It will be up to future generations to determine the 2010s’ legacy. So many conflicting trends did battle in both the charts and the underground this decade that it’s hard to say what will live on in memories and record collections in the future. But this decade has already seen a fair few albums that have caused a clear sea change, and it’s worth a gamble that these are the albums that will make future decade and all-time lists – if only because of their influence.

(Note: This is not a “best of” list. Though all of these records are of substantial artistic merit, none of my personal favorites are anywhere near as influential as these and shall thus be included in a separate list.)

1. Drake – Take Care Drake’s second album established an already-ubiquitous rapper as one of pop’s most compelling (and lucrative) voices, but its influence spread far wider. Take Care made navel-gazing melancholia a viable hip-hop aesthetic, ushered in the alt-R&B movement, brought the “post-dubstep” sound to the charts with the title track, established Y.O.L.O. as the scapegoat meme for the molly generation, introduced Kendrick Lamar’s triple-time Greek-chorusing to much of the world and gave us Lil Wayne’s best verse since 2008.

2. Skrillex – Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites EP Well over a decade since dubstep’s grimy birth in the clubs of London, Skrillex permanently made the term synonymous with the drop.  The brutal, sudden dynamic shift on the title track to Skrillex’s breakout EP blew more minds than maybe any other single track this decade and inadvertently catalyzed an entire era in which electronic dance music ruled with an iron fist.

3. Adele – 21 Most of the indie-folksters on the charts right now take their influence from music dating back well before the 2010s. But it was Adele’s ability to score the decade’s biggest album without a single synth credit that ended the turn-of-the-’10s era of post-disco glam and ushered in a live-band renaissance. It also had a fair share of world-beating pop singles, from the anthemic “Rolling In The Deep” to this decade’s gold-standard breakup song, “Someone Like You.”

4. Death Grips – The Money Store Death Grips emerged in 2011 as one of the more unusual groups to coast on that year’s swag-rap boom. By 2012, the movement was on its way out, and Death Grips miraculously rose above the tide to command hip-hop’s next wave. Though acts from Young Fathers to Ratking hopped on the trend, it was Kanye’s Yeezus – already an incredibly influential record despite being out for less than two years – that would prove Death Grips’ most influential progeny.

5. Chuck Person – Eccojams Vol. 1 Sometime at the beginning of this decade, Boston musician Daniel Lopatin realized the aesthetics of early computer culture could tap a bottomless well of nostalgia in millennial music fans. From his Eccojams album and his later work as Oneohtrix Point Never an grew a movement that manifested itself as a nameless aesthetic for years before someone decided to call it “vaporwave” – music’s most intriguing and terrifying cyberpunk movement yet.

Honorable mentions:

James Blake – James Blake

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


Lil B – Evil Red Flame

Migos – Y.R.N.


@@Alt. titles: “The most influential albums of the 2010s so far,” “5 albums that have defined the decade so far,” “The 5 most important albums of the decade so far” @@

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