It is far too early to tell how history will view the decade as a whole, but undoubtedly, the 2010s will be looked back upon as a consequential whirlwind. Releated or not, the music released over the past ten years certainly keeps in step with that theme.
In broad terms, the public gutton for musical consumption generated the now-industry standard streaming format – which itself astoundingly begot superstars. As a result, the world became smaller (see K-Pop,) and the genre lines muddied more than ever before.
As we head into 2020 with ironically blurred vision of the world around us, the stage has certainly been set for artists to rise to the occasion. As we await the future, let’s take a look at the 200 best songs the 2010s produced.
200. “Till The World Ends”
One can assess Britney Spears’ career from many angles, but one thing is pretty much universally accepted: she gets her hands on some outrageously perfect pop songs. This Kesha (and regrettably, Dr. Luke) co-penned dance floor anthem is arguably her greatest coup.
199. “Old Town Road (Remix)”
Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
The record-breaking “Old Town Road” is a milestone for two very important reasons: 1) someone finally figured out how to successfully fuse hip hop and country, two notoriously homophobic genres, historically, and 2) it took a gay black man to do it. The fact that Lil Nas X re-plucked Billy Ray Cyrus out of obscurity (again somehow?) along the way is just the cherry on top.
198. “What Do You Mean?”
Justin Bieber had a roller coaster of a decade, to say the least. With “What Do You Mean?,” he not only found his footing in the mainstream, he delivered one of the most incredible, tactful pop tracks of the past ten years.
197. “All The Lovers”
Even though she still remains a cult favorite in the US, Kylie Minogue is truly the world’s most endearing pop star. The euphoric “All The Lovers” easily holds up against her mightiest pop anthems, and remains one of her most recognizable hits almost 10 years later.
196. “Shake It Out”
Florence + The Machine
Florence Welch came roaring into the decade off the heels of her massive sleeper hit, “Dog Days Are Over” (originally released 2008, thus in ineligible for this list.) In hindsight, it’s debatable if “Shake It Out’s” success was because of its grating-yet-earwormmy hook, or if it was a byproduct of momentum. Either way, it’s hardly the worst song to have stuck in your head.
195. “Gangnam Style”
At the time, “Gangnam Style” simply felt like the perfect unlikely worldwide phenomenon. No one could have guessed it would be the catalyst of an even bigger, more consequential unlikely worldwide phenomenon: K-Pop’s explosion in the western hemisphere.
Hiatus Kaiyote ft. Q-Tip
Despite its challenging complexities, “Nakamarra” is surprisingly easy to get lost in. The track is so beautifully nuanced that what would be otherwise be impossible for most to follow becomes a glorious neo-soul anthem.
193. “This Girl”
Kungs vs. Cookin’ On 3 Burners
By reworking Cookin’ On 3 Burners funky, soulful “This Girl” into a horn-blaring house anthem, Kungs undeniably delivered one of dance music’s most exciting moments of the 2010s.
The gloriously wreckless “MOVE” sounds like it’s never going to quite snap into place, but thanks to Jordan Cardy, better known as Rat Boy’s apathetic wit and counterintuitive catchiness, it does.
191. “Trap Queen”
“Trap Queen” is hip hop at its most infectious. With an exciting new artist at the helm, its success seemed all but inevitable. A year after its explosion, Fetty Wap was out of the charts and out of our hearts, but the song will no doubt be looked back upon as a classic throwback.
190. “Little Talks”
Of Monsters & Men
At the peak of indie folk’s prominence in the mainstream, these Icelanders swooped in out of nowhere and delivered one of the decade’s most genre-defining moments. With blaring horns and a heralding hooks to mask the melancholy lyrics, it’s no wonder it found a home both with alternative and pop markets.
189. “Sign Of The Times”
Massive solo careers emerging from massive pop groups has become an established ritual since The Beatles went their separate ways. We’re right on the verge of calling Harry Styles “massive” as a standalone artist, but one thing is clear – he is not interested in scoring easy hits solely based on his name. The epic “Sign Of The Times” established him as a different kind of artist, and that’s why he’ll have the most successful post-1D career.
188. “Pumped Up Kicks”
Foster The People
Foster The People didn’t have much staying power in the mainstream, but their “Pumped Up Kicks” is one of the decade’s defining tunes. The seriousness of its lyrical content may be intentionally masked by a heralding bass line and memorable hook, but if you stop to listen, the track is even more relevant today than it was upon release.
187. “Loud Places”
Jamie xx ft. Romy
With his fellow xx bandmate, Romy, stepping up for vocal duties, Jamie xx’s “Loud Places” is the perfect demonstration of how to build pure euphoria without any of the usual tricks.
186. “Harmony Hall”
“Harmony Hall” will undoubtedly go down as one of Vampire Weekend’s most recognizable classics. Defying expectations by opting for a building, piano-clunking sing-a-long in lieu of another experimental juggernaut, it’s just proof this band will always have the ability to keep us engaged.
The latest Taylor Swift ballad offered up for mass consumption is actually one of her best. The title track from her Lover album, both harks back to her country roots and embraces her indie pop tendancies; it’s fitting for where she is in her career.
184. “Lean On”
Major Lazer and DJ Snake ft. MØ
One of the most exciting movements this decade was reggaeton finding a niche on pop radio and dance floors. “Lean On,” a collaboration between Major Lazer, DJ Snake, and MØ, perfectly presented the genre through a house perspective, and delievered one of the decade’s best dance hits.
Years & Years
Quite smiply, “King” is pop perfection. The track is a euphoric anthem with a chorus so explosive, it will likely be compelling arms to be thrust in the air for years (& years) to come.
182. “Black Beatles”
Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane
This is an audacious Hail Mary that was never actually going to position Rae Sremmurd as the next Beatles from any perspective, but the track got them about as close as they were ever going to get.
181. “Car Radio”
Twenty One Pilots
Just before Twenty One Pilots became unlikely cross-genre superstars for a fleeting moment, they delivered an incredible, emotional roller coaster of a song that still stands as their greatest work.
180. “Blood On The Leaves”
Pairing vocal samples of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” with the blaring horns of TNGHT’s “R U Ready?” is something only Kanye would do, and pull off. “Blood On The Leaves” remains poignant through all of its vigor.
179. “BROWN SKIN GIRL”
Beyoncé, Saint Jhn, and Wizkid ft. Blue Ivy Carter
Beyoncé has long been a vocal champion for “Brown Skin Girls,” but this track may be her most special message. Lifted from the under-appreciated The Lion King: The Gift, Blue Ivy’s presence is a touching reminder for all people just how important it is to allow our children to embrace their greatness.
Under the moniker Wild Nothing, Jack Tatum, delivered one of dream pop’s crowning achievements in the form of “Paradise.” As a whole, the track is etherial and enrapturing, but the way he spends half the track slowly simmering towards its explosive climax beautifully tests our patience along the way.
177. “So Many Details”
Toro y Moi
Chaz Bear (formerly Chazwick Bundick), as Toro y Moi, was one of this decade’s most interesting artists, even if he never found any real footing commercially. “So Many Details” uses a rumbling low end and delicate percussive nuances to provide a vehicle for his whispy vocals, and even as it ascends into calculated chaos, the track feels smooth.
176. “Where Can I Go?”
Laura Marling’s Dylan-esque “Where Can I Go?” is an absolute standout from her impeccable Once I Was An Eagle. It comes across as effortless, but it’s far from it.
175. “24k Magic”
Despite being one of the decade’s biggest and brightest, Bruno Mars has consistantly been better in concept than in practice. While he has always embraced throwback sounds, there’s noticeable tact in “24k Magic,” a track that is undeniably ripped from the Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five section of the hip hop history books.
174. “Digital Witness”
The brilliant “Digital Witness” is about as close to pop as Annie Clark will allow herself to go. The track’s pensive existentialism remains the central focus, although those horns are seductive.
Usher’s superstardom certainly fizzled in the 2010s, but the Diplo-produced “Climax” remains one of the strongest moments in his entire catalog. The track is as much a throwback quiet storm jam as it is a contemporary electronic ballad, masterfully laid beneath his oozing falsetto.
172. “Mi Gente (Remix)”
J Balvin and Willy Willam ft. Beyoncé
When J Balvin got his hands on Willy William’s “Voodoo Song,” he reworked it into the mammoth “Mi Gente.” When Beyoncé got her hands on “Mi Gente,” she turned it into a hearald.
Fittingly acting as the cold opening to the brilliant Contra LP, “Horchata” is an intricately detailed, yet surprisngly warm Rostam Batmanglij-production that’s as comfortable as it challenging.
170. “Wrecking Ball”
At the peak of Miley’s reckless leap off the deep end into adulthood, she graced us with an incredible, powerful pop ballad in the form of “Wrecking Ball.” Through all of her provocations, she was still an artist – and the public responded.
169. “Ain’t It Fun”
Once one of pop punk’s most recognizable names, Paramore successfully evolved their sound, breathing new life to their career, and releasing some of the best material in their entire catalog. “Ain’t It Fun” could have gone terribly wrong – Gospel choirs should not be applied haphazardly – but it ends up being exciting, anthemic, and, yes, Haley Williams, fun.
On “Bros,” Wolf Alice captured a sense sentimentalism that still fells as timeless as it does momentous. It isn’t easy to create this much emotion without going full-ballad.
Not only was “Levels” Avicii’s big mainstream breakthrough, it was his magnum opus. With that one-two-punch of an iconic Etta James sample and an incredible synth riff, there are few tracks more definitive of 2010s EDM.
These kinds of folky pop tunes are hardly rare, but there’s something particularly endearing about George Ezra’s “Budapest.” There’s something about the way his unexpectedly soulful baratone effortlessly carries the melody that sets it apart.
165. “Born This Way”
Lady Gaga’s self-love anthem “Born This Way” remains her definitive anthem. Although the likes of “Bad Romance” and “Poker Face” remain more sonically innovative, it’s important not to take for granted just how revolutionary it was to include terms like “transgender” in a massive worldwide pop hit.
Glass Animals’ lush, psychedelic “Gooey” is an indie pop track that truly encapsulates a defining musical direction this decade. It’s impossible not to be seduced by its slinky, laidback groove.
163. “King Kunta”
It goes without saying that Kendrick Lamar has the midas touch. “King Kuta” is a hard-hitting, hater-silencing, funk anthem ripped right out of the P-Funk playbook. It’s Kendrick himself that gives it such height.
162. “Turnin’ Me Up”
BJ The Chicago Kid
BJ The Chicago Kid’s authenic soul truly shines through in the groovy, horn-heavy “Turnin’ Me Up.” It’s this kind of timelessness that has kept R&B relevant an enticing for decades and decades, and likely for decades to come.
For only existing for a brief time, the Kevin Abstract-led hip hop collective, BROCKHAMPTON, has been noticibly prolific. As a result, there are countless standouts across the 5 albums released over a 3-year period, but “BOOGIE” perfectly encapsulates their intensity, ingenuitiy, and instinctiveness.
160. “Next To Me”
“Next To Me,” Emeli Sandé’s ode to a faithful lover was the perfect foil to Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” in so many ways. It would be hard to call it better, but its gospel thump is seriously powerful.
159. “One Dance”
Drake ft. WizKid and Kyla
Drake was already a juggernaut by the time “One Dance” took the world by storm, but its success seemed to escalate him to a new level. His savvy embrace of dancehall, in particular introducing Wizkid to the masses, was so impeccably timed that you could safely call it the genre’s definitve crossover hit.
158. “Soldier Of Love”
The gap between Sade albums gets longer with each release. It had been a decade since Lovers Rock when the group unveiled “Solider Of Love,” the title track to their sixth studio album, but the wait was so worth it. The song is lush and dramatic, as only Sade’s silky seduction could deliver.
157. “Back To December”
Back when Taylor Swift was transitioning from country crossover megastar to the biggest musican on the planet, tracks like the stunning “Back To December” felt like she was continuing to read from our collective diary. In reality she was truly stepping into her own as a songwriter and vocalist, delivering some of the catchiest melodies…well, ever, and it goes without saying that the rest is history.
156. “Bad and Boujee”
Migos ft. Lil Uzi Vert
It was fitting that Migos and Lil Uzi Vert had their moment on a track like “Bad and Boujee.” Not only is it painfully catchy and hook-heavy, but it properly shined a spotlight on that state of hip hop at that time. This is going to be an immortal throwback jam.
Bands like Bastille, blurring the lines between pop and rock and electronic, are definitive of the 2010s, as exemplified by their megahit “Pompeii.” The track features thundering drums and backing vocals that are stacked higher than Vesuvius itself, but it’s that perfect chorus that really makes it soar.
154. “Love The Way You Lie”
Eminem ft. Rihanna
Although you have to appreciate his maturity, it’s difficult to deny that “Love The Way You Lie” is about as watered down as you could conceive Eminem ever getting. While Rihanna’s hook is clearly the star here, the faint guitar pinned up against the commanding beat really highlights the nauances of destructive relationships.
153. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat Headrest’s magnum opus, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is a journey. While the track features distinctive portions in respect to its dual titles, they are so inctricately woven that the song truly is a singular, epic experience.
Not only did the Carters out-Migos Migos right in front of their faces, but Beyoncé, a renowned vocalist, out-raps her husband (only a living hip hop legend) right in front of his. Not only is “APESHIT” one of their absolute greatest collaborations, it’s a much deserved victory lap for a couple that spent the previous two years airing their marital struggles to the world.
Without a doubt, Charli XCX is one of the decade’s most underappreciated artists – as both a songwriter and performer. “Boys” is effortless, dreamy, and whimsical, but it’s also a serious earworm.
150. “Good As Hell”
Despite it taking over 3 years to get its due, “Good As Hell” was worth the wait. Lizzo’s exultant self-love anthem is a tried and true throwback, but her confident swag – not to mention massive talent – sells the “Hell” out of it.
149. “Despacito (Remix)”
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber
It’s unfortunate that “Despacito” overstayed its welcome, but considering it’s one of the most significant Latin hits of all time, there’s no doubt it will be looked back on fondly. It’s worth noting that although Justin Bieber’s inclusion was clearly the catalyst of the track’s success, he wasn’t needed to make it great.
148. “Jubilee Street”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Anyone who questions why Nick Cave is still as relevant as he was 35 years ago has never listened to him. “Jubilee Street” highlights his talents as a storyteller, composer, and bandleader – not to mention the immense talent of the Bad Seeds themselves – so powerfully that you don’t even realize there’s no hook.
Leon Bridges is an old soul, and he’s not afraid to let it show in his music. “River,” the stunning closing track from his debut LP, Coming Home, is a simple spiritual so authentic, you’d believe it was composed hundreds of years ago.
Disclosure ft. Sam Smith
It was the track that launched the careers of two of the most noteworthy acts of the 2010s. On “Latch,” Disclosure was able to claim their unique brand of house and make their sound instantly recognizable. Meanwhile, the world was properly introduced to Sam Smith, whose vocals actually do drive the song.
145. “Forrest Gump”
The stark beauty of Frank Ocean’s queer anthem doesn’t exactly mirror the liveliness of its namesake film, and that’s for the best. The discerning whimsy of using plot points from Forrest Gump is something only an aritst like this could successfully execute.
144. “The Mother We Share”
With their debut single, CHVRCHES found themselves at the forefront of synth pop’s massive resurgence. Although they never quite found a spark to ignite some staying power, “The Mother We Share” is an absolute knock-out.
143. “Call Your Girlfriend”
It takes much audacity to write a song about best practices for dumping your girlfriend …let alone at your own self-assured behest …let alone atop a glorious pulsing synth line. But that’s Robyn for ya!
Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz
Sometimes Kanye West is as his creative best as a curator. Although he does have a showstopping change-of-pace verse of his own, collaborators Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz make the absolute most of their verses; each one is brilliant.
141. “Rather Be”
Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne
Who knew baroque-synth pop-house would actually be pretty excellent. Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” somehow feels intuitive allowing the chorus to be a stepping stone to the kind of hands-in-the-air moment you’d expect, as opposed to the moment itself. Also, Jess Glynne’s spot-on vocal should not go unmentioned.
140. “Express Yourself”
Diplo ft. Nicky Da B
Diplo seemed to be everywhere at once this decade, but his collaboration with under-recognized queer rapper Nicky Da B exemplified just why he was so in demand. The track is an absolute frenzy, but its energy is wildly infectious.
139. “Beez In The Trap”
Nicki Minaj ft. 2 Chainz
There was such a disorienting dichotomy between Nicki Minaj’s charismatic hip hop and unexceptional dance pop hits simultaneously dominating two relatively autonomous formats. “Beez In The Trap” of House Hip Hop remains a major highlight because Nicki, with nothing but a humble, laid back beat, does nothing but rise to the occasion.
Much like the artist herself, “Team” is many things at once. The nuts and bolts of the track are abstract and mismatched, but it reads like a perfect pop song, largely thanks to its exhilarating chorus.
137. “Really Love”
D’Angelo & The Vanguard
It’s a testament to D’Angelo’s talent that he could make us wait 14 years for his THIRD album, and it actually sounded worth it. That he could write something as painfully gramatically incorrect as using “really” as an adjective, and make it sound sexy as hell makes him a genius.
136. “Full Of Fire”
On their (currently) final album, The Knife delivered one of their most beautifully challenging works in the form of “Full Of Fire.” The aggressive pulse of the beat implores melodic low end that never really comes, but the increasingly menacing vocals and boutiful intricacies destract enough.
135. “Young Dumb & Broke”
Khalid’s ode to the glory of teenage recklessness is eternally relateable. Conceptually, it’s an interesting juxtapostion with the calming, quiet hum of an organ that barely peaks through the laidback beat. Not to mention, the whole thing is insanely catchy.
Electropop superduo Sylvan Esso were one of the decade’s most exciting acts. On “Coffee,” Nick Sanborn’s sleek production provides space for Amelia Meath’s folky melodic savvy to drive the song. It ends up feeling as warm as its titular beverage.
133. “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano”
For the first minute and a half, you’d almost think you were a fly on the wall in Sampha’s mother’s home watching him perform this song. “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” is stark and soul-bearing, but undeniably captivating.
132. “Electric Love”
BØRNS’ debut single is an uninhibited fusion of glam and psychedelic bulit around a crescendoing chorus that climaxes in what could only be considered irresponsible heights of falsetto. Fortunately, he is so self-assured that he sells the hell out of it.
131. “Dum Surfer”
Even if he’s unlikely to rise beyond his indie cult following, music history is undoubtedly going to look back upon Archie Marshall, more widely known as King Krule, fondly. “Dum Surfer” is masterfully menacing and hazy, highlighted by Marshall’s deep, feral vocals and highly reverberated guitar that sound like ghost riffs of surf rock past.
130. “Mariners Appartment Complex”
Lana Del Rey
Although, Lana Del Rey is undeniably one of the decade’s most intriguing, definitive facets, many of her songs act more as proofs of concepts, or, rather, pieces of a larger mosaic. “Mariner’s Appartment Complex,” is so striking, as textbook-Lana as it is, it will surely go down as one of her greatest works.
Although it failed to be come A$AP Rocky’s breakthrough hit (like it should have) “Goldie” is the kind of masterful hip-hop production that will age like a fine wine. Atop an unapologetically laid back, yet agressive beat, Rocky commands our attention, guiding us through depths and heights not often juxtaposed on the same track.
128. “Love It If We Made It”
“Love It If We Made It” has the kind of frank assessmet of the present once delievered in Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times.” The 1975, althrough still working within the framework of accessability, are even more invigorated and urgent with their track.
127. “Drunk In Love”
Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z
When they dropped “Crazy In Love,” Beyoncé was daring to step out on her own from her wildly successful group, while Jay-Z was probably the most revered active force in hip hop. Fast forward almost a decade, now married, the Carters had become a bonafide institution, and “Drunk In Love” was the payoff.
126. “Make Some Noise”
Much like the star-studded accompanying music video picking up right where “Fight For Your Right” left off, the lengendary Beastie Boys’ penultimate single “Make Some Noise” was the perfect full-circle moment. With easily one of the best beats they’e ever produced, the group were able to showcase just how much they were able to evolve without sacrificing their personality.
The stunning “Open” audibly more than pays musical homage to the likes of Sade. The smooth electo-R&B track and vocalist Mike Milosh’s controlled upper register create such a captivating atmosphere, you can’t help but acknowledge its inherent freshness.
124. “New Rules”
On Dua Lipa’s international smash “New Rules,” she was able to lean into the tropical hosue dominating clubs and radios without sounding like she was jumping on any bandwagon. This is a classic pop song-in waiting.
123. “In My Feelings”
An artist as big as Drake, at the peak of their popularity, can usually put out whatever they want and watch it storm up the chars. On the viral “In My Feelings,” Drake refused to be lazy; it’s maybe his catchiest song ever.
122. “Wicked Games”
Listening back on “Wicked Games,” it isn’t difficult to justify why The Weeknd deserves all the commerical success he has. The track, his debut single lifted from the milestone House Of Balloons EP, doesn’t sound like a premature incarnation of his famous brand of R&B; it’s fully realized from the jump.
Kendick Lamar’s ode to all the things that make him great is notably unpretentious. His invigorated flow leaves the brazen, punchy beat in the dust, when most rappers wouldn’t dare try to unrun it.
SBTRKT ft. Little Dragon
There’s an inexplicable familiarity about “Wildfire” that makes it an instant sell. That is, assuming the slinky groove and breathy vocals from Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano weren’t enough on their own.
119. “Some Nights”
Although supergroup fun. skyrocketted to fame with “We Are Young,” it’s follow-up and title track to their sophomore album, is the better tune. It’s about as to “Don’t Stop Believin'” this generation ever got, but it’s certainly for the best that it never got quite that big; history will preserve it better.
118. “Mask Off”
Future was one of the decade’s most prolific aritsts – over 25 albums and mixtapes alone – but there’s only a fraction of his material will remain in public consciousness, but “Mask Off” will be one of them. For the genre he trailblazed, this is one of its definitive moments.
Frank Ocean has an uncanny knack for starting a track one place and evolving it into something very different – often several different things. “Nights,” a clear standout in a sea of standouts on Blond for just that reason. He is a masterful composer.
116. “Flesh Without Blood”
Grimes doesn’t play by the rules. “Flesh Without Blood” has all the vivacity of a bubblegum megahit, but there’s no distinguishable structure, hook, or even many distinguishable lyrics. That’s because the artist is about as far from bubblegum as pop gets, but she’s really good at taunting us. It’s clear she could be the next Max Martin if she really wanted to be.
115. “Yet Again”
The tenderness in Ed Droste’s voice fuels the emotion in “Yet Again,” subtly building towards a cathartic explosion of controlled chaos we didn’t know we needed. The track is aggressively gorgeous.
114. “Lonely Boy”
The Black Keys
For being an actually great band, it’s striking how little there is about the Black Keys one could call remarkable. True to form, “Lonely Boy” checks all the right boxes – it’s technically a perfect song – without really checking any new boxes. That doesn’t not make it a pleasure to listen to.
113. “Slip Away”
The triumph emanating from Perfume Genius’ “Slip Away” is palpable. Although these kinds of empowering themes have long since been exhausted, the track is so masterfully crafted, it gets away with it.
112. “The Wire”
You can tell how vast their musical knowledge is and interests are, as it all kind of comes out at once – producer Ariel Rechtshaid somehow was able to make sense of it. HAIM’s talent and confidence explode out of “The Wire.”
111. “Can’t Do Without You”
The splendor of “Can’t Do With Out You” is its biggest struggle. The way Dan Snaith, under his Caribou moniker, sadistically edges towards a big “hands in the air” moment – and when he gets there, it’s not quite a fulfilling payoff – is just masterful. In doing so, he reminds us just how contrived electronic dance music has become, but how interesting it can be.
Janelle Monáe ft. Big Boi
Janelle Monáe is the complete package – she can sing, she can play, she can write, she can produce, she can dance. It’s perplexing that, even despite building a name for herself, she hasn’t charted a major hit of her own. The brilliantly funky “Tightrope” was a missed radio opportunity.
109. “Heart To Break”
Ignoring that Dr. Luke had anything to do with it, “Heart To Break” is an exultant pop song. For being so indulgently saccharine, Kim Petras noticably lacks pretense in her delivery – you can’t help but subscribe to it.
108. “Bodak Yellow”
Every big artist has a breakout hit, but few are this momentous. There’s no doubt that Cardi B has a place in the hip hop history books, regardless of how long she can keep her flame bunrning, as “Bodak Yellow” is a bonafide classic. It’s already ready for a comeback.
107. “It’s Okay To Cry”
The fearlessly avant garde SOPHIE delivered some of the most compelling electronic music to come around in some time. Oddly enough, her most straightforward composition remains her most striking. Now, “It’s Okay To Cry,” which features her own vocals for the first time, is hardly conventional, but it elicits such emotion you’d hardly notice.
106. “Somebody That I Used To Know”
Gotye ft. Kimbra
“Somebody That I Used To Know” more than overstayed its welcome, to point that neither Gotye nor Kimbra came remotely close to matching its success, but what a great song to have been afforded its moment in the spotlight.
105. “We Used To Wait”
Arcade Fire’s effortless ability to create emotion without sacrificing any energy is most poignantly exemplified on “We Used To Wait.” By the time it builds to a climax, you didn’t really need it go there, but you’re thankful it did.
What Robyn’s masterful “Honey” lacks in energy, it makes up for in atmosphere. The track is enchanting and stimulating, almost delivering the same euphoria as a club banger, but without creating much height to get there.
103. “Hard Place”
We can only hope that H.E.R. is on the brink of a commerical breakthrough, because she is one of the most talented artists in the world. “Hard Place” is a perfect gospel-tinged R&B ballad that Prince would have been obsessed with.
The tactful irony of “Unbelievers” is the liberated spiritual awakening comes off as. In it’s own way, it makes sense partially because Vampire Weekend have conditioned us to look beyond the surface of their delivery, and partially because it’s just a damn good song.
101. “Someone Like You”
There aren’t many ballads featuring just piano and vocals able to saturate public consciousness quite like “Someone Like You.” It’s a testament to Adele’s talent that she was able to captivate quite like this.
Rihanna ft. Drake
There is new territory conquered on “Work,” from the sparse, laidback beat, to the Drake feature, to the most insanely mesmerizing earworm of a hook. What’s perfected is the formula.
99. “Super Bass”
Nicki Minaj never quite got the recipie as perfect as she did on “Super Bass.” It’s bubblegum, it’s club-friendly, and it’s hip hop gold all at once.
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Who would have guessed that Phase II Gaga’s magnum opus would have a Bradley Cooper feature? Mirroring the major plot point in the A Star Is Born film from which it appears, she quickly takes over and puts her talent on display, front and center. In that context, Lady Gaga experienced her own kind of Ally moment.
97. “No Role Modelz”
It’s not a perfect song, but “No Role Modelz” is a great example of J. Cole’s ability to elimite any dichtomy between interesting hip hip and popular hip hop.
96. “Lotus Flower”
Because they exist on a musical plane all on their own, now Rock & Roll Hall of Fames Radiohead are eternally relevant; if they’re sticking 20 years from now, they’ll be just as cool. “Lotus Flower” is an engaging experience that comes off as subtle, but is, in all actuality, so delicately nuanced.
95. “Boo’d Up”
Ella Mai’s breakout hit, “Boo’d Up” is R&B at its purest, most absolue best. So many parts of this song are so insanely catchy, you’ll be singing along by the end of your first listen.
94. “Real Love Baby”
Father John Misty
Under his Father John Misty moniker, Josh Tillman has been one of the most fruitful indie rock artists of this generation. “Real Love Baby,” oddly enough a non-album track, is a summery love anthem, presented as only an artist such as this could.
93. “New York”
St. Vincent’s stripped down heartbreak ballad, “New York” both romanticized a city that’s been romanticized to death and delivered it through an uncharacteristically basic and straightforward ballad. Yet, somehow, she makes it perfectly her’s.
92. “On Hold”
Even when The xx is at their most exuberant, they’re as melancholy as The Cure, and at their catchiest, the trio refuses to deliver a straightforward pop song. “On Hold” wields a mighty Hall & Oates sample, and offers it up in lieu of a chours; you’d never notice.
91. “You’re Not Good Enough”
Dev Hynes is easily one of the decade’s biggest unsung heroes. From his own work, under Blood Orange, to his collaborations with the likes of Solange and Sky Ferreira, he truly produced some of the most acclaimed works of the past ten years. “You’re Not Good Enough,” featuring vocal contributions from Samantha Urbani, is a flawlessly executed funky electro-R&B jam that deserved to be a hit.
90. “Big For Your Boots”
The US largely missed out on grime, one of the most interesting things to happen to hip hop this century. Glastonbury-headlining Stormzy profoundly perpetuated the genre, and his hit “Big For Your Boots” is a powerful, intricate – intense – experience. Stormzy is full of so vigor, you’d almost forget to stop and appreciate how freakin’ talented he is at the same time.
89. “I Love It”
Icona Pop ft. Charli XCX
Who knew being screamed at by two Swedish women in unison was so infectious? The Charli XCX-penned (and prominently credited) “I Love It” is the perfect dance pop moment that only comes around so often, and it will be filling dance floors for decades – it’s already ripe for its first throwback/comeback.
88. “Take Care”
Drake ft. Rihanna
Let’s be clear, the genius of “Take Care” is Jamie xx’s production. Originally starting life as a remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’ll Take Care Of You,” Drake and Rihanna do little more than repurpose it as a pop song – but it all works really, really well. Most notably, this was the moment Drake stepped over the line, keeping one foot in hip hop, the other in pop; you could say it worked out for him.
87. “no tears left to cry”
The way Ariana Grande delivers her anthem of choosing optimism without it even remotely approaching cheesy is a testament to her instincts. “no tears left to cry” is the ultimate pop trifecta: catchy, danceable, and interesting; it put her on an entirely new level of stardom.
86. “Lightning Bolt”
Jake Bugg’s (at the time just 18) wit and energy on “Lightning Bolt” bares so little resemblance to his quiet, almost apathetic demeanor, it’s hard to reconcile the two. The explosive track has all the vivacity of Ed Sullivan-era Beatles with all of the swag of Buddy Holly – and it’d be remiss to ignore that Dylan inspirations.
85. “Love Galore”
SZA ft. Travis Scott
The word “love” has appeared in more songs than any human being could live long enough to count, so it’s no easy feat that SZA actually made a great hook out of it. These are two of the most talented artists in R&B and hip hop, but at the time of “Love Galore,” no one really knew that yet.
84. “Somebody Else”
The perpetually fascinating 1975’s “Somebody Else” is the kind of synth pop ballad Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore has never been able to bring himself to write. The song is so effortlessly and effectively catchy, but the group never loses sight of how quickly that could become contrived. Instead, Matty Healy & co. let the song develop organically, unafraid of delivering completely different verses each time.
Kanye West ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver
Clocking in at over 6 minutes, “Monster” leaves ample time for each idea to become fully realized – a relieving fact considering how cluttered the bill looks on paper. In fact, by the time he hands the mic over to Jay, Kanye had already delivered a near-complete song on his own. Of all of the notable moments, it’s Nicki Minaj who makes the most of her’s; it’s the all-around greatest verse in hip hop this decade.
82. “Uptown Funk”
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
“Uptown Funk” has the kind of mass appeal that makes it feel like it’s been around forever. Collaborators Mark Roson and Bruno Mars only made too much sense to begin with, so they were bound to deliver someting good – this was on a whole different level. This will always fill the dance floor.
81. “I Like It”
Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J Balvin
The audacity of giving Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like It Like That” such a bold, prominent face lift could only be executed by the fearless Cardi B. The track, featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, is an inspired celebration of Latin music, but never steps out of Cardi’s hip hop wheelhouse.
80. “Run Away With Me”
Carly Rae Jepsen
It’s over a minute in by the time Carly Rae Jepsen unleashes one of pop’s most explosive choruses ever in “Run Away With Me.” The entire track is built around delivering that payoff over and over, and each time it works flawlessly. It didn’t need to be a hit to be a classic.
79. “bad guy”
There was no going back on how cool we all thought Billie Eilish was by the time her fame crescendoed into her first number one it. That’s why “bad guy,” a sinister, yet spunky little dance track, is completely guiltless. Her laidback sarcasm should have hinted at an abrupt changeup, but it’s far too easy to get lost in that bass line.
78. “Your Best American Girl”
The brilliant Mitski leaves so much room for interpretation in her lyrics, you can’t help but wonder if she’s drawing an intentional parallel her own tussle with identity – or maybe just the need for identity. Filter all of that through a 90s rock-inspired ballad where the vocals end up retreating behind electric guitar distortion to the point of near unintelligibility – which also might by symbolism.
77. “My Number”
“My Number” is instantly endearing. It has all the right ingredients – killer bass line, hooks on hooks on hooks, etc. etc – but the recipe that brings them all together still could only belong to Foals.
76. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
In hindsight, you could almost interpret the song’s sentiments as directed at her country career, because there was no denying she was going full “Pop” with a Max Martin collab. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is so unapologetically true to form, but with almost any hint of country stripped away. From this point on, Taylor Swift was one of the most important artists on planet Earth.
75. “33 ‘God'”
The creative mind of Justin Vernon is a beautifully complex place, as evidenced by lead 22, A Million single “33 ‘GOD'”. It starts peacefully enough, but it’s not long before you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore and the track organically unfolds into a series of twists and turns. Somehow, it’s all comprehendable.
74. “The Joke”
Although its intensity draws inspiration from 90s soundtrack ballads, Brandi Carlile completely owns it. With her astounding vocal performance front and center, “The Joke” is uplifting and hopeful, but it isn’t preachy. She aims her message directly at certain people, but there’s something in here for everyone.
73. “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
“Swimming Pools,” Kendrick Lamar’s vividly poignant portrait of alcoholism, instantly cemented him as the most relevant rap artist in the world. His performance is so dynamic that it drags you into the pit with him, and almost convices you it’s a party song.
72. “Hold On”
The sheer authenticity of Alabama Shakes’ breakout “Hold On” is undeniable. Brittany Howard’s powerful howl is so audibly saturated that it becomes one with the laidback guitar and steady bass. This band is as tight as it gets.
James Blake truly made an impact on the 2010s thanks to notable collaborations with the likes of Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Bon Iver, but he saved his best work for himself. His masterwork “Retrograde” creates so much open space, only to fill it – and subsequently drain it again. It’s powerful.
70. “Two Weeks”
“Two Weeks” doesn’t seduce you, it owns you. FKA twigs’ breathy upper register carrying a strikingly loose, staccato-ridden melody impressively holds up against the blaring wall of synths.
69. “No Problem”
Chance The Rapper ft. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz
Chance The Rapper’s gospel-tinged “No Problem” cheekily taunts the music industry he was defying all odds by not needing to make it. The track is so infectious and confident, it’s not hard to see why.
Tyler, The Creator
Everything about “Yonkers” feels possessed – Tyler is scathing and unhinged, navigating his way through the effectively simple, menacing beat. It could all be sarcasm, but he certainly leaves you feeling affected.
67. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
The Suburbs‘ big finish (sans a reprise of the title track acting as a coda) sees Régine Chassagne take up the lead, and she’s the perfect match. While the tower of synths builds the energy throughout, the melody only briefly packs a real punch. It’s masterfully executed pure euphoria.
Jamie xx takes his time building up to a climax in “Gosh,” tactfully introducing parts one at a time in a linear fashion. It’s steady, and never quite reaches the peak you crave, but it’s an entrancing experience nonetheless.
65. “thank u, next”
Barely months into her acclaimed Sweetener project, Ariana Grande …well, to paraphrase… broke up with her boyfriend and got bored, and so she unleashed an even better album. The title track and lead single is so explicitly autobiographical that it could only be forever her’s. It’s a pop landmark.
64. “Do I Wanna Know?”
With little more than a bluesy thump and stacked riff that endlessly cycles in various iterations, “Do I Wanna Know?” packs a punch with so very little. It’s instantly memorable, and further proof of how Arctic Monkeys are savvy songwriters.
With blaring horns, a frenzied beat, and a clever Boyz II Men sample, “Countdown” is a landmark of sorts in Beyoncé’s legandary career. The song didn’t go on to become an enormous hit, but it remains one of her most beloved, acknowledged, and acclaimed works – it’s something only an artist of her caliber gets to experience.
62. “Norf Norf”
Instantaneously, you get sucked into Vince Staples’ syncopated flow that drives the sparse, humming beat; the fact that he goes a step further to include such a simple hook is an added bonus. His portrayal of gang life is vivid, but his perspective remains unique to himself, which avoids “Norf Norf” from becoming a rehash.
Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney
On pretty much every level, this mega-collaboration works. Kanye + McCartney was an experiment worth attempting, but Rihanna undoubtedly steals the show. Her vocals hold up just as well against the scant instrumentation as they do on her big productions, and while we all know Kanye could snap any given second, RiRi really sells it.
60. “Diane Young”
On “Diane Young,” Vampire Weekend deliver concise frivolousness even more successfully than the likes of “A-Punk” or “Holiday” because it constantly keeps you on your toes. From the pitch shift-happy vocals to the drum fills that erupt into bouts of euphoria, there’s so much being thrown at us that it doesn’t make sense – but it makes perect sense.
59. “Cranes In The Sky”
For as much as “Cranes In The Sky” feels like a release, Solange’ lyrics read more like finding peace with the fact that there might not be one. Raphael Saadiq’s orchestral-laced production makes it pure poetry.
58. “White Noise”
Disclosure ft. AlunaGeorge
Not dissimilar to their international megahit “Latch,” Disclosure’s “White Noise” was a great moment where two up and coming acts found space in the mainstream. Aside from Aluna Francis delivering a memorable vocal, the basstastic riff that carries most of the track is a classic worthy of sitting alongside the all-time greats.
Just listening to “Redbone” will give you all the reasons why it sounds great, but its finer details indentify why it is great. The track is surprisingly organic: it reinvents, but doesn’t sample, the likes of Bootsy Collins and “Portrait Of Tracey” – and those vocals, that’s really Childish’s voice.
56. “Pedestrian At Best”
As she describes it in the song itself, Courtney Barnett’s “internal monologue” on “Pedestrian At Best” is beautifully, well, all over the place. It’s a revolving door of emotions (assuming that revolving door spins like a turbine engine), but her sharp wit allows her to find little moments of clarity throughout.
55. “Make Me Feel”
Funk is alive and well in the hands of Janelle Monáe, although she’s not afraid to filter it through her own perspective. “Make Me Feel” has the kind of bass line Prince often opted to go without (see “Kiss,” “When Doves Cry”), and she puts it front and center.
54. “Follow Your Arrow”
Country music doesn’t particulary have many “be yourself” anthems, which is why Kacey Musgraves gets away with a little cheese on “Follow Your Arrow.” The genre has been desperate for a pot-stirrer like her for quite some time, and with all of the acclaim she’s gotten outside of the country bubble, this will undoubtedly go down as a classic.
53. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
Kevin Parker’s dreamy brand of psychedelic rock has gotten so big that you almost take for granted how “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” felt like it was unloaded off an alien spacecraft when it was released. It’s gorgeously hazy, without being hard to follow.
52. “Ultralight Beam”
With uncredited vocals from Chance The Rapper, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Kirk Franklin, “Ultralight Beam” is another prime example of how Kanye West is as much a curator as he is a performer, a songwriter, and a producer. The track is loose and spacious, but has moments of such height that keep it all together.
51. “XO Tour Llif3”
Lil Uzi Vert
Emo rap had its moment with “XO Tour Llif3.” Lil Uzi Vert’s mumbled delivery highlights the intertwoven themes of heartbreak and drug abuse, avoiding kind of angst that elicits eye-rolling. It’s a sobering listen, but it doesn’t make it any less beguiling.
50. “Green Light”
Following up the kind of game-changing debut Lorde experienced is inevitably an uphill battle, but she was up for the challenge. The emotional “Green Light” isn’t a typical club-ready anthem, although it ends up being just as effective. The track exhibits both the range she has, and her ability to make anything fit her mold.
49. “Can’t Feel My Face”
The general public’s unexpected embrace of the previously elusive The Weeknd off the heels of “Can’t Feel My Face” foreshadowed the musical clutre of today (see Lizzo, see Billie, see Ari). With one of the most infectious, funky basslines in pop history, and stacked backing vocals MJ would be proud of, the track was designed to be a winner – really listening to the lyrics will provide an even more dynamic experience.
48. “Where Are Ü Now”
Jack Ü ft. Justin Bieber
Skrillex and Diplo’s, as Jack Ü, collaboration with Justin Bieber proved to be a star-aligning moment, really, for all their careers in different ways. The uncharacteristically toned-down “Where Are Ü Now” keeps the integrity of the ballad it was designed to be, but doesn’t shy away from being an EDM banger, either. It works on all levels.
47. “Truth Hurts”
Arguably the decade’s biggest sleeper fit was the perfect vehicle to put Lizzo, one of the most exciting artists heading into 2020, on the map. Her fiery one-liners and endearing sass make it a fun listen, but its catchiness is really what keeps it on repeat.
Miguel’s silky “Adorn” audaciously provides “sexual healing” to the 21st century. With the rumbling low end keeping the track bouyant, he has the perfect platform to deliver his dynamicly sultry seduction. Baby have been made to this.
45. “Everything Is Embarrassing”
With several false starts and delays, as interesting an artist as she is, Sky Ferreira just couldn’t seem to ever get the ball rolling. But when she did delivered, she really delievered. Lifted from the compact, but perfect Ghost EP, the Dev Hynes-penned “Everything Is Embarrassing” is a triumph. Setting a simple drum loop at the center, with little melodic decorations along the way, its the incredible melody that truly drives the song.
Thanks to some high-profile collaborations, Sia finally found so much deserved space of her own in the mainstream. With her astounding vocal performance pulling focus, “Chandelier” is an all-encompassing emotive experience that takes you into the depths with it, and then rockets you up to pure euphoria.
43. “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Drake ft. Majid Jordan
Drake’s foray into elctro-R&B on “Hold On, We’re Going Home” was a gamble that really paid off. The groove irresistable in the way that commands you to move, even if its not a dance track. That alone is not easy to pull off, but the fact that Drake doesn’t attempt to oversell it in his performance is what makes it arguably the best thing he’s ever done.
You probably needn’t say more than Bowie gave it his stample of approval by appearing on it, but that’s actually not why “Reflektor” is such an achievement. The track is 7-and-a-half minutes of disco rock, equipped with a bouncy bass line and light touches of horns, that feels as futristic as it does classic. Everywhere it turns ends up making sense.
41. “Call Me Maybe”
Carly Rae Jepsen
The masses have always had a bit of a sweet tooth, so when Carly Rae Jepsen came rolling in to town in her ice cream truck with the indulgently saccharine “Call Me Maybe,” we were ready. As far as bubblegum pop goes, this is one of the all-time greats; there’s no guilt in loving it.
40. “Shut Up Kiss Me”
The pining in Angel Olsen’s lyrics become all that more urgent when thrust into a furious indie rock whirlwind. Despite its desperation, “Shut Up Kiss Me” becomes almost anthemic. If you were on the other side of the equation, how could you not?
39. “bury a friend”
Billie Eilish’s sinister “bury a friend” isn’t meant to be followed in the way you normally would a pop song. In one sense, the track tests your patience, abruptly thwarting the momentum it builds with litlte breaks and deep-voiced interjections, but when she summons all the parts together in the taunting chorus, you can’t help but indulge in the nightmare.
38. “Don’t Wanna Fight”
Where blues, rock, funk, and soul all intersect, you’ll find Alabama Shakes there, playing “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Without a shred of pretense, the group deliver a brawny thumper built around a driving bass and a knockout riff. Of course, it’s Brittany Howard’s wailing performance that steals the show.
37. “You and I”
With its Americana twang a “We Will Rock You” thump, “You and I” was first real hit to foreshadow the likes of Joanne and “Shallow.” Arriving in the thick of her perforamnce art hey day, the track subtly became the cornerstone of just why Lady Gaga is one of the most important pop stars since the inception of rock & roll. Aside from all that, the track features a powerhouse vocal that turns the melodic verses and booming chorus into a bonafide sing-a-long.
After two of the most acclaimed hip hop albums of all time already under his belt, there was nothing wrong with Kendrick Lamar delivering something as straightforward as “HUMBLE.” Naturally, it still ran circles around almost any other hip hop out there and became not only his biggest hit, but another critical juggernaut as well.
35. “Black Skinhead”
Driven by an industrial beat tht drew more than a few comparisons to Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People,” Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” showcases the artist at his most successfully possessed and erratic. The result feels like a building collapsing on top of you at points, and being able to break through it at others.
34. “Avant Gardner”
Beyond her tactfully fast moving melodies that find little pockets of hookiness, it’s Courntey Barnett’s wit that earned her attention. On her breezy-yet-tragic EP-lifted single “Avant Gardener,” it’s her ability to paint a vivid picture that’s simultaneously literal and metaphoric that makes her such an alluring artist.
33. “SICKO MODE”
Travis Scott ft. Drake
Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD was a conceptual success because he was so consistent in sticking to the theme. “SICKO MODE” feels like a carnival ride threatening whiplash by abruptly changing gears, and even though it’s so laid back, it’s still thrilling.
32. “Bad Girls”
As hook-heavy as it is, M.I.A. doesn’t make any concessions on “Bad Girls.” The boombastically laidback track sounds like Bollywood’s been taken over by aliens, and that fact that it’s used as a feminist call to arms is just genius.
The sisters Haim laid all the cards on the table with their debut single, “Forever.” From the jangling guitar, the pulsing bass, the hiccupy vocals, to the rhythmic melody, it’s clear who their influences are – and like so many of them, the song is rock and R&B and pop all at once. It’s a profoundly bold introduction, but it works because the track is so good.
Christine & The Queens
“Titled,” the Franglish reworking of her French hit “Christine,” introduced Héloïse Letissier (as Christine & The Queens) to a worldwide audience. The simple synthpop track is largely structured with a single drum loop and pusling synths that delicately drag the tempo, all bedazzled with breathy syncopation – and the melody is stunningly memerable for not being intuitive.
There are few legendary musicans we lost this decade on parr with Bowie. His creative genius extended straight to the end of his life, as exhibited by the title track to what would be his final studio album, Blackstar; the album was released just 2 days before his death. “Blackstar” is a disturbing 10 minute odyssey that evolves significantly as it progresses, yet it’s laid out so intentionally that it’s neither exhausting nor incomprehensible.
28. “All Too Well”
Taylor Swift has many (many, many) hits to her name, but the best song she ever recorded was never given the chance to be one of them. Lifted from Red, “All Too Well” breathes one last breath of whatever country she had left in her, but keeps her focus on her metamorphosis. Her songwriting is impeccably melodic, but the way she builds to climax after climax really showcases why she’s able to sell out stadiums the world over.
alt-J’s breakthrough moment, “Breezeblocks,” pays little mind to structure, and isn’t particularly a comfortable listen, but it all comes together magically. The pseudo-experimental track, which makes allusions to Where The Wild Things Are, rhytmically ebbs and flows so effectively that by the time it crescendos to its simmering climax, the frenzy makes sense.
26. “High Horse”
Kacey Musgraves’ disco-country thumper is the perfect crossover blend many have failed to achieve. It’s brilliant how comfortably her pop sensibility shines through the banjos and “giddy-ups,” but it’s truly her ability to flip so many clichés (musically and lyrically) on their heads simultaneously that makes “High Horse” so remarkable.
Tegan & Sara
Tegan and Sara’s wide-eyed venture into synth-pop resulted in some of their best work to date, most notably their exultant hit “Closer.” Blaring synths and a pounding kick drum are borderline required for tracks like this, but the Quin twins have long since proven themsleves to be savvy songwriters – and that’s what they really bring to the table that makes it so magnificent.
24. “Losing You”
Together, Solange and Dev Hynes created what could only be described as the perfect electo-R&B jam. “Losing You” is built around a steady groove that is so complete as it is that there are only light embellishments along the way. It’s hypnotic, it’s fun, it’s emotional, but the way it creates so much out of so little is astonishing.
23. “Dance Yrself Clean”
The 9-minute epic opener to what was once through to be the final LCD Soundsystem album certainly gave the impression James Murphy was intent on going out with a bang. The track doesn’t exactly build towards a big moment, it just kind of drops out of nowhere. It takes patience to get there, but the payoff is satisfying.
Running from the cops has never felt quite as blithe as The 1975’s breakout hit, “Chocoalte.” Although the euphemism is thinly veiled, it’s novel, in its own way. Aside from the breezy guitar riff that moves the song, Matty Healy’s endless hooks that get integreated along the way are absolutely awesome.
21. “Love On Top”
A common motif this decade (in music and beyond) was this sense of nostalgia, and it resulted in some incredible throwback jams. Harking back to the likes of Stevie and MJ, Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” was not only one of the best executed, it may just be the definitive vocal moment of her career. The grand finale key change-after-key change chorus cycle is goosebumb-enducing every single time you hear it.
Justin Vernon’s falsetto appears feeble at times, but as it delicately melts into the the stunning progression and building instrumentation, Justin Vernon’s tact becomes apparent. The stunning “Holocene,” arguably his most accomplished composition, is a masterclass in poignancy. He almost takes you down in slow motion – and without only one real memerable hook, albeit breif, to come back to, it’s particularly impressive.
19. “N****s In Paris”
Jay-Z and Kanye West
Watch The Throne was one of the decade’s most anticipated projects, and it did not disappoint, on the whole. With palpable verve, Jay & Ye’s mammoth “N****s In Paris” never becomes overcomplicated – the beat is a herald, and it hardly gets touched, while the artists more or less just trade off verses. It’s a moment in a hip hop that has cast a shadow over the entire decade, even if an entire new generation is currently running the show.
Azealia Banks ft. Lazy Jay
The formidable Azealia Banks was certainly problematic behind the scenes, but her enduring and ferocious breakout hit, “212,” is a reminder as why we can’t help but pay attention. Her scathing, spitfire verses integrate perfectly into Lazy Jay’s “Float My Boat.” As the track progresses, so does her vigor; it becomes a competition, of sorts between to two. It’s definitley NSFW, but it will be a classic dance floor filler for quite some time.
17. “We Found Love”
Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris
The momentousness of “We Found Love” has resonated throughout pop music ever since. As a featured collaboration with future-Coachella headliner Calvin Harris, the track was such a juggernaut hit because, as pop music had just recently trended this direction, Rihanna came out like it was her idea the whole time. It’s a straightforward house anthem, but there’s something about it that works so well that it’s become a kind of gold standard.
16. “Let It Happen”
Because “Let It Happen” sounds like it starts with the climax, when it pulls back on the momentum, it almost feels like an abrupt freefall. The masterful Kevin Parker doesn’t ever really find higher ground than where he starts out, which, at nearly 8-minutes long, takes the track to the cusp of tedium, but he never lets any one thing settle long enough for that to happen.
15. “Thinkin’ Bout You”
Fittingly, Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You” feels like a daydream. With simple, whispy synth pulses and a barebones beat, Frank sets his voice at the center of the frame. His melody is loose, but it matches the stream of consciouness of his lyrics; when he, breaks out the falsetto on the chorus, you’re right there with him.
14. “Ya Hey”
On the conquering “Ya Hey,” Vampire Weekend erases the dichotomy of melody and experimentation and it may just be their most Vampire Weekend-iest creation. The steady pseudo-ballad is built around a notably memorable melody, but finds itself unable to stay entirely on course with little disruptions of vocal effects and chanting choir-like backing vocals. It’s an unapologetic work of art.
13. “This Is America”
There’s a lot to unpack with Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” In so many ways, the track is disruptive – the way the song constanly abruptly changes gears geniusly mirrors the way society is caught in a vicious cycle of gun violence and a subsequent return to our distractions. At a time of such political unrest, it’s songs like this that really, really matter.
12. “Get Lucky”
Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
It was the collaboration disco was created to beget. Daft Punk, renowned for their electronic soundscapes, paid homage to their dance roots by calling upon dance music’s godfather himself, Nile Rodges. The duo’s definitive vocoder effect not only feels right at home alongside one of the most recognizable guitar sounds of all time, but Pharrell’s iconic melody really takes it to an entirely new level of fun.
11. “Drone Bomb Me”
ANOHNI’s “Drone Bomb Me” is a devestating perspective on drone warfare. It isn’t easy to endure her graphic pleas to be destroyed by such destructive means, but when the hook kicks in, and the synthesizers begin raining down like bombs, every hair on your body will be at attention. It’s one of the most timely works of art of the decade.
10. “Rolling In The Deep”
Once in a blue moon, an artist comes along with such commanding talent that, even if their sound goes against the grain, they can have one of the most legendary album projects in pop history. Adele’s soulful brand of pop may be a little middle of the road for some, but her behemoth voice is just too impressive to ignore – when she unleashed the thundering “Rolling In The Deep,” the music world seemed to just stop in its tracks. It’s one of the most perfect songs ever written.
With the Black Lives Matter movement reverberating through society, Kendrick Lamar delivered a message of hope so profound, so poignant, and so prophetic, it transcends any commonly held view of popularity. As “Alright” continues to guide us through these increasing trying times, there is little doubt that it will continue to inspire for generations to come. History will look back upon this song and artist the way we still call upon Bob Dylan’s classics for guidence.
When we label artists “experimental” or “avant garde,” you’d consider their music the kind of counter-trend that’s usually pooh-poohed by the masses and lusted after by higher-level listeners (or at least those who consider themselves to be.) Clare Boucher defied all such logic on her breakout single “Oblivion.” The track is, for all intents and purposes, a pop song – it’s built around a hooks and melodies that lay atop bouncy synths and frenzied beats. Even despite her doll-like high-pitched vocals, this track is dark and sinister in ways you truly have to be paying attention to. Did it go on to be a hit? No, not really, but it could have been if she wanted it to.
07. “Midnight City”
“Midnight City” elicits an emotional response right from the jump. As soon as that blarting synth riff breaks through the silence, you’re sucked in – when the release follows shortly after, it brings just as much catharsis as it does euphoria. The sheer power of its components that all work togather as one machine is enough to stop anyone in their tracks. Anthony Gonzalez’s dreamy opus is arguably the definitive synth pop achievement of the decade.
Set as the centpiece of Frank Ocean’s impeccable channel ORANGE, “Pyramids” is a nearly-10 minute masterwork that has several distinct segments, but acts as a singular exerience. He goes more places in this one track than some artists go on an entire album, but it’s notable how seemless and fully realized each moment is. Frank Ocean is walking out of the 2010s as one of its most acclaimed acts, and it’s likely that will be looked back on as his magnum opus.
05. “Dancing On My Own”
Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” is a perfect song. From its quivvering bass, to its heralding melody, the track is powerful tour de force of dance pop splendor – but it’s devestating lyrically. The pine and despair in her voice puts you right in the corner of the dance floor with her. What’s remarkable about the song’s staying power and increasing relevancy. Approaching the 10-year mark, and “Dancing On My Own” is undeniably more prominent than it was upon release. It’s a testament to the fact that when a song is good – or rather, perfect – it will find its way.
04. “Video Games”
Lana Del Rey
“Video Games,” Lizzy Grant’s proper debut as Lana Del Rey, is a lush, bewitching ballad most artists wouldn’t dare attempt, even deep into their carers. The way her distant melody sublimely moves from the brooding depths of her voice to the vibrato of her upper register with such effortlessness almost makes it feel like she’s the only one who could ever get away with singing this song. It’s probably true that she is, and that leads to the bigger picture of how Lana Del Rey is such a singular artist – it’s why she’s been one of the decade’s most alluring fixtures.
As only Kanye West could, the 9-minute epic that is “Runaway” is as boastful as it is self-deprecating. Although the track, often considered his magnum opus, doesn’t exactly deliver any resolute insight into his psyche (or maybe that in itself is all the insight we need), but it does showcase how it drives his creative output. Coming off the heels of the notorious “Imma let you finish” incident that even prompted President Obama to call him a “jackass,” the moment called for bit of introspecture on Kanye’s part. The resulting project, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, remains not only his best, but one of the best ever, and the stunning “Runaway” will forever stand out as a real artistic peak for an artist who has many.
As with any era of modern music, this decade was filled with exciting, young new talent ensuring the future of the craft is reamining in good hands. The likes of Lizzo and Billie Eilish, who’s slow burn success is undoubtedly going to cast a shadow across the 2020s, probably owe a little debt of gratitude to Lorde. When “Royals” descended out nowhere, no one could quite figure out where it belonged – was it dance? was it rock? was it hip hop? was it bubblegum pop? – and we collectively acknowledged it could be all of things at once. The production was tactfully simple, letting the melody and vocals control the focus, and although, compositionally it’s astounding, what;s particularly remarkable was that the artist herself was only 17 at the time. Of all the introductions we experienced in the 2010s, none were as consequential as “Royals.”
You can’t just gloss over the cultural impact of “Formation.” Yes, the music video and Super Bowl performance are both borderline historic, but neither detracted from the song’s inherent momentousness. The track shines a spotlight on the many incredible contributions black women make to our culture and society, but it reminds us, implicitly, of how underappreciated those contributions are. With the crescendoing omnipresence of a profoundly devisive, and ultimately consequential, presidential election looming, the times truly called for a declaration of this magnitude. Throw all of that context onto a triumphant Mike Will Made It beat, adorned with legendary hooks and one-liners, and it’s hard not consider “Formation” a landmark moment in popular music.
There’s a level of success that isn’t grounded in anything quantifiable (awards, sales, charts) nor collectively subjective (critical acclaim, coolness, popularity) – although an artist who reaches this level would certainly have accomplishments in these areas. In reality, you’d never really be able to pin down exactly what puts someone in this elite group, but their impact on culture and society as we know would truly speak for itself. You could more or less whittle it down to: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. It’s time to start talking about Beyoncé being on that list.