It’s hard to believe that 10 years have already flown by, and it’s safe to say that a hell of a lot has happened in this fleeting decade. The ‘10s’ saw the rise of the selfie, dating apps and meme culture, the birth and death of vine, 20 MCU movies… and we haven’t even started on the music yet!
It has, without a doubt, been a whirlwind decade for the world of music. With the rise of trap, grime and rap, the industry has been stormed with artists such as Stormzy, Kanye West and Dave rising to prominence. This decade has also seen the deaths of some much-loved favourites including David Bowie, Prince, and Avicii, and even the comebacks of some old favourites like the Stone Roses.
Conventions are changing too, as artists are turning more to their music as an output for their dissatisfaction for current times, their albums containing strong messages of unhappiness with political situations which are in turn producing some of the best, hard-hitting and ground-breaking music we have ever seen.
With streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music allowing us to listen to whatever, wherever, it seems like people are listening to music now more than ever before. The music industry has so much to offer us, that it’s incredibly hard to boil down what exactly has been the best music from the last ten years.
Nevertheless, I have taken on this herculean task, and here are my picks for the best five albums of the past decade, in no particular order:
Blackstar, David Bowie (2016)
Blackstar was Bowie’s final and 25th studio album, released just two days before he died from liver cancer. To the public who were unaware of the Starman’s illness until then, his death came as a shock to everyone worldwide, but Blackstar was the perfect parting gift we didn’t know we needed. The lyrics wholly encapsulate Bowie’s struggle with cancer yet show his acceptance for the end of his life, with the single ‘Lazarus’ proclaiming “Look up here I’m in heaven/ I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/ I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/ Everybody knows me now.” Bowie was certainly an icon in the music industry throughout his life, and he was no different in death.
AM, Artic Monkeys (2013)
Possibly the most iconic of the Artic Monkeys’ albums ever produced, AM is certainly their most successful to date. It’s almost impossible to find anyone who does not recognise the grungy guitar riffs and drums of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ or ‘R U Mine?’ which are essential tracks to any indie rock student night. Nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize and hailed as one of the best 500 Albums of All Time by NME, AM was responsible for the band’s breakthrough to America and topped the charts in several countries. Without a doubt, the Arctic Monkeys produced something for the ages with this album.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West (2010)
After much legal and public controversy, Kanye retreated to Hawaii on a self-imposed exile where he worked on his fifth studio album, which included guest appearances from big names such as Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Kid Cudi. The maximalist aesthetic of the album adds to the multi-influence of soul, electro and prog-rock, while the lyrical content explores West’s own status as a celebrity, the idealism of the American Dream, consumer culture and race. With its manic highs and depressive lows, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came from deep within Kanye’s heart, and this was most likely the reason for its widespread critical success. From 2010, Kanye has risen to new and higher heights, but this was just the beginning.
When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? Billie Eilish (2019)
It’s safe to say that Billie Eilish’s world has been turned upside down in a few short years. At only 18 years old, she has already achieved incredible commercial success with her debut album, with the single ‘Bad Guy’ nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The album was recorded and produced by her brother Finneas in his small bedroom studio, to give the album a homely nature and to save on studio costs. The content of the album itself changes from track to track, from deep house and bass to light ukulele strums, which Eilish described as “fun to be in the moment at a show to” but lyrically is “crazy and also depressing.” She’s certainly something new for the music industry, and it will be exciting to see what new heights her career will take her.
Divide, Ed Sheeran (2017)
Definitely not the most ground-breaking album this decade, but certainly the most successful. All the tracks from the album reached the top 20 of the UK singles within the first week, with ‘Shape of You’ achieving 14 weeks straight at number one in the UK Singles Chart. It’s clear that Sheeran made this album to succeed commercially, rather than to mean something deeper, but with songs like ‘Galway Girl’ and ‘Dive’ you just can’t resist singing along. As much as we might not like to admit it, Ed Sheeran’s album was the most popular of the 10s.
Listen to some picks from these albums on our Spotify: