It’s been ten years since Pitchfork last published its list of the 200 Best Albums. Since then, we’ve experienced a new evolution of the ways we share music. Vevo, MTV and VH1’s video countdowns have somewhat faded away as we can now find music videos on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. Listeners don’t use CDs or vinyl really, unless they appreciate that specific sound or are old souls. Everything we listen to is on the Cloud or streamed on any of the major music platforms like Spotify or Apple Music. Artists now make their money in different ways and Pitchfork’s list for the 2010s is a reflection of this. In the 2010s, artists defied the boundaries of the professional music industry, going so far as to show us that you don’t have to be signed with a label to win a Grammy.
“Cancel culture” became a big thing and either stuck to some artists or held no importance. What music would be considered “cancelled” due to its insensitive language can still be praised as art, especially after the artist has changed their style, sound and appealed to a larger audience. Despite his past projects that contradict today’s standards for political correctness, Tyler, the Creator’s “Flower Boy” is still immensely popular. However, you probably won’t find R. Kelly’s or Chris Brown’s music anywhere in this decade’s list for obvious reasons.
Rihanna’s album “ANTI” was finally released after months of agonizing waiting for her fans. Even Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour” gave rise to a country-loving revival period forcing girls everywhere to purchase that pink cowboy hat from the Dollar Store. Popcaan made “Where We Come From” and Kaytranada made “99.9%,” albums commemorating influences of all aspects of the culture. The music landscape has grown inclusive with the rise of K-Pop, Reggaeton, Afro-Beats and Hispanic/Latinx Music in the past five years. Different artists like Hailu Mergia and Rosalía put their respective cultures on the map, while bands like Soccer Mommy explore raw vulnerability. Others have reveled in triumph and grown out of the darkness in the recent years of their careers: Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” (2018) following the Manchester suicide bombing and Sampha’s “Process” (2017) after the death of his mother to cancer. Elysia Cramptom and G.L.O.S.S. note the changes in viewing identity.
Pitchfork’s list also included albums from breakups that fans have anticipated forever. Especially considering the recent relationship between The Weeknd and Miranda Lambert who are many people’s favorites. Lorde and Blood Orange mark the moment of taking power back after losing such a big part of yourself. We can also agree that there have been one too many sad songs about loving and losing someone.
Music taught us a lot about the lives of celebrities and brought attention to various topics. SoundCloud-originated mumble rap normalized conversations about mental health. Late artists such as David Bowie, Lil Peep and Mac Miller never made it onto Pitchfork’s list. On the other hand, female artists between 2010 and 2019 prevailed. Beyonce revolutionized feminism with Chimamanda Ngozie Adicihie’s feature on “Flawless.” Projects from artists like Mistki, Janelle Monae, Solange, Beyonce, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Noname, Tierra Whack and others also spread through popular culture. The decade was a playing field for new artists who released their breakout projects and unveiled songs that we would sing in the car, at birthday parties, middle school dances, bar-mitzvahs and everywhere in between. The list harkens back to visual memories of Daft Punk x Pharrell music video with the iconic metallic helmets and Kanye performing “Runaway” at the VMAs a couple years after he stole Taylor Swift’s “Red” win.
The 2010s were a politically and socially revolutionary time. The Black Lives Matter movement was born, people marched for the fundamental rights of women and America elected one of its most criticized leaders in history all in the span of about 10 years. Just as it has happened through history from the time of slavery to the Civil Rights Movement and through other periods of violent struggle, Black people have made beautiful music to communicate the struggles they faced. It is no coincidence that the top five albums are all by Black artists.
Overall, Pitchfork’s article taught us that simplicity and inconsistency is key: Beyoncé is always surprising us, Frank is never on time and Kanye is always going to be Kanye.