Top 100 Songs of the Decade (80 – 61)
From Bonobo’s ‘Kerela’ to Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ and more
80. Anderson .Paak, Brandy – “Jet Black”
File this in the wtf – why not promote this as a single? One of 2019’s best songs by one of the brightest hip hop artists we have right now in Anderson .Paak featuring the original smoother than smooth vocalist Brandy – this was a track you just couldn’t hear and not want to dance. After .Paak and Mac Miller created perfection with “Dang!,” he did it again this time bringing back a voice I didn’t realize I missed as much as I did! “Jet Black” is going to be playing on repeat for many years to come.
79. Florrie – “I Took a Little Something”
For me, the 00’s were the most interesting thanks in large part to producers like Richard X and Xenomania. While their impact didn’t resonate as strongly this decade, this Xenomania-produced single from Brit artist Florrie’s debut EP, “I Took A Little Something” was pop perfection. The dance-pop single had equally catchy verses and choruses and who knew, it would also be our first introduction to the talent we know as MNEK.
78. The Magician, Ebenezer – “Las Vegas”
Stephen Fasano aka The Magician, the Belgian deejay had found some success in his collaboration with Years & Years earlier, but this out of nowhere collaboration with upcoming British hip-hop artist Ebenezer felt like an unlikely match that just worked as the “get ready to party” song. The killer hook, the infectious beat and Ebenezer’s smooth flow made this a song you could bop along to and make all your way to the dance-floor by the end.
77. Bonobo – “Kerala”
The unsung hero of this instrumental is Brandy. Yup, in a decade where the singer barely produced any new worthwhile material, beyond “Jet Black,” she also features prominently in “Kerala.” The track is classic Bonobo but it is Brandy’s voice that elevates this particular single above of many of their other singles. It also doesn’t hurt that the title of the song is the state where I now live and yes, it released while I was already living there!
76. Tinashe, Schoolboy Q – “2 On”
Recently a lot has been written about the career that should’ve been for Tinashe. She seemed to be a on Ciara-like meteoric rise thanks to this electro-soul banger. The trap production was a departure for the R&B singer that made listeners and critics excited for where the future would be headed for the talent. While it’s too early to say Tinashe can’t make a comeback, and she has made some other great tracks this decade, “2 On” stands high above the rest.
75. ROSALÍA – “MALAMENTE (Cap.1: Augurio)”
A year ago, in my year-end countdown, I probably got more messages about my inclusion of Rosalia than anyone else. Boy what a difference a year makes! Creating music, the way she wants, this star saw her fame skyrocket with her second album. There’s no denial, she’s someone here to stay and “Malamente” was probably one of the most understated yet brilliant intros for an artist onto the global scene without compromise!
74. Loreen – “My Heart Is Refusing Me”
I can’t say I’m the world’s biggest Eurovision Song Contest fan but at the start of this decade, Sweden’s entry with artist Loreen felt like the winner before the competition even began. Loreen’s “Heal” album was literally hit single after hit single waiting to happen. In a word where Leona Lewis and Agnes both enjoyed international success, I still ponder why Loreen never did besides her “Euphoria” single. For me, “My Heart Is Refusing Me” is the real winner on the album and had it been pushed properly by the label, it should have been one of the biggest records globally that year, or frankly any year.
73. Kim Cesarion – “I Love This Life”
Fellow Swede, Kim Cesarion had achieved moderate success in his homeland. But if there was any song from his first two albums that should have made him a global star, it’s this one. The song has made its way over the years in so many of my playlists, in my mind, I always think this song was a massive hit only to realize when others are around, I’m the only one singing along to the lyrics. Of course, by the end of the track, they all are singing “I Love This Life” and want it to “last forever.”
72. Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello – “Señorita”
What male/female star pair have dueted more than once and on their second time scored not just better but hit a grand slam out of the park? After a schmaltzy duet a few years ago in “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, the maturing Mendes and the bonafide solo star Cabello came together to get all the romantics out of hibernation to create one of the decade’s most memorable pop duets and guaranteed staple for karaoke bars for the next decade.
71. Ciara, Ludacris – “Ride”
Let’s get this straight. There is no other Ciara. Her style, her flow and of course, her memorable music videos have kept her a lasting influence in R&B music. Of course, while she doesn’t see the same commercial success as the younger generations anymore, you just have to flashback to 2010 and “Ride” and remember that she started this decade riding high. The video at the time was banned (yes banned!) from BET for its alleged sexual explicitness. How times change, in the era of “Duck Duck Goose,” this seems all but tame.
70. The Saturdays – “Notorious”
I’ll be honest. I don’t know any other song by The Saturdays. But this Brit girl group, while successful in their homeland didn’t really have a lasting global impact. So, when this single “Notorious” released and I first heard it, I was thinking that, see, there are those Girls Aloud again making another pop banger in the new decade. Of course, I was quickly corrected. Produced by another one of my faves Steve Mac, this was futuristic pop with every bell and whistle incorporated into the production to create this sonically bombastic slice of pop that just felt noisy yet nice! The song has actually aged incredibly well and I’d love to see an artist like Dua Lipa help this song reach a larger audience especially as it includes one of the sassiest lines “because my resume says I’m a bad girl.”
69. Mike Posner – “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” (Seeb Remix)
I spent a whole year loving this song before this song blew up into the global smash that it was, and that too the remix! I call it this generation’s “Missing” by Everything But The Girl. The original was great but the remix took it somewhere else and an otherwise pretty borderline depressing song became a wonderous slice of sad dance-pop, one of my favorite sub-genres. Lyrically honest, earnestly performed, even Mike Posner didn’t expect to return from the one-hit wonder status he thought he carried after “Cooler Than Me”. “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” hit number #1 in over 20 countries and even earner Posner a Grammy nomination for Song Of The Year. Never say it’s too late for success again!
68. Disclosure, Sam Smith – “Latch”
I remember so vividly two songs, released around sort of the same time frame, with a man’s voice I’d never heard before and both songs were just incredibly engaging, beautifully sung and ended up becoming two of the biggest hits of the year. That was the world’s introduction to Sam Smith. While he’s had quite the success on his own, I’d be lying if his one-two punch of “Latch” and “La La La” weren’t his best two tracks to date.
67. Jay-Z, Kanye West – “Ni**as In Paris”
While their collabo album “Watch The Throne” was a mild disappointment, the highlight had to be this track. The beat was blazin’ and in particular West’s delivery is beyond memorable. Of course, the strangest part of the classic is the inclusion of a spoken dialogue line from the Will Ferrell/Jon Heder ice-skating comedy “Blades Of Glory”. Bizarrely even that bit works to create the perfect fusion and handedly one of the best hip-hop tracks of the decade.
66. M.I.A. – “Bad Girls”
M.I.A. didn’t have the same impact herself this decade. It felt like her influence though was simply everywhere, across artists of literally every genre. Of course, she did manage to provide another masterwork with “Bad Girls”. The midtempo hip-hop song incorporated elements of dancehall and Middle Eastern instrumentation. The female-empowering song, like “Paper Planes” before it, managed to find its presence across the decade being used in countless campaigns, ads, and used in films and TV shows galore.
65. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
I had loved Australian rock band Tame Impala’s first two albums but when “Let It Happen” released as the first single from their album, I felt like everything had been building up to this single. Lyrically empowering, sonically vibrant, the song felt like the psychedelic-pop version of “November Rain”. Epic, over the top and yes with a running time of just under 8 minutes, the song goes from pop to just oddity almost like listening to a scratched CD, the song works for this generation because it incorporates all the quirks artists have used to create a futuristic sound but here Impala uses it to literally stop the music from ending. A brilliant track from start to finish.
64. Katy B – “Katy On a Mission”
Dubstep started off the decade in one of the most wonderous ways with the world’s introduction to Brit singer Katy B. “Katy On A Mission” was interesting with a hint of familiarity alongside a breath of freshness making this single stand out easily compared to its contemporaries. Having aged beautifully, “Katy On A Mission” is the perfect example of how a genre when married with the right artist at the right time can bring back a style and take it back all the way to the top of the charts. Katy B always managed to stay true this origin and if I were charting the best albums of the decade, I know her “Honey” album from 2016 would rank up there!
63. Miguel – “Adorn”
I hate when comparisons are made between legends and new artists but even, I was having to be careful not to anoint Miguel so quickly as the second coming of Marvin Gaye. With “Adorn” having a hint of “Sexual Healing” to it, it was hard not compare. Thankfully, Miguel has created his own niche in the R&B and electro-soul world and has managed to crank out hit after hit further establishing his own style and persona. Having said that, no song better married the old-soul of Gaye with the new-electronic push of soul than “Adorn” – a song that still sounds good at any time of the day or night.
62. Sampha – “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano”
The piano, as an instrument and also as an accompaniment had a few glorious moments in the past decade. In 2011, Adele managed to score the first #1 piano-and-vocal-exclusive ever on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Someone Like You”. Only two years later, Bruno Mars did the same with “When I Was Your Man”. While both ballads have their fans, for me, no one played or sang better about the piano this decade than Sampha. “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” is hauntingly honest and raw, it does everything the piano is meant to represent and more. As someone who lost his mother, who played the piano and sat by her side as she played and taught me, this song instantly took me to a place no other track could even pretend.
61. Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”
Some songs feel like classics when you first hear them and you know you’re going to be hearing it for many decades to come. That was surely the case with “Teenage Dream”, bizarrely at the time Perry’s most mature sounding single despite the title. The single was a break from the bubble-gum pop she’d been cranking out and the song managed to make many top-ten year end lists because it was just a brilliantly produced record. I often say that the hallmark of a great pop song is if it works in other genres. Just listen to the Kaskade remix of this track and you’ll understand it’s the melody here that trumped anything else.