Without wanting to dwell on negatives too much, the last two months have been a strange, difficult and worrying time, not least for the arts and culture sector.
In Newcastle, it’s been both great and hard to see lots of our wonderful live performance venues coming up with inventive ways to stay engaged with theatre and music lovers, as well as developing initiatives to raise money while needing to remain closed. You’re hard work has been incredible.
Live music and theatre is part of the heart and soul of the North East. I can’t wait until shows can go ahead again for that wonderful stage magic and the buzz of an amazing gig. We may have to wait a bit before that can happen, but when it does and we can walk back through the doors of our favourite venues, it will be unbeatable.
So, to raise a glass, to applaud and to celebrate our incredible venues, their dedicated staff and the fantastic creatives we’re lucky enough to have right here in Newcastle, this piece of art is for you. Designed by my very talented friend, Amy Hall, this artwork is a gift to all of the live venues in the city, as well as everyone who enjoys them. It symbolises that this isn’t a time of sadness but a time of hope and strength in the face of adversity.
The twenty tens (that’s what we’re calling it) was a strange decade, full of ups and downs in the world. A lot of us millennials felt the strain of politics, the economy and the ever changing minefield of social media. However, there were a lot of positives to take away from 2010-2019. Not least of all the power of music in trepidatious times.
The decade brought with it some absolute gems across the music industry, as well as developing easier access to music for many fans with streaming services such as Spotify and Tidal. There have been hundreds of excellent albums and EP’s released in the last 10 years, so it’s been hard to narrow my favourites down to a top 40. But here we are;
40. Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019)
I didn’t quite get Billie Eilish when I first heard of her, but after sitting and listening to this album in full I decided I absolutely loved her weirdness. She’s a young girl who doesn’t want to fit into the music industry’s usual pop princess style, and her music matches her creepy and alternative vibe. I’m into it.
Maroon 5 aren’t really seen as ‘cool’ anymore, but whatever. You can’t deny that they have some very catchy tracks on this album. It’s easy listening, almost boyband pop but not quite. Basically, I listened to this album a lot in 2012 and I don’t regret it.
38. Rihanna – Loud (2010)
Rihanna entered the decade with a bang releasing this album in 2010. You couldn’t go anywhere from shops to nightclubs without hearing at least two tracks from this record. It was also the era of red haired Rihanna, which started a huge trend in the early twenty tens.
Janet Jackson has been criminally underrated and ignored by mainstream radio stations following that whole boob incident at the Super Bowl in 2004. Whilst Justin Timberlake got off very lightly, *sigh*, Janet’s career unfortunately took a dip, but she’s continued to make excellent music and tour regardless. I grew up with Janet’s Design of a Decade album and still have a lot of love for her.
36. Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head (2019)
Not only is Stormzy a really cool guy, but he uses his platform and music to raise awareness of various political issues. His outspoken campaigning for the Grenfell Tower fire being just one of them. This album enhances his voice as an artist of the underground music scene that has shot to fame and the public eye, while remaining a down to earth bloke from Croydon.
Katy B’s debut album instantly takes me back to my peak nights out in Newcastle’s club and bar scene. Back when I was a bit of club queen myself, On A Mission was the perfect pre-drinks and after party album.
This is another album I’ve chosen for reminiscent reasons. deadmau5 did a lot for the EDM scene in the music industry in the late noughties and early two thousand tens. While I was a big fan of deadmau5 in his early days, this is possibly my favourite album of his as it reminds me of good times. I also have to love the track he made with Cypress Hill.
33. Frank Ocean – Blond (2016)
This is simply just a lovely album. Franks voice is as smooth as he is effortlessly cool. It’s a perfect Sunday afternoon or romantic night in record, and it was the first time I ever really listened to a full body of his work. But I have to say that he’s, like, super cool, guys.
She’s Lady Gaga the way we love her; weird, wonderful and singing about hookers. This album carries some of my favourite Gaga singles; Born This Way and Marry The Night, which have to be two of the decade’s most iconic pop songs.
Christina Aguilera’s newer music may not have been quite as well heard of as her previous albums in the 2000’s and late 90’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Christina’s voice is still as undeniably powerful as it was in her Stripped days, and there are some total bops on this record.
This soulful pop album was put together really well, and it’s clear to tell from her music that Emeli is passionate about her craft. Though a few tracks from this album got a lot of airplay on mainstream radio, that doesn’t take away the feeling of raw yet sophisticated talent in her music.
Sadly released posthumously after Amy passed away in 2011, this album is a credit to her talent and unique style as an artist. Though many of the songs on this album may never have been released if she was still in this world to create new music, it’s a lovely reminder of her short but incredible career as a recording artist.
Janelle Monáe is a breath of fresh air. Her almost haunting but very melodic voice is a breeze to listen to and this album didn’t get the success it was entitled to, in my opinion. Pour yourself a vodka coke and blast out her track Make Me Feel. It’s an instant confidence boost.
27. JAY-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013)
JAY-Z doing what JAY-Z does best, rapping really, really well. I’m nowhere near cool enough to be listening to this album to be honest, but it’s been a joy to bop along to since 2013. Thanks for letting me pretend to have more street cred then I do, Hova.
If you haven’t gone away and genuinely listened to this album yet then, well, please do. Sampha’s ethereal voice and celestial sound is what dreams are made of. This album showcases his talent as a writer and vocalist perfectly.
Though some of Nicki’s fans may argue with me, The Pinkprint is my favourite album in her repertoire. For me, it’s a genius blend of pop music meets rap and hip hop. The fact it comes from the self-proclaimed queen of rap is a sincere bonus.
24. Chase & Status – No More Idols (2011)
No More Idols has been one of my go to gym albums of the decade. While my dedication to gym has varied over the years, this album is still gold. Perfect for those situations where you need some motivation, as the energy in record has never faltered.
23. Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy (2018)
While the feud between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj for the crown of the rap scene may still be strong, there’s no denying that Cardi has brought incredible character to rap and pop charts in the last couple of years. This album is powerful, audacious and unforgiving, just like Cardi herself.
I just really like this album, y’know? Kendrick has definitely been one of the music industry’s most commercially successful stars of the decade, and this album is the perfect example of why. He’s talented, vibrant and making big moves.
21. Solange – A Seat At The Table (2016)
Solange finally got the recognition she deserved with this album, and rightly so. Well and truly coming into her own as an artist throughout this record and unapologetically delivering her own unique blend of soul, funk and contemporary R&B, this album is a masterpiece.
This decade has been amazing for The Weeknd, AKA Abel. He’s released a lot of really stellar music and strong albums, however this is my favourite body of work to come from him so far, even if it is only 6 tracks long. Quality not quantity for this one.
Although their friendship has been somewhat tempestuous over the years, JAY-Z and Kanye Westcreate some of their best work together. Spitting fire across this whole album, both Yeezy and Hova created a monster.
18. Kiah Victoria – Memo (2018)
Kiah Victoria’s melodic and otherworldly sound is dreamily showcased in her debut album – Memo. Effortlessly chic whilst distinctively gripping, this record promises much more to come from Kiah, while also being notably mature in itself.
17. Mabel – High Expectations (2019)
Mabel has been one of the UK’s biggest break out stars of the last couple of years and this album is British R&B pop perfection. Full of bops, sassy dance anthems and catchy lyrics, Mabel is the unproblematic pop chart queen we needed in the late twenty tens.
This has to be my favourite album to come from Katy so far. Kitsch pop music and bouncy vibes are her thing, and Prism does it so well! Full of feel good tunes as well as some soul searching numbers, it’s definitely one of the decade’s most prominent pop albums.
15. Little Mix – Get Weird (2015)
Little Mix are the Spice Girls of the 2010’s. There. I said what I said. Give these girls their dues, they’re entertaining, energetic and talented performers with an ever growing list of chart hits under their belt. This album is full of them, too.
When Jessie Ware isn’t making award winning podcasts, she’s creating beautiful music. Literally, this album is stunning. Jessie’s soothing yet powerful voice sets the tone of this gorgeously conceived track list. It’s a very thoughtful but also easy to listen to record that I couldn’t leave off this list.
While we’re impatiently waiting for Rih Rih’s long awaited next album, Anti is more than enough to let us know it’s going to be well worth the wait. Anti was possibly one of the most seminal charting albums of the last decade, and certainly one of Rihanna’s most career defining.
12. Kelela – Take Me Apart (2017)
Take Me Apart is without a doubt one of the best R&B albums I have heard in the last ten years. Kelela’s striking voice and razor sharp lyrics layered on top of electronic and dynamic melodies have constructed a truly remarkable record.
11. The 1975 – A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships (2018)
Before listening to this album, I didn’t think I’d be that bothered about the music that this band were producing. I’m glad to tell you that I was very wrong. I flipping love this album! I fell in love with both Matty’s voice and the diversity of the collection of tracks on this record. 10/10.
10. Years & Years – Palo Santo (2018)
Years & Years have a distinct sound that I really dig. Although they are very successful in the UK pop charts, I can’t help but feel that this band is still a bit underrated. The vocals are gorgeous and every track on this album is worthy of a single release.
Being the first album that Ariana released after the tragic Manchester Arena bombing in 2017, this album was incredibly poignant, important and moving. Ariana’s method of using music to help her and her fans to heal, as well as developing this album to create uplifting and inspiring music is nothing short of extraordinary.
Jessie Ware’s debut album was the album that I didn’t know I needed until I heard it. I hadn’t expected how much I’d enjoy this record or how beautifully constructed it would be. It’s an album that I’ll never get tired of listening to.
7. The Carters – Everything is Love (2018)
Beyoncé and JAY-Z was the collaboration album that we’d been waiting for for years, and it’s everything we could have hoped for and more. From two of the most talented performers alive, what else were we going to get?
6. Too Many Zooz – Subway Gawds (2016)
If you haven’t already heard of Too Many Zooz, please get on Youtube and search for the viral videos of them performing in New York subway stations. Phenomenally energetic, incredibly adept and simply brilliant to watch live. Although this album is fantastic, it’s not enough. Please go and see them perform.
Ariana Grande has to be the decade’s undoubted pop princess and this album is pop royalty. Dangerous Woman’s track list embodies genuinely good quality pop music. There’s no denying the genre. The album is wall to wall hits and helped the general public really realise Ariana as highly talented performer and artist.
As well as being the name of Beyoncé’s 4th solo album, 4 is also Beyoncé’s lucky number. So, honestly, I couldn’t not have this album as 4 on my list. Not only that, but this album was the first in her career that Beyoncé solely acted as executive producer of. There was a noticeable difference between this album and her previous work, and saw a more soulful, raw and less clean cut version of Beyoncé.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a big fan of Ariana Grande, and I genuinely believe that this album showcases her best work to date. Again going on to write and produce this album after suffering heartbreak and anxiety, the strength of Ariana and of this album is amazing. It’s also her highest selling record to date, and one of 2019’s most commercially successful albums.
Lemonade is a culturally ground breaking, visually stunning and all-out pioneering piece of work. Beyoncé took absolutely no bull when creating this album. As her second visual album, she not only made an incredible vocal track listing, but a film to go with it that is laced with important themes such as racism, misogyny, relationships and healing. There will never be another album like it and there will never be another Beyoncé.
1. Beyoncé – Beyoncé (2013)
Do you remember where you were on the morning of December 13th, 2013? I do. I woke up at 6am, and checked my phone to find out that Queen Bey had dropped an album, completely unannounced overnight. Not only that, but it broke boundaries within the music industry by being the first of its kind, a visual album, to be released. Whilst completing the Mrs Carter World Tour, Beyoncé not only put together an album, but a music video to go with each track. This album is also the reason that traditional album release dates changed from Mondays to Fridays, as it was so successful in its first weekend. For me, a loyal member of the Beyhive, this album represents what Beyoncé is capable of and the true art in her craft. In my eyes, it is likely the most influential album in the music industry of the twenty tens, if not for much longer. The album also reminds me of a fantastic year in my life, and each song holds a great memory for me.