Best of the decade: Pop music

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By Chris Richards
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Was there really an era before ear buds? And was it really the '90s? From Napster to iTunes to a blogosphere still brimming with MP3s, our almost-over decade changed the way we consume music forever -- or, in the words of OutKast's Andre 3000, "forever-ever."

Major labels entered a death spiral, allowing pop music to bloom into all kinds of crazy shapes in a sprawling blogscape. For an unimaginative record industry, the toll has been devastating. But for listeners restrained only by their own curiosity, the Aughts meant breathtaking access to the entire history of recorded music, with Beyoncé, Beethoven or Balinese gamelan just a few keystrokes away.

Today, a flood of new sounds awaits each time we fire up the computer. How do we decide what's best? For me, the decade's greatest recordings managed to transcend the data flow and still demand to be experienced again and again, over and over, forever-ever.

Here are 10 albums that still held their deepest secrets after the thousandth listen.

The best

1. OutKast, "Stankonia" (2000)

So fresh, so clean, so prescient. In 2000, the visionary Atlanta duo minted the Aughts' most visionary pop music, capturing the chaos of a decade before it even happened.

2. The Strokes, "Is This It" (2001)

The last great American rock band? Nah. The last great American rock consensus? Maybe! Once the blizzard of hype subsided, the Strokes' hyper-ballyhooed debut revealed its eternal cool.

3. DJ Drama & Lil Wayne, "Dedication 2" (2006)

Weezy's enthralling watershed mix tape found him babbling over other artists' beats like he truly belonged there -- a methodology he would soon apply to the pop charts and interviews with Katie Couric.

4. Daft Punk, "Discovery" (2001)

Two Parisians dressed as robots discovered the holy grail of good times: a dance album whose every track felt like the best night of your life.

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