In the final installment of the Music Beat’s top ten albums of the 2010s listicle, Timothy Dai ’23 reviews Lorde’s sophomore musical opus and Lana Del Rey’s latest sad-core hits, Kamilah Arteaga ’22 reflects on Tame Impala’s lyrical exploration of humanity and Music Desk Editor Natalie Francis ’22 with Executive Editor Holden Foreman ’21 review the chart-topping queen Billie Eilish:
7. Lorde’s Melodrama (2017)
“Melodrama” is as much a masterpiece as its cover art. Vibrant, impressionistic and emotional, Lorde’s 2017 sophomore album explores the triumphs and frustrations of growing up in the way Lorde knows best: with a tight tracklist of excellently-crafted, outspoken and sparkling pop songs. On “Hard Feelings,” Lorde captures the raw and uncontrollable emotions of a break-up, delivering breathy, layered and incredibly cathartic choruses over tense strings and twinkling synths. What really makes this cut remarkable, however, is the bridge, which ignites a series of ear-splitting yet oddly melodic screeches; here, Lorde achieves one of the many quirky and euphoric moments on “Melodrama.” She sustains these highs through the unbelievably catchy chorus of “Homemade Dynamite” and the agonized lyrics on the anthemic “Supercut.” Equally important, however, are the album’s subtle and softer moments. Delicate, pulsing guitar strums on “The Louvre” create a warm ambience — perfect for the song’s subject, a summer fling — as Lorde shows off her smart and creative pen with the line, “We’re the greatest. They’ll hang us in the Louvre — down the back, but who cares, still the Louvre.” In just 40 minutes, Lorde covers so much emotional and stylistic ground, taking us from highs to lows, from a fierce trap banger (“Sober II”) to a heart-wrenching piano ballad about insecurity (“Liability”). In the end, Lorde maintains “Melodrama”’s cohesion with her sharp songwriting and precise melodies. She packages her artistry into a sleek and concise record worth playing from beginning to end, again and again.
8. Tame Impala’s Currents (2015)
Tame Impala’s album Currents (2015) takes us on the incredible journey of being human, of taking the time to process and feel in times of confusion and strife. Written, recorded, produced and performed by artist Kevin Parker — popularly known as Tame Impala — Currents is well-recognized in the alternative music community for producing some of the most iconic singles of the past decade. The cover, lyrics and sound blend together seamlessly to bring the listener on a journey through the human subconscious and raw, real self-realizations. Starting off the album is “Let it Happen,” a journey in itself — one can only let time happen, let things pass. The entire album is set up this way; each song is a revelation of Parker’s emotions, a guide to their feelings, subconsciousness. Songs like “The Less I know the Better” and “Eventually” have been named classics because of unique instrumentals that are catchy and easy to relate to. While some songs tell us more lyrically about how Parker feels — such as “Yes, I’m Changing” and “‘Cause I’m a Man” — you can feel and hear the way the song feels just by listening to the instrumentals. This psychedelic soundscape shines brighter in the more obscure, interlude-like songs, such as “Nangs” and “Gossip.” Tame Impala’s signature sound — simple R&B beats that *go hard* and simple, catchy guitar riffs — scratch the itch for raw sound that everyone needs for that confusing, existential period in their life. Each song feels meticulously composed as something universal and translatable. Emotions are confusing, hard and raw and you feel Parker’s incredible work into ensuring his feelings were captured perfectly. It’s a vulnerable album that everyone will continue to come back to, and it’s an album that everyone will be talking about for years to come.
9. Lana Del Rey’s Norman F**king Rockwell! (2019)
“Goddamn, man-child,” are Lana Del Rey’s first words, shrewd and unexpected, on “Norman F**king Rockwell!” Eight years after the viral release of “Video Games” — the 2011 love song that cemented Lana as a sad-core cultural figure — the New York singer finds a new voice that, once again, charms the music industry in a way no other artist can. On “Norman,” Lana’s aesthetic is still somber and delicate, yet she exhibits power in a newfound sense of songwriting: clever, loving yet lacerating, mournful and poetic lyrics, all riding on her insanely gorgeous melodies. Elegantly naked tracks like “Happiness is a butterfly” that rely solely on Lana’s mellow vocals and the bare piano chords of Jack Antonoff (star-producer for Taylor Swift and Lorde’s “Melodrama”) establish a new sophistication in Lana’s repertoire, noticeably different from the rock and hip-hop influences of her previous albums. Other cuts feature luxurious strings that swell with Lana’s melodic crescendos, including the title track and “Mariners Apartment Complex,” a song whose layered vocal harmonizations on the line, “your Venice b*tch, your die-hard, your weakness,” are freeze-you-in-your-tracks beautiful. “Norman” is a monumental record that captures Lana at an exclusive level of allure and poetry. It’s an essential listen for anybody interested in the best that pop has to offer.
10. Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)
While she has amassed more than a billion streams, 17-year old Billie Eilish balances the swagger and self-consciousness of a California teen with street cred in her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” (2019). In the first track “bad guy,” Eilish playfully warns a potential lover of her mischievous tendencies over a thumping track of snaps, whispers and a melody fit for a spy movie soundtrack. The weird, trappy ending of “bad guy” may leave listeners yearning for the darker tone of track three, “you should see me in a crown,” as the latter’s brutal contrast between quiet mumbling and aggressive bass is at once chilling and empowering. While “all the good girls go to hell” probably isn’t earning Eilish much evangelical support, it’s hard to argue with the energetic beat and aggressive piano keys. The album’s third sad song in a row, the acoustic “8,” is the worst of a trio that features popular singles “wish you were gay” and “when the party’s over” with a less cohesive sound and a weird, off-putting baby voice that seems to add nothing of substance. Eilish brings listeners to both the club and “The Office” — yes, that office — in “my strange addiction,” overcoming repetition and uninspired lyrics with an infectious beat and ingenious incorporation of audio clips from the sitcom. Also ingenious is how “my strange addiction” transitions into “bury a friend,” thanks to the vocal contributions of British rapper Crooks. An even smoother transition brings us from “bury a friend” to “ilomilo,” a beautiful song on separation anxiety with futuristic bells and distorting voice effects out of this world yet relatable. The album-closing “goodbye” feels like it was pulled straight from the dreams of, not Eilish, but rather Kendrick Lamar (reviewed by Nadia Jo, ‘23, in Part 1 of this listicle). In Eilish’s debut coming-of-age album, the teen seems content and has opened a number of windows into her complexities, not just as an artist, but as a human being.
Contact Timothy Dai at timdai ‘at’ stanford.edu, Kamilah Arteaga at kam412 ‘at’ stanford.edu, Natalie Francis at natfran ‘at’ stanford.edu and Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.