Top 100 Songs of the Decade (40 – 21)
From Adele’s ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ to Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and more
40. FRENSHIP, Emily Warren – “Capsize”
This decade had a huge number of male/female duets across all genres. For me, probably my favorite happened to be one of the least commercially successful. FRENSHIP and Emily Warren’s “Capsize” was ridiculously catchy, melodically superb and lyrically nicely captured the emotional state of the relationship. In a fairer world, this would have been a massive hit globally, but I can at least settle for knowing it ends my decade as one of the top tracks!
39. Adele – “Set Fire to the Rain”
By the time she scored her third #1 hit in a row from “21,” Adele was no longer just a hitmaker, she’d become a household name. While “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You” were trendsetters in their own right, “Set Fire To The Rain” fit the more traditional ballad road that we’d grown bored of and Adele managed to make it exciting again. AC Radio never sounded so alive.
38. Calvin Harris, Florence Welch – “Sweet Nothing”
Florence Welch’s voice is angelic to the say the least but when you have her belting this Calvin Harris single and you enter Sophie Ellis territory. A mega hit, this single was haunting and potent getting folks onto the dancefloor euphorically in tears. Still sounds as fresh as when it released which is surprising as many of Harris’s hit haven’t aged as well with time.
37. The Wanted – “Glad You Came”
While One Direction were surely the boyband of this decade, at the start there seemed to be some competition from these slightly older Brits. After sappy pop hits that did well enough on the charts, The Wanted smartly went the dance pop route with “Glad You Came.” While this summer jam was lyrically banal, the clever use of the last word of each line being used as the first word for the next line in every verse showed a smartness beyond their expected paygrade.
36. Lissie – “When I’m Alone”
We first fell in love with American folk singer Lissie when she featured on the house classic “The Longest Road” with Morgan Page, beautifully remixed by deadmau5. So when the time came for her debut album, we didn’t quite know what to expect. “Catching A Tiger” was a mixed bag of Americana and folk rock. While there were a couple of standout tracks on the album including “Everywhere I Go,” nothing was as powerful and soulful as “When I’m Alone.” The song beautifully captured the beauty of Lissie’s folksy voice with modern instrumentation to create a haunting mid-tempo thumper. Even after nearly a decade has passed, the single has that live freshness which made it so refreshing.
35. Ella Eyre – “Deeper”
After first hearing her on Bastille’s mashup cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs and The xx’s “Angels,” I had been excited to hear Eyre as a solo artist and she didn’t disappoint. “Deeper” was sexy, soulful and most importantly, it was hella catchy. Eyre’s sultry performance style and the soul-electronic style blended well to create a sound unlike anyone else. This was just the start of a steady streak of successful pop hits but nothing had the grit or playful tease the way “Deeper” emitted.
34. Jidenna, Roman GianArthur – “Classic Man”
Call it the male clapback to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” featuring Charli XCX. “Classic Man”, the debut single by Jidenna featuring Roman GianArthur was everything “Fancy” wasn’t besides the similar beat. It was fun without being annoying, it was classy without feeling tired and because of that, the song has aged incredibly better than the Azalea hit. “Classic Man” has also become a part of pop culture history as a chopped version of the hit was featured in the Oscar Best Picture winner “Moonlight”.
33. Naughty Boy, Sam Smith – “La la la”
Sam Smith’s feature on Naughty Boy’s “La la la” was amazing. It was also the last time I could tolerate him for the length of an entire single. Between “Latch” and “La la la,” he was used just enough that his voice didn’t enter the Christina Aguilera/Mariah Carey wall of histrionics. Having said that, “La la la” is a damn catchy song and the production itself is stellar and still sounds as good today.
32. Katharine McPhee, Jason Reeves – “Terrified”
Katharine McPhee’s music career never took off the way she deserved for it to. But don’t cry for her, she became a successful actress this decade and she did manage to release a couple of albums. Her “Unbroken” album was a solid attempt to reposition herself and “Terrified” was hands down the highlight of the album. The duet originally recorded with Jason Reeves, (and the only version I am willing to accept as the one with Zachary Levi was a media push as she was guesting on his show “Chuck” at the time) is what great ballads are about – catchy as heck hooks and belt your heart out choruses!
31. Gabrielle – “Under My Skin”
Timeless might as well be Gabrielle’s middle name. After a rather lengthy hiatus, she came back swinging. But rather than switch up her winning formula, she just created another group of stellar singles, including this winner, “Under My Skin”. The track is beyond catchy and you are left singing along in one listen wondering if it’s an original or a classic Burt Bacharach hit performed by Dionne Warwick or Dusty Springfield from 50 plus years ago.
30. Empire of the Sun – “I’ll Be Around”
Any song in the key of “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper is always a winner for me. But then when you include that phrase and then also include a positive, inspirational message, well you can’t help but love “I’ll Be Around” then by Empire Of The Sun. A great single again timeless in its production, the song here succeeds because the band chooses to thankfully not oversing or increase the production value of the song. Sometimes all you need is a good melody and straight singing to create a first-rate record.
29. Bob Moses – “Tearing Me Up”
Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses for me was this decade’s refuge from a flailing, aging Depeche Mode. Reminiscent of the late 80’s/early 90’s modern rock/alternative sound, Moses’s “Tearing Me Up” was the perfect retro track with enough of the modern touch to it to make it sound as relevant and fun today as it would have been more than three decades prior.
28. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”
Indie rock bank Arctic Monkeys went the downtempo direction with their biggest commercial hit in the US with “Do I Wanna Know?.” The psychedelic rock track garnered critical acclaim even earning the band their sole Grammy nod for Best Rock Performance. The single has become a favorite of many artists, becoming one of the most covered rock songs of the decades with covers by everyone from Sam Smith to Dua Lipa!
27. Kylie Minogue – “Feels So Good”
Just before MNEK became a household artist in his own right, he was busy doing stellar covers and of course, working with other artists. His best work came with Kylie Minogue. This track from her “Kiss Me Once” album was a highlight. The MNEK production stamp was evident from the first bleep and while most of Minogue’s hits had been a more house and club feel, “Feels So Good” was more mid-tempo electronic, creating a different sonic sound for her, one filled with sunshine and soulful pop.
26. Bebe Rexha, Florida Georgia Line – “Meant to Be”
It goes without saying that this is hands down the most embarrassing song on my chart. It’s not because it shouldn’t be included but rather because it’s ranked so high! But what to do. The sing-along ability, the ease of the lyrics and of course, that country twang, well it just became the most fun song to want to belt along to well, all decade! And at the end of the day, music is about having fun and I can’t help but sing, smile and even smirk when bopping along to “Meant To Be”.
25. Erik Hassle – “No Words”
Swedish singer-songwriter had already made a solid impact with his single “Hurtful” but it wasn’t until he released “No Words” did we get to experience Robyn-level genius. With a single tear shedding on the single cover, the otherwise upbeat disco-funk track juxtaposes the Michael Jackson-ish beat with a level of sadness and morose that Hassle’s voice naturally manages to create when singing this single. “No Words” deserved to be a far bigger hit globally but like many other tracks here, they made a solid impact nonetheless.
24. The Pierces – “You’ll Be Mine”
Somewhere between Wilson Phillips and The Mamas And The Papas are The Pierces. The LA-based sister duo have been creating psychedelic pop/rock at its best for over two decades now. “You’ll Be Mine” was definitely the highlight of this decade. The single updated their otherwise 70’s Fleetwood Mac style for a more 80’s modern rock sound like The Church and Crowded House. With an incredibly catchy chorus and haunting vocals, “You’ll Be Mine” was another timeless gem from the sisters that sounds as fresh today as it did when first released in 2012.
23. The Band Perry – “If I Die Young”
There was a time in my personal life where I actually sang along to the lyrics of the song and wanted it applied. But the older I’ve gotten, I’ve realized I’m no longer young, nor am I dying…yet. Having said that, “If I Die Young” was the right song at the right time for many looking to embrace their morbid streak. An incredibly catchy country ditty that sweetly captures the wants of the recently departed, for me, the song sweetly opened the conversation about end of life needs and wants – something pop music rarely ever addressed.
22. The 1975 – “Somebody Else”
If someone asked me my favorite timeless ballad, “Somebody Else” would have to be up there, like really up there. Of course that’s because for me this single isn’t only 1975’s best song to date, it’s also from a completely different era. If I placed this single with my Top 30 of 1988, it would fit it so perfectly, no one would know it didn’t come out 30 plus years ago! Erasure meets Howard Jones meets Johnny Hates Jazz, “Somebody Else” is everything I romanticize about my childhood and the 80’s. Ahh, the memories.
21. Ariana Grande – “breathin”
Talking about mental health issues used to only make an occasional appearance in a hip-hop song or some singer-songwriter album track but times have changed and as the greater population have begun to openly talk about depression, anxiety, and suicide, it felt both therapeutic and healing to hear Grande open her heart out on “breathin”. After experiencing harrowing circumstances both personally and professionally, Grande channeled her struggles into a mid-tempo mantra heavy ballad. I’m not complaining. It’s one of her finest singles and I’m sure it’s gotten many through challenging adversities.