The Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings

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hide captionTop row, left to right: Beyonce, Wilco; Second row: Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, Norah Jones; Bottom row: American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Jay Z.

It seemed like an impossible task, but that didn't stop us from trying. With the first decade of the new millennium coming to a close, we decided to compile a list of the 50 most important recordings of the past 10 years — a list that covers a wide range of styles and genres, with indelible songs and albums that challenge, inspire and captivate. These are the game-changers: records that signaled some sort of shift in the way music is made or sounds, or ones that were especially influential or historically significant.

Favorite records don't necessarily qualify. A lot of people, including nearly everyone at NPR Music, love Fleet Foxes' debut album, but was it one of the decade's most important? (You can tell us what you think in the comments section below.) The 50 recordings that appear here are listed alphabetically. We've included artists and bands from a number of musical worlds, from dubstep and hip-hop to Top 40 pop, classical, jazz, world, beardy folk, metal and hard rock. There's some country, too, but admittedly no grindcore or goa trance. (Again, you can tell us what you think in the comments section below.)

A lot of people, including All Songs Considered listeners, helped put this list together. As we culled through the nominees, tears were shed and arguments were had. But one thing we all agreed on: This was one of the best decades yet for music. We can't wait to hear what comes next.

The 50 Most Important Recordings:

Hear the music and read our reviews.

A-C (John Adams to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)

C-J (Kelly Clarkson to Jay-Z)

J-M (Norah Jones to Jason Moran)

O-S (OutKast to Sigur Ros)

S-W (Britney Spears to Amy Winehouse)

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