Determining the “best” album of a single year is hard enough, let alone a whole decade. Though I have amassed a great collection of musical experiences over the past 10 years, it’s only fair that I relegate these posts as “favorites” in lists that follow my own arbitrary rules.
“You know time crawls on when you’re waiting for the song to startFall Out Boy, “The Phoenix”
So dance along to the beat of your heart”
10. Ruelle – Madness
Though I relegated this list to highlight top-40 artists, I needed a space to discuss the dark, cinematic tones of my musical crush, the darling Ruelle. Her songs show up every now and then on ads for HBO dramas, which is how I initially heard of her.
Then I discovered that the producer (Tommee Profitt) also works extensively with rapper NF, and my fandom came full circle.
Defining Moment: If I’m about to head into battle, I just need the first 30 seconds of “Live Like Legends.”
Now to the stuff you will actually know.
9. Justin Beiber – Believe
I forgot how many bangers Justin used to crank out – almost as many as public mishaps. Like many artists on the list, say what you want about him, but kid can write a tune.
Defining Moment: “As long as you lu-lu-lu-lu-lu-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA love me, love me.”
8. Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans
I boarded the Bruno Mars train as early as I could. After hearing those joyous pipes on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You,” I combed the web for more Bruno performances. I discovered a trove of unreleased demos that proved my assertions – this dude was a supernova.
The music industry, thank the Lord, continued going the right direction with him. With an album that starts with “Grenade,” you will be singing along with every word all summer.
Defining Moment: It seems cheesy now, but “Talking to the Moon” made a lot of my days easier: “I’m feeling like I’m famous, the talk of the town/They say I’ve gone mad/Yeah, I’ve gone mad.”
7. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
Where were you when Justin Timberlake announced he was returning to music? This album came out seven years after FutureSex/LoveSounds. What a wait. In many ways, this is my ideal pop album: It’s catchy yet complex, with more depth than it lets on.
Side note: A prominent music writer, one whom I previously admired, recently posited that this album represents this decade’s quintessential HYPE album that failed to meet its transcendent cultural potential. I would respond to that by saying that almost zero albums have been able to do that this decade because of musical access. Nothing stays in the consciousness long enough for it to become something more than “great” when we’re already looking forward to Drake’s new album dropping next week. The true legends will be revealed with time.
That all said, I can listen to this album and say that I enjoy it more than most of its pop contemporaries.
Defining Moment: Sonically, “Blue Ocean Floor” is perhaps JT’s most stunning production.
6. Maroon 5 – Hands All Over
After spending most of my young adult life as a Maroon 5 ALL-KNOWER, I can saw with confidence that this was the final album of their perfect form. Its quality lies in featuring the four basics I need in any all-male pop group: self-played instruments, love, pain and sexxx. These are shockingly hard to find all wrapped in one.
Defining Moment: You have probably never heard “No Curtain Call,” but it’s arguably one of their best songs. They haven’t had a song in that hemisphere since.
5. OneRepublic – Native
Year: 2013 (Highlighted in The Roundtable’s controversial “Best Albums of 2013“)
I owe a great deal to this album, more so than most of the 100+ I reviewed for this all-decade project. In my darkest times between 2012-2014, this was the beacon of joy and affirmation that helped me smile through.
Defining Moment: From “Preacher”: “He was a million miles from a million dollars, but you could never spend his wealth.” I carry that line in my pocket as I have needed it often.
4. Adele – 21
Year: 2011 (The Roundatble’s No. 10 album of 2011)
Adele is the greatest singer of this generation and deserves to be on any list when looking back on albums from the past 10 years. This one, though, rips a holy tear into whatever emotional state you are currently in.
Defining Moment: If I am to ever do karaoke, I will deliver a “Rolling in the Deep” performance that will redefine my status as a man.
3. Beyonce – 4
I am having to dust off some of these albums, as I have not listened to many of them for some time. AND I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THIS GEM UNTIL THE VERY LAST SECOND.
Seriously, I just added this album after fishing all 10+ of my lists. How could I forget: the dope Yeezy intro in “Party,” the all-powerful “Run the World (Girls)” laying waste to misogyny, and the majestic “I Was Here,” which may be played at my funeral – STILL DECIDING THAT.
Defining Moment: “Love On Top” is one of the greatest album openers OF ALL TIME.
2. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
The album title is a misnomer. Rock and roll wasn’t the genre needing saving.
With Fall Out Boy presented on this list, I am making a bleak admission: Pop-punk is dead. RIP Warped Tour. It’s the saddest musical development from the past 10 years, but I had nothing to do with it.
So if the music industry is going to put me in a position where I have no true all-decade list for the new-look Fall Out Boy, I’ll stick it in the same one you’d find Rihanna or Ed Sheeran. What’s more – this album shreds! They have Big Sean, Courtney Love and Sir Elton John as guests. They care not about your comfort or your labels. Let us just make music, man.
Defining Moment: Find me another album that gets my adrenaline to nuclear octane levels after just two songs.
1. Lady Gaga – Joanne
At this point in her career, I don’t need to prove the true artistry of this woman. Any doubts were swiftly cast aside with her performance in A Star Is Born, so that makes my job here easy.
This album embodies her true essence, exhibiting both grace and glam with vocals powerful enough to reach the moon. Lady Gaga shed the flamboyant outfits and over-produced pop hits for her most personal music yet. She is more than the music industry deserves.
Defining Moment: You’ve heard it – it’s the floodgate that opens during the chorus of “A Million Reasons.”