What’s in a Decade: Music Edition

Ten Best Albums of the Decade as Dictated by a Generation Z(er)

Sounds, rhythms, and melodies surround us daily. Whether it be from the singular white airpods that supply us with music or the chunky outdated Beats by Dr. Dre that we wear so proudly.

Or better yet, the rapping subway performers that blare the instrumentals of a “lit” rap song only to rap over it. However, music is a personal choice that every person has a right to pick and choose from. As John Locke put it: “The necessity of pursuing true happiness is the foundation of all liberty.”

There’s liberty in music, in choice, in skipping through that song you’ve replayed over and over. With this in mind. I now present you with the best ten albums of this decade by year. 

1. MAGDALENE by FKA Twigs (2019)

MAGDALENE by FKA Twigs, is her second studio album. With a mixture of a mystical and ethereal sounds of windchimes to sad pop-esque ballads, Twigs’ sound is of her own and comes alive in this album. It’s a very emotive piece that toys with the idea of being a pure, innocent woman to being the same woman while also having a sensual, seductive side. This is evident in her title, with Twigs’ paying homage to Mary Magdalene’s legacy. Recognizing that as a woman, her own history can be rewritten. The standout song on this album is Cellophane that emotes pure pain and questioning one’s worth. The sound is fluid, soft, what one would imagine is the sound of an angel calling. Small bursts or cracks are heard in the song that further allow the listener to feel every inch of her pain.

2. El Mal Querer by Rosalía (2018)

El Mal Querer by Rosalía, is her second studio album. However, with the amount of recognition it received, most think it to be her first. It was life-changing for the artist due to her winning six Latin Grammy awards and being nominated for two Grammy awards in 2019. The album is a fusion of traditional flamenco sounds, her soft asmr sounding voice, and trap inspiration from reggaeton. The piece tells the 13th century story Flamenca from start to finish with voice recordings. A standout song from the album is PIENSO EN TU MIRA, that starts off as a soft ballad and fuses into a flamenco trap-induced upbeat song. 

3. Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator (2017)

Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator, is his fourth studio album. Clearly a summery album from it’s cover art to the soft upbeat, romantic music that instills a want for a swift romance. Tyler’s sound has shifted throughout his many years as an active artist, and Tyler proves yet again that he is increasingly versatile. The song that embodies this album the best is November which emits nostalgia through the use of voice recordings of his closest friends.   

4. Blonde by Frank Ocean (2016)

Blonde by Frank Ocean, is a transformative album. There’s an excessive use of sound effects to impact the sound it produces for the listener. From a talk box in Nikes, inspired by Stevie Wonder, to a sample of Close to You in Ocean’s own rendition of the 1970’s Carpenter’s classic. The most complex track on the album is Nights, it tells a story of desperation and major shifts in what we assume to be Frank’s life. The track’s beat shift also marks the halfway mark in the album which is increasingly symbolic of change. After this release, Ocean has somewhat disappeared off the planet, fanatics left with hopes that an album is in the works.

5. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (2015)

How to Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, is a mixture of rap, soulful, and jazz music among other elements. It was released with immense notoriety. The album shifts so effortlessly with a provocative message to live life every day meaning to bring positivity to other people, and to go against those who threaten people’s justices, especially those who threaten the black community. There is no standout track because the album is absolutely phenomenal and a must-listen for anyone with ears to retain the information and a mind to think.

6. Salad Days by Mac DeMarco (2014)

Salad Days by Mac DeMarco, completely revamped what anyone considered indie music to be. With his excessive use of psychedelic sounds fused with his guitar playing or his use of a simple drum kit, DeMarco’s lyrics translated the feeling of loneliness into sound. The standout track as believed by Miles Gaffney is Jonny’s Odyssey, due to the fact that, “It’s the only instrumental track and it’s the least popular because of it, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or playable… I like his little line at the end where he’s like ‘Hi guys this is Mac, thank you for listening, bye bye.”

7. Pure Heroine by Lorde (2013)

Pure Heroine by Lorde, is her debut album with an extremely controversial title. An album filled with youthfulness and edgy teenage mistakes, I recall buying the CD to this album when I was in a small music store in Philadelphia. Perhaps, I wanted to rebel a bit against my father, Martin Rodriguez who recalls this moment by saying: “ I remember seeing Heroine on the title and thinking, are you worshipping drug addiction? I think we played the CD in the car once. She’s okay. I prefer Salsa.”  Nevertheless, Lorde’s standout track on this album is Swingin Party. The melancholy feel along with the imagery makes the listener feel as if they’re in this house party with Lorde herself. Her rough raspy voice allows for every single vowel to be picked up in one’s ear and echoed again once more. 

8. Born to Die by Lana Del Rey ( 2012)

Born to Die by Lana del Rey, initiated the tumblr girl phase where girls wore flowers crowns and pranced around as if they were hippies on psychedelics in the ’70’s. Her second studio album launched her career and introduced the general public to an old-school Hollywood sound. Filled with raspy, soothing tones that prompt one to recall Marilyn’s Monroe’s “Happy Birthday Mr. President” performance. The standout track on this piece is Video Games with it’s angelic harp instrumentals. Lana sets the track by immersing us in a space where she’s doing things for the male gaze. In this case, her boyfriend at the time. She expresses immense love for his character, but also recalls the euphoric tendencies with which she gets around. Even if she’s trying too hard, the end result is worth it. One can even say it’s reflective of one-sided young puppy love. Yet, Lana makes this type of temporary love bearable. 

9. Bon Iver by Bon Iver (2011)

Bon Iver by Bon Iver, was released by an indie folk musician in the form of his second debut album. This was a depart from his first album that was a heart-wrenching story of heartbreak that he wrote alone with his guitar. This album is experimental and focuses on building sounds. Warm, rich, earthy tones that allows the listener to immerse themselves in the places Iver describes. It’s less about the realism and more about what the place makes you feel and what you picture of the space. The standout song is Holocene, with Iver’s voice smoothly transitioning into every word with clear diction. The words sound muffled but, it instead is the muffling of what a river would sound like in English words. The album emits pure melancholia and wallowing yet, a sense of hope of what’s out there. Whether it be on the horizon or in Bon Iver’s clutches. 

10. Speak Now by Taylor Swift (2010)

Speak Now by Taylor Swift, is her third studio album. It’s a much more personal album referring to her growth from an adolescent to where she was at as a 20 year old. It mostly deals with the pain of heartbreak. The sound is a mixture of her soft, sultry, country-pop with a variety of romantic ballads. Dear John, a standout track reads as a love letter, well more so, a letter filled with regrets and what-could’ve-beens. The track builds up smoothly starting off with a soft typical strumming guitar, and when the chorus hits, it slams everything else to the side and conveys Swifts’ pain.

– by Valerie Rodriguez ’20