Are There Perfect Albums From The 2010s?

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Andrew Doucette , Staff Writer

Perfect albums are something music fans debate constantly. One thing that I noticed is that most of the time, the albums they talk about are generations old. It’s not a bad thing at all; some of the best music is from that era, but there’s only so many times one can have discussions on how many Beatles or Rolling Stones albums are perfect.

Instead, I wanted to look at albums that came out last decade and see which are actually perfect. In order to pick the five albums from the last decade, I looked at Metacritic, which is a website that aggregates reviews, and picked the five albums that appeared the most on the “Best Albums of the Decade” list. It should also be noted that I made sure only one album from an artist is on here, as both Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean would’ve had more than one album in this list. So without further ado, let’s look into these five albums.

Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly”

We’re going to start off with an easy one, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” As soon as the album was released, it was held up as the best album of the 2010s, and critics still thought so at the end of the decade. It’s easy to see why it’s held in such high regard just by looking at the tracklist. He has funk legends like George Clinton and Ronald Isley on here, hip hop icons like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and even new school jazz pioneers like Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, and Thundercat.

All of these different sounds come together to create a timeless monument of an album. Kendrick tackles systematic racism, depression, survivor’s guilt and much more over these sixteen tracks. This album even had people like Prince and David Bowie saying how amazing it is. Even personally, this album was the start of me realizing music can be more than just having fun. I would have a completely different outlook on life if it weren’t for this album. I certainly wouldn’t be writing for a newspaper or working for the radio station if I had never heard this album. “To Pimp a Butterfly” will go down as not only one of the best albums of the decade but one of the best of all time.

Rihanna – “Anti”

Rihanna hasn’t dropped new music in over five years and is still in the top 20 most listened to artists on Spotify. A big reason for that is due to this album, her 2016 opus “Anti.” It’s easily her most experimental project yet and contains everything from a Drake feature to a Tame Impala cover. There are for sure some incredible tracks on here, such as the slow jams “Kiss It Better” and “Love on the Brain.” Even the hits “Needed Me” and “Work” with Drake still sound fresh today and would kill at any social event.

Unfortunately, I think the influence of those songs covers up the weakness of some of the deep cuts. For every fantastic track like “Consideration,” there’s a failed experiment of “Woo.” For every beautiful vocal performance, like on the outro “Close To You,” there’s one that sounds like she’s straining her voice way too much, like the ending of “Higher.” There’s no denying the influence that Rihanna and this album have had on music, but in my opinion, it’s not a perfect project.

Beyonce – “Lemonade”

Beyonce’s masterpiece recently turned five years old a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a culmination of everything she’s done. Her vocals are the most powerful they’ve ever been; it easily contains the most genres out of her entire catalogue, and the credits contain legends. Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, The Weeknd, and James Blake provide vocals to the project, but “Lemonade” also has writing credits from Diplo, Mike Will Made-It, Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend, Mike Dead, Jon Brion, and so much more.

The empowerment trap banger “Formation” usually wouldn’t be on the albums as a meditative country song like “Daddy Lessons,” but Beyonce was able to weave everything together into this genre-defying classic. Even with how amazing the music is, I haven’t even mentioned the heavily symbolic film that adds a whole other level to “Lemonade.” Due to the masterwork of the film and the transcendent music, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” is perfect and will go down as one of the classic projects from this decade.

Frank Ocean – “Blonde”

Frank Ocean has become an icon without being in the limelight. Ever since early 2013, Frank has moved in silence. He is only seen when he wanted to be seen, and the release of 2016’s “Blonde” was one of those times. “Blonde” was the second of the two albums he released that weekend and immediately connected with the masses. The unique combination of airy instrumentals with Ocean’s layered and often pitched vocals sounded different from anything currently out there.

As with previous projects, he has icons sprinkled throughout “Blonde.” Pharrell and Tyler the Creator show up on the production, while Andre 3000 and Beyonce provide some incredible vocals. While there are some flat out incredible moments, like the stunning outro to “Self Control” or the fascinating beat switch in “Nights,” “Blonde” is special for the feeling it encompasses. Everything from the poetic lyrics about failed relationships, to the naked instrumentals, helps Frank relate this overarching depression feeling to the listener.

The internet gave this generation a loss of innocence at a younger age than ever before. We as a generation haven’t learned how to cope with much of our pain yet, resulting in a sense of malaise. Ocean has the incredible ability to materialize this feeling with “Blonde.” For that reason, Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” is a perfect project that will likely continue to stand out for this generation.

Kanye West – “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

Well, we reached the most controversial artist on the list. Kanye as a person is obviously extremely hit or miss and has even fallen out of the good graces for a lot of his fans now. But even for his less-than-perfect personality, most people can’t argue about the music, and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is the ultimate example of that. These albums all have a lot of collaborations, but this is the ultimate album for the CEO method of album making.

MBDTF was made on a self-exile to Hawaii, where he brought in anyone that made the music he liked. The result is some of the most bombastic tracks in hip-hop history. “All of the Lights” has a dozen high profile singers only providing melodies, “Devil in a New Dress” has this gigantic, sample-heavy beat with a beautiful guitar breakdown, and the combination of tribal drums, vocoder vocals, and a choir on “Lost in the World” is awe-inspiring. There are a couple of clear flaws, though, which include Chris Rock’s outro to “Blame Game” and Jay-Z’s weird verse on “Monster,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean this album isn’t deserving of a spot on this list.

I can’t say if this project’s perfect or not due to how people define perfect. If you define perfect as “Nothing can make this project better,” then it’s not perfect because there are some clear moments that haven’t aged well. But if you’re looking at the word perfect as a 10/10 project, then I would say this is a perfect project and Kanye’s unarguable masterpiece.