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10. You Are Free, Cat Power (2003)
A bracing, transcendent mix of lo-fi pop, haunting folk, and beautiful noise. This was the masterwork that signaled the Georgia-born, whiskey-voiced chanteuse's stunning leap from oddball indie darling to fully realized artist.
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9. FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake, (2006)
The onetime boy-bander teamed up with left-field rap maestro Timbaland to create an album that redefined pop's cutting edge. The rest of the music world is still playing catch-up.
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8. I Am... Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé (2008)
The alter-ego concept — Sasha for the dance floor, Beyoncé for the ballads — yielded two disparate but equally striking sides of the often-opaque diva. The glorious, nervy strut of ''Single Ladies'' and wrenching vulnerability of ''If I Were a Boy,'' all in one place? Fierce, indeed.
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7. Funeral, The Arcade Fire (2004)
Funerals are generally somber affairs, but the Canadian indie rockers' emotionally charged debut mostly just made us smile. And, okay, mist up a little.
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6. Home, The Dixie Chicks (2002)
Even George W. Bush fans have to respect the Chicks' authentic bluegrass sound on ''Long Time Gone'' and ''Landslide.'' Okay, maybe they don't. But they should.
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5. Love And Theft, Bob Dylan (2001)
The predictably unpredictable rock poet greeted the new millennium with a folksy, bluesy instant classic.
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4. Stankonia, OutKast (2000)
With hummable hits (''Ms. Jackson''), out-there experiments (''B.O.B.''), and everything in between, the Atlanta rap duo gave us all a temporary visa to the funky-if-fictional land of Stankonia in 2000.
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3. Kid A, Radiohead (2000)
In an abrupt left turn, one of the world's biggest rock bands began the decade with a disc of complex electronic explorations. Our minds: still blown, nine years later.
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2. The Blueprint, Jay-Z (2001)
One of the greatest poets ever to pick up a mic released his magnum opus in 2001. One retirement and one un-retirement later, it's still his finest hour.
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1. The College Dropout, Kanye West (2004)
The 2004 debut from West — a revolutionarily relatable rapper who also happened to be a beatmaking genius — was accepted into the hip-hop canon instantly, no diploma needed.
For more Bests of the Decade, see the Dec. 11 issue of Entertainment Weekly.