Seven musical artists who turned in exquisite five-album runs

These five-album runs are not to be missed.
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4 (2011)
Beyonce (2013)
Lemonade (2016)
Renaissance (2022)
Cowboy Carter (2024)

OK – an admission. I don’t think I knowingly listened to a Beyonce song prior to 2016. Eventually, the hype surrounding Lemonade got to me and I gave it a spin. I was chagrined. I don’t like being forced to accept that I am often so much of a snob that I write off modern pop. But I’m learning.

The key album here – which, as you now know I didn’t listen to until it had been out about five years – is 4. It is probably the weakest album on this list but it is still vital. Not only does it have a lot of great songs, from stone-cold rockers like "Schoolin' Life" to the heartache of "I Care," but it also reveals an artist willing to take on different challenges. It was well known that Beyonce had moved on from her father as manager for this release. There’s a freedom on 4 that is palpable. It also leads to a bit of an eclectic mess, but that’s a small price to pay for what you get in return.

What we get in return is a string of four extraordinary albums. Not that she really needed it, but Beyonce, with its surprise release and a bevy of hard-hitting tracks, proved she was the biggest star in the industry. Then she topped it with Lemonade. Musically, culturally, and politically – it is among the most important releases of the new century.

It took six years before her next album, in part because of COVID and in part because of her desire to take a deep dive into the way race figures into her music. She had already established with Lemonade that racial roots would no longer be something to gloss over in order to achieve mainstream pop success. By Renaissance, it was something to revel in and glorify. I am still learning about all the touchstones, but I can listen to the Afrobeats of “Move” or swing between the musical seesaws of “Church Girl” and “Alien Superstar” and simply buy into the groove.

Then Cowboy Carter once again rewrote the rulebook. There’s something to be said for being revolutionary. When you marry that revolutionary spirit with supreme craftsmanship, it results in a great album. Or in this case, 35 great albums from seven vital artists. Not one of them named Bob Dylan.

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