Purple Rain by Prince. Nevermind by Nirvana. Kid A by Radiohead. These albums are considered by critics and major publications to be among the best of their decade. While it may be challenging to contextualize the recent past in the annals of history, many notable groups will attempt such a thing this fall when they compile best-of-the-decade lists for various forms of mainstream art.
It begs the question — which albums will join the ranks of those listed above? Will major releases by this decade’s biggest artists, such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce, go on to represent this era in music?
In an era where music comes and goes so quickly, it can be difficult to foresee what will really stick.
The following is a list of LPs to keep an eye out for. Their inclusion is based on critical acclaim, overall popularity and year-end lists from the years they were released.
1. All albums by Kendrick Lamar
Notorious trendsetter website Pitchfork Media gave album-of-the-year honors to three KL releases throughout the decade: Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015 (which notably received acclaim from then-president Barack Obama) and DAMN. in 2017. The rapper’s ability to discuss timely issues within the framework of impressive hip hop performance all-but-assures multiple entries — it’s just a matter of which will rank highest.
2. Adele — 21 (2011)
At the time of writing, 21 was the highest selling album of the 2010s, according to RIAA — and it’s not that close. It also tied the record for most Grammys won for a single album with seven. 21 had massive crossover-ability — “Rolling in the Deep” charted on pop, R&B, and alternative radio — and as an organic soul pop record, there’s very little that will sound dated in years to come.
3. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Pitchfork gave Kanye its only perfect 10 score of the decade to Ye’s 68-minute consumerism opus. MBDTF also received perfect ratings from Rolling Stone and The Independent and holds a 94/100 score on Metacritic. While Kanye’s recent antics have made him politically problematic to many, it hasn’t seemed to have an effect on this album’s status as one of the great rap records of our time.
Beyonce — Lemonade (2016)
Bey is a threat for her self-titled 2014 album as well, but Lemonade’s game-changing rollout and mass-collaboration approach was said by many publications, including Rolling Stone, to have changed the way albums are recorded and released forever. It’s still streaming exclusively on TIDAL, though, so you may have to actually purchase it to listen.
Daft Punk — Random Access Memories (2013)
Like Lemonade, the french duo’s comeback album was preceded by more global buzz than almost any release of the 2010s. When it finally dropped in 2013, most critics agreed that it more than met expectations. RAM garnered year-best citations from NME, Billboard, and nabbed Grammys for Album of the Year and Record of the Year (“Get Lucky”).
Other albums to keep an eye out for are Frank Ocean’s Channel ORANGE, Teen Dream by Beach House, Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend, and Bon Iver’s self-titled 2011 release — though that’s far from a comprehensive list. The real challenge isn’t predicting — it’s listening to them all.