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React: Paste Magazine’s Best Albums of the 2010’s List

It’s difficult for any one person to approach a list with complete objectivity,

Jasmine-Kay Johnson

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The ten best on-screen romances. The top five podcasts to listen to if you love music. The eight ways to use a scrunchie. Whatever the list may be, I can appreciate their purpose of being informative, fun and digestible.

When it comes to ranking music, though, I often find myself gasping, rolling my eyes or fighting back feelings of outright confusion.  

Image from Paste magazine’s Best of the Decade

I’m always left wondering why one album was ranked higher than another, who chose that album or why another didn’t even make the cut.  

Any music journalism connoisseur is well aware of Pitchfork’s authority on all things music, but I wanted to take a gander at Paste magazine’s recent list, dutifully titled “The 100 Best Albums of the 2010s.”

I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the entire list because that would take forever. I would like to direct your attention to Paste‘s albums of the decade. 

The top ten: 

10. CTRL by SZA (2017)

9. Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves (2018)

8. Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen (2015)

7. Blonde by Frank Ocean (2016)

6. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett (2015)

5. Channel Orange by Frank Ocean (2012)

4. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (2010)

3. This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem (2010)

2. Lemonade by Beyoncé (2016)

1. To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (2015)

Of these albums, I think what surprised me most was the appearance of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion. (Full disclosure: she isn’t an artist I listen to often; my experience with her is pretty much limited to “Call Me Maybe.”) So, upon seeing her album at number eight, I figured I should listen to it. 

While it’s a refreshing pop album with a feel-good tone — even if the subject matter doesn’t always make you feel — I’m not completely convinced that it should have charted higher than, say, Alvvays’ Antisocialites or Robyn’s acclaimed Body Talk

Outside of Emotion, the only other albums I hadn’t listened to in the top ten were Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit and This is Happening.

I did the right thing and listened to those as well. Again, both are solid albums that included various lyrical and sonic elements I often fawn over. However, I have my own thoughts about other albums that could have taken their places. 

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The remaining seven make more sense to me, despite the fact that they may or may not have been placed as high in my personal rankings. Kacey Musgraves balances nicely between pop and country, thus creating an album that could easily appeal to the masses beyond genre.

CTRL, a musical landmark for an artist I had already grown to love, was an all-too-relatable telling of what’s it like to be a 20-something black girl. Kendrick Lamar successfully experimented with rap to pull together an album that detailed what we continue to face almost five years after its release.

Beyoncé left a permanent mark on pop culture with an album and visuals that were not only honest and vulnerable, but bold, badass and BLACK AF. And Frank Ocean? Do I even need to explain why he deserved two spots? 

Of course, it’s difficult for any one person to approach a list with complete objectivity, especially concerning music— something that eagerly invites personal connections and unique interpretations. Keeping that in mind, I’d love to see a publication take a slightly different approach to these music lists. 

Generally speaking, employees at publications like Pitchfork or Paste don’t necessarily have to sift through and choose their contenders alone — editors and writers usually band together to highlight what they believe are the best of the best.

As we inch closer to the Roaring 20s (2.0), in particular, it makes sense that there would be multiple people working on one list that covered a span of ten years. It would be more interesting to look at a package that includes various personalized lists from multiple people. 

Now, if you’re someone who listens to an abundance of music that spans across genres and borders (like myself), the thought of having to produce a list of your favorite songs and/or albums for just one year is anxiety-inducing. So, I can also imagine how having to pull together a list of your favorites for an entire decade could make an already daunting task that much more difficult.  

Even so, it’s a challenge that people shouldn’t shy away from. It would give people the opportunity to truly personalize their lists, there wouldn’t be a need for compromise or debate. Readers could take those lists at face value and understand the tastes and preferences of the people they’re trusting to be authorities on music.

I realize that it’s a lot to ask, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it to come to life. 

In any case, I do think that Paste presented a list of albums that have and will continue to stand the test of time. I’m excited to witness the music of a new decade, songs that will one day measure up against each other for a spot on yet another list.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Jasmine-Kay is a senior at the University of Missouri studying journalism with an emphasis in magazine publishing and management. She is an editor for the Genius Knowledge Project and posts her own music-related writing on her website (jasmine-kayjohnson.com). Her hope is to obtain a master's in music business from NYU after undergrad.

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