No matter what crisises mankind is facing, one thing that’s always been able to keep us united is music. The creative artform transcends barriers like language and cultural differences to invoke deep emotions, inspire others and heal the artist as they tell their story. Of course, not everything that’s uploaded to DSPs needs to change the lives of millions, though many of the LPs on our best albums of all time round-up have far-reaching impacts beyond what their makers ever could’ve imagined.

Rather than ranking them by replay value or commercial success, we’re breaking down the greatest albums by decade from the 1960s to modern day. From the Queen of Soul and the King of Pop to the music that introduced us to the streaming era, you won’t want to miss this sonic trip back in time.


We would be remiss not to begin a year before the decade of flower power, highlighting Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue from 1959 as the first must-listen project on our list. It was the musician’s 28th album, but still remains a standout in his discography and is widely regarded as his “masterpiece” by critics. Moving on to the mid-60s, Nina Simone‘s I Put a Spell on You was a standout, largely thanks to the title track and “Feeling Good,” both of which were released as singles. The 12-track album is the closest we ever heard the vocalist come to diving into pop music, though it only peaked at No. 99 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Few will ever live up to the songwriting talent that was Leonard Cohen, especially as we heard him on 1967’s Songs of Leonard Cohen. The contemporary folk LP marked the Canadian’s debut as a musician after spending years working as a poet and novelist. “Suzanne,” in particular is a heartfelt ballad that might bring you to tears. On the more psychedelic side of things we have Jimi Hendrix, who made his presence felt with Are You Experienced in the same year. Like Cohen, this was the Black artist’s first release, and it arrived to rapid critical and commercial success, exploring genres like rock, blues, funk and heavy metal.

Our final selection from the 60s is Aretha Franklin’s soulful I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – coincidentally another 1967 arrival, though this was the “Good Times” hitmaker’s 10th album. The Jerry Wexler-produced effort was one of Franklin’s first big breaks, peaking at No. 2 on Billboard largely thanks to the success of her famous “Respect” cover, which topped the singles chart.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)

Nina Simone – I Put a Spell on You (1965)

Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)

Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced (1967)

Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)


In the next decade, artists continued to explore different sounds, many of them seeking to soundtrack the rapidly changing times of our world. In 1971, Marvin Gaye urged the world to pause for a moment and ask, What’s Going On? His soul-filled album managed to stay atop the Billboard Top LPs chart for over a year, and became his second No. 1 on the outlet’s Soul LPs chart. Even over 50 years later, its influence remains undeniable, especially knowing the mental anguish Gaye was going through in the early 70s.

In the realm of psychedelic rock, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon managed to put listeners in a trance after a successful 1973 arrival. Around the same time, Stevie Wonder shared his Innervisions, blessing us with hits like “Higher Ground” and “Don’t’ You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” before taking home a Grammy for Album of the Year and Best R&B Song.

Even from the small, beautiful island of Jamaica in the 1970s, Bob Marley managed to spread his message of peace and love loud and clear. He and the Wailers came together to release Exodus in 1977, marking their ninth studio LP. The title track, “Jamming,” “Three Little Birds” and “One Love” are among the most popular songs from this era, all of which carry messages that are all too relevant in the 2020s. Elsewhere, the trials of tribulations of Fleetwood Mac’s members were almost as entertaining as their Rumors project.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973)

Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus (1977)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (1977)


Even years after his death, Michael Jackson remains one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture iconography, particularly for his “Thriller” music video look. It only makes sense then, that his 1982 LP of the same name would be on our best albums of all time round-up. The short and sweet nine song tracklist is full of infectious tunes like “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and “Beat It.” Interestingly, MJ once said that if he was given a tidbit of inspiration from God, but failed to act on it in time, a higher power would send the same idea to one of his biggest competitors, Prince. The “Kiss” singer wowed us in 1984 with Purple Rain, which found the performer facing off against his inner demons.

Not only were the 80s full of epic vocals, but they also introduced us to some hip-hop grounds that would go on to pave the way for today’s stars. Both Public Enemy and N.W.A had political messages to share through their rhymes in 1988, the former on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and the latter on Straight Outta Compton. At the same time, as the King of Pop confidently ascended to his throne, Madonna was making waves as the Queen of Pop with her 1989 album, Like a Prayer.

Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

Prince and the Revolution – Purple Rain (1984)

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (1988)

Madonna – Like a Prayer (1989)


After being introduced to MTV in the decade before, the landscape of music began to change forever in the 90s, shifting to satisfy consumers in the digital era. Grunge and rock music were increasing in popularity because of Kurt Cobain’s rebellious spirit in Nirvana, and the world of hip-hop was finally getting the recognition it deserved for both MCs and femcees.

The dissolution of N.W.A wound up working in Dr. Dre’s favor as his solo career blossomed with 1992’s The Chronic. Two years later, TLC continued their hot streak with the cleverly titled CrazySexyCool. Legendary producers Babyface, Jermaine Dupri, Chucky Thompson and Sean Combs all helped to produce the girl group’s sophomore LP, with tracks like “Creep,” “Waterfalls,” and “If I Was Your Girl Friend” inspiring countless others down the line.

In 2024, Jay-Z spends most of his time supporting Beyoncé’s musical career and leading other creatives at Roc Nation. Back in the 90s, however, the New York mogul was just making a name for himself as a lyricist. His debut, Reasonable Doubt, came in ’96, boasting an impressive roster of collaborators like Foxy Brown, Biggie Smalls and Mary J. Blige. Though he’s given us 12 other studio LPs in the decades since, some still think Hov’s humble beginnings are his best work. Before the decade came to a close, Lauryn Hill left her mark as well, sharing her one and only album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which continues to be sampled to this day.

Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)

TLC – CrazySexyCool (1994)

Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)


For readers in Gen Z, the best albums of the 2000s might be the soundtrack to some of your earliest memories. OutKast started the decade out on a high note on their Stankonia album, pouring pure funk and soul into the expansive 26-song tracklist. Another quick-witted rhymer, Eminem, took listeners in the opposite direction on The Marshall Mathers LP in 2000, recklessly spitting salacious bars and painting an early picture of the dangers of obsessed fans on “Stan.”

We can’t help but wonder what else Aaliyah would’ve been able to accomplish were her life not cut so tragically short. Thankfully, we did get three studio albums from the black-haired beauty, concluding with her self-titled release in 2001. Aaliyah’s influence can be seen in many of today’s top pop and R&B stars, from their fashion choices to the irresistible production of their music. Amy Winehouse, also taken from us far too soon, continues to get her flowers for 2006’s emotion-filled Back to Black, which arrived the same year as Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds – who could possibly forget about the former NSYNC member bringing “SexyBack” with help from Timbaland?

OutKast – Stankonia (2000)

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

Aaliyah – Aaliyah (2001)

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2006)

Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)


The most recent decade our greatest albums overview will explore is the 2010s, beginning with Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The father of four has done some damage to his legacy as of late, but his exploration of rap opera, pop, and progressive hip-hop throughout his fifth LP won’t ever be forgotten. Some of his best collaborations live on MBDTF, along with braggadocious solo efforts like “POWER.”

Much of the music that came out during the first half of this decade is synonymous with the shift to streaming, as well as social media platforms like Tumblr. Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean are two prime examples of this, both of them unleashing Born to Die and Channel Orange in 2012 respectively. The former has been consistent with her drops since then, and will even be joining Beyoncé as she also ventures into country music this year. The former’s fans are decidedly less impressed with his failure to share a full album since 2016’s Blonde, but still, they remain hopeful while replaying his classics.

Speaking of Queen B, she managed to turn her husband’s betrayal into cold hard cash with her explorative Lemonade LP. In particular, her edgy vocals on “Don’t Hurt Yourself” with Jack White have the BeyHive praying that Act III of her ongoing album series will feature more elements of rock. Kendrick Lamar has multiple must-hear releases from the 2010s, such as 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly and 2017’s DAMN. After growing up in Compton and seeing how legends like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube made it out and on top of the industry, it wasn’t hard for K-Dot to follow in their footsteps with some hood poetry of his own.

Finally, we have Daniel Caesar’s Freudian. The Canadian singer made a masterpiece that’s perfect for remedying listeners through heartbreak and loneliness while keeping them optimistic about the potential for new love. He did face backlash for past controversial comments about race, causing his sophomore LP to flop commercially, but still, Caesar’s vocals and storytelling skills remain commendable across his entire discography.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die (2012)

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016)

Daniel Caesar – Freudian (2017)