The Strokes, Is This It: Everybody, including the band itself, is still chasing the frenzied effortless cool of this post-9/11, decade-defining debut.
Britney, Oops I Did It Again: Britney was the perfect product of a society that demands to be entertained at any cost, even our dignity.
Arcade Fire, Funeral: Behold the blogosphere, a grassroots network that can transform a collective of morose Canadian eggheads into arena rock stars.
The White Stripes, White Blood Cells: A potent union of packaging and sheer talent, the White Stripes established themselves as the definitive rock band of their generation.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak: Though not Kanye's best record, it's the signature album of the Auto-Tune era, in which technology trumps natural ability.
Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts: American Idol is the ultimate pop-star-making machinery of this decade, and Underwood is its purest creation.
M.I.A., Kala: A Sri Lankan revolutionary's daughter attends posh British art school, travels the world collecting samples, then invents a new global hip-hop sound.
Coldplay, Rush of Blood to the Head: A punchline for the Apatow generation, they give the kids prom songs and the punks something to despise.
Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism: The singular emo gem, like this one, shows that feelings aren't always self-indulgent but sometimes expansive and thrilling.