Rihanna doing things her own way or that’s what she crooned, at least, in “Consideration,” the meandering but powerful punch-start to her “Anti” album.
Billboard explained that Rihanna’s “Anti” was actually a reinvention, a time for the singer to reflect on her “singles artist” title and turn that on its head in an album that “chronicles a relationship’s endless twists and turns.” While the subject matter itself wasn’t that new, AV Club stated that it’s the fearless way Rihanna handled these emotions that made the album such a defining moment for her career.
Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next” (2019)
It’s safe to say that Ariana Grande has been through so much in the last year. She dealt with matters of heartbreak, PTSD, and the death of an important person in her life. That’s usually enough to break most people, but she persevered through it all, and “Thank U, Next” seemed to be the culmination of that journey. As Grande is still a pop superstar, there were still songs in the album that were pretty standard thoroughfare in the world of pop, but Grande shone more in her most vulnerable tracks.
According to Billboard, she was splendid in her tracks “imagine,” where she sang of a bittersweet love fantasy, and in her centerpiece “ghostin,” which sampled ex-boyfriend Mac Miller’s sound arrangement in his track “2009.” Not surprisingly, the song was also dedicated to him and the beauty that was their relationship.
So these are the sounds that have defined the current decade, and anyone of them can ascend to classic status a few decades hence.