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.