Kesha’s “Tik Tok” opened up the 2010s by spending the first two months of the year at the top of the charts, so it’s fitting that the end of the decade is closing with other impressive runs from the likes of Lil Nas X and Lizzo. But many of the finest songs of the decade never ascended to the tops of the charts, finding their way into the canon through streaming placement, television and commercial syncs, and good old fashioned great albums.
Regardless of how the following 100 songs made their way into listeners’ hearts, they still stand as titanic artistic accomplishments that distinguish this closing decade from the ones it has followed. Check out the best songs of the 2010s below.
100. Kanye West — “Monster” Feat. Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Bon Iver
It’s hard to know what Kanye West’s “Monster” is best known for: the verse that defined Nicki Minaj’s career or a line from Jay-Z that launched a thousand memes. These two moments live on opposite poles, and manage to take away almost all the shine that Rick Ross and Bon Iver can muster for their parts. Kanye, though, won’t ever be totally overshadowed, whether it’s a “Malibooyah”” or putting the “p*ssy in a sarcophagus.”–Philip Cosores
99. J. Cole — “Love Yourz”
When J. Cole released 2014 Forest Hills Drive, it was without fanfare and without the weighty expectations of his prior efforts. The time away from the spotlight and subsequent resolution to do things his own way resulted in his most poignant, evocative work yet, which culminated in this heart wrenching closer. “Love Yourz” has proved to be tragically versatile, yet no less emotive in the years since, as Cole applies its loving missive to pay tribute to fallen hip-hop heroes from Mac Miller to Nipsey Hussle.–Aaron Williams
98. The War On Drugs – “In Reverse”
“In Reverse” might not be the flashiest song in The War On Drugs’ catalogue, but it contains some of the loveliest subtleties they’ve yet to craft. Its greatness is in the way the tension drags before the drum beats cracks the song into full color, and the way Adam Granduciel is left with nothing left to add but a stray “damn” at the center of his chorus. For a band that often feels like the musical equivalent to a long, empty highway, “In Reverse” offers a place to reflect upon the journey, a first glimpse of sun to see how far you’ve come, and how far there is left to go.–P.C.
97. Sky Ferreira — “Everything Is Embarrassing”
Taken from the Ghost EP, “Everything Is Embarrassing” is the track that set the stage thematically and sonically for Sky Ferreira’s debut album, combining electro-pop and ’80s synth-rock tropes into something that is simultaneously modern and nostalgic. The song showcases Ferreira’s knack for gripping melodies and evocative lyricism, rooted, like all the best songs, in unreciprocated love.–Zac Gelfand
96. Vince Staples — “Norf Norf”
Not since Run DMC made “My Adidas” was a rapper more thoroughly tied to a future brand partner before ever signing a contract. The opening line was a scathing intro to one of rap’s most caustically witty, but keenly observant minds. The rest of the lyrics are so biting that they even resonate sharply being delivered by a weeping, Conservative mother, who may not have gleaned why they were vital, but inadvertently helped make Vince one of rap’s favorite man of the people.–A.W.
95. Lorde — “Ribs”
When Lorde burst onto the scene, her youth was at the center of her narrative. And on “Ribs,” she transfers that into song with the kind of self-reflection and wisdom that is rare for people twice her age. Many love to call out the Broken Social Scene reference in this song, but for me, “It feels so scary getting old” is the moment that sticks out in her oeuvre, a line that feels more true the farther you get from your teens.–P.C.
94. Tyler The Creator — “Earfquake”
When I first watched Tyler The Creator eat a roach, then apparently hang himself in the video to “Yonkers” some nine years ago, if you had told me he’d be an artistic heartthrob with the most romantic pop R&B song of 2019, I might have smacked you. I’m really sorry about that, but I’m not sorry I was so wrong. And speaking of regrets, it’s okay to think that Justin Bieber kicks himself every time this song plays in his vicinity, but honestly, only Tyler could have ever made this work, which is a surprise in itself.–A.W.
93. Future — “March Madness”
“March Madness” is a dire, lean-soaked stream-of-consciousness where few thoughts seem to relate to the next, but they all seamlessly connect to paint a fascinating portrait of a neo-bluesman with a deluge of urges, laments, and intoxicants on his mind. He had the Midas touch at this moment and didn’t even need one of his go-to producers to make gold.–Andre Gee
92. Bobby Smurda — “Hot N****”
RIP to Vine, which gave us the single most culturally relevant and heartbreaking hip-hop story of 2014. Bobby experienced a meteoric rise behind the strength of Jahlil Beats’ hauntingly militant production and the social media platform’s eagerness to share clips from the exuberant music video (did that hat ever come back down?), but his story also became a cautionary tale about what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.–A.W.
91. The xx – “I Dare You”
“I’ve been a romantic for so long / All I’ve ever heard are love songs,” The xx’s Romy Madley Croft swoons during the pre-chorus of “I Dare You.” It’s a rare moment within a love song that’s managing to actually say something new about the act of love and the craft of love songs in general. The song builds on that sentiment, full of big-kiss moments and understated wooziness, enough to make falling in love with a song feel like falling in love with a person.–P.C.
90. Post Malone – “White Iverson”
Whether you believe that Post Malone is a genuine appreciator of hip-hop culture or a chintzy culture vulture with a shoddy gimmick, you were nodding — and probably even singing along — to “White Iverson” when it hit. Even now, a playback of the woozy, trap-accented pop vocals and that misty-eyed hook are enough to invoke a wave of nostalgia for the time when Posty could still reasonably at least pass for a rapper.–A.W.
89. Rihanna – “Kiss It Better”
Passionate lovemaking flows between Rihanna’s creamy vocals and the invigorating electric guitar riffs heard on her Anti single “Kiss It Better.” Throughout the Prince-inspired serenade, Rihanna seductively dares her lover to fearlessly take their passion to another level. Sure, they may be dealing with the remnants of a bad fight from the past, but there comes a time when the fighting gets old. “Kiss It Better” settles passionate intimacy drowned in memories of delicate kisses as a way to make the toxic love they carry better.–Cherise Johnson
88. Sharon Van Etten — “Love More”
There’s personal songwriting, and then there’s Sharon Van Etten’s “Love More.” The abusive, toxic relationship that held her music career back is the center of Van Etten’s early narrative, but “Love More” is more about rising above and not letting the past destroy the future. As Van Etten has grown as an artist, she’s turned the sentiment behind “Love More” into a reality, making a glorious song about survival into the cornerstone of a thriving career.—P.C.
87. Beyonce — “XO”
The last decade of Beyonce has been less about pop hits and more about profound art, but “XO” manages to fuse some of her earlier anthemic ambitions with her recent trailblazing tendencies. “XO” is a stadium-sized love song, big enough to contain a romance as seismic as her and Jay’s. Using the audio from the Challenger crash to open the song points to the fragility of both life and love, begging the listener to hold on tight “until they turn the lights out.”–P.C.
86. Pusha T — “Numbers On The Boards”
If ever there was a track to over-employ Pusha T’s “eughk” adlib, it’s “Numbers On The Boards,” where he talks dirty over what may be the coldest breakbeat of the decade. The head-nodding beat spawned hoards of freestyles, but no one did it better than the original progenitor, who’s slick-talk rating was on 100 with lines like, “36 years of doin’ dirt like it’s Earth Day, God.”–A.G.
85. The National – “Terrible Love (Alternate Version)
The version of “Terrible Love” from on High Violet remains The National’s worst mistake, a botched, demo-sounding execution of a potential classic. The alternate take released on the expanded High Violet edition is so much better, in that it sounds like how The National play it live — like an all-time anthem about the thrill of victory and agony of defeat when it comes to matters of love.–Steven Hyden
84. Blood Orange — “Champagne Coast”
Dev Hynes has found himself dabbling in an arsenal of different genres and moods throughout his career, and on this single from his debut Blood Orange album, he seems motivated by new wave-inspired indie rock. As is often the case, though, there’s more to it than that, as Hynes’ work isn’t easily put into a box.—Derrick Rossignol
83. Charli XCX — “Boys”
“Bllllinggggg.” That’s the sound of Charli XCX collecting crushes like they were Mario coins (shouts to Sasha Geffen for writing about this beautifully)(https://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and-guides/the-100-best-songs-of-2017/?page=10). For a songwriter that loves taking listeners to the club and to the party, she’s also perfectly at home skipping it all to daydream, bringing her angels into her intimate thoughts and revealing she’s not all that different from the most lovelorn lot of us.–P.C.
82. The Weeknd — “Wicked Games”
The Weeknd proved on his first three EPs that he does a lot of things well, and one of them is slow-burning R&B on songs like “Wicked Games.” Like many The Weeknd songs, it’s a strong showcase for his top-tier vocal abilities, although that never comes at the cost of engaging songwriting and production work, which is layered and dense here.—D.R.
81. Angel Olsen — “Windows”
The closing song on Burn Your Fire For No Witness sounds little like any other Angel Olsen song, allowing room for her meditation on depression. Olsen shows us what depression feels like both from the inside and out, disbelief that sunlight and fresh air can’t cure all, the question of whether breathing is the same as being alive. The song builds to a big-screen finish, with an unexpected drop cementing Olsen’s singular perspective and unrelenting wisdom.–P.C.
80. Watch The Throne – “N***** In Paris”
Aside from setting a world record for most encore performances in a single night, the vulgarly titled lead single from Watch The Throne’s first album was a watershed moment for not just the respective careers of Kanye West and Jay-Z, but also for hip-hop as a whole. It announced, simply, that N-words had arrived; take us, leave us, we’re still here, so you will deal, comprendre?–A.W.
79. Travis Scott — “Antidote”
I’ve never cruised through the Hollywood hills at night on the way to a party, but I imagine listening to “Antidote” is pretty close to the experience. Travis’ ode to grandiose nihilism is one of the most fun moments of the 2010s, with his emphatic delivery making every line worthy of being belted to the heavens — as long as you follow one rule: don’t let out the antidote.–A.G.
78. Joanna Newsom – “Baby Birch”
“Baby Birch” is a wonder in arrangement, with Joanna Newsom teasing the song’s all-hands-on-deck finish with unflinching lyrical tension. When the song explodes (as much as any Newsom song ever “explodes”), the marathon becomes a sprint, giving Newsom the forever showstopper few ever expected her to compose.–P.C.
77. Selena Gomez — “Handz To Myself”
I love to think of this song as the one that put songwriter Julia Michaels on the map, but Selena does get some credit for not only seeking out Michaels so often, but for delivering a vocal performance that elevated the drama all the way up to 11. It’s a shining star on Gomez’s 2016 album Revival, a sticky little fan-favorite that’s still influencing the direction Selena is heading in now.—Caitlin White
76. Playboi Carti — “Magnolia”
The song that made the Milly Rock more famous than 2 Milly’s song titled after the dance and turned Playboi Carti into a bona fide star. It’s not “lyrical” in the traditional sense, but it captures the spirit of hip-hop, the rebellious, invincible energy of youth and in doing so, it signified a coming phase — the future of hip-hop-influenced music on the other side of rap.–A.W.
75. Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”
Tenacious D once wrote a jokey number about discovering the greatest rock song in the world. Meanwhile another duo of bros, Japandroids, set out to write the actual greatest rock song in the world. Whether they actually hit the mark is in the eye of the beholder, but hearing Japandroids reach for such a big (and big-hearted) expression of love and joy never ceases to be thrilling.–S.H.
74. Arcade Fire – “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
Regine Chassagne’s songwriting and vocal contributions to Arcade Fire are fewer and farther between than that of her husband, but when they hit, they are among the band’s best moments. “Sprawl II” is her finest contribution, a song that balances youthful nostalgia with grim realities to profound effect. Live, the song frequently ends with a ribbon dance, but on record, it’s a masterful final verse, where Chassagne sings as if her life depends on it, that makes “Sprawl II” a particularly strong highlight for a band with dozens of brilliant moments.–P.C.
73. Lil Baby and Gunna — “Drip Too Hard”
Lil Baby and Gunna are set to be Atlanta’s dynamic duo for the foreseeable future, and “Drip Too Hard” is the quintessential example why. Both artists bounced off each other with effortless finesse, crooning the same melody as they rhyme about making a movie every other night. That may be the case, but “Drip Too Hard” will be their one blockbuster that everyone loves.–A.G.
72. Taylor Swift — “Blank Space”
If there was ever any doubt that Taylor Swift’s songwriting charms would translate to big-budget pop, “Blank Space” put them all to rest. Clever, funny, and yearning, Swift’s strengths are all present in a song that holds wider appeal than anything else in her catalogue. For an often divisive pop culture figure, “Blank Space” was a moment everyone could agree was simply brilliant.–P.C.
71. Camila Cabello — “Havana” Feat. Young Thug
Leaving Fifth Harmony was always going to be a risk for Camila Cabello, but it paid off quickly. She instantly became a solo success, and it didn’t take long for her to land her first No. 1 single with “Havana.” Aside from being perfect for a time when Latin music is surging, the Young Thug-featuring track is sexy and catchy as hell.—D.R.
70. Migos – “Versace”
On “Versace,” Migos set themselves apart not just as an act for fans to watch, but other artists. Their Three Six Mafia-influenced triplet flow became a staple of trap music this decade, with almost everyone riding on the coattails for at least a verse. The genesis of it all is “Versace,” the playful Zaytoven-produced ode to high fashion that put them on the road to stardom.–A.G.
69. Frank Ocean — “Biking (Solo)”
Of the handful of tracks that Frank Ocean rolled out after the release of Blonde, his solo version of “Biking” is by far the most striking. Over a repeating beat, Ocean considers the same issues he was struggling with on the last tracks of Blonde, grappling with fame and success while reveling in the nostalgia of biking around the neighborhood with his friends.—Z.G.
68. Robyn – “Hang With Me”
Over the past decade, nobody has really done epic electro-pop dance music better than Robyn, and “Hang With Me” is a strong part of the Swedish pop queen’s endless torrent of wins. It’s appropriate that the song’s video was filmed partially on a tour bus, because it’s a driving tune, constantly propelled forward by the things that make Robyn songs great: thumping beats, prominent synths, and her emotive vocals.—D.R.
67. Big Sean — “Blessings” Feat. Drake and Kanye West
When NBA stars bring their toddlers to the postgame interview and the toddlers know the song — it’s a good song, sorry. Little kids are the most honest people around when it comes to taste. They have no one to impress or even really any concept that there should be. You can trust them. “Blessings” is good because Riley Curry said so.–A.W.
66. Julien Baker — “Rejoice”
Julien Baker has made no secret about her quest to rectify her faith with her experiences in the world, and “Rejoice” addresses this with fervor. From addiction to death, life can be full of horrible things, but Baker’s resolute, impassioned plea soars high enough to make God feel very real and very present.–P.C.
65. 21 Savage — “Bank Account”
The song that introduced 21 Savage to the mainstream remains one of his catchiest and somewhat ironically, one of his most relatable (all respect due to “A Lot”). Who doesn’t want one, two, three, four, five, six million in their bank account?–A.W.
64. FKA Twigs — “Two Weeks”
While it’s impossible to understate just how much Arca bolsters FKA Twigs’ debut album, on “Two Weeks,” it’s Twigs’ unabashed sensuality that takes center stage. It’s sexy in a way that few songs can match, expressing lyrically, tonally, and, perhaps best, rhythmically the act of setting an object of attraction in your sights, without the faintest possibility of failure.–P.C.
63. Future — “Same Damn Time”
Future made himself a legend in part with accessible, mimicable hooks that are so brilliantly succinct you wonder why other artists hadn’t come up with the concept first. “Same Damn Time” is chief among those tracks — and it helps that he belted it emphatically over a surging, triumphant Sonny Digital production.–A.G.
62. Courtney Barnett — “Depreston”
Courtney Barnett proved to be a master lyricist from the moment she burst onto the scene, but the solemn slice-of-life of “Depreston” is her finest moment yet. The song uses vivid imagery to create a mood, evoking the ghosts that live in places long after they’ve been abandoned and how life should amount to more than souvenirs and photographs.–P.C.
61. Kendrick Lamar — “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst”
It’s hard to write about this song and say anything about it that isn’t painfully evident throughout its two halves. It’s a song about legacy, about nihilism, about hope. It’s a place and a time and a circumstance that I’ve known all too well in my life. I still can’t get to the end without choking up. As a mission statement, it defines one of the preeminent songwriters of our time. As a tribute to his hometown and the people in it, it’s the answer to its own question. Yes, it was worth it. The work speaks for itself.–A.W.
60. Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”
While this song trades on a number of relationship myths that I logically know to be false… I would still absolutely love to fall for someone who thinks I’m pretty without any makeup on. As the title track for a basically flawless pop album, “Teenage Dream” remains the perfect ode to love song myths, and the idea that they might one day come true.—C.W.
59. ASAP Ferg — “New Level” Feat. Future
Future had lightning in a bottle in the mid-2010s to the point where sonic progeny like Desiigner arrived and people were just excited to sort of have new Future to bump. “New Level” is another example of the trend. Ferg holds his own on the 2016 track, but his flow is undoubtedly inspired by Mr. Dirty Sprite. They were clicking on such a “level” that it really didn’t matter, though.–A.G.
58. Jamie XX – “Gosh”
Jamie xx is a master of taste. And on “Gosh,” the opening track from his instant classic of a debut, he transfers that taste level to create what can be best described as a memory of the dancefloor. The song combines the elation of the club with the kaleidoscopic emotions that come after, harnessing a beauty out of the world of dance that had rarely been matched.–P.C.
57. Rihanna – “Love On The Brain”
For much of this millennium, Rihanna voice has been a ubiquitous and defining force in pop and R&B. “Love On The Brain,” though, saw the Barbados singer tackling old-school doo-wop and soul, and the outcome surprised nobody: She nailed it. She embodies the ’60s aesthetic completely, but not without letting her generational vocal personality shine through as brightly as ever.—D.R.
56. Rich Gang — “Lifestyle” Feat. Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan
You may not know the words. That’s honestly part of the fun. Mumbling one’s way through the early part of the chorus only to belt out “Lifestyyyyle” was the surest indicator that Young Thug was soon to be a star. It might have taken longer than expected for the commercial success to follow, but “Lifestyle” is undeniable — it’s just too bad we never got that full Rich Gang project.–A.W.
55. Lizzo — “Truth Hurts”
When Lizzo first released “Truth Hurts” as a single in 2017. she was so disappointed by the lackluster reception is got that she nearly quit music altogether. Two years later, it was not only the No. 1 song in the country, but it achieved the feat in record-breaking fashion. Oh, how time changes things.—D.R.
54. Drake — “Energy”
The lead single from If You’re Reading This took Drake into a new phase of his development as an artist — one of the more exciting evolutions of his style to date. Whoever gets most of the credit for writing the track, it’s Drake’s charisma that lends it its magnetism and his superstar gravity that gives it its truth.–A.W.
53. Azealia Banks — “212” Feat. Lazy Jay
New rule for the 2020s: Every time Azealia Banks says something disappointing (so like, once a month) play “212.” Bask in Banks’ effortless rhyming over whirling Lazy Jay production that would have the average rhymer scratching their head. Do some dancing, marvel her talent, and ponder what could have been.–A.G.
52. Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment – “Sunday Candy”
Chance The Rapper has proven himself more than capable of standing on his own, but he also thrives when working with friends. As part of The Social Experiment, the single “Sunday Candy” is as cheerful and vibrant as anything Chance has ever recorded, which is saying something, as he has one of the biggest and most frequent smiles in music.—D.R.
51. The 1975 — “Love It If We Made It”
If there’s ever a song that could have only existed in the last decade, it’s The 1975’s “Love It If We Made It.” Encapsulating all the anxiety that comes with life at the end of the 2010s into a rallying cry, The 1975 stepped up as the band that won’t just soundtrack the world’s potential doom, but will present us all with a way out of it.–P.C.
50. Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road” Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus
Greatness is debatable when it comes to music, because taste is subjective. What is fact, though, is that when it comes to the charts, “Old Town Road” is the most successful song of all time. Lil Nas X knows how to play the internet like a fiddle, but he also couldn’t have done what he did if “Old Town Road” wasn’t a great tune, even when stripped of its context.—D.R.
49. Migos – “Bad And Boujee” Feat. Lil Uzi Vert
By 2016, Migos were ready to hit the stratosphere. They needed the right hit, but “Bad and Boujee” was a grand slam. Offset gripped you from his first two words, and you were along for the ride, two-stepping to the hypnotic keys and anthemic hook. “Bad and Boujee” isn’t even the Migos’ best song, but a perfect storm of circumstances made it their undeniable moment in 2010s pop culture.–A.G.
48. Janelle Monae — “Make Me Feel”
The lead single from Dirty Computer drew many comparisons to Prince, but what’s more flattering to that is that the comparison is just. Janelle Monáe blossomed into a masterful songwriter and performer on Dirty Computer, and as a result, “Make Me Feel” has all the makings of a timeless tune that will outlast the decade that birthed it.—D.R.
47. Travis Scott — “Sicko Mode” Feat. Drake
Travis Scott knew he had to set off his magnum opus of Astroworld with a whale of a single. It doesn’t get more ambitious than a Drake feature and three-beat switches, each abruptly lurching the listener into a new dimension like a rocket with four-wheel drive. “Sicko Mode” was aptly-titled, as La Flame pushed the limits of his creativity on his 2018 smash.–A.G.
46. Tame Impala — “Let It Happen”
Kevin Parker’s genius in “Let It Happen,” the mindblowing opening track from the third Tame Impala LP, Currents, is pinpointing the through-line that connects Pink Floyd and rave culture. You could just call it “drugs,” but in Parker’s estimation it’s all about a willingness to push yourself toward new adventures, sonic or otherwise.–S.H.
45. ASAP Ferg — “Plain Jane”
Is there any other hit record that makes the entire club speak Arabic? Possibly, but if there are, it’s pretty much guaranteed none bangs half as hard as “Plain Jane.” Ferg had already proved he could stand on his own separate from the ASAP Mob collective before this but after “Plain Jane” took over the world, he rivaled Rocky to become their unofficial biggest star.–A.W.
44. Billie Eilish — “Bad Guy”
If any song was going to end Lil Nas X’s historic run in the No. 1 spot, Bille Eilish’s “Bad Guy” deserved to be the one to do it. The idiosyncratic single brings a darkness to pop that the radio hasn’t seen in years, or at least hasn’t seen become this successful.—D.R.
43. Big Sean — “I Don’t F*ck With You” Feat. E-40
A breakup song for the ages — or, depending on how contentious the breakup actually was, the breakup song for the ages. Even if you never had to “dodge a bullet from a crazy b*tch”, the idiosyncratic mashup of gospel choir and DJ Mustard trunk funk that buttresses Big Sean’s petty asides makes this song a floor stomper of surprisingly versatile, epic proportions.–A.W.
42. Justin Bieber — “Sorry”
The Justin Bieber oeuvre is full of so many hits that calling him one of the greatest pop stars ever is a “the sky is blue”-level observation. Of the many bangers in his discography, though, “Sorry” might be the finest. Aided by songwriting and/or production from Julia Michaels, Skrillex, and BloodPop, the tropical-influenced plea became a defining single of its time.—D.R.
41. SZA – “Love Galore” Feat. Travis Scott
Before the rest of the world knew Travis Scott was hip-hop’s next big star, SZA was romancing him in the sizzling video “Love Galore,” one of the first songs to indicate her debut album CTRL was going to be a big deal. And, by the time 2017 came to a close, Scott was the one seemed prescient for betting on SZA.—C.W.
40. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – “Shallow”
Some songs are meant to be put on personal playlists and enjoyed via the privacy of headphones. Other demand to be sung in karaoke bars, or with large groups of people belting out the chorus in unison. “Shallow” is the latter kind of song. The part where Lady Gaga sings “whoa” for what feels like an eternity is what goosebumps are made of.–S.H.
39. Kendrick Lamar – “M.A.A.D City” Feat. MC Eiht
This still goes off in any venue in which it gets played, which isn’t bad for a song that was never released as a single, never got a music video, and was nestled in the dead center of a highly conceptual, storytelling album as a “B side” of sorts to another track. But when that beat drops, it’s hard to keep elbows from flying or fingers from twisting as that inescapable chorus is joined by every voice in the room.–A.W.
38. Grimes — “Oblivion”
“Genesis” may have been the sole single from Visions, but “Oblivion” is just a much of a signifier of how on fire Grimes was early in her career. Visions was packed with synth-pop gems, and “Oblivion” is a strong representative of how refined and developed Grimes’ songwriting and production abilities were even back then.—D.R.
37. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife”
Where Reflektor certainly has moments where Arcade Fire’s newfound interest in dance music comes up short, “Afterlife” finds the band’s innate sense for an anthem at home under the disco ball. Win Butler’s lyrics are as impactful as ever, as he asks where love goes after it dies. “Where do we go?” he changes things up, allowing the song to ask the unanswerable big questions that few other bands this decade dared.–P.C.
36. Kanye West – “Mercy” Feat. Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz
“Mercy” is Kanye West’s strongest moment as GOOD Music maestro. He laced his crew with a hypnotic loop then sequenced the verses to a steady boil. Big Sean and Pusha T set the tone, then the track warps into hellish depths for his classic verse before 2 Chainz closes out with a show-stopping 16 of his own. Cruel Summer, cold Yeezy.–A.G.
35. Nicki Minaj — “Super Bass”
As unlikely as it was that a Trinidad-born, Queens-raised rapper with pink hair would become one of hip-hop’s titans, “Super Bass” is the perfect summation of why Nicki Minaj succeeded. Instead of choosing pop, hip-hop, or R&B as a lane, she simply blended all three of them into one soaring, cotton candy swirl.—C.W.
34. Rae Sremmurd — “Black Beatles” Feat. Gucci Mane
The internet has forever changed the music industry in a number of ways, like in the case of “Black Beatles,” which rocketed to fame thanks to its widespread use in the viral “mannequin challenge.” More than a meme, the Rae Sremmurd song caught on for a reason: The anticipation-building intro leads into memorable hooks and fun production, all of which make the song a complete package.—D.R.
33. Cardi B — “Bodak Yellow”
Flipping a beat and stealing a flow to become one of the most successful female rappers in the history of the genre, “Bodak Yellow” was the antithesis of a hit… until it wasn’t. It’s not an overstatement to say that Cardi changed the hip-hop world forever in 2018, proving that women weren’t just welcome in the genre — they could run it.—C.W.
32. Meek Mill — “Dreams And Nightmares (Intro)”
“Dreams And Nightmares” is the moment Meek Mill was born for. If that night’s studio session was a basketball game, you could say he left everything on the floor. Every ounce of pain and angst that he felt in his life had been building toward this, and he spilled it all on a track that’s on a very short list for best intro of all time.–A.G.
31. Drake – “In My Feelings”
The odds are very high that somewhere, at this exact moment, a small, school-age child is singing in their squeaky, barely-on-key voice: “Kiki, do you love me?” They’re probably pretending to ghostride their whip (as it’s been long enough for the hype surrounding the near-ubiquitous “challenge” to die down). Kanye’s kid couldn’t stop singing the song at the height of his beef with Drake — and he let it ride. City Girls were introduced to a whole new audience, as was the concept of New Orleans Bounce. For better or worse, “In My Feelings” is one of the biggest songs in hip-hop, let alone the last ten years. Luckily, it’s also one of the best.–A.W.
30. Usher — “Climax”
The combination of Usher’s breathy falsetto vocals are a natural pairing with Diplo’s slow-burning production on the 2013 single, and the result was a track that brought Usher’s aesthetic in line with the R&B of the time. The track was another hit in the singer’s lengthy career, and it also won him his most recent Grammy.—D.R.
29. Lana Del Rey — “Venice Bitch”
Much like Kanye West’s “Runaway,” Lana Del Rey’s expansive “Venice Bitch” makes the most of an extended outro. It’s fitting that “Kanye is gone” on the album, because Lana makes the free-flowing moment her own, using repeated lyrics and noodling guitars to underscore just how focused the first several minutes of the song are. On an album when Lana Del Rey made fools out of all her detractors, this song showed that she absolutely cannot be underestimated.–P.C.
28. Future — “Mask Off”
“Mask Off” is Future and Metro Boomin at the peak of their powers. Future rhymes glumly about his rather depressing drug usage, but Metro Boomin’s flip of Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” has most listeners too turnt to realize exactly what they’re dancing to — or too fixated on their own escapism to properly commiserate.–A.G.
27. Bon Iver – “Holocene”
What is the song about? Like most Bon Iver lyrics, the words to “Holocene” don’t make much sense. (“Jagged vacance, thick with ice”?) But the vibe of “Holocene” couldn’t be more clear — this is a song about making a major life change, and discovering something deep and profound about yourself, probably while crying yourself silly.–S.H.
26. Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”
The track that kicked everything into high gear, “Thinkin Bout You” is the lead single from Channel Orange, and was rightfully nominated for Record Of The Year at the 2013 Grammys. It’s a track about unattainable romance, featuring Ocean’s signature lyrical prowess and gorgeous falsetto, as well as the ever-Instagramable tagline “cause I’ve been thinking about forever.”—Z.G.
25. Rihanna – “Stay” Feat. Mikky Ekko
During the earliest phase of Rihanna’s career, she was a hitmaker known more for her radio success and party anthems than anything else. In 2012, that shifted with her vulnerable, tender ballad “Stay,” a sad, slow love song that became just as popular as the bright, dancefloor fodder she’d previously made.—C.W.
24. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee — “Despacito” Feat. Justin Bieber
Popular music today is as influenced as ever by Latin sounds, and this widespread movement was invigorated by “Despacito.” Commercially, the single is one of the biggest songs of all time, and even folks who have heard it a thousand times can’t plausibly deny how catchy it is. For months, “Despacito” took over the world and secured its place in music history, and that was before the Justin Bieber remix took it to even greater heights.—D.R.
23. Chief Keef – “I Don’t Like” Feat. Lil Reese
Chief Keef’s “Faneto” stomped a hole through a frat house ceiling. But not before he, Lil Reese, and Young Chop stomped a hole in the industry with “I Don’t Like,” a towering condemnation of f*ck sh*t that legitimized their then-burgeoning Chicago drill scene as a movement to be reckoned with (and pillaged from by the industry).–A.G.
22. Beyonce – “Formation”
Beyoncé‘s stealth liberation of her “Formation” visual was a defining moment arriving as a timeless rallying delicacy for Black girls across the globe. Bey’s slick talk marries words Black girls can proudly sing along to over New Orleans Bounce passion. Affirmations such as “I just might be a Black Bill Gates in the making,” “I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” and “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation / always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper” as its coup de grâce certifies “Formation” as a powerful Black Girl Magic psalm that will live on forever.–C.J.
21. Kanye West – “Ultralight Beam” Feat. The-Dream, Kelly Price, Chance The Rapper, and Kirk Franklin
The beautiful lead song from The Life Of Pablo feels prescient when considering Ye’s recent gospel phase, but it will be hard for him to hit these heights again. The track feels as free of Kanye’s ego as anything he’s ever done, often happy enough to take a backseat for people like Chance The Rapper, who delivers the single greatest verse of his career.–P.C.
20. Mitski — “Your Best American Girl”
“Your Best American Girl” marks the halfway point of Mitski’s 2016 record Puberty 2, while also pivoting her career from humble singer/songwriter to a burgeoning indie-rock mainstay in a triumphant expression of personal identity. Opening with a soft voice and gentle strum of an acoustic guitar, “Your Best American Girl” builds to a crescendo of instrumental dissonance juxtaposed with lyrical clarity. Mitski’s message is apparent — she won’t subvert herself to fit an archetype.–Carolyn Droke
19. Childish Gambino — “Redbone”
One of the most ubiquitous hits of 2016, Donald Glover’s interpretation of classic P-Funk both paid homage to the best of George Clinton and the gang’s highlights while putting his own forward-looking spin on it. It proved to be a versatile track, as well; not only was it the introduction to Gambino’s soulful reinvention, it could be heard popping up in everything from internet memes to the best horror film of 2017.–A.W.
18. Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
“Dancing On My Own” is proof that one day humanity will evolve past the boring binary of heteronormative love and embrace a deeper, cosmic understanding of how to honor ourselves as singular creatures, worthy of as much romance alone as we are partnered. Robyn’s resilience is topped only by her refusal to run and hide. Being alone isn’t a source of shame or a badge of honor — it’s another love story.—C.W.
17. Young Thug and Travis Scott — “Pick Up The Phone” Feat. Quavo
A song so strong that it was nearly the basis for including at least two of its creators’ albums in our best albums of the decade list — Thugger’s Jeffery and Travis’ Birds In The Trap — “Pick Up The Phone” could only be a product of three of the most innovative minds in trap rap before the creative nadir that hit the genre as it became ubiquitous. It’s bubbly, eccentric, and catchy, deserving a much-higher placement on the Billboard Hot 100 than it received as a result of Thug, Travis, and Quavo’s then relative unfamiliarity.–A.W.
16. LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean”
Going with a 9-minute song to open an album is a bold move, and yet “Dance Yrself Clean” can capture attention like few other songs of its length can. The minimalistic first half feels like a patient build-up to something great, and when that big drop finally hits, it might be the most cathartic musical moments of the decade.—D.R.
15. Lana Del Rey — “Video Games”
“Video Games” was the world’s introduction to Lana Del Rey, and it functions tremendously as a lead single because it summarizes her sound well. It sounds little like anything that came before it, despite the fact that it is so clearly influenced by its predecessors. Del Rey has evolved to become one of the day’s most important pop voices, and this is where it began.—D.R.
14. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Lif3”
Never has dejection sounded as fun as it did on “XO Tour Life,” Lil Uzi Vert’s star-making 2017 smash. Uzi had to literally force this song out, leaking it on Soundcloud without his label’s knowledge. Who knows if Atlantic would have eventually seen his vision. But Summer ‘17 would’ve been a little less fun without Uzi’s existentialist earworm.–A.G.
13. Lorde – “Team”
The backbeat for “Team” is built upon a hand-clap. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of Lorde’s musical minimalism throughout Pure Heroine, “Team” utilizes basic synthesizer and not a whole lot else, somehow building itself into a cathartic track about the never-ending support of true friendship that has become the most evergreen track from the teen sensation’s debut.—Z.G.
12. ASAP Rocky — “F*ckin’ Problems” Feat. 2 Chainz, Drake, Kendrick Lamar
The confluence of factors that had to combine to make this song such a hit is borderline incredible. All four featured artists were just beginning their respective rises to prominence, each went out to compete with the others as much as embrace their camaraderie, and each verse has at least one huge quotable that still draws a reaction when this song rings off to this day.–A.W.
11. Jamie XX – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” Feat. Young Thug and Popcaan
Jamie XX’s “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” is cheerfully drunk in a melancholy paradise. It explodes with vibrations of dancehall steel pans, Young Thug’s genius vocal inflections, Popcaan’s Caribbean moxie, and led by the soulfulness of doo-wop icons, The Persuasions. This brilliant blending of dancehall, trap, and soul was conceived as Jamie was riding through the streets of New York. The universe must be thanked for whatever moved him to create a song this glorious. It grants permission to every human being who hears it to get up, dance, smile, grab a friend and enjoy the moment; all in the spirit of having a good time.–C.J.
10. Taylor Swift – “All Too Well”
While most Swifties will maintain that Red is Taylor’s best and most important album, the consensus for best song gets trickier. Still, “All Too Well” becomes a frontrunner when her first two records are out of the picture. In this song, Swift manages to be both a character and a visitor in her own memories, finding joy, pain, and the whole damn thing in the waning refrigerator light.—C.W.
9. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt”
“Hannah Hunt” is hardly the most well-known Vampire Weekend song, but it’s also, arguably, the best. The moment near the end where Ezra Koenig pushes his voice all the way to its breaking point is as vulnerable as anything recorded this decade, with the song’s gentle build of vaguely psychedelic and impressionistic road trip imagery serving the song’s soaring conclusion perfectly.–P.C.
8. Solange – “Cranes In The Sky”
Every young woman in her 20s can relate to the words Solange purrs on her A Seat At The Table ballad “Cranes In The Sky.” It’s such an emotional and relatable number touching on what it’s like to deal with everything outside of the self to make a heartbreak or feelings about life much better. “I tried to drink it away, I tried to put one in the air, I tried to dance it away, I tried to change it with my hair,” Solo’s voice floats on the poetic hymn. In the end, Solange offers her vocals as one robust big cry and it’s the kind of therapeutic sob we all occasionally need.–C.J.
7. Frank Ocean – “Nights”
The most perfect R&B song of this decade belongs to Frank Ocean for his enchanting number “Nights.” It represents R&B’s evolving sound and a generation of kids dwelling in a perpetual emo state who openly use drugs as an escape. Over ascending production that moves from cheery to dark, Frank croons of being jaded by the realities of life and love — relatable to any 20-something. Listen long enough and “Nights” blissfully transcends into a saucy Houston dream immersed in a sea of emotions, attached to the lie of adulthood and experience. Where the brilliance of “Nights” exists is its ability to passionately connect both aurally and empathetically.–C.J.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”
With a sweeping, inescapable saxophone riff, Carly Rae Jepsen reintroduced herself to the world. Opening her third full-length album with a tempestuous, technicolor dreamboat of a love anthem, Jepsen made it clear that she would never be a one-hit-wonder on the very first song off her 2015 masterpiece. Take me to the feeling, she demanded, and we all went, too.—C.W.
5. Ariana Grande — “Thank U, Next”
If everyone wrote a song as gracious and personally affirming as “Thank U, Next” about their ex, the breakup genre as we know it would become an uplifting thing. This song was a smash, and set the table for Grande to dominate 2019 with an album of the same name. Turns out, petty is out, and self-love is in. I’m so good with that.—C.W.
4. Kanye West – “Runaway” Feat. Pusha T
In a career full of anthems, this one might top them all. “Runaway” is notable for its clear-eyed slimeball honesty, for its great Pusha T verse that solidified the fruitful Ye/Pusha business relationship, for its extended unintelligible vocoder outro that provided Yeezy with the live platform to go on hilarious extended rants over the next several years. “Runaway,” like a precious few Kanye West songs, is as unifying as music gets, the kind of song that will spark a singalong in most mixed company, that feels as timeless as it already is nostalgic ten years later. A peak moment from the most crucial artist of this century.–P.C.
3. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
It’s one thing for a song to ring off in a club, or be sung by concertgoers in an arena. But when an artist creates a track that people defiantly belt while they’re literally fighting for their lives, it’s on a higher level of cultural resonance. The hook to Kendrick Lamar’s ”Alright” was an anthem of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and a powerful affirmation of the resilience of Black people everywhere.–A.G.
2. Beyonce – “Love On Top”
Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” is a timeless array of penetrating vocals and 1980’s vibrations. At home on her 2011 album 4, Queen Bey’s four remarkably momentous key changes revel in the thought of how the love of her life puts her and their relationship on a pedestal. It presents feelings of faith and love co-existing profoundly enough to turn it into a classic song that shall be heard at weddings and family celebrations for years to come, marking a signature moment from a signature artist.–C.J.
1. Drake – “Hotline Bling”
You can hear it right now. You can picture its colorful, goofy video, from Drake’s cable-knit sweater to the James Turrell-inspired stage that was duplicated and parodied by everyone from the President to Jon Snow to Drake himself in a T-Mobile ad that ran during the Super Bowl. You’re probably doing the dance right now and you shouldn’t be ashamed — some things are just undeniable. But at the end of the day, “Hotline Bling” is central to both Drake’s career and popular music as a whole, a song that revealed the decade’s best singles artist in his final form, and foretold the spaces pop and hip-hop would inhabit for the foreseeable future.–A.W.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.