The first decade of the new millennium produced some amazing albums, CDs that should go down with the best works of art. You might not find those albums on this list – which doesn't mean this list isn't the best of the decade.
But for an album to make the cut, it had to be more than just something to appreciate and put on a shelf. It had to be something you couldn't live without, that you had on your go-to playlist, that you listened to not just the year it came out ... but in the years since.
Best albums of the decade:
1. "Denials, Delusions and Decisions," Jaguar Wright: Who? WHO? OK, OK, she's not the best-known artist of the decade; she could win an award for most obscure. But this R&B singer-songwriter should have won top accolades for her amazing debut album, a raw, sometimes profane, yet brilliant collection of songs about a woman frustrated by love and life. This is a riveting CD that never leaves those who hear it. Too bad so few people had that experience with such a masterful album.
2. "Confessions," Usher: If Usher is this generation's Michael Jackson, this was his "Thriller." Every song is good, and most of them are absolutely great tunes that paint a complex portrait of a man entangled in a relationship when his inner bachelor is trying to set him free.
3. "Mama's Gun," Erykah Badu: "Because I'm cleva, when I bust a rhyme," Badu croons on one of the disc's tracks, "Cleva." But that could be a synopsis for this entire album, which grabs you as much by lyrics as it does by its musicality.
4. "The College Dropout," Kanye West: The self-proclaimed "voice of the generation" first roared with his debut, changing the game of rap, from his production to his style. Just when rap was beginning to sag creatively, Kanye provided its biggest boost with this amazing concept album. Say what you want, but West is not only one of rap's greatest, but music's greatest as well.
5. "Back to Black," Amy Winehouse: If Winehouse doesn't get her act together, she may go down in history as a two-hit wonder best known for the song "Rehab," that would come to define her disheveled life. But listening to this album, you forget about all that drama and get lost in her artistry – those sassy lyrics, the retro-soul and the emotional depth in her voice. Here's hoping we can get that Amy back in the next decade.
6. "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" 50 Cent: There's nothing particularly deep about this album, but when you make songs this good, you know what? It's OK. From "In Da Club" to "What Up Gangsta" to "P.I.M.P.," 50's debut was thoroughly riveting.
7. "B'day," Beyonce: Beyonce could have chosen to make "Dangerously in Love 2" for her sophomore debut. Instead, she took a musical risk by trying out different sonic styles, from the futuristic funk of "Green Light" to the acoustic brilliance of "Irreplaceable." With "B'day" Beyonce established herself not only as this decade's most important hitmaker, but also established her artistic heft.
8. "Testimony: Vol 1. Life and Relationship," India.Arie: Being eternally positive has often been a negative in India.Arie's career – sometimes people want to wallow in grief with music that mirrors their mood and not be told to look at the silver lining. For that reason, she's often been ignored and derided, but those who choose to embrace the light are always rewarded, and on "Testimony," India finds a way to turn heartbreak into lyrics filled with wisdom, optimism and grace – something we should all celebrate.
9. "The Chocolate Factory," R. Kelly: In the middle of a child porn scandal (of which he would eventually be cleared), R. Kelly decided to write with his heart in mind, and not that other body part that usually dictates his music, and delivered the best album of his career, with touching love songs and bluesy heartbreak ballads. Sure, there was the obligatory sex-equals-machinery song with "Ignition," but this album took Kelly to a level we wish he had been able to sustain.
10. "The Marshall Mathers LP," Eminem: This is Eminem's greatest album, where his demented genius is at its apex, with songs such as "Stan" and "The Way I Am." Here, we get more of a sense of who Marshall Mathers is before the caricature of Eminem took over completely, and his image became cartoonish and garish. On this album, Eminem is a conduit to warped young Americans whose voices were silent – until Mathers came along.
Honorable mentions: "The Black Album," Jay-Z; "Dreaming Wide Awake," Lizz Wright; "The Emancipation of Mimi," Mariah Carey; "Survivor," Destiny's Child; "Taking the Long Way," the Dixie Chicks; "FutureSexLoveSounds," Justin Timberlake; "Graduation," Kanye West; "Vespertine," Bjork; "Arular," M.I.A.; "Elephant," The White Stripes; "Acoustic Soul," India.Arie; "Van Hunt," Van Hunt; "Late Registration," Kanye West; "Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1," Jill Scott; "American Idiot," Green Day; "Lovers Rock," Sade; "The Breakthrough," Mary J. Blige.