The Decade’s Top 10 Albums
Much of the past decade unfolded in the shadow of the 2001 terrorist attacks on America and our leaders' reaction to it. Artists from Green Day to Bruce Springsteen to Coldplay allowed the reshaped world to color their music, while others, such as Jay-Z and the Strokes, focused on the pursuit of the good life.
Green Day - "American Idiot (2004)
In a year when America drew criticism worldwide, Green Day grew up to comment on the state of the nation in a punk-rock opera. A bulletproof parade of songs turned the trio into a full-fledged arena act and, for better or worse, turned moms and dads on to a band that their kids had been enjoying for years. The title track is the decade's most immediate and memorable pop song. The retro-rocking "Jesus of Suburbia" and the reverberating "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" pull no punches in depicting a place where somethings amiss. Green Day had million-selling success before this CD, but it took "American Idiot" for the band to reach its full potential.
Eminem - "The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
The tormented, Detroit-based lightning rod born Marshall Mathers established himself as the world's most diabolically creative rapper with this in-your-face collection of social satire. Eminem angered gays and offended women with vulgar and misogynistic - but brilliantly delivered - lyrics sprinkled throughout the album. But he also cracked up listeners with self-deprecating spoken skits and rapid-fire raps. The dramatic rap-ballad "Stan" demonstrated Eminem's popular appeal and range.
Coldplay - "A Rush of Blood to the Head" (2002)
We've all heard "Clocks" 10,000 times too many while shopping at the mall, but there's a reason every store plays it - it's a very catchy, well-crafted rock song. That could be said about this entire album. Chris Martin&Co. show their musicianship and versatility as they move between sleek, guitar-driven rock ("God Put a Smile Upon Your Face"), piano-meets-strings atmospherics ("In my Place," ''Politik") and love ballads ("The Scientist").
Bruce Springsteen - "The Rising" (2002)
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer took nearly a year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to release his first studio album with extensive use of the E Street Band in 18 years. The result, based in part on conversations with victims' families, was the strongest musical statement in any genre about that tragic day. Such songs as "Into the fire," ''Empty Sky" and the title track are capable of eliciting chills and tears.
Jay-Z - "The Blueprint" (2001)
This rap masterpiece established Jay-Z as the pre-eminent MC in New York and boosted his national exposure. With the help of Kanye West, Jay-Z used vintage soul samples from such artists as Al Green and Bobby "Blue" Bland to sweeten several tracks like the sweeping "Heart of the City." Jay-Z introduces "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" by calling his work "the eighth wonder of the world, the flow of the century." He walks the walk behind that talk on this album.
The Dixie Chicks - "Taking the Long Way" (2006)
The trio that was banned by much of country radio after singing Natalie Maines dissed President Bush onstage created its best CD when it decided it didn't need Nashville anymore. Famed rock producer Rick Rubin brought in Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell to give the sound more backbone. The defiant CD-opener, "The Long Way Around," shows the Chicks' evolution into a multifaceted act that, as Maines sings, "wouldn't kiss all the asses that they told me to."
Justin Timberlake - "FutureSexLoveSounds" (2006)
On his second CD, Timberlake continued to distance himself from his 'N Sync past and evolve as one of R&B's most creative artists. He expanded his collaboration with hip hop's Timbaland, who co-wrote and produced most of the tracks. Timberlake stripped things back, employing drum machines, electronica and processed vocals. The mega-hit "Sexy Back" set the edgy tone, balanced by sweet soul tunes and club-friendly ballads.
Ryan Adams - "Heartbreaker" (2000)
There's nothing fancy or complex about the solo debut by the former leader of the alt-country band Whiskeytown, but the results are stunning. Adamas was 27 when he recorded this disc. The wide range of music that Adams would explore the rest of the decade is hinted at in such tracks as the homesick "Oh My Sweet Carolina," the desperate "Come Pick Me Up" and the rollicking "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)."
The Strokes - "Is This It" (2001)
This scruffy, New York-based group of early-20s musicians from privileged backgrounds launched the decade's garage-rock revival. The 11 frantic tracks rush by in 36 minutes. Magnetic singer Julian Casablancas is at turns cocky, melancholy and joyous as he joins two well-matched guitarists (Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi) doling out both polish and grit and a drummer (Fab Moretti) who moves far beyond basic pounding.
Beck - "The Information" (2006)
The Quirky One hits yet another project (a follow-up to the also-strong "Guero" and "Sea Change") out of the park. "The Information" finds Beck returning to the genre-hopping of his breakthrough CD, 1996's "Odelay." Too-cool rapping ("Elevator Music"), brisk rock ("Think I'm in Love") and atmospheric ballads ("Strange Apparition") are the result of an artist who clearly wants to sample (pun intentional) as many types of music as he could. Producer Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) ties it all together.
Kanye West, "Late Registration" (2005); Outkast, "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" (2003); White Stripes, "Elephant" (2003); Kasabian, "Kasabian" (2004); Wilco, "Wilco (The Album)" (2009).