Top 100 Songs of the Decade (100 – 81)
From Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ and more
At the end of each year for more than 30 years I’ve been ranking my favorite songs for each respective calendar year. I’ve got a few ground rules – no artist can rank more than 1 song in any given year (to give the chart more diversity). In addition, up until 2011, I had also ranked the Top 30 Albums so many albums charted very highly due to several strong singles (and thus the singles not ranking as high). Of course, as radio and CD’s made way to mp3, streaming and YouTube, my charts have also changed with the time.
My personal ranker is based on my liking of the track, the musicality, the lyrics, the cultural impact and of course, the repeatability. While there have been many tracks I’ve been embarrassed to feature, this isn’t about what should be there it’s about what IS actually there.
For me, this decade started unlike any other. I wasn’t sure I’d live to see the end of the decade but I did and many songs have had such emotional attachments to my life to them that I can rightfully say this is a much more upbeat look back at the 2010-2019 decade.
Heavy on pop and dance, with sprinkles of R&B, hip-hop and rock, it’s been a decade fueled by singles that blurred genres, collaborations to levels we never experienced before and the world coming together embracing global stars much more quickly thanks to instant access to music and yes, the return of the importance of music videos.
Without further ado, here we go!
100. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
Midway through this decade it seemed like we were facing a smooth R&B soul drought. Enter English artist FKA twigs who with just her debut single “Two Weeks” managed to revitalize a genre that happens to be one of my favorites. It’s been most enjoyable to see her stardom only rise over the past few years and there’s no denying she’s going to be making an impact in the next decade and beyond.
99. Jessie Ware – “Tough Love”
Undoubtedly, Jessie Ware became this decade’s most sophisticated Brit Soul import. A modern Lisa Stansfield, her singing was straightforward soul with a maturity we seldom find in popular music. Her ethereal voice and memorable hooks helped to create some of the best adult songs this decade with “Tough Love”, the title track from her second album being the perfect highlight.
98. Mac Miller, Anderson .Paak – “Dang! (feat. Anderson .Paak)”
His untimely death makes this gem stand out even more. Ranked as the #1 track of 2016 on my yearly chart, this song has continued to resonate and the chemistry between Miller and West-coast hip-hopper Anderson .Paak worked for so many reasons – the trading of verses, the retro soul vibe, and of course, the memorable hook – it’s no surprise even in his Summer 2019 playlist, former president Barack Obama included this jam!
97. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
Lamar created two of the finest albums of the decade and while many of his singles created a lasting impact, “DNA”, and its lyrical impact shouldn’t be undervalued. Deciphering blackness for himself, his community and the world at large – this isn’t what one expects to here on Top 40 radio and Lamar single-handedly made it possible for this wave of thoughtful socio-political hip-hop to emerge or else tracks like “This Is America” by Childish Gambino among others would not have made their way into the mainstream.
96. Camila Cabello, Young Thug – “Havana”
Fifth Harmony was about the biggest girl group of this decade but truth be told, they didn’t shine as bright or as impactful as girl groups from previous decades be it TLC, Destiny’s Child or even the Spice Girls. But they were talented singers individually put together on the American “X-Factor” show so when Cabello pulled a “Ginger Spice” on the band and left, I did wonder if she’d see more deserved brighter days. Boy did she ever! “Havana” was the perfect introduction to the pop star, nicely marrying the most recent Latin crossover wave with pop sensibility – she scored her first #1 hit on both sides of the ocean.
95. M83 – “Midnight City”
Creating an instantly memorable riff isn’t as easy as it sounds but French band M83 managed to create one of the most easily recognizable tracks of the decade thanks to a brilliantly layered track with the second best saxophone solo of the decade (courtesy of James King from Fitz and the Tantrums) and yes, being used in a plethora of ad campaigns, film and televisions promos and even the Olympics!
94. Florence + The Machine – “Shake It Out”
Her angelic voice got this decade off to bang and her first single from her second album “Shake It Out” all but squandered the many sophomore slump fears. Personally, this single became an anthem in my life (like it did for so many others I knew/know). Thankful Florence Welch among others helped to bring inspirational pop back to the forefront without compromising their musicality or making it feel like a mope “woe is me” fest.
93. HAIM – “The Wire”
Speaking of inspirational pop, the HAIM sisters managed to find a place for themselves on rock stations this decade thanks to clever tracks, smooth layered vocals and some incredibly catchy songs. “The Wire” felt timeless even when it came out. It could have fit on the radio decades before but felt just as right in 2013 when it released or even today.
92. Kendrick Lamar, SZA – “All The Stars”
Lamar has collaborated with many artists over the decade with everyone from Taylor Swift and Tame Impala to Drake and Eminem, but probably the track that felt like the perfect match was this track he did for the “Black Panther” soundtrack with R&B chanteuse SZA. In an age when rap/sung collaborations have become an everyday occurrence, (they’ve even created a separate Grammy category for it!) this track did it right and manages to fit seamlessly on countless playlists to date.
91. Lorde – “Royals”
Australian singer Lorde kind of came out of nowhere and was almost (albeit) prematurely anointed the next best thing. Despite incredible pressure after delivering a near perfect debut track with “Royals”, Lorde has managed to live up to the expectations that critics hoped from her. While she’s still early into her career, Lorde was definitely one of the best new additions to the Top 40 scene this decade.
90. Wilkinson, Becky Hill – “Afterglow”
I’ve always been fond of the drum and bass sub-genre so when Brit producer Mark Wilkinson aka Wilkinson came out on the scene combining an early 00’s trend with melodic pop (thanks to some perfect vocalist choices), he really stood out. “Afterglow” featuring a then uncredited Becky Hill gave listeners a sonic feel of two worlds coming together in the most unexpected of ways to create a whole new experience. This one just doesn’t get old.
89. Kylie Minogue – “Get Outta My Way”
Minogue continued cranking out great pop albums, experimenting in different genres, collaborating with some of the most unexpected artists (um hello, Gente de Zona!) and of course some killer singles this decade. While her 80’s and 90’s rivals continued to leave an impact (moreso only through touring with their catalogues), Minogue seems to have matured in the right way. She may not get the same amount of press coverage or chart hits, but her songs work and continue to play/stream well. “Get Outta My Way” was one of her best straight up pop singles and actually serves as the key sample in Alesso’s hit “Cool”.
88. The xx – “On Hold”
I’ve always liked The xx but I had to love them when they not only created a perfect male/female duet but included a sample by one of my favorite duo’s of all time and one of my favorite songs of all times. The balls it took to sample “I Can’t Go For That (No No)” by Hall & Oates and create this euphoric ballad, “On Hold” works on its own merits and the sample just elevates the song especially for those who love the original to a place where it just feels right again.
87. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of this decade Adele was not yet a household name yet but after her breakthrough “19” album made her stand out amongst a rather crowded white soul movement that seemed to have exploded globally, “21” and the first single “Rolling In The Deep” all but quickly transformed the Brit from just another soul singer to a superstar. The single was unlike anything else on the radio at the time yet it worked, interspersing itself easily between the latest hip-hop track and rock ballad.
86. Dua Lipa – “New Rules”
While Lipa had already secured a number of hits across the globe, she didn’t really become the next “big thing” until “New Rules”. An incredibly catchy pop hit that also had a memorable hook, a lyrical sing-along feel and yes, that “can’t-miss” music video. Rarely has a female artist (outside of the hip-hop genre) been able to reach out so quickly to a whole new audience through just one song but Lipa managed it, also becoming the first non-American female pop singer to cross over a billion views on YouTube.
85. Usher – “Climax”
While the 00’s were all but ruled by Usher, the 10’s did thankfully get one of his all-time best tracks. Produced by Diplo, the song was sonic directional change for the R&B superstar but the creative risk paid off bigtime. A vocally insane to sing single, Usher managed to belt his heart out just as easily but the background felt bigger, dare I say, more orgasmic, hence fitting perfectly for a track titled “Climax”.
84. Ariana Grande, The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder”
Midway through Ariana Grande becoming Ariana Grande, she was slowly but surely becoming one of the most reliable hitmakers of great songs with great production value. Never shy to collaborate, Grande dueted with The Weeknd for this slow jam that incorporated both of their styles brilliantly to create a seductive yet boppy single that still sounds as fresh today. “Love Me Harder” is sonically where Christina Aguilera should have gone this decade but didn’t.
83. Beyoncé – “Formation”
Enough has been written about the cultural impact of “Lemonade” and Beyoncé’s evolution.
I actually agree with most and found the album to be some of her best work. Having said that, there is a sort of karmic justice at play here as for literally an entire decade plus, the singer, in my opinion had become the most over-decorated and over-celebrated artists of our time. While it’s not her fault and the media and the audience have made Beyoncé Beyoncé, hats off to Beyoncé not treating herself like Beyoncé and instead of just following trends and trying to stay relevant on the Billboard Hot 100, she decided to create something more empowering and artistic. “Formation” was the perfect single to highlight this dichotomy and for once, I’ll say it, while the other 23 Grammys she’s won (yes, 23!) are debatable, she actually deserved it for this single and album!
82. DNCE – “TV In The Morning”
Before the Jonas Brothers came back together this year, Nick Jonas had become a solo pop star himself, brother Joe Jonas was fronting DNCE and Kevin was ? Of the three, DNCE definitely was the most interesting and also seems to have had the greatest impact on the revived Jonas Brothers sound. Having initially always been the face of the band, Joe Jonas’s DNCE felt like an interesting way for listeners to bop along to more mature, adventurous pop. “Cake By The Ocean” was an unexpected hit and this single “TV In The Morning” deserved to be an even bigger hit. A perfect pop record with witty lyrics, hummable chorus and sleek production, I almost wish they’d rerecord it as the Jonas Brothers and re-release it so the song has the chance to reach the larger audience it deserved!
81. Röyksopp, Susanne Sundfør – “Running To The Sea”
At the start of the decade, Röyksopp and Robyn had already come together to create pop/electronic magic. While nothing ever really reached the heights of their earlier work, “Running To The Sea” was classic Röyksopp and substituting in for Robyn was Susanne Sundfør who beautifully sang this haunting ballad that again, failed to make the impact it deserved.