50 Singles of 2010
Eminem got sober, Arcade Fire got spooked, Katy Perry flashed her hits, and Kanye sang one for jerk-offs everywhere
1. Kanye West feat Pusha T
It takes a special kind of dark, twisted genius to raise the white flag of surrender while raising a middle finger. Kanye West is that genius. ‘Runaway’ is Kanye’s musical response to the Taylor Swift affair, but it’s much more than that: a nine-minute meditation on romantic failure and public infamy. Kanye creates a huge, eerie beat out of thunderous drums and plinking piano, and he turns the phrase “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags” into a refrain nearly as catchy as “She loves you – yeah, yeah, yeah.” In 2010, no other song was so crazily epic or jaw-droppingly gorgeous – not on the radio, not anywhere. Now, everyone raise your glasses.
2. Cee Lo Green
The title alone would have guaranteed hundreds of thousands of Web clicks. But Cee Lo didn’t just say “Fuck you” – he said it with humour and serious panache. Despite the bummed-out lyrics, the Motown-style beat is DayGlo-bright, and Cee Lo’s lovelorn lament doubles as an anthem for lean times: “If I was richer/I’d still be with ya/Ha, now ain’t that some shit?”
‘Soldier of Love’
Nobody knows where Sade disappears to for years at a time between hits, but ‘Soldier of Love’ proves she knows how to make a hell of a re-entrance. She sings about emotional devastation over a beat that mixes quiet-storm synths with acid-damaged riffs straight out of TV on the Radio’s playbook. It’s as close as she’s ever come to blowing her cool.
4. Katy Perry
Co-written by Max Martin and Dr Luke, this buoyant electro-pop singalong is 2010’s catchiest tune. As for that “teenage dream,” Perry doesn’t mince words: “Let’s go all the way tonight.”
5. Arcade Fire
‘We Used to Wait’
“Now our lives are changing fast,” sings Win Butler, spooked and sleepless. But his empathetic croon – and his band’s orchestral-rock wallop – make high anxiety sound almost sublime.
6. Mavis Staples
‘You Are Not Alone’
A modern hymn, written by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and sung with maternal assurance by the voice that once told you to ‘Respect Yourself.’
7. Vampire Weekend
Synth foam, perky digital rhythms, joyful whoops and African-flavoured guitars. The sound of a young band discovering how much is possible.
8. Janelle Monáe feat Big Boi
Sister-from-another-planet Monáe delivers a ferocious, horn-splashed burner that mashes up Cab Calloway, hip-hop, James Brown and art-pop wackiness.
9. Broken Bells
‘The Ghost Inside’
This noirish jam mixes Danger Mouse’s steely funk with a creepily addictive chorus from the Shins’ James Mercer. Bet you loosen your collar.
10. Kanye West feat Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver
On this rumbling id-fest, Minaj delivers the cameo of the year, switching personae and voices like she’s rap’s Meryl Streep. Kanye has the good sense to let her go on for 31 thrilling bars.