From The 1975 to Post Malone - which artist has defined the decade?

Post Malone performs onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Acts like The 1975 and Post Malone have conquered the decade, but who has defined it?

The 1975 recently won Best British Band at the 2019 BRIT Awards but their reach extends so much further. They are perhaps the biggest band to emerge in the 2010s and have arguably captured the sound of this current decade. Frontman Matt Healy has grown to become somewhat of a musical icon, with his group’s third studio album - 2018’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships - perfectly coming to terms with their audience’s current situation regarding love, technology and much more. You could say that The 1975 are the defining musical act of the 2010s, but it helps to consider the competition. Who best encapsulates the last ten years?

Although a much more recent phenomenon, you can’t ignore the popularity and impact of Post Malone. His image and approach to genre hybridity are definitely of the time; he also comes across as a very likeable, honest figure in the landscape of modern music. He has attracted the attention of a wide range of demographics with the release of his two studio albums, Stoney and Beerbongs & Bentleys. Although the former was only released in 2016, Austin Richard Post has taken the masses by storm to become one of the most significant acts on the planet.

He appeals to many, as do a group like Twenty One Pilots, who have risen to become a force to be reckoned with. NME recently highlighted the duo’s emphasis on the importance of mental health in their material. Their image, sound, thematic preoccupations and relevant lyricism have struck a chord with today’s youth and have overcome restrictions to gain mainstream exposure. Their 2018 album Trench saw them reach more listeners than ever and most will be able to sing along to at least a handful of their heavy radio-play singles.

A wide appeal is one of the crucial determiners when addressing such a difficult question. You’ve had artists like Lil Peep that have bridged the gap between emo and hip-hop, but arguably he’s a very acquired taste. Artists such as Skepta and Tyler, the Creator have also achieved great success in becoming figureheads of their respective genres, but their demographic is a lot more coherent than the broad fanbase of someone like Post Malone. So, when accounting for wide appeal it’s worth giving prevalence to the likes of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Kanye West, although the latter was also one of the key musical figures of the 2000s.

Lady Gaga would definitely be a strong contender, as her public image, work and social influence have definitely helped shape her as one of modern music's most significant icons. She has an edge on such artists as Billie Eilish and Mac DeMarco, who have helped influence modern style, indie music and the construction of the “cool”, homegrown persona for a growing audience. Both have conquered their target demographic, but they don’t quite have the reach of some of the artists mentioned earlier on, and certainly not Lady Gaga.

You could consider Kendrick Lemar, as his influence on modern hip-hop is undeniable. The genre has dominated the charts this decade and continues to grow prominent; one of the notable sub-genres - trap - is also worth mentioning, so you can consider such musicians as Travis Scott when wrestling with such a question.

By mentioning these artists, more and more begin to spring to mind and it all gets rather complicated. At the moment it looks like Ariana Grande, Post Malone and The 1975 are the main three worthy of sincere consideration - each continues to grow and broaden their impact and they all arguably define the sound of the 2010s. All three are influential, accessible and have shaped recent trends. However, the debate remains wide open.

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