Top 100 Songs of the Decade (20 – 1)
From Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ to Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’ and more
20. Morgan Page, Sultan + Ned Shepard, BT, Angela McCluskey – “In the Air”
What do you get when you have three uber house producers come together featuring the vocals of a beloved artist in Angela McCluskey? You get “In The Air,” probably for me the song that has travelled with me with ease through every change and every move over the past decade. Morgan Page, Sultan + Ned Shepard and BT on their own have their own unique styles but together, layered with McCluskey (who bears a strong resemblance to Cyndi Lauper at times in this single), create this dreamlike trance that you just want to get lost into. This song never gets old.
19. Sam Feldt, Lucas & Steve, Wulf – “Summer on You”
So we’re all entitled to like “easy” songs. “Summer On You” is one such track for me. The song so perfectly captured my daily routine walking the beaches near my home that it almost became my go-to song when on the road to instantly transform me back to home. It’s a pleasant enough track that I’m sure wouldn’t rank as highly if sentimentality and repeatability weren’t such an important feature of my rankings. That’s not to take away from the single which is incredibly catchy!
18. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”
Pop perfection isn’t a label many generate but since she broke onto the scene with “Call Me Maybe” that’s exactly what Jepsen has been doing. “Run Away With Me” was the epitome of her throwback 80’s vibe down so brilliantly that you feel like you have no choice but to follow along with her. Featuring the best saxophone riff of the decade (yes, it does sound a bit similar to that of Quarterflash’s “Harden My Heart” but then again, that too is a quintessential 80’s track!), “Run Away With Me” is pop at its best, immediately catchy, crazily fun and pure joy.
17. ODESZA, Sasha Sloan – “Falls”
Washington-based electronic duo ODESZA have managed to make an impact this decade thanks in part to some strategic alliances with the likes of Apple and other brands to get their music out there, garnering the most exposure. It’s a dated approach but can still work wonders especially where there is already a lot of buzz around the band. ODESZA’s second album “A Moment Apart” includes a handful of singles but nothing resonated as beautifully as “Falls” featuring LA based singer-songwriter Sasha Sloan. Sloan, a hitmaker in her own right co-writes and sings the moving yet empowering track. I have a feeling this song has only begun to be appropriately used in media, and for my sanity’s sake, I’m hoping it’s too much in the coming decade!
16. Solange – “Losing You”
I had been a Solange fan since she went 60’s retro with “Sandcastle Disco” but “Losing You” was something else only. There were hints of that Motown feel still but the single also carried an early 90’s vibe and an old-school Sophie B. Hawkins touch with an added splash of soul. The single was both beautifully complicated in construction yet melodically super catchy. “Losing You” officially closed the chapter on the artist drawing any comparisons to her famous sister, as she was a gifted artist in her own right.
15. Emeli Sandé – “Heaven”
Not since Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy” which is one of my all-time favorite songs had a song so instantly drawn me in. From Sandé’s angelically soulful voice to the moving lyrics to the symphony interplaying between the drum and bass, I felt like I was experiencing my own idyllic version of church where orchestras, choirs and emotions come together to create my own version of heaven. Fitting then for Sandé to title the single “Heaven.” A masterwork from the very first to very last note.
14. Drake, Majid Jordan – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Like a great country song, Drake managed to create probably one of the best titles for a song this decade with “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. The track showcased a different side of the rapper and it clicked big time. The single continued the artist’s decade long affair at the top of the charts. While he cranked out hit after hit, no song resonated as strongly for critics or for me personally as this track.
13. Jamie Woon – “Spirits”
I’m expecting a slight controversy here. Technically “Spirits” released in 2008 but quite honestly, next to no one knew about the song and especially this version of the song as Woon didn’t release his debut album “Mirrorwriting” until 2011. Having said that, “Spirits” is that haunting single that perfectly showcased the amazing talent Woon was and in era when others like The xx and James Blake were making waves, this single in particular showed that while others were equally talented, only Woon was ready to deliver a big hit. Let’s just not discuss the fact that the song was never released as a single!
12. Jessie Ware – “Midnight”
Close your eyes and you wouldn’t be sure if you’re listening to record from the late 60’s/early 70’s or from just a couple of years ago. “Midnight” is the kind bombastic type of soul record that I grew up hearing about from my mother and then I’d run to listen to her LPs. Ware takes us back to a time when a vocal performance isn’t about histrionics but pure, gut-wrenching, singing your heart out as genuinely as possible so that’s where the real “soul” actually comes from. Try not wanting to belt out the chorus along with Ware by the end of the single, it’s next to impossible.
11. Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”
For me, Frank Ocean was always a slightly more modern electro influenced version of Raphael Saadiq because the two are just so damned talented and far underrated. Of course Ocean went on to become a critical darling and he’s left behind an amazing string of compelling singles but nothing comes close to beauty in composition and production as “Thinkin Bout You” which just about is as perfect a ballad as you can get.
10. Kelly Rowland, Lil Wayne – “Motivation”
Oh Kelly. While she ended the 00’s with the banger “When Love Takes Over,” she returned to her R&B roots with a little naughty help from Lil Wayne on “Motivation,” hands down one of the sexiest, if not sexiest single of the decade. Be it Ariana Grande or Miley Cyrus, this single almost became the benchmark for the understated slow jam. If only Rowland had continue evolving this style…but at least thankfully we have “Motivation” to get us in the mood whenever the need arises.
9. Rihanna, Calvin Harris – “We Found Love”
You have to remember that at the beginning of the decade, it still wasn’t so common for major recording artists to collaborate with DJs. But probably the most successful collaboration this decade had to be “We Found Love” between Calvin Harris and Rihanna. The song was everything we expected from a Harris record yet with all the charm we always expected from a Rihanna record so when the two worlds came together – an anthem was born. The fact that the single went on to become one of the biggest selling singles of all time shows how impactful this collaboration actually was globally.
8. Duke Dumont – “Ocean Drive”
My music-based photographic memory almost always means that I know the artist and the song title to every song I’m listening from the first listen but for some reason, this song always impacted me in a way that I’d start bopping along, singing along and then the next thing I know, I’d be barefoot and at the beach. Of course eventually, “Ocean Drive” became my ignition song on my Beach Mix playlist. Like “Summer On You,” no song resonated as personally for me as “Ocean Drive” because of where I was living. And even when I’m not there, the song still magically takes me there in just a few seconds, every time.
7. MJ Cole, Bruno Major – “Shelter”
I could scream about this track – how was this not a massive hit! MJ Cole made one of the least shiny comebacks of any DJ with the aid of melancholic crooner Bruno Major, “Shelter” was folk meets UK garage with the lyrical depth of Dylan. Hands down my favorite lyrics, the song resonated so deeply for me because the music manages to trap the emotional pain somewhere between the layers of the electronic blips and blurps and the vocal effects attached to Major. Some artist in the future needs to cover this song as a torch ballad and trust me, it’s going to be massive.
6. Lana Del Rey – “Video Games”
She had many naysayers when she released “Video Games”. Folks couldn’t tell if it was an act or was this really her. Well, after stellar LP after stellar LP, Del Rey has proven to be one of the decade’s most reliable stars. It all started with “Video Games”, a gem even today. The song introduced not just to the star but to a mood, a style, a feeling, an emotional state. Hats off to Del Rey for truly creating the most unique lane in pop that even almost a decade later, no one seems even close to entering and managing to then stay in!
5. B.o.B, Bruno Mars – “Nothin’ on You”
This was the perfect introduction to one of my favorite hip-hop artists this decade and one of the biggest commercial stars of this decade. While I’m sure I will get picked on for not including any solo single by Bruno Mars in my Top 100, well, let’s just say many have been above average but their shelf life is a bit limited…but this track, the first time we heard his voice and knew there was something magical about it, it still works.
4. Sophie Ellis-Bextor – “Starlight”
Just listen the last 45 seconds of this single. Bextor is humming the melody of the song with the music and you could feel like you are literally hearing any instrument but it’s actually her voice. This is even further magnified in the Carl Hanaghan Remix of the single (it’s a must look up if you’ve not heard it!). “Starlight” is EMO meet electronic meets pop in the absolute right way. No song beamed me away as quickly to wherever I wanted to be this decade!
3. Dua Lipa – “Be the One”
When I first heard this song, I wondered just whose voice is that? Little did I know Lipa would spend the next 4 years becoming one of the brightest and best young pop artists. It all started with this emotionally gripping vocal performance. “Be The One” just doesn’t age and while she’s had other great singles and they’ve been clearly showcasing the different stages of grief, this one just carried a pain that we’ve yet to hear again.
2. Wretch 32, Josh Kumra – “Don’t Go”
Quite possibly the catchiest, most memorable and easiest to sing along chorus of any hip-hop track. It’s a shame Wretch 32 and the UK grime scene never really blew up beyond Europe but “Don’t Go” was for sure the best potential introduction. Regardless, from Wretch’s flow and his poetic rhymes about keeping his love with him to Kumra’s infectious chorus, by the end, everyone is guaranteed to be singing along “don’t go, don’t leave, please stay with me. You are the only thing I need to get by.”
1. Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
When the decade started, the whole world finally came together to embrace the brilliance of Robyn. Sure it didn’t necessarily translate into sales but her presence this decade fueled by a single that others seemingly hijacked from her and made their own spoke to the absolute wonder that is Robyn. “Dancing On My Own” was of course a solid record when it came out but that it still resonates and has become one of the most covered tracks of the decade – well, there’s no doubt it deserves to be standing on top for this decade end’s countdown.
Listen to Amit Vaidya’s Top 100 Songs of the Decade exclusively on Spotify: