I have collated a list of my top 40 songs of every year since 2010. That means 400 songs sit in a playlist of my ‘Best of the Decade’. Luckily I’m not expecting anyone to sit through hundreds of write ups of these songs, just one hundred. If you don’t fancy suffering through endless garbled words, I’ve created two handy playlists you can find here (Spotify) and here (Apple Music) or at the very bottom of the article too. I’ll be listing the year of release the single had as well as the number it placed in that year’s list, with N/A denoting anything I was stupid enough to leave off at the time.
100) Everything Now – Arcade Fire – 2017 – #10
This song gets a bad rep thanks to the disappointing album it led into, but for me this is a perfect example of what makes Arcade Fire so dynamic as a band. Everything Now is absolutely massive, which is entirely the point. Also: Pan Pipes!
A Sky Full of Stars sees Coldplay at their most obvious, though in this case that is definitely not a bad thing. This song is so easy to love, it soars like the best dance anthems do becoming a live favourite in the process.
The Weeknd’s transformation into full on MJ mode didn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone who was on board with his pre album mixtapes, but there’s still something so exciting about the moment we all first heard Can’t Feel My Face. The catchiest song about being off your face on coke of the decade.
Don’t be so hard on Jess Glynne, yes she’s incredibly dull as a performer, yes she manages to make even the most catchy music sound like something your great auntie might enjoy, but bloody hell this song is still uplifting as anything.
A VERY late addition to this list, but I had to include such a massive track. The way this song builds layer upon layer with new instrumentation is so great. I have very fond memories of hitting the slops on SSX with this blasting in the background.
Only Girl very nearly didn’t make this list. God knows why, because one listen to this absolute banger of a song and I’m a teenager all over again losing my mind on first listen. Subtlety is not the word of the day on this bonkers definition of a TUNE.
Running is genius, it lures you into feeling like you know Jessie Ware’s voice for the first few minutes before she blows every expectation out of the water in those closing moments. The slow build and deep danceable nature of a song like this is hard to find.
‘A kingdom of isolation/And it looks like I’m the queen’ Disney didn’t have to bring a lyric as good as that into the world. Let It Go is one of those rare songs that can be absolutely everywhere; sung by countless kids badly out of tune at talent shows; playing from teddies in shops on the high street and still make me a little teary eyed when I hear it. Adele Dazeem did THAT on Let It Go.
The Saturdays’s musical output far outweighed the appeal of the band itself in a way I’m not sure we will ever see again. Disco Love is undoubtedly their greatest moment and I still can’t quite believe that this came from such an unlikely source.
Dua Lipa is just starting to show the global superstar she has the potential to be. New Rules was simply step 1 in the process.
I love how Drake sounds on this song, surely his all time best vocal performance, he sounds so damn smooth. The high vocals of ‘we’re going home’ from Majid Jordan on the chorus are just so so good too.
‘Yeahhhh Baby/I like it like that’ WRECKING BALL OF TRAP/HIP HOP/REGGAETON BEAT ARRIVES. A moment.
‘It’s Britney Bittttchhh, I’m Nicki Minaj and that’s Ke$ha!’ No other moment in a song had the effect that those words did on me back in 2011. Britney has had a mixed decade, some highs – one of her greatest albums in Glory, a few lows – Britney Jean all but ended her career, but above it all the thing that has become my favourite Britney moment of the decade is this absolutely bonkers remix to a pop banger that leaves everything on the floor. ‘Oh oh ohohohoh ohh ohhhhh’ should not be the greatest hook she’s had all decade, but if the world did end today, it’s something I’d be happy to go out to.
It’s so refreshing to hear a massive pop tune that doesn’t tie itself up in metaphors, this is a song about wanting to get off with someone and knowing that you want to do it too. There’s no bullshit, it’s pure and straight to the point and it’s absolutely brilliant.
I get to end of Youngblood and I feel out of breath. The instant gratification of these few minutes of music is mad and that final sudden ending to deafening silence is incredible.
Frank Ocean sounds so damn smooth on this song. I know for some people he was the defining artist of the decade (Channel Orange very nearly made my Albums list) and the idea that the greatest thing he was involved in was this Calvin Harris summer bop is ridiculous, but I really don’t care. This is a vibe.
When people think about what country songs are about, you might think of drinking with your buddies on the back of a truck, or being so in love with someone you have to sing about it. Surely the greatest genre is ‘Woman scorned so she hooks up with the mistress of her husband and together they kill him and meet up at the funeral’? Only one artist could have delivered a song so stacked with soapy drama and Carrie Underwood delivers an incredible performance here. The way she accentuates the words preacher and ‘good man’ on the chorus is so satisfying.
The build up to the final chorus of Mine would be amazing as it is, but the pay off of ‘Hold on, make it last’ crashing in as the final chorus arrives is pure pop song perfection.
There are few songs that have created entire genres in the way that Royals by Lorde did, but no matter how may copycats appear the original is still the best. It’s such a scathing lyric to come from someone so young, but that’s where the genius of this song lies, it’s brutally honest. Pop music this decade would have sounded so different without this record.
The dynamics of this song are so gorgeous. The ethereal vocals against the deep bassline gives this song so much relatable emotion. The moment Jessie Ware had fully captured my attention.
Your Love Is My Drug was released alongside the rest of album Animal on 1st January 2010. Literally the first amazing song of the decade, I was asking if ‘Do you wanna have a slumber party in my basement?’ for the next few years. Ke$ha defined that period of my life so much and this song especially stands out as the most unabashed fun song of the era.
Remember that year where everyone was absolutely obsessed with Swedish House Mafia? Greyhound is basically that bit of one of their songs where it builds and builds and builds and builds but played over and over and over again. Each section is more ‘hands in the air going absolutely wild’ than the last and somehow this 7 minute dance track with no lyrics manages to feel like some of the hookiest hooks of the decade.
Kylie has had a hell of a decade. A bunch of #1 albums! Glastonbury! That tour where she had actual Greek fountains and a ‘splash zone’! Collaborations with some really unexpected artists. In the end though it’s this single from Aphrodite that is the moment I keep returning to. Get Outta My Way is the sort of Kylie record that you can put on next to Spinning Around era Kylie, but also I Should Be So Lucky era Kylie. It’s exactly the song we needed from Australia’s finest to get us through the decade.
A song so big in scale that it manages to achieve what the album of the same name tries to do across 2 discs in the space of 7 minutes. The instrumentation is so interesting, always giving you something new with every turn, by the time you’re at the ‘disco ball descends and David Bowie starts singing’ bit the point has been made. My favourite Arcade Fire song and what turned me from a casual listener into a fully fledged fan.
This is such a strange song to pick out from Laura Marling’s discography as her best of the decade, but Wild Fire manages to be her finest ‘single’ yet as it stands so singularly. I still love the way she says the line ‘You always say you love me most/When I don’t know I’m being seen/Well maybe someday when God takes me away/I’ll understand what the fuck that means.’
The sounds that M.I.A. uses on her songs are often really unexpected and you never quite know what direction she’s going to go in next. Xxxo manages to be her most straightforward pop hook yet and it appears here as it’s still lodged deep in my brain where I wouldn’t dare try and take it out.
The ‘doo doo doo doo doo doo doo’ bit of bad guy is amazing. The bit where it all goes off the deep end for the last minute is amazing. bad guy is amazing.
There’s something so entrancing about the driving drum loop that carries through Doesn’t matter. You can almost hear Chris dancing along with it, especially once the thudding final chorus hits.
Katy Perry started the decade as the biggest popstar in the world. She ends the decade with a song that shows she’s still got it, even if the world doesn’t seem to care as much anymore.
Spectrum (Say My Name) felt like the moment I had been waiting for from Florence Welch. For a fleeting moment she went from indie pop favourite to fully blown dancefloor diva and back again. Weirdly it felt more natural on this remix than the true dance original (and still brilliant) Sweet Nothing, but either way a full Florence/Calvin album would be pretty sweet wouldn’t it?
So packed with soul and free spirit, Blind Faith feels like the definitive example of the Drum & Bass sound that was so prevalent back in 2011. It’s a song that I’ve returned to countless times over the years and it continues to amaze me.
The Adele song that affected me the most was not Someone Like You. Maybe I was stubborn, maybe I liked being against the current trend, but I doubt that song will ever effect me like it does everyone else. When We Were Young is different, the way Adele sings that final chorus is just so emotional for me. A stopped in my tracks and can’t believe what I’ve just heard moment.
Cindi Mayweather becomes the funkiest robot in Metropolis all over again. Janelle’s rap verse on this song is so underrated as well ‘She who writes the movie owns the script and the sequel/So why ain’t the stealing of my rights made illegal?’
The way Alex Turner performs this absolute belter of a song is him fully in the role of ‘biggest rockstar in the world’ you can hear that he believes his own hype and it makes for a brilliant track. That section where the music seems to get passed between each instrument before an acapella section just long enough to feel too long is outstanding.
Lizzo took a DNA test and turns out she’s 100% that bitch who is going to be headlining festivals for the next decade. Truth Hurts was one of the best songs of 2019, but I stick to the rules too much so it wasn’t eligible for that list. ‘Why are men great till they gotta be great?’ an opening line with so much power that Lizzo has to stop herself to react. Truth Hurts is such an empowering song, without ever feeling like Lizzo is pandering to the listener. Singing along to Truth Hurts at a Lizzo show feels like going to church, I’d recommend it to anyone.
Bang Bang should be a trainwreck. It’s ridiculously over the top, over produced and full of insanely silly ad libs. A song so ridiculous that the chorus isn’t even performed by any of the three all star names in the artist credit. But it does work and I absolutely LOVE Bang Bang. All three performers sound like they are fighting for their lives on this, there’s this cataclysmic energy as if they might get eliminated from the next record if it’s not a hit. It ends up being amazing because it’s so ridiculous, not in spite of it.
My favourite Adele song. The greatest moment on 21. I saw her perform this from inside a pillar of falling water and it was as life changing as you’d expect.
The only version of this song worth existing, who knew that we needed Christina Aguilera and Gaga wailing at each other to take this song from weirdly sexual fantasy to female empowerment anthem. Gaga and Christina joining hands at the start of the second chorus on The Voice is genuinely the greatest TV performance moment of the decade. ‘WHAT YOU WANT LADY GAGAAAARRRR’ is Xtina at her best too.
Tilted, or in its original form Christine, introduced the decade’s most interesting new talent in such an unexpected way. ‘I am actually good/Can’t help it if we’re tilted’ is a hook that’s so layered in its approach, we should be way past the need to say ‘ACCEPTANCE’ in all caps at this point. Tilted manages to be so unique and memorable, while never sounding like it’s trying to be different, it simply is.
A Top 40 song never sounded so obvious and yet took so long to construct. The Middle is the sound of the last few years and I think will stand out as the greatest example of the ‘post EDM’ pop for years to come.
So uplifting, no tears left to cry was the song that fans needed and the song that Ariana needed herself. It’s genuinely still tough to think about that time, but this song felt like the first step to recovery for so many.
The trumpets on Feel The Love are still absolutely brilliant. This song just sends me right back, a terrific dance record.
‘Baby it’s YOUUUU!! YOU’RE THE ONE I LOVE!! YOU’RE THE ONE I NEEEEDDD’ The genius of Love On Top isn’t just the endless key changes that you feel literally might never end, it’s the softer moments on the verses that allow for Bey to absolutely belt those final 262817 choruses. A song. A moment. An iconic baby bump reveal. Beyoncé.
Probably the most ridiculous mistake I’ve ever made on an end of year list is saying that there were 39 better songs than We Found Love in 2011. I was wrong and We Found Love still sounds absolutely joyous today. It genuinely hard to imagine a time before this song, it has become such a big part of the fabric of pop music.
HAIM are at their best when they manage to be a ‘band’ band as well as a straight up girl band. If I Could Change Your Mind was the best example of this and is stacked with tight harmonies and energy.
Dangerous still sounds so weird as a song. There’s always a sense that the vocals from Romy and Oliver are just about to fall out of odds with the rest of track, but it’s that’s feeling that makes it such an interesting song. Possibly the intro of the decade too.
The bit when the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ kicks in during the final chorus of Where Have You Been is still a knockout moment. We Found Love’s less polished, crazier and more in your face cousin is just a slightly better fit for me. Rihanna sounds insane on this.
For 8 glorious minutes we can imagine a time when Justin Timberlake returned from his extended break from music with a worthy follow up to FutureSex/LoveSounds and dominated the pop space for the decade. I guess we got this absolute gem of a song at least…
Same as Royals above, Marvin’s Room is the definitive ‘sad Hip-Hop’ record and the effects it had on the industry can still be heard to this day. This is Drake at his Drakiest. Drake the RnB singer does his own 16 bar rap. Literally no one else could have delivered Marvin’s Room in the way that Drake did, even if so many have tried since.
A dance record that warrants genuine choreography is a 10/10 in my book.
JAY-Z was having an interesting few years to start the decade, he was still riding high on Empire State of Mind, but it wasn’t until this massive song that it felt like we were back at that peak again. Justin sounds incredible on this, surely the best vocal performance of his career, and the way the production sounds so dangerous is still breathtaking.
‘Pink wig thick ass give ’em whip lash/I think big get cash make ’em blink fast/Now look at what you just saw, this is what you live for/Aggghhhh, I’m a motherfucking monster!’ Nearly 10 years later I still have whiplash from the greatest rap verse of the decade. Saying that Nicki bosses this song is a ridiculous understatement, she eats every other rapper on this song and then has the audacity to give them a few bars of instrumental that none are bold enough to fill. The impact of Nicki’s Monster verse is still felt to this day, a verse that made an already brilliant song iconic.
Overdose was a glimpse into what it would have been like had Ciara sustained the commercial success of her first album well into the new decade. Overdose is the sort of world conquering pop smash that artists are crying out for and instead it sits as the final track on Ciara’s greatest album to date. This should have been the biggest hit of 2013.
Charlie Brown is the feeling of a Coldplay gig on record. I have seen Coldplay perform this song in a stadium twice with the Xylobands lighting up the whole place and I would go and see them every single year if I could guarantee experiencing this song again.
break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored is a mood in the form of a song, Ariana at her most petty and yet most relatable. A career high point that will sound fresh 10 years from now.
The VOCALS. This is undoubtedly the greatest example of Jessie Ware’s incredible talent as a vocalist the ‘Ooohh Yeaahhh’ on each chours makes me melt every time I hear it.
Tightrope is otherworldy. It’s like hearing a classic funk track, but finding out halfway through that it was beamed down from Mars. Janelle Monáe absolutely owns the performance here, funky, soulful, energetic, crazed, it’s a thrill to hear every single time. Now that’s what I call ‘classy brass’.
Sad Drake has been done, and done brilliantly on Marvin’s Room. It’s joyful, fun and almost happy Drake that was the shock of the decade. Nice For What just makes me smile, like a properly crazy ear to ear grin on my face, every time I hear it.
Lady Antebellum. Where do I begin with a group who I had never even heard of before 2010 and now end the decade as possibly my favourite band? Need You Now was released just slightly before the turn of the decade (It’d be here in the top 10 if not) so instead I’ve gone with the song that’s become my go to Lady A track. Hilary is outstanding here, she commands the song, but leaving enough room for amazing harmonies with Charles and Dave too. I think back to seeing Lady A for the first time, at my first ever Country2Country Festival and seeing them walk out to Bartender, I’d only been a fan for a few years, but this song and the group I was about to see for the first time had become so important to me it was unreal.
The Robyn song that nobody thought would ever exist only gets better every time I hear it. A tour-de-force of emotion, sensuality and heart thumping bass.
Girl Crush is probably the country song of the decade. It’s heartbreaking, both lyrically and thanks to an outstanding performance from Karen Fairchild. There’s no resolution, it’s a single moment in time and that only makes it more powerful as a record.
‘If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine’. We do shine Lizzo, not only because of your infectious energy and presence but because Juice is the feel good self empowering anthem we needed to end the decade. Juice is the moment Lizzo truly landed and it’s CATCHY AS HELL.
During one of the first performances of Yoü and I back in 2010 Gaga announced ‘”It’s on my new album, so you better learn the words because you’ll be singing it for the next 10 years.” She wasn’t wrong. Yoü and I is a classic pop record in the truest sense, it feels like the sort of anthem than has been around for decades. It’s definitively my favourite Gaga song to watch her perform live, as a vocalist, as a musician and as a star.
In a time where Beyoncé became an albums artist and all but left the ‘single’ behind in the 00s one song stands up as the greatest 4 minutes of Queen Bey this decade. 250 plays later (An accurate figure I might add), Run The World (Girls) is still the closest we get to the almighty energy of Beyoncé Knowles on stage, on a record. An electrifying, non stop anthem that proves once and for all who runs the music world.
DNA is relentless. Start to end it’s Kendrick Lamar at his very best. His greatest lyrics. His greatest flow. He barely has time to breathe. Of course when he does it’s to head up the second half of the song which is even more intense and biting than the first. Essential Hip Hop.
Disco country is here and it’s here to stay. The gayest country-pop song of the decade and I for one was more than happy to giddy up for it. I still haven’t come down from the high of the first time I heard it.
Little Mix are the greatest example we saw of a true ‘Pop Group’ this decade. Jesy, Leigh-Anne, Perrie and Jade managed to go from the girls you were friends with at school into world conquering megastars, through sheer determination and thanks to a string of excellent pop tunes. Black Magic is their greatest moment as it’s effortlessness quality captures the energy of those 4 girls we all rooted for in the first place. Pop music at its best.
Over and over again I come back to Sleigh Bells. Do I actually like these songs? Is it just noise? How could I compare these songs to just normal pop songs is there really that much depth here? The answer to all 3 is yes. And yes, I still absolutely adore Sleigh Bells and Comeback Kid especially. Loud, raucous but really sweet too. This is by far their best single track.
Would Sorry be a more engaging performance in the hands of a more engaging performer? Probably. Would Sorry be good if it could be performed by someone who could actually sing it live? Probably. Both of these things miss the key component of what makes this such a magic single, the context of Bieber himself. It adds this genuine honesty to his performance that you can still hear in it now. Surely the best ‘the hook is the production’ song of the decade?
I will continue to be sucker punched in the face by this song for years to come. Absolutely huge.
Usher’s performance on Climax is stunning. It’s like they wanted a song to use the double entendre of Climax as the name of a song and accidentally wrote one of the most emotional breakup records in years. The desperation on the lyric ‘You say it’s better if we/Love each other separately/I just need you one more time/I can’t get what we had out my mind’ is a gut punch before it returns to the minimalist chorus again.
Coldplay’s all time best song. Anthemic, emotive and begging to be heard in a stadium full of fans singing along, Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall is everything I absolutely love about Coldplay. This decade was an interesting one for the band, working out where exactly do they fit in the current pop landscape, but this feels like exactly the place they needed to be.
I think it took all of us a few years to truly appreciate the majesty of the greatest Pop/Rap hybrid record of the decade. Super Bass has it ALL. Knockout verses from Nicki ‘He a motherfuckin’ trip, trip/sailor of the ship, ship/When he make it drip, drip/kiss him on the lip, lip’ and then a hook from Ester Dean that defined so many years for so many of us. It’s the best example of the artist Nicki Minaj truly wanted to be, bringing her massive personality to a massive pop hit, while retaining everything that makes her flow, lyricism and proficiency as a rapper.
bury a friend sounds dangerous, like if you look away from it it’ll be gone when you look back. It’s the best example of Billie Eilish’s delivery and performance, that sounds absolutely like nothing else from this decade, but is surely going to sound like everything from the decade to come.
I remember someone pointed out that every chorus of Run Away With Me adds something new at the start, first just ‘Baby’, then ‘Oh Baby’ then finally ‘Oh My Baby’. It’s seemingly such a small detail in a massive song with saxophone sounds and massive production and harmonies, but I’ve never been able to get it out of my head since I read it. The attention to detail is what makes pop records like this so memorable and have such a longevity for a listener. Run Away With Me is a thrill, every time I go back for another shot.
‘I can’t help but pull the earth around me, to make my bed’ I will forever appreciate how dramatic life in Florence and the Machine lyrics seems to be. Ship To Wreck makes a massive first impression and never lets up. Her best song yet works because of its simplicity, allowing the vocal, the performance and the emotion to truly shine.
Marry The Night may not be Lady Gaga’s biggest hit this decade, perhaps Shallow or Born This Way would count there, but no song had ever managed to define everything that I wanted from my favourite popstar in one moment so perfectly. In the closing minute of Marry The Night Gaga manages to create the most Lady Gaga sound of her career, a wildly unapologetic blast of hyper produced synth pop and killer vocal runs to match. Marry The Night still feels like the peak Gaga Moment of the decade for me, more of this in 2020 please Stefani.
Rihanna’s greatest song of the decade is her most instantly lovable. That opening ‘Oh Na Na…What’s My Name’ establishes her most hookiest hook yet so quick that it takes seconds for the chilled island vibes to sink in and take over you. There isn’t a single song on this list I have requested in a club over the last decade more than What’s My Name and early 10 years on it’s still a masterclass in effortlessly catchy pop music. The peak of the ‘Rihanna with Red Hair’ moment.
The intro to Green Light is so venomous. Lorde is taking absolutely no shit here and it gives the whole of the song such a vicious and frantic energy. The first ‘I’M WAITING FOR IT THAT GREEN LIGHT’ and the song crashes into view, the first piece of what would eventually come across the whole Melodrama record manages to sound as immediately satisfying 100 listens on as it did back then.
Watching Stormzy perform Big For Your Boots on bigger and bigger stages over the last 2 years has felt like a real change is finally happening in British music. Stormzy headlined Glastonbury this year! And I genuinely feel that it’s down to this song. The moment that a worldwide star was born, that I still find mind blowing every time I hear it, Big For Your Boots is still outstanding.
The first #1 list topper to appear, Friends still manages to intrigue me when I hear it now. The layers of vocals from Francis and Justin make it sometimes sound like just one singer, but at others hundreds. I love the echo added to each of those finger clicks, the shuffle of the loop underneath giving everything this off kilter feeling. Perhaps it hasn’t stayed at the top of my playlists in the years since, but Friends was and still is one of the biggest surprises of this decade for me.
Brokenhearted is 100% pure pop perfection. It was in 2012. It is in 2019. It will be in 2059.
When people talk about losing themselves in a song, that they can’t seem to shake the feeling that it’ll stay with them forever even if they can’t quite explain why it’s so good; that’s me right now with Now I’m In It. I’m still in it. I’m still trying to understand why it affects me so much and while I think I did a pretty good job explaining why it’s technically a great song in my list earlier in the week, it’s hard to explain how I’ll feel when I’m not ‘in it’ anymore.
Praying really stands out in the top 20. It’s emotional not only because of the composition and lyrics, but as a Kesha fan it’s impossible to not hear every bit of context laid bare across this song. ‘When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name’, this song helped Kesha find it within herself to make sure she’s definitely not done yet.
I have loved to hate to love to hate Taylor Swift all decade. Blank Space is not up for discussion. I genuinely remember walking to work the day that 1989 came out and can picture where I was when the opening of Blank Space first played. The thing I always pick out from Blank Space is the guitar line. It’s not the biggest part of the production, but it keeps the song in this place where you can hear Taylor singing this by herself on guitar as much as you can see her performing it in Stadiums. Blank Space, for all it’s perfectly placed earworm moments and precise click sounds is simply a really well written song that works so well in the ‘Taylor Swift’ context.
Loud Places is gorgeous. It has this unique quality where the song manages to be so quiet and personal but so infinitely massive in its scale and sound. The layers that Jamie xx creates on this song are second to none, he’s honed such a mastery of using minimalism to his advantage and using it as a wall of sound. Romy sounds phenomenal here too, Loud Places manages to be the greatest realization of everything The xx have been trying to do since their debut (Sorry for being left out Oliver) and the results are breathtaking.
What an amazing concept for a song. Like a reverse Jolene, but she’s doing backwards rolls in the music video. Call Your Girlfriend works so well lyrically as there’s no way someone who hasn’t been heartbroken could know exactly what to do and say in this situation. You get every layer of story and character in such a small space of time, while still being a song you can dance to.
Can you imagine if this song came out in 2019? It would be #1 for about 16 weeks based entirely on how Memable every single line is. How can ‘What she order? Fish Fillet’ be one of the most memorable and iconic rap lines of the decade? It is though and honestly put this song on at pretty much any party/night out/gathering of likeminded people who have good taste in music and people go mad. A song so ridiculous and audacious that they performed it 12 times in a row in Paris.
Uptown Funk is a song that won’t just be played for the next decade, it’ll be played in 50 years. A timeless classic in a decade where staying current and relevant was seemingly essential to finding a hit, this song is genius. It’s the sort of song that sounds like it was as much fun to make as it is to hear and I for one have fun when I hear it. Infectious and so damn funky.
I mentioned it when I placed it at #1 in 2014, but the lyrical section of ‘When he returns he puts you in a situation/But it’s too late to have that kinda conversation/It’s not your job to show this boy some education’ is incredible. The emphasis on certain syllables and how that reacts to the instrumentation is an absolute joy to hear. The energy on this song is impossible to ignore and is so stacked with fiery attitude that I just feel like I can do anything after it ends.
The most epic song of Kanye’s career, All of the Lights is exhausting on paper. A list of featured artists as long as most Now CD’s, most of which you can barely make out within some of the most intense moments. It does work though and produces this almighty sound of brass and contrasting voices with Rihanna singing like she never had before and Kanye bringing everything together into a narrative through the song. There’s so much crammed into 5 minutes but every moment feels more vital than the last. There’s nothing quite like it, a song where Elton John and Alicia Keys trade lyrics, or the thundering drums cut out for just a glimpse of The-Dream’s voice for a brief second, or Fergie stealing the spotlight for about 10 seconds. All of the Lights is truly unique and still sounds so impressive now.
Self deprecating, ironic, silly and insanely catchy; The Sound is the kick up the backside that British music needed. ‘It’s not about reciprocation it’s just all about me/A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe’ Matty Healy is just enough of a dick on this song to make the whole sentiment believable. It’s a joyous ‘1975’ pop tune, a genre pretty much penned by the songs released in and around this time. This song has become such a part of my life over the last 4 years, I can even hear the bit he does live before it all goes off at the end every time I listen to it: ‘If you’re on the floor/if you’re in heaven/if you’re on the side/it doesn’t matter/I need everyone to jump up and down on the count of four/One/Two/One two fuckin’ jump’. I do jump up and down, every single time I hear it.
If I was to explain the defining sound of music I listened to for this decade, I would point you in the direction of Calvin Harris and said ‘him’. I could easily make a top 50 list of the best songs he’s been involved in this decade, there’s already 4 on the list above. Thinking About You is by far my favourite. It has this effortless house vibe, built around a piano line that’s cuts through everything else. Ayah Marer’s performance is perfectly easy in her delivery, this isn’t a singer going off on one over a dance hook, it’s a full record designed to be danced to not just singing along. It’s a distinction that sounds weird written down, but honestly it’s the only way I can describe the true nature of this brilliant song.
Janelle Monáe is a superstar. Make Me Feel is a hit that’s worthy of her level of superstar. A creation from someone so in control of their own identity that they don’t give a shit if you think this sounds like a Prince record, it’s a Janelle Monáe record that’s what it is. The way she says ‘Damn’ before the final chorus, honestly Janelle that’s my mood every time I hear this monumental funk masterpiece.
Can you tell that I love songs that take a while to build up and then properly go for it about halfway through? There are so many examples of it on this list, but Love Me Like You Do is surely the most obvious. The moment that second chorus crashes in I am sold all over again. The ‘What are you waiting for?’ from Ellie before the final chorus? I absolutely love it. Am I the worst music fan/critic/whatever I am at this point for loving a song written for the FIFTY SHADES soundtrack as much as this? Yes probably, but Love Me Like You Do just does something I can’t quite explain.
The perfect Ariana Grande song. There’s no two ways about it, there is no way she will ever be able to match the majesty of Into You again. Anyone expecting her to needs to get over it and just get back on board with a song so good that it genuinely made me have to re-evaluate every criticism I had ever had about Grande. I admitted I was wrong for this song, and I’m stubborn as anything. Ariana absolutely owns every second of the music here, her ad libs in the second are almost legendary, like a distant hero on the horizon to save Pop music even though it didn’t need saving. Into You is the sort of pop record we very rarely get, where a whole career can be summed up with one single track.
Three Max Martin songs in a row; Teenage Dream is his crowning jewel and is Katy Perry at her Pop Star greatest. Her performance on this song is stacked with emotion, power and pure joy. This has got to be the song that makes me the happiest out of any of the tracks here, it’s a sun kissed, windows down, hold hands with everyone you love kind of feeling, which is SO not me. The way the chorus is just three words at a time with space to breathe in between gives it this heart pumping quality, it’s pop songwriting gold. The longevity of Teenage Dream and how impactful it still sounds nearly a decade later in incredible to consider, especially as so many big pop stars and songs have come since. I don’t think we appreciated Teenage Dream anywhere near as much as it deserved at the time, a true masterclass in pop.
‘I guess every superhero need his theme music’ My favourite Kanye lyrics are all in Power. these first two verses are by far is greatest writing and they still sound so thrilling so many years on. ‘My childlike creativity, purity and honesty/Is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts’ is still my #1 Kanye lyric. As a song Power is the track from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that has really held up the best against so many great hip hop records since release, the clattering production still so exciting. Power is peak Kanye and potentially the peak of the cliff before his descent into the mess we have ourselves in as fans today. It’s a song that I have listened to hundreds of times and yet I find some minute detail left in there each and every time.
I think had I not chosen Now I’m In It as my favourite song of 2019 I wouldn’t have appreciated the level of Falling’s appeal and end up placing it in the runner’s up spot here. Falling grows organically, it feels like a song being performed among nature. Crashes of lightning and tides thrashing against the wall created by the song, unlike so much on this list it never sounds like something programmed in a studio. The band echo across each other, bass slaps into view but gets overthrown by more crashes of drums. by the halfway point Falling is so far down from where it began that there’s no turning back. It remains a superbly dense record, but one rooted in an expert sense of musicianship and control of instruments. It never stood a chance at the top spot, but it stands proud here as my second best song of the decade.
I was half tempted to just stick a link to the video here with no other writing in this article and be done with it. Dancing On My Own is clearly the greatest song of the decade; I know that; you know that and if you say it’s not then we both know who’s kidding themselves. No song this decade captured the same electrifying energy and heartbreaking emotion as Dancing On My Own. ‘I just came to say goodbye’ is gut wrenching as a lyric and the way Robyn performs it makes it so much more impactful. It’s also a song that’s full of defiance though, the thundering thuds of bass before that final chorus go so deep that dancing through it seems like the only solution. I have listened to no song this decade more than Dancing On My Own, 302 times to be exact, I think I’d know by now if it wasn’t the best song of the decade.