Top 5 most iconic albums of the 2010’s


The 2010’s have come to a close, and as the roaring 20’s roll in, it’s time to take a look at the top 5 most iconic albums of the 2010’s. I’ve limited the list to one album per artist and though I have no genre limitations, I’m going to lean towards albums that did well in the mainstream.

Honorable Mentions: “Rodeo” – Travis Scott, “Blurryface” – 21 Pilots, “Because the Internet” – Childish Gambino

  1. “Take Care” – Drake (2011)

It’s hard to imagine an alternative timeline in which Drake didn’t take over and subsequently rule mainstream music in the 2010’s, but we might have never gotten to enjoy Drizzy’s meteoric rise if not for the overwhelming success of his second studio album, “Take Care.”

If you’re looking for songs that will make you feel like a boss, this album has it with “HYFR” and “Lord Knows.” If you’re looking to take a deep trip into the feels, you can find it with opening track “Over My Dead Body” and the song that still inspires memes in 2020, “Marvin’s Room.” Of the 5 official albums and countless EPs, mixtapes and playlists that Drake released in the 2010’s, “Take Care” is the most iconic because it has cultural elements that have lasted far beyond the album’s initial release buzz. “The Motto” inspired people to yell Y.O.L.O. before doing something stupid for years after “Take Care” was released. Even a lot of the “sadboi” rap that XXXTentacion, Lil Peep and Lil Skies that took over in 2018 and 2019 can be credited to the subgenre’s mainstream exposure on this album.

Though other projects come close, the range of emotions that I feel song to song and the refined, professional quality from what was a young and developing artist is second to none in the Drake discography.

  1. “X” – Ed Sheeran (2014)

The key phrase here is “sweet spot.” This album came at a time when Ed Sheeran was just starting to really come into his own in terms of his unique voice and songwriting abilities.

I’m inclined to break Sheeran’s discography so far into three parts. In the first part of his career, Sheeran rode a “boy next store” persona. His intimate, campfire song-esc voice made listeners feel comfortable with young Sheeran. He didn’t have that superstar aura just yet, but fans could tell that the young Brit would make waves in the industry.

The third phase is current Ed Sheeran on “Divide” and his new Collaborations Project. Now, it’s impossible for him to play the cute little boy next store card, as he’s one of the biggest artists in the world. His vocals are a bit over-polished and poppy for my liking and I often find myself missing the young baby-faced Sheeran.

That leaves us with the second phase of Sheeran, the one that made “X.” This album plays out like a coming of age tale. It has sharper, more crisp production and vocals than “+” but it still sounded genuine and from the heart. Songs like “Photograph” dominated the weird 2014 trend of pop songs being super sad and touching, where songs like “Take It Back” were jubilant and showed listeners just how versatile Sheeran was. It’s the perfect sweet spot between boy next door and international superstar in Ed Sheeran’s career that we will likely never see again.

  1. “Watch the Throne” – Jay Z & Kanye West (2011)

I will get hate for this, so I want to make it clear that this is not the best Kanye album of the decade. HOWEVER, this 2011 collaboration project inspired a whole decade of collaboration projects in the rap game. There is so much quality packed into this 12 track project. “Ni***s in Paris” and “No Church in the Wild” still dominate aux chords 9 years later and “Otis” boasts one of the greatest beats ever made.

“Watch The Throne” inspired a slew of collaboration projects in the 2010’s. Future & Drake, Quavo & Travis Scott, Young Thug & Future, Metro-Boomin & Big Sean, Lil Durk & Tee Grizzley all decided to collaborate after “Watch The Throne’s” success commercially and critically paved the way for the concept’s success.

  1. “2014 Forrest Hills Drive” – J. Cole (2014)

Inspired by his childhood home address and the unforgettable, often traumatic events that occurred there, “2014 Forrest Hills Drive” (“2014FHD”) marks the moment that J. Cole became great. Cole’s album, “Born Sinner,” showed incredible promise the year before, but commercially, it underperformed his debut “The Sideline Story.” This was not an issue with “2014FHD”. In fact, J Cole famously went double (now triple) platinum with no features.

This masterpiece is complete with the risqué “Wet Dreamz” and “No Role Modelz” which made huge splashes in the mainstream, but also less prominent yet hard hitting songs like “G.O.M.D.” and “Fire Squad,” where Cole declares the Kingdom of rap his.

Cole’s addition to music in the 2010’s is ALMOST second to none. It was simply unlucky that the artist with our #1 entry had to come into the game so hot in this decade.

  1. “Good Kid MAAD City” – Kendrick Lamar (2012)

Will there ever be an album that is this complete from front to back? From “B**ch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” to “Swimming Pools” to “mAAd city” to “Poetic Justice,” even someone who despises hip hop will find something to like on this beautiful fusion of R&B and Rap music.

When compared to Kendrick’s other most highly touted project, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” this album certainly makes less of a statement but tells more of a story. Kendrick explains the struggles of an innocent young boy living in one of the roughest neighborhoods in America. In 30, 40 and even 50 years, people will look back on music in the 2010s, as we do now with other decades. “Good Kid MAAD City” will forever be remembered as the pinnacle of storytelling and music from our last decade. Kendrick could fill up this list on his projects alone. The transformation from K-Dot the Compton kid to King Kendrick is unbelievable and unforgettable and no moment in music in the 2010’s is more iconic than “Good Kid MAAD City.”