Most Iconic of the Decade

Our critics believe these are the most influential albums of the last ten years.

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‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’: A melting pot of sound

Eitan Silver

Kanye West has been everywhere in the past decade. 

From marrying Kim Kardashian to releasing a full-on gospel album, it is fair to say that in one way or another West has disrupted the monotony of everyday life. 

Even though the decade is incomplete without the release of “Yandhi,” Kanye has dropped a number of chart-topping albums in the past ten years, but one stands out among the rest: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Comprised of 13 tracks spread out among 1 hour and 8 minutes, West’s fifth studio album has solidified his place in music history.

The first thing I noticed when relistening to this album was the variety of sounds and moods it encompasses. Songs like “Lost In The World” put an emphasis on the background music and the singing itself instead of just on the words, creating a more reflective mood for the listener. On the other hand, a song like “POWER” hypes the listener up, supplying the listener with music that gets their blood pumping.

Each song resembles a tone from a previous album Kanye released, a blend of his previous four albums assembled into one. For instance, the background music in the song “Runaway” consists of a few piano notes, electro sounds and ad-libs, all reminding me of a song off of “808’s and Heartbreaks”, West’s fourth studio album released in 2004. Essentially, Kanye took the vibe of all of his successful albums from the past, put a new spin on them, transformed them into songs and compiled them into one album.

If you are a pop fan, songs like “All Of The Lights” or “POWER” will keep you satisfied. If you are more of a hip-hop fan, songs like “Monster” and “Devil In A New Dress” will have you putting the album on replay because of how hot the bars are.

Aside from the talent that West brings himself, the list of those featured on the album is one star after another. Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Pusha T, Kid Cudi and more accompany Kanye in this album. 

This review would be incomplete without mentioning once again the iconic 9-minute 7-second song, “Runaway.” Whether it’s the instantly recognizable piano notes that pull you into the song or the chorus that you can’t help but sing along to, it is fair to say this song is one of the many from this album that has been engraved in fans’ brains.

Despite Kanye’s turbulent decade, it is undeniable that he put out a lot of music that satisfied his fans. No matter the music genre you identify with, Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” leaves everyone with a sound that they can relate to.

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‘Thank U, Next’ shows Grande has moved on

Payton Jarzyna

Ariana Grande has had a rough few years. In 2017, her concert was tragically bombed, resulting in 23 casualties. In 2018, her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller, passed away and her engagement to comedian Pete Davidson was called off. 

Responding to the tragedies she’s faced, Grande released “Sweetener” in 2018, which was a perky album full of optimism and cheerfulness. “Sweetener” reflected the singer’s hope for the future, and appeared to be the career-capping triumph for Grande but, just six months later, she dropped “Thank U Next,” a self-empowering, record-breaking pop album. 

Grande celebrates her success as an artist in “7 rings.” She sings, “wearing a ring but ain’t gon’ be no Mrs. / I’d rather spoil my friends with my riches.” “7 Rings” may not seem like it, but it is quite the feminist anthem. This song expresses that Grande doesn’t need a man and won’t be defined by her relationship with Pete Davidson, Big Sean or any other ex. Grande is independent of them and has her own worth. 

“Fake Smile” is the perfect clap back to the unrealistic standard of perfection celebrities are held to. Grande authentically addresses her need to force smiles after reading rumors about herself and experiencing disasters. She mentions her right to be angry, miserable, and just feel human emotions. 

As she sings in “Needy” her candid ballad about romance, loneliness and passion, “Lately I’ve been on a roller coaster/tryna get a hold of my emotions.” Grande is finally getting control of her life and finding herself. She is painfully honest in “Needy,” and admits to the mistakes she’s made in romance and will likely continue to make in the future.

Ariana Grande’s album belongs on this list because it’s not just a breakup album. Most people are familiar with Taylor Swift’s “Red,” but unlike recent songs about break-ups, Grande doesn’t criticize her past relationships. Instead, she praises them, reflecting on what they’ve taught her. “Thank U Next” even set the records for largest streaming week for a pop album and largest streaming week for an album by a woman, according to Billboard.

“Break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored” is the perfect song to end this album. After all the heartbreak, power and emotion in her previous songs, Grande flaunts her self-confidence through flirtatious lyrics and delights ears with a 90s inspired beat. Through catchy beats and bold lyrics, Grande has announced that she’s found her worth and doesn’t need a man or a scandal to define her.

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Ocean raises bar with sophomore effort

Jack Belmont

Singer-songwriter Frank Ocean’s second album, “Blonde” is an entrancing personal narrative of young love and maturity. The album was released in 2016, four years after Ocean’s first album, “Channel Orange”. During the years in between the release of his two albums, Ocean did no touring and was rarely spotted in public. When he returned with his follow up, “Blonde” debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and received high praise. 

“Blonde” is a remarkable way to spend an hour. The album is a blend of genres, including hip-hop, R&B, pop and dance, a record more experimental than his first in terms of sound. While his debut was a more poppy summer album you play with friends, “Blonde” is an album you cry to when it’s raining. 

The album mainly focuses on Frank Ocean’s life and hardships, including loneliness and heartbreak. Songs like “Ivy” and “White Ferrari” are the most emotional and personal songs of the album, their lyrics reflecting Ocean’s own lonesome and somber guitar chords in the background. Personally, I believe no one else comes close to Frank Ocean’s ability to make sad and personal music so good. 

The album is straightforward in terms of production. While some songs have sweeping orchestras and intricate lo-fi samples, most just feature drums, and a guitar or synth. This makes Ocean’s voice and lyrical content stand out, adding to the emotions the listener feels. The synths are dark and gloomy, often to fit the feeling of the songs, yet catchy, so you’ll be humming them all week after hearing the album. 

The song “Solo” is one of my favorites for that very reason. The song, featuring just an organ playing a repeating chord progression, may seem dry, but the way Ocean raps and sings over the song is so unexpected and flowy. There have been countless times where I have been mesmerized when listening to this song, and that feeling of being consumed by the album is what makes it one of the best of the decade. 

The album’s final track, “Futura Free” features an outro taken from an interview of Frank’s brother, Ryan, and friend Sage. In the interview, he talks about light years and how it relates to the song’s length, 9 minutes and 24 seconds. A lightyear is a measurement of the distance light travels in a year, which is equal to 9.4*10^12. This album is riddled with these little production details and easter eggs, contributing to what really makes this album so rich.

“Blonde” makes any listener of the album a part of it. The production of the album is stellar and does not overwhelm the listener. The synths on the album are a surrounding atmosphere to the story Frank Ocean tells with his metaphoric and intimate lyrics, keeping the listener entranced. “Blonde” can’t help but make listeners feel something when listening to it.

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Adele’s ’21’ defines heartbreak for a decade

Ryan Fairfield

Adele believes in trilogies, which is shown through her three albums, “19” “21” and “25,” all marking the age she was when they were released.

“19” helped her establish her career as an artist, with her two biggest songs, “Make You Feel My Love” and “Chasing Pavements”; however, it is “21” that made her a household name across the world. 

Adele opens the album with “Rolling in the Deep,” a song that not only showcases her vocal talents but shows her vulnerability. It is a song of loss and betrayal in which she lets her voice do the storytelling, rather than the lyrics. Simple lyrics like, “we could’ve had it all” and “the scars of your love, they leave me breathless,” do not leave much room for interpretation, but it is the pain and heartbreak in her voice that makes the lyrics so powerful. 

This idea of losing the one you love is repeated throughout the album, most noticeably in “Someone Like You,” the second to last song on the album. The song focuses on the struggle to get over someone and how much you want to hold on to them, both the hurt and the memories. The heart of this song is the instruments, featuring only a piano and Adele’s voice, with no complex backing tracks. 

“Turning Tables” is my favorite song from “21.” It’s a raw tale of struggling to keep up with your significant other and how sometimes you can feel so overwhelmed and trapped in your own relationship. Although this song can seem desolate and similar to Adele’s other heartbreak tales, in one of my favorite lyrics of all time, she sings, “Next time I’ll be braver, I’ll be my own savior.” This lyric is the light in the dark, the hope in the hopelessness. 

Overall, “21” is defined by heartbreak and vulnerability, with Adele bearing her whole heart for the public to hear. Every song is woven together through the idea of love, or in some cases, lack of it, creating an album that so many can relate to. Simple beats and backing vocals are used when necessary, but never shadowing the main vocals and lyrics of the song. “21” is undoubtedly one of the top albums of the decade as it is an album rooted in emotions and one’s emotional journey. Having such broad themes, like emotions and more specifically, love, allows Adele’s album to be one that so many can relate to.