Top 5 albums of the 2010s

“The Sound of the Life of the Mind” album art
“The Sound of the Life of the Mind” album art

5. “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” by Ben Folds Five

Having broken up at the beginning of the millenium, Ben Folds Five reformed in 2011 then produced “The Sound of the Life of the Mind,” their fourth studio album, in 2012. The album debuted at number 10 on Billboard’s Top 200 and retained everything that made the band a hit in the mid-90s: catchy pop lyrics and piano riffs that take a 2-year lease in the back of your head. 

In anticipation of the album Ben Folds Five released a music video for their uplifting pop-rock anthem “Do It Anyway,” featuring Jim Henson’s “Fraggle Rock” muppets. Like most of the rock-group’s albums, they have songs ranging from peppy feel-good anthems to angsty and aggressive songs like “Draw a Crowd” that you turn on just to blow off steam on bad days.

“Beat the Champ” album art
“Beat the Champ” album art

4. “Beat the Champ” by The Mountain Goats

If you ever thought “Wow, I really need a whole album about pro-wrestling,” then look no further; “Beat the Champ” is The Mountain Goats’ 2015 ballad album detailing the rise and fall of a pro-wrestler in the American southwest. If you’re not a wrestling fan, this album still has something for you, with its vivid lyrics and storytelling that have more to do with morality and the mistakes we make in our lives than it does with wrestling. Although not successful on the awards circuit, the album received plenty of acclaim critically with Jer Fairall from “Exclaim!” referring to the album as a highlight in a career full of highlights.

"Lemonade" album art
“Lemonade” album art

3.“Lemonade” by Beyoncé 

Released in 2016, “Lemonade” resonated with the souls of fans across the world. The R&B album embodied vulnerability and empowerment with tracks such as “Daddy Lessons,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,”and “Formation.” In the album, Beyoncé was able to unapologetically discuss gender and racial inequality and empowerment, all while singing from personal experiences and heartbreak. The singer was thoroughly honest with all her tracks, which range from R&B to country to rock. Nominated for nine Grammy awards and the winner of two (Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video), this album continues to be talked about and listed to by music lovers all around.  

"To Pimp a Butterfly" album art
“To Pimp a Butterfly” album art

2. “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar

Released in 2010, “To Pimp a Butterfly” launched Lamar’s hip hop career into a new stardom. The album won five Grammy titles, including Best Rap Album of the Year and Best Rap Performance. The Rolling Stones placed “To Pimp a Butterfly” as the third best album of the decade saying, “‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is the LP that defined hip-hop’s state of the art in the 2010s, not just for Lamar’s miles of MC styles and undiluted politics, but also for his musical vision…” Armed with introspective and powerful lyrics, the album became a symbol for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In “To Pimp a Butterfly”, Lamar vulnerably talks about America’s political and racial issues, his own mental health problems and his life growing up in Compton. Lamar continued with greatness in his next album “DAMN.” where he earned his first number one hit with “HUMBLE,” however, “To Pimp a Butterfly” is vulnerable and raw in ways that his 2017 album is not.

"1989" album art
“1989” album art

1. “1989” by Taylor Swift

Nominated for 10 Grammy awards and the winner of three (Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Music Video) “1989” was and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Being whimsical, light and upbeat while armed with Swift’s talent of lyrical word-play, “1989” rightfully deserves a spot in the Top Five Albums of the Decade.

 Nearly every track in this album became a hit. Gossip tabloids could not get enough of the drama-filled hits, “Bad Blood” and “Blank Space.” “Wildest Dreams” and “Style” spoke of past relationships in a bittersweet melody, which millions worldwide could relate to. Finally, “Shake It Off” was either absolutely loved or hated by listeners, but nonetheless, still continued to climb its way onto the Billboard Hot 100. According to the New York Post, “1989” sold about 1.3 million copies in its first week of release — making it the biggest debut for an artist since 2002. The album marked Swift’s official crossover from country to pop, and it made Swift a tough contender for the title of “The Queen of Pop.”


Honorable Mentions (in no specific order):

"Midnight Memories" album art
“Midnight Memories” album art

“Midnight Memories” by One Direction  

One Direction took the world by storm in the 2010s. Their third album, “Midnight Memories,” which contained hits such as “Best Song Ever” and “Story Of My Life,” became the best-selling album worldwide in 2013. One Direction quickly became the “most-profitable” boy band in history, even breaking records that were set by The Beatles. After their indefinite “hiatus” was announced in 2015, their popularity still continued to stay strong, which may or may not have helped to boost each individual band members solo careers. One Direction undoubtedly made a cultural impact in the 2010s, and their highest selling album, “Midnight Memories,” will continue to be sung by fans worldwide for many years to come.

"Doo Wops and Hooligans" album art
“Doo Wops and Hooligans” album art

“Doo-Wops and Hooligans” by Bruno Mars  

Although “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” was released at the very begining of the decade in 2010, it has not been forgotten. Hits such as “Just the Way You Are,” “Grenade,” “Lazy Song” and “Marry You”  caught the hearts of every hopeless romantic and continues to ring in the minds of many as a nostalgic memory. This album launched Bruno Mars into music fandom, but his continued masterpieces on later albums such as “When I Was Your Man,” “Versace on the Floor” and “Uptown Funk” solidified his career. Although Bruno Mars switched from wearing fedoras to snapbacks and from singing Pop to R&B by the end of the decade, he still continued to rock the music charts. The reason why “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” is listed instead of his later albums, “24k Magic” and “Unorthodox Jukebox” is simply because it perfectly captures the essence that was the early 2010s with its sweet, pop love ballads and happy tunes.  

"21" album art
“21” album art

“21” by Adele

“21” by Adele earned the title of Best Album of the Year at the Grammys in 2012. Adele’s soulful voice matched with her powerful, lyrical storytelling made for a beautiful album. Hits such as “Someone Like You,” “Rolling in the Deep” and “I Set Fire to the Rain” spoke of the mourning that comes along with heartbreak. Adele’s ability to create emotional ballads is absolutely unique to her sound and cannot be overlooked.