Popular Songs From The 2010s – At the beginning of the decade, life was different. When Barack Obama was in office, planking was a thing, and we were all still using iTunes. The music format alone has restructured the DNA of what we listen to: artists are making shorter tunes, subgenres are readily available, and individual songs are stealing the spotlight from extended albums. As music has evolved, so has its sound, as artists work to fit a new mold or actively reject it. Here, we’ve rounded up the best songs of the last 10 years from the never-ending evolution of past music and those who defined it.
Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” may be more than one of the greatest vocal performances of modern times. Beyoncé effortlessly flirts through key changes no singer before her has known, making the impossible feat seem as breezy and tangible as a song drenched in love.
Popular Songs From The 2010s
It was the summer of 2012 and almost three years – to months – before same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. Frank Ocean recently came out with a note to fans on his Tumblr, and “Pyramids” seemed to be coming out of every speaker. A nine-minute odyssey, it sits quietly during late-night introspection sessions, but sounds as normal as 3am (if only its second half) coming out of a club’s speakers. Sagar rang out with a song that celebrated the unseen fluidity of its moment in a new era.
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Just before the turn of the new decade, chillwave, a micro-genre plagued by simplicity and low-fidelity, reigned supreme. Beach House has taken the generic aesthetic of the genre and fine-tuned it – their greatest contribution being a slow burn of “myth,” mythic motifs and startling tenderness.
Is an unhealthy indictment of oppression and oppressors, and a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of being a black woman. “Cranes in the Sky” is a beautiful highlight of Vulnerability, as Solange details a litany of her escape strategies. The song offers no panacea in its proximity; Solange rather lets the emotions sit still.
In 2019, collaboration was the norm. They are expected commercial items that often don’t live up to their initial announcement hype. “Monster” is the 10-year-old antithesis of them all. A near-perfect collaboration between the year’s best emcees—and a beautifully unlikely contribution from hip-hop’s friendlier indie cousin, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon—this is a six-minute masterpiece of rap heaven and hell.
It wasn’t until 2018 that rap became the most popular genre in the country. Despite its growing popularity, rap spent most of the decade as a still dangerous subculture, a non-commercial entity aimed at the masses. “N**gas in Paris” was Jay-Z and Kanye West’s irreverent answer, a decadent celebration of rappers taking up space they don’t need.
Now 100 Hits The Decade (2010’s) / Various: Amazon.sg: Music
Growing up in the suburbs is confusing. On their sprawling 2010 record, Arcade Fire pulls back the curtain on America’s ruins of privilege and boredom, revealing the existential dread of navigating the early years of life in seemingly impossibly small and recognizable ephemeral spaces. “Ready to Begin” is the arcade fire that can be reached in an art school kid, anti-capitalist anthem.
Lana Del Rey is unmistakably evocative—an artist whose work evokes a specific emotional nostalgia for each listener to experience. “Video games” doesn’t go into many details; Instead it offers ingratiating and romantic buzzwords:
Lil Nas X exposes race and genre’s archaic conformity with Swift’s one-minute-and-53-second song drop. Described by Nas as “country-trap”, the track was controversially removed from Billboard’s country music charts because they deemed it not country enough—a demonstration of the gatekeepers who allow participation in certain genres, particularly historically white ones. The track and the story surrounding it sparked millions of conversations about the topic, and the song (with a feature from Billy Ray Cyrus) set the record for the longest consecutive run at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The album, despite everything the band learned from the record’s previous 12 tracks, is a twisted, psychedelic tale of giving into what feels good.
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In the first two minutes of “Dance Yrself Clean,” LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy lets the rumble under the surface: “Talking like a jerk / Except you’re a real jerk / And living proof / That sometimes friends are pointless,” he croons over a synth-ridden beat that quietly echoes his As Muni advances, he offers it as a reserve. “You don’t wanna wake me up,” he shouts about two minutes later, entering a deep and sweaty void that unfolds into a nine-minute alt-kid-friendly dance party.
“Oblivion” was the first time the last E-Girl Grimes appeared on our computer screens. Someone who seems as dreamy and delicate as her music, Grimes’ vocals glide gently over the fuzzy electro beat of “Oblivion” like a fairy scene.
At the beginning of the decade, Tyler the Creator worked out of shock value: he fronted Odd Future, whose entire name included the phrase “kill them all” and whose lyrics included “kill people, burn shit, and fuck school.” And while much of the chaos has faded, “Yonkers” seems like an enduring relic of that era. It was Tyler’s cryptic foray into music, an explosively dark manifesto that came with an equally dark music video. Tyler was, and is, exciting because his next move is always a question mark. “I’m a fucking walking contradiction” resonated then, and it’s just as true now.
Until 2013, arctic monkeys were not what they always were. Alex Turner focused on the new sound of the 1950s greaser aesthetic from the messy, snarky, punk-rich frontman. “Are You Mine” is Caught at the Crossroads; It’s a big, pumping track with uncanny precision from lead drummer Matt Helders paired with fresh, stadium-filling production quality.
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“Reel Reel” is delightfully irreverent and unapologetically powerful: a web of teenage insecurity and personal inner peace, sung in satisfyingly clear female vocals. “Wonder what your boyfriend thinks about your braces?” asks the imaginative girl. “What about them? / I’m all about them,” Sleigh Bells offers back.
The 3:29-minute mark of “Nights” is the closest we’ll ever get to a universally inspired out-of-body experience. The record drops before hitting a shrill, almost medical flat line, and then it seems to rewind and scoop itself back up. Frank Ocean re-enters, and the track ends up serving as a quick therapy session for its first half: “Every night the fox wakes up every day / Patches the night every day,” Frank offers prophetically.
While Cardi feels like a torchbearer — and in some ways, she really is — she’s actually the face of countless female rappers who are quietly pushing the genre forward. “Bodak Yellow” was an infectious and firm reminder that women in the game rap just as hard, if not harder, than the guys.
Ballads are not made for radio. But that never stopped Adele. “Rolling in the Deep” was an absolutely ubiquitous song of 2012. A vengeful, soulful, and angry cut, it came at the height of the public’s obsession with London’s greatest export.
The 50 Best Songs Of The 2010s
“More fun,” he said. Kendrick Lamar told Rick Rubin in an interview for GQ, “But it’s another thing inside the wire that Pharrell is holding.” “Okay” that’s a historical retelling of slavery, and the way the new slavery works now, but that doesn’t distract. It uplifts and answers.
Part of Beyoncé’s public persona is marked by her intense commitment to privacy. As one of the most famous women in the world, she navigated the vast majority of her career with little to no public knowledge of her personal affairs. And when she finally entered the fray, she made sure it was on her own terms. “Hold Up” is husband Jay-Z’s incredibly human, slightly eccentric response to the very public rumors of an affair.
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To worry about at the end of this year. But for as exhausting as the past 10 years have been, we’ve been able to count on the quality of music we listen to. Well, we had a lot of music
As such—most of it sounded like commercial jingles for for-profit universities and luxury sedans—but what we remembered was good.
When compiling our list of the best songs of the past decade, we considered several things: Was it culturally significant? Was it innovative? Does it change our perspective in some way, or lead us to think differently about how we do things?