Over the past decade, the music industry has once again evolved into a booming business. With that growth, artists have been bringing their best to the table and while there’s more music out there than ever, only a select few are able to undoubtedly influence the masses. Whether it’s breaking boundaries sonically, lyrically or by simply being themselves, singers like Lady Gaga, Lorde, Kanye West and more have paved the way for music throughout the 2010s. Here are eight influential musicians are the past decade:
Touching the hearts of 20-something-year-olds around the world, Lorde easily earns a spot among this list, despite only having two studio albums.
Sonically, Lorde’s Pure Heroine blends minimal beats with soaring synths that, ultimately, create a visceral soundscape. Breaking into her sophomore effort, Melodrama, Lorde expresses the ups and downs of growing up with pulsating beats and club-like instrumentation. To be blunt, Lorde can do it all.
On top of her sound, the now 23-year-old captures both the essence of teen angst and the blinding hysteria of becoming an adult throughout her lyrics. Looking at contemporaries like Halsey, Billie Eilish and Sigrid, it’s easy to see that Lorde has made her mark.
Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that Kanye West has had a massive impact on hip-hop and music as a whole during the 2010s. Without Kanye, the world would most likely not have Drake, The Weeknd, Kid Cudi or most popular rappers today.
Breaking musical and societal boundaries, Kanye has always been about doing what’s different. Whether it’s electrifying and polarizing listeners with albums like 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and The Life of Pablo or Kanye creating controversy with his actions and words, he has continued to stay relevant since his first album dropped in 2004.
Hip-hop wouldn’t be what it is today without the influence of Kanye, and even as he dropped what may be his worst album to date with Jesus Is King, the rapper will remain to influence listeners and contemporaries for years to come.
Some celebrities view themselves and other stars as normal people, but despite that, Beyonce is even a celebrity for other celebrities. Over the past decade, the “Crazy In Love” singer has crafted her music into being more than notes and lyrics, but a catalyst for something more.
Throughout the past decade, Beyonce illustrated the resurgence of the surprise album drop with her 2013 self-titled release, created a movement of black love and cultural celebration with her concept album Lemonade and captured a new generation of hearts as the voice of Nala in Disney’s live-action Lion King.
All in all, it would basically be a crime to not include Beyonce on a list of influential artists.
Lady Gaga has forever been an artist who is unabashedly herself, and that factor alone means she should be a part of this list. Whether it’s her image, sound or message, Gaga has remained a tour de force in the pop world that’s always stayed true to herself.
In 2011, the pop diva told the world she was “Born This Way” and in 2019 she has broken industry barriers and remains an influence for up-and-coming female singers.
Arguably most notable in the past decade, Gaga solidified herself as Barbara Streisand-level influential when she starred in the 2018 version of A Star Is Born with Bradley Cooper. Other than her exceptional acting in the film, Gaga became the first person to earn an Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe and BAFTA award in one year for work on the film’s soundtrack. She’s a queen to say the least.
Out of everyone on this list, James Blake may be the name everyday music listeners don’t recognize—but trust us, he deserves a spot on this list.
Domineering minimalistic electronic-led R&B, Blake has been cranking out masterful releases over the past 10 years. Most recently seen on his 2019 album Assume Form, Blake melds his haunting vocals with a blend of piano chords, hip-hop beats, synths and sparse ambience.
Furthermore, Blake has impacted and worked with some of the biggest names in music today, including Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce and Frank Ocean. No matter if Blake is behind the scenes producing or melting listeners ears with his atmospheric music, he’s influencing the sound of today—and tomorrow.
To be frank, it would be a crime to not include one of the best-selling artists of all time in this list, and Taylor Swift is just that.
Arguably the most successful crossover artist of the 21st century, Swift has created waves with every release of her career—especially over the past decade. Starting the 2010s with Speak Now and ending with Lover gives listeners a full foray of Swift’s musical journey from country songstress to pop queen.
Whether it’s her confessional lyrics that pull on the heartstrings of anyone, her bombastic pop bangers one can’t help but dance along to or simply her influence in terms of public image, Swift has dominated the music industry and broken boundaries for female musicians.
Though Frank Ocean only has two studio albums and a handful of singles released throughout the 2010s, his impact on R&B has been monumental.
Blending innovative notions with reflective lyrics and experimental production, Ocean first created somewhat of a cult following and has since become a household name in music. His first studio effort channel ORANGE garnered Ocean his first Grammy Award, and his second release Blonde sees the R&B artist dive further into his own idiosyncrasies.
Looking at Ocean’s discography and the few singles that hint at future music, it can already be argued that it’ll influence R&B artists to come.
Making moves for country music since her debut, Same Trailer Different Park, in 2013, Kacey Musgraves is one of the premiere female country stars of the 2010s. Racking in Grammy Awards since her start, Musgraves has impacted country with each of her albums in different ways.
Her most recent release, Golden Hour, sees Musgraves take a bigger step toward disco-pop nuances, and it’s arguably one of the best albums of 2018. Seen as progressive in the usual conservative genre of country, Musgraves provides the genre with a much needed kick that doesn’t fall into its stereotypes.
While Musgraves has openly taken influence from female country greats like Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Lee Ann Womack, Loretta Lynn and more, Musgraves is sure to be an influential artist for any future artists.