As far as years to end decades on, you could do worse than 2019. You could do better, of course; both 1969 and 1989 were world-shakers when it came to music (among everything else). But it’s not like 2019 was 2009, when the best album came out in January and everything else was just sort of okay after that. It wasn’t 1999 either, when we were mired in nu-metal and rap-rock, hip hop was still stuck in it’s Gucci-vacation mode, and jazz was still something for old people to tap their toes to while they were waiting on the final heart attack. That year gave us Woodstock ’99, and the less said of that the better.
Rock ‘n’ roll didn’t fare very well throughout the decade, depending on your perspective. A lot of it’s best moments were pretty underground; mainstream rock is a horrorshow that can be best encapsulated in that Billboard chart of the best rock songs of the decade that has numbers one through three occupied by Imagine Dragons. Hip hop, though, has progressed rapidly and weirdly through a strong experimental phase, the haters be damned. The comeback of jazz is in many ways the story of music in the teens, or the tens, or whatever we’re calling this past decade. There will be a number of entries in these three categories and more on this list, of course, but it’s good to take these final entries and use them to take stock of where we’ve been. For many artists, taking the decade challenge is extremely instructive, especially for the one sitting at the #1 spot this year. This is true of many of the artists in the top 20, several of whom were forging names for themselves in the underground in 2009, and others who were at a career crossroads back then.