What are the best 100 albums of the 2010s according to fans?
In my last story, I looked at the top 100 albums of the 2010s according to music critics. Today I look at the top 100 from the fans’ perspective.
My favorite fan rating meta site is rateyourmusic. Metacritic, Album of the Year and Allmusic have user ratings, but nowhere near the number of votes that RYM attracts. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly received over 27,000 ratings on RYM but only c.3,000 on Metacritic, AOTY, and c.2,500 on Allmusic. Many albums lower on the top 100 have received less than a hundred ratings in Metacritic, AOTY and Allmusic, making placings susceptible to a small number of votes, whereas the top 100 on RYM all received over one thousand votes.
As I’ve seen with rating sites for films and books, RYM weights the average scores by the number of votes received. That approach makes sense when comparing albums with hugely divergent numbers of votes. But all the albums on this top 100 have over a thousand votes. Furthermore, I’ve observed that albums supported by a rabid fan base will very quickly get voted down on RYM if the artistic quality doesn’t stack up. Hence I reweighted the RYM top 100 according to average scores, only using the number of votes as a tie-breaker where two or more albums had the same score.
The full reweighted fans’ top 100 albums of the 2010s is included at the end of this story.
The fans’ top 100 is concentrated on fewer artists than the critics’ list. Eighteen artists had more than one entry (vs seven on the critics’ list) and those eighteen artists represented nearly half of the top 100 with forty-nine entries between them. The dominance of hip hop is clear — nine of eighteen artists with multiple entries. The table below shows artists with two or more entries on the fans’ top 100.
How is it that Death Grips has seven albums on the fans’ top 100 yet not a single album on the critics’ list? It’s not easy listening, for sure, but I can imagine their music in certain social settings shall we say. Are the critics not progressive enough?
It seems that Death Grips polarises the critics enough to keep the band out of the top 100. For example, scores for The Money Store, their highest fan-rated album, varied from 100% to 40% on AOTY. One reviewer characterized it as, “A blistering, feral and intense second album from a band who show no signs of selling out.” Another said, “Essentially, The Money Store is pseudo-intellectual music for non-hip hop fans. It attempts to present a curious combination of genre-bending ideas, yet falls into a very simple category of poorly executed shock rap.”
Kendrick Lamar is even more popular with fans than critics, with five albums on the fans’ top 100 vs three on the critics’. Even more impressive, the fans gave him first and second place in the top 100.
Swans create powerful, noisy post-rock but have greater critical success than Death Grips. They take third position on this survey, with 4 albums in the top 100 vs a still respectable seventh (with two albums) on the critics’.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ranked third with the critics and fourteenth with the fans with two albums in the top 100 on both lists. The fans chose Push the Sky Away and Skeleton Tree, whereas the critics chose Skeleton Tree and the recently released Ghosteen. For my money, I think the fans got it right.
Of the non-hip hop acts in the table above, two can be regarded as closely aligned — Frank Ocean with his alternative R&B and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib with their gangsta rap. Three can be classed as auteurs — Joanna Newsom, Sufjan Stevens, and Nick Cave. That leaves Beach House (dream pop) and Car Seat Headrest (indie rock) as the only “traditional” bands amongst the artists with multiple entries.
Variations in time
Looking at the release dates of the albums in the top 100 doesn’t reveal any anomalies or trends. No year is more than 1.5 standard deviations from the expected average of ten.
In future stories, I’ll combine the critics’ and fans’ top 100s to produce the definitive list of the best albums of the 2010s. I’ll also dig deeper into the top 100s to look at other attributes.