Ready! Ready! Ready! The one with the purchase, the smartest in the class, did you know that there is even a stop on line 4 of the Madrid Metro called List? We can’t help it, at Esquire we like lists. We are good at them and they are very showy, as well as useful, of course. Look, we have them in all colors and flavors: the best pizzerias in Spain, the best tablets for you to read to us on a proper screen and what the hell, we’ve even tracked down the best hotel breakfasts.
But it is true that movies, books, series and music are our specialty. Take a tour of our website, search for a while randomly and you will be amazed to see the amount of entertainment that we have ordered from worst to best for your ditto. For example, the subject that occupies and concerns us today: the best records (so far) of the 21st century . Almost nothing.
Although many point to the 20th century as the golden moment of music (ourselves, with the 50 greatest songs of all time) this is largely due to record sales. Undoubtedly, if we look back and see the enormous number of albums that groups like The Rolling Stones or The Beatles released every week, it is normal for people to hate the new generation of creators.
Compared to the heyday of physical copy sales, the 21st century pales. But other than that, there’s no argument to suggest that music is less beloved now than it was then. In fact, it is now easier than ever to access it, from our mobile phones or through the various streaming services that make millions of songs available to us every second. Just by plugging in your headphones at home, on the bus or in the arctic tundra, you can be transported to another world through music. Suck that one, 70s.
So to honor this century we are going to face the difficult task of summarizing its first 21 years in a selection of records in which there is pop, rock and rap courtesy of new musical talents, but in which old glories have also crept in. Like David Bowie or Bob Dylan.
Surely you miss this or that artist, but one thing that these 21 albums guarantee, one for every year that we have been in the century, is that music is far from dead. And hey, don’t forget to stop by in 2099 to see the final version of this list!
The Rising – Bruce Springsteen (2002)
When the 9/11 attacks brought down the Twin Towers, Bruce Springsteen was forced to respond. The result was an extraordinary 15-song requiem that searched for meaning in unexplained tragedy while paying homage to the deceased and their loved ones. There’s tremendous beauty in songs like Into the Fire , but it’s the sound of the record courtesy of the E Street Band that lifts it up to heaven.
Ghosteen – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2019)
Nick Cave described Ghosteen as having two acts. The songs of the first half were the children and those of the second, his parents. Thus, the album, his seventeenth with the band Bad Seeds, is imbued with his pain over the death of his teenage son four years earlier. “Language falls short when faced with the immensity of pain,” says the author of a brilliant album that deals with about hard truths and makes them more bearable.
Love and Theft – Bob Dylan (2001)
From the guitar frenzy of Summer Days to the country groove of Po’ Boy , this record captures the spontaneity Bob Dylan displays onstage but rarely captures on record. A gem on a par with his best work from the 60s and 70s that gets better with every listen and reminds us whether we like it or not, no one else can do what he does.
Up The Bracket – The Libertines (2002)
Produced by The Clash’s Mick Jones, the Libertines created a modern classic with this album, bringing guitar music back into fashion and rock cool again, at a time when the British music scene left much to be desired. want. Wild and chaotic, they were the first exciting band since Britpop began and before it devoured itself. And his songs lived up to his image.
Kid A – Radiohead (2000)
From the eerie tune that opens Everything in Its Right Place , it was clear that Radiohead had taken a giant leap into uncharted territory. The electronic influences that had seeped into OK Computer came of age – most spectacularly on the techno Idioteque – although there are a lot more guitars on this record than you probably remember. Kid A remains one of the most influential records of all time and one of the best examples of how NOT to go commercial.
Speakerboxxx / The Love Below – OutKast (2003)
After their fantastic Stankonia , this album was such an explosion of creativity that it couldn’t be contained in a single album: that’s why they made two, one for each band member.
Big Boi and Andre 3000 set the bar high for any rap or funk artist that came after them. And it is that any work that includes Hey Ya! it is automatically elevated to the category of masterpiece.
Currents – Tame Impala (2015)
Any of Tame Impala’s first three albums could have made it on this list, but their Currents makes it as the cornerstone of the Australian band. Like the first caveman to salt his piece of mammoth meat, there’s been at least a hint of this record in everything they’ve gone on to do. Pop perfection at its finest.
The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem (2000)
“They say I can’t rap about being broke anymore,” Eminem yelled in the opening bars of his second album. Lucky for him, there were a lot of things he could rap about: fame and its miseries, murder, arson, self-mutilation, drug addiction, Britney Spears. With catchphrases like “blood, guts, guns, cuts/knives, lives, wives, nuns, whores,” he cemented his position as the most inventive new voice in rap.
SMILE – Brian Wilson (2004)
Former Beach Boy Brian Wilson completed SMiLE from the band’s unfinished 1967 album Smile , recreating songs including a stripped-down, upbeat version of Good Vibrations, arguably one of the greatest tracks ever composed. Wilson won his first Grammy – best rock instrumental performance – for the song from the album Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow . Although it will never be fully completed, like the Sagrada Familia, this is a curious time capsule of a once-in-a-lifetime moment in popular culture.
Elephant – White Stripes (2003)
With this triumphant record, Jack and Meg White (no, they weren’t siblings) weren’t seduced by their first major label and record deal and went back to basics. The result is some of the White Stripes’ best work, a reflection of the rejection at their height of fame. A musical revolution in which each song is as good as the next.
Funeral – Arcade Fire (2004)
As the album’s mournful name suggests, the deaths of several of the Montreal band members’ relatives formed the basis for their debut album. The songs are full of pain, but also the relief that music and family bring. But that doesn’t mean that the album is overflowing with wonderful pop moments that one of the band’s biggest fans, David Bowie, was surely proud of.
Scandinavian leather – Turbonegro (2003)
Behind their wild and at the same time crazy gay and denim iconography, their self-baptized deathpunk style and their funny names like Euroboy, Happy Tom or Pal Pot Pamparius, was hiding a band with immense talent that left us above all two super-perfect albums: Apocalypse dudes in the 20th century and Scandinavian leather in the 21st. Two jewels with which to fall in love with these crazy Norwegians and with which to pay homage to the recently deceased Hank von Helvete.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West (2010)
At this point, his very public pot trips and his latest name change to Ye may have made us lose perspective on Kanye West, but the truth is that he once put all his genius together
creative in this, his masterpiece. Filled with legendary choruses, psychodrama lyrics and an all-star cast from Bon Iver to Nicki Minaj, combined with samples from King Crimson, this record launched hip hop in a whole new direction.
Blackstar – David Bowie (2016)
Published in 2016, shortly before his death, Blackstar is the last breath of one of the best artists in history and for that alone it deserves to be on this list. But it is also a superb collection of seven intense songs in which David Bowie opens up to death, fear of it and the idea of rebirth. Yes, there are better White Duke albums, but none are as shocking or painful for a Bowie fan.
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
The working title of Kendrick Lamar’s second studio release for a major label was Tu Pimp a Caterpillar in honor of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. Touching on very personal themes such as fame, depression and death, this courageous work earned the Californian five Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album.
Vespertine – Bjork (2001)
This intimate, mystical and sensual album might seem too simple and naive, but it is one of the ones that best defines the Icelandic singer thanks to the strength of its composition. Unison rivals Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy as trip-hop’s greatest ballad, and the effect upon listening to it is both timeless and current: a cutting-edge electronic and pop exploration of classics.
Brothers – The Black Keys (2010)
In addition to having a brutally simple cover art, Brothers is not only one of the best modern rock albums out there, it’s also among the best rock albums ever. Without a single filler track and with smash hits like Tighten up or The go getter , it reminds us of the great sound of classic rock that is sorely lacking in this era of boring generic pop.
Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not – Arctic monkeys (2006)
Random Access Memories – Daft Punk (2013)
It’s rare to hear a record that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard before and even rarer to hear one that also puts a smile on your face. Daft Punk’s latest record did both. Beyond the megahit Get Lucky with Pharrell, the album is a majestic conclusion to the career of one of the greatest electronic groups of all time.
Back to Black – Amy Winehouse (2006)
The title sounds terribly prescient now that we know about the substance abuse that would end up getting her into the 27 Club, but then Amy Winehouse shone on what was her best album. Mark Ronson’s excellent production on an album that includes a selection of popular music from the previous century based on doo-wop and soul, is the perfect complement to the singer’s incomparable voice.
Is This It? -The Strokes (2001)
After Britpop and after pop-punk, the New York quintet’s debut album showed that rock could be cool again. It was all perfect poses, funny remarks and epic guitar riffs. Oh, and your boss trying to look fashionable by wearing a T-shirt under his jacket at the office on Fridays? Blame it on these guys.