The 100 Best Songs of the 2010s

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The 100 Best Songs of the 2010s

We already tallied up the 100 best albums of the 2010s. That in itself was a gigantic feat, a product of dozens of writers voting, compiling and re-listening to hundreds of albums. When it was time to choose the best songs of the decade, it felt like an even bigger task. It’s not as simple as looking at the albums list and deriving tunes from therein—the decade’s best songs are from all over the place, EPs and singles and albums and SoundCloud uploads alike. Some of these songs are certified hits and chart-toppers, while others may be entirely new to you. But, as ever, lists like this one serve one main purpose: to share the music we loved the past 10 years, in the hopes you might love it, too. These are the songs that got us through the decade, that filled our playlists and soundtracked our road trips. From hip-hop and pop to rock and country, here are the best songs of the 2010s, as voted by the Paste Staff.

Revisit our Best Albums of the 2010s right here. Then listen to the Best Songs of the 2010s Spotify playlist right here.

100. Miguel: “Adorn”


The first 10 seconds of “Adorn” is like, “Hey, this could be a cool song. That’s a good, skittering beat and the keyboard part sounds like floating droplets of liquid gold.” But then the sub-bass kicks in and all of a sudden you’re immersed in one of the very best songs of the 2010s. Through a decent pair of headphones, “Adorn” instantly becomes a study in balance: The low end rumbles and throbs like one of those massage chairs at the mall turned up to 11, while Miguel—possessor of a pristine voice—declares not just lust for the lady of his dreams, but commitment to her as well. It’s pure romance perfectly captured in the pop-song format, and a stand-out on Miguel’s incredible 2012 album Kaleidoscope Dream—where standing out is no easy task. —Ben Salmon

99. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: “Meticulous Bird”


Thao Nguyen’s work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners partially inspired her band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down’s 2013 album We the Common, but the follow-up A Man Alive is grounded in something far more personal: Nguyen’s feelings about her estranged father. For the Merrill Garbus-produced album’s catchiest song, though, Nguyen shifts her attention toward liberating sexual assault survivors. On “Meticulous Bird,” the closest a Nguyen song has ever come to hip-hop, she encourages victims to “find the scene of the crime” and reclaim their bodies. But as the song’s hefty bass-and-drum interplay cedes to noisy electronic shrieks and blown-out synth bursts, she sings a lyric likely not about sexual assault, but instead what she’ll do when she finds her father: “Grow my hair so long to wrap around you / You’ve been starving for air ever since I found you.” “Meticulous Bird” is similarly enveloping. —Max Freedman

98. Clairo: “Bags”


“Bags” is a startlingly layered track, slowly adding more and more elements and instruments that complement Clairo’s conversational singing. A set of simple guitar chords, understated drum fills, plunking keys—these are all familiar elements for the bedroom-pop songwriter, but the move toward a studio with co-producer Rostam really fleshes out Clairo’s instincts in a remarkable way. —Harry Todd

97. Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin: “I Like It”


There was no questioning Cardi B’s dominance over the summer of 2018 with Invasion of Privacy, but for anyone with a sliver of a doubt, Cardi pulls zero punches with “I Like It,” a bilingual Latin trap banger that quickly surged as the album’s most streamed single. The track features Cardi B in collaboration with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and Colombian singer J Balvin, a powerhouse of Latino voices both inside and outside the United States. The music video, filmed in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, is filled with hero shots of Cardi B dressed to the nines, nods to working class Cuban-Americans and club scenes from inside the classic 1930s Ball & Chain nightclub. The trio pays tribute to the voices that helped pave their paths, jam-packing the song with references to Celia Cruz, Tommy Olivencia, Bobby Valentín, and Charytín Goyco, all laden over a riff of Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That.” Whether you speak Spanish or not, the message is clear: Latin pop has officially broken into the American mainstream, and it’s here to stay. —Katie Cameron

96. Pusha T: “If You Know You Know”


Pusha T is the most no-bullshit rapper in the game. In a world where every cat on the mic needs a hype man, King Push sits alone on his throne and doesn’t care to sugarcoat anything for anyone. The DAYTONA album opener has it all: Golden State Warriors and Scarface references, reminiscing on the back-in-the-day dope game, tongue-in-cheek pop culture mastery shouting out Puff, Oprah, Al Roker and Ri-Ri…what can’t this guy do? Before Kanye West went totally off his rocker and became a grade-A asshole, he was better known for incredible productions like “If You Know You Know.” The cinematic beat is a canvas for Push’s tale of a supreme dream that started in the streets. He floats above the beat, unadulterated, authoritative, not a shred of auto-tune—just bars for days. He delivers in a way that if the beat stopped, he wouldn’t break stride, and he lets the production serve only as an elevator for his menacing rhymes. Accept no substitutions. —Adrian Spinelli

95. Yuck: “Get Away”


The smeared indie rock and searing noise-pop of Yuck’s 2011 self-titled debut still cuts deep. Their distorted guitars reflect the golden age of alternative rock, and their plucky energy captured a band that was firing on all cylinders in a way that’s difficult to recapture. Lead track “Get Away” is marked by meaty, J Mascis-style guitar shrieks as lead vocalist Daniel Blumberg musters an intense level of melancholia. Blumberg pleads, “Tell me when the pain kicks in” before guitarist Max Bloom erupts with a guitar solo so heartbreakingly perfect that you’ll form a tear in the corner of your eye. Blumberg makes his harsh turn into despair feel like a communal catharsis, and the outro’s live applause and amp dissonance makes this modern classic feel like you’ve just witnessed the greatest DIY basement performance of all time with your closest pals. —Lizzie Manno

94. Craig Finn: “God in Chicago”


Craig Finn, known for his role as leading man of The Hold Steady, has a knack for understanding darkness. “God in Chicago,” the highlight from 2017’s We All Want the Same Things, is part spoken-word, part salute to the middle of country, follows the story of a man who helps his dead friend’s sister sell the drugs that killed him. Finn isn’t exactly famous for subtlety, yet it’s the subtle details that make this song so devastating, from the help the narrator enlists from his old friend “Wayne from Winnetka” who “picked up on the first ring” to the “toothbrush from Walgreens” the pair purchase when they decide to spend the night at a Hyatt on Michigan Avenue. —Claire Greising

93. Noname: “Blaxpoitation”


There was the old Noname, the one who ducked and dodged around the fluttery rhythms and subdued melodies of her debut EP Telefone like a shy hummingbird, beautiful but weightless. But with “Blaxploitation,” from her 2018 album Room 25, Noname is finally ready for all the limelight. She spits out lines like “Penny proud, penny petty, pissing off Betty the Boop / Only date n****s that hoop, traded my life for cartoon,” with a previously unheard vigor over a bass-line that pops. No one is safe from Noname’s polemic—not the artists that blow up and move to the yuppie Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, not those mammy-stereotype “Power of Pine-Sol” commercials, not even Noname herself for indulging in noted anti-LGBT restaurant Chick-Fil-A. It was an unflinchingly powerful introduction to this new Noname, one who was ready, able and fully willing to become the next big thing. And yes, all without label support. —Justin Kamp

92. Vince Staples: “Norf Norf”


Within Vince Staples’ undeniable masterpiece Summertime ‘06 lies one of this decade’s top-tier hip-hop hits. Much of the album is rather morose, but Staples takes a more nostalgic angle when examining his past on the freakishly groovy “Norf Norf,” as he reps his city of Long Beach, Calif. (the “norf” side, the be exact). In a genre in which one’s origin story (and how they tell it) is of the utmost importance, Staples pulls off this narrative without a hitch. Not to mention, the ease with which Staples raps over droning synth and steady beats makes for one of this decade’s most relaxed and catchy party songs. —Ellen Johnson

91. Real Estate: “Darling”


Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney’s move to upstate New York in the late 2010s did nothing to upset the delicate and shimmering sound that he had been nurturing for nearly a decade. The melodies of this first single from the group’s 2017 album, In Mind, still seduce, just as the gentle chime of the guitars still feel like they’re tickling your skin. The only new addition was an injection of pastoral imagery into Courtney’s lyrics that let us listen into this shivering impatience at the arrival of his loved one. The birds on his porch don’t have to worry about where their partner is. Why should he? —Robert Ham

90. Hop Along: “Waitress”


Philadelphia’s punk sweethearts Hop Along took everyone’s hearts with the release of their second LP Painted Shut, and the album’s first single “Waitress” illustrates just why. With lead singer Frances Quinlan’s unique vocals at the forefront, the song is reflective and positive, angsty and upbeat, and whether you’re searching yourself or just floating along, it’s a song that demands being on repeat. —Brittany Joyce

89. Drake: “Hotline Bling”


With its understated hook and roller-rink sample (courtesy of organ-playing soul man Timmy Thomas), “Hotline Bling” is a stealth earworm. It’s the kind of song that gets under your skin and stays in your system for weeks, thanks as much to nineteen85’s supple production as to Drake’s melancholy vocals and lo-fi dance moves. And it did get under our skin, collectively and culturally, inspiring an unbearable cover by Sufjan, a slow-burn version by Son Little, even a shitty SNL sketch featuring Donald Trump (because unchecked xenophobia and arrogance is always hilarious). But the best version belongs to Erykah Badu, who gender-flipped the song and may have one-upped even Drake. —Stephen Deusner

88. Lonnie Holley: “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America”


It’s a pretty dire commentary on Our American Moment to realize that Lonnie Holley was born in Jim Crow-era Alabama and yet waited until 2018 to record a song called “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America.” Holley, a 68-year-old black man who has spent much of his creative career building sculptures from junkyard debris (his work has been exhibited in places like The Met), sings songs, largely improvised, with the same dreamlike, free-associate energy that animates his visual art. On “Fucked-Up America,” his voice is a disturbed rumble as he surveys a rotten country full of walls, greed and “all the vampires.” Holley has expanded his backing group with avant-garde multi-instrumentalists like Shahzad Ismaily, and here Holley’s musical backing is a discordant, warped symphony of blown-out synths and piano—aural representative of a country crumbling into chaos. —Zach Schonfeld

87. Boygenius: “Me & My Dog”


Phoebe Bridgers takes lead on “Me & My Dog,” and if her opening lines (“We had a great day / even though we forgot to eat / and you had a bad dream”) don’t send shivers down your spine, you may want to verify that you have a heartbeat. Seeing Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus step to their mics to sing in unison—to say nothing of Bridgers’ towering sustained note at the song’s climax—is nearly sublime enough to make one forget what an anxiety-ridden time we live in is. —Scott Russell

86. Radiohead: “True Love Waits”


The true “Holy shit, did they really uncover that song?” selection of A Moon Shaped Pool is closer “True Love Waits,” a stark ballad debuted during the 1995 The Bends tour, later recorded for 2001 live LP, I Might Be Wrong. Here, the track—much like In Rainbows’ afterlife gaze “Videotape”—is gutted and re-assembled, with delicate piano loops underscoring Yorke’s heartbreak. The inclusion is shocking, considering producer Nigel Godrich joked to Rolling Stone in 2012 about their inability to work out a decent arrangement. “We tried to record it countless times, but it never worked,” he said. “The irony is you have that shitty live version. To Thom’s credit, he needs to feel a song has validation, that it has a reason to exist as a recording. We could do ‘True Love Waits’ and make it sound like John Mayer. Nobody wants to do that.” —Ryan Reed

85. Tegan and Sara: “Closer”


Tegan and Sara have undergone numerous musical shifts in their two decades as a band, and their shimmery pop phase is marked best by “Closer.” Their jump from 2009’s Sainthood to 2013’s Heartthrob was one of the most glaring progressions of their career, but swapping off-kilter art-pop for ultra hi-fi pop was another resounding success. Heartthrob opener “Closer” is Tegan and Sara’s most suitable karaoke anthem. While many pop and EDM songs are specifically constructed in pursuit of those satisfying “drops,” which often sound forced, the “Closer” refrain reaches the highest possible peak of pop pleasure. The Quin sisters sing over bubbly dance-pop synths, “It’s not just all physical / I’m the type who won’t get oh so critical / So let’s make things physical / I won’t treat you like you’re oh so typical.” It’s a reflection on pure teenage romance—unaffected by the entanglements of adulthood and characterized more by the pursuit of intimacy than intimacy itself. This fun-as-hell emotional gut-punch is like the triumphant climax during the greatest night out of high school. —Lizzie Manno

84. Iceage: “The Lord’s Favorite”


Danish quartet Iceage aren’t known for country-punk, but one of their best tracks, “The Lord’s Favorite,” would certainly make for a violent squaredance. The punk band’s fourth album, Plowing Into The Field of Love, saw them at their most languorous and lurid, but standout single “The Lord’s Favorite” dials up the tempo and debauchery significantly. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s rough, uneven vocals bring a crazed theatricality as their rollicking, sped-up country riff and shuffling drums will make you want to throw yourself in every direction at the same time. If I could only pick one song to mosh to from the past decade, it’s this one—and I might even do so while chewing on a piece of straw. —Lizzie Manno

83. Moses Sumney: “Doomed”


Moses Sumney is a master in minimalism, and nowhere is that more apparent than on “Doomed,” a gem from his surprise breakout debut Aromanticism and easily one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Sumney’s falsetto is his main currency. He bends and melts his voice to fit the loose energy of “Doomed,” ultimately allowing all the sounds to run together in one fluid stroke. He also confronts some serious questions, like what it means to be on this Earth when you feel numb to it: “Am I vital / If my heart is idle / Am I doomed?” —Ellen Johnson

82. Rosalía: “MALAMENTE”


Even if you don’t know a lick of Spanish, it’s still obvious that “Malamente” is one of the best pop songs of the decade. Matched with a video full of stunning images, budding Spanish superstar Rosalía combines flamenco music with something much more modern to a spectacular result. The poppiest track on her widely celebrated El mal querer, it launched her to international renown and is currently becoming a household name thousands of miles away from her native Barcelona. The song, built upon rhythmic handclaps and Rosalía’s incomparable voice, is about as unique of a hit single as anything you’ve heard all decade. And listeners weren’t alone: She’s since become one of the go-to features for pop and R&B artists across the world, from James Blake to J Balvin. Now one of the biggest female artists on the planet, look for her to be heavily featured on this same list in 2029. —Steven Edelstone

81. Tom Waits: “Hell Broke Luce”


When Tom Waits was in his 30s, he already sounded about 65, as evidenced by the clanging death rattle of Swordfishtrombones. So it seems right that on “Hell Broke Luce”—a song he made once he reached his actual 60s—Waits sounds like a 105-year-old skeleton, snarling and rattling his bones up in the attic. Every bewildering element of the song—the percussive cacophony, the near-random bursts of metallic guitar, the sudden jolts of gunfire—work together in service of a collective middle finger to the idea that artists of a certain age should settle down and make polite music. And Waits’ delivery conveys the brutality of war with his gruff barks and brutish rhyme schemes: “I lost my buddy and I wept! Wept! / I come down from the meth so I slept! Slept!” If Bad As Me proves to be his last album (which I hope it won’t), this is a hell of a sendoff. —Zach Schonfeld

80. Sky Ferreira: “I Blame Myself”


Where Joan Jett doesn’t give a damn, Sky Ferreira instead blames herself. “I blame myself / For my reputation,” Ferreira sings on the apex of her long-delayed debut studio album Night Time, My Time (the follow-up to which has also encountered many delays). Over an infinitely catchy boom-bap drumbeat and synths as new-wave as they are Twin Peaks (a show in which Ferreira would later act), Ferreira’s self-flagellating lyrics comment on being, well, blamed for her label’s interference with Night Time’s release. “Is it because you know my name? / Or is it because you saw my face on the cover?” she asks, not that she expects non-public figures to understand. “I know it’s not your fault / That you don’t understand / I blame myself,” she sings before continuing, “How could you know what it feels like to fight the hounds of hell?” Hearing “I Blame Myself,” listeners can at least approximate it. —Max Freedman

79. Anderson .Paak: “The Bird”


It’s fitting that Anderson .Paak kicks off his excellent Malibu with “The Bird;” it’s the kind of opening track that ensures—demands, even—that you stick around for the rest of the album, but it does so in such a smooth, effortless way that you don’t even realize it’s happening until you’re already hooked and reeled in. All it takes is a few bars, maybe to the end of that first chorus or the first time that trumpet eases in, before you feel as though you’ve always loved this song. That “sweetness of a honeycomb tree” .Paak sings of is palpable, delivered with a warm familiarity. When he weaves in snippets of his life (“my sister used to sing to Whitney, my momma caught the gambling bug”), he ultimately draws the conclusion that “We see the same things/we sing the same songs / we feel the same grief / bleed the same blood.” He’s talking about a childhood friend, but the way he sings it, it feels like he’s singing it to us, welcoming us in to his inner circle, inviting us to come in, kick off our shoes and stick around for the rest of the album. —Bonnie Stiernberg

78. Tame Impala: “The Less I Know the Better”


For some reason, this impeccable song has developed a reputation for being basic and even a bit uncool. But the standout track from Tame Impala’s Currents is a perfect song, arguably one of the most entertaining marriages of electric guitar and synth this decade. Using rhyme and one of the grooviest synthlines you’ll ever hear, Kevin Parker weaves together feelings of desire, regret and jealousy in what has become a dance party staple. The danceability of this song is nearly mathematical—it gets people moving without fail. In the larger context of Currents, it’s a break from the existential dread of the rest of the album. Heard as a single, even on one of Spotify’s “chill indie” playlists, it’s reliable sonic gold. —Ellen Johnson

77. Wolf Alice: “Don’t Delete The Kisses”


Wolf Alice’s second album Visions of A Life saw the British quartet expand their sonic horizons significantly. Moments of tenderness and vexation are both heightened and contain a bulkier sound, and its standout track “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is a true breakthrough. Ellie Rowsell’s lead vocals switch between layered pop transcendence and a stark, murmured inner monologue, reliving a brush with a love interest via carefully preserved detail: “We’d go to The Hail Mary / And afterwards make out instead I’m typing you a message / That I know I’ll never send / Rewriting old excuses / Delete the kisses at the end.” Its dynamic synth-pop pulse, painfully relatable regret and pure-hearted nature will reel you in whether you surrender willfully or not. —Lizzie Manno

76. SZA: “Drew Barrymore”


Months before SZA dropped her hotly anticipated debut studio album Ctrl, “Drew Barrymore” introduced listeners to precisely how Solana Rowe’s Pop Album of the Decade contender would sound. With psychedelic production, percussion equally indebted to indie rock and jazz, and peripheral strings fit for a true R&B tearjerker, “Drew Barrymore” aptly previewed Ctrl and provided the ideal playground for SZA’s nimble-as-Jack voice, which can somehow move with a rap cadence and employ a gently rattling vibrato in the same breath. The track is among the most candid on an album revered for its honesty: As SZA sings about envy, loneliness, and inflated female beauty standards, she embodies an outcast character like those the song’s titular actress has often played. “Why’s it so hard to accept the party is over?” SZA asks at the song’s outset, and at the track’s end, listeners will wonder the same. —Max Freedman

75. Big Thief: “Not”


Big Thief’s delicate folk-rock has been captivating audiences since their cockily titled 2016 debut, Masterpiece. “Not” is something of a throwback to the harder textures of that first album, in contrast to the wispy sound of their first album of 2019, U.F.O.F. Over insistent electric guitar strums and a whistling, metallic flute, frontwoman Adrianne Lenker struggles to articulate something, and works her way around that tip-of-the-tongue feeling by negation: ”[It’s] not a rouse / not heat / not the fire lapping up the creek.” But before Lenker can answer her own riddle, the song dissolves into three minutes of discordant guitar solos, and then ten seconds of static-filled silence. —Substitute Thapliyal

74. The War on Drugs: “Under The Pressure”


There’s so much to explore in the eight minutes and 50 seconds of “Under the Pressure,” the opening track on The War on Drugs’ excellent 2014 album Lost in the Dream, but what hooked me the first time, in my car, came at the 4:08 mark. I was listening at the insistence (and persistence) of a Twitter follower, and though I could tell almost immediately that I wouldn’t be wasting my time—that this song was really, really good, and with it probably the entire album—it wasn’t until the halfway point that I really understood why. The lyrics are mostly expressionistic, and when you consider that even after multiple listens the internet can’t decipher them all, you can imagine how well I understood Adam Granduciel on my maiden voyage. The melody was strong, though there was no chorus, and the energy had a pulsing, Springsteen-like urgency that I loved. What changed and clarified at the 4:08 mark, when the song seemed like it might be winding down, was as simple as a heavier drumbeat; on its face, nothing revolutionary. But what it did was expand the song into its true form, as something that wasn’t yet halfway over, and had life to spare. It made complete sense—this song had to be eight minutes long, had to to unfurl into controlled chaos, and had to grab you by the shoulders, like a mad genius, and make you see exactly what the fuck it was talking about. I love it, and I think when you look at the lyrics, you get closest to the theme when Granduciel sings, “You were raised on a promise / To find out over time / Better come around to the new way / Or watch as it all breaks down here.” The greatness, though, is in the driving impetus, the unspoken vitality and anger and exuberance and defiance that brings you to a visceral crest and lets you ride it just as long as you’ve got the spirit and the spine. —Shane Ryan

73. Sylvan Esso: “Hey Mami”


The first time I heard Sylvan Esso’s “Hey Mami” was on a cross-country drive on Highway 10, in that dreary stretch of Texas that has absolutely nothing to look at for eight hours. I popped in a pre-release stream of Sylvan Esso’s self-titled debut and was greeted to singer Amelia Meath’s gentle coo singing “Hey Mami, I know what you want Mami…Hey Mami, I know what you want Mami…” Her comfortably settling vocal intro felt similar to the album’s first single, “Coffee,” but about a minute and a half later, something happened. Producer Nick Sanborn dropped an explosive bass-boom to accompany Meath’s voice, and everything I thought I knew about Sylvan Esso up to that point was thrown out the window as my energy was rattled into motion and elation. These are the beautiful and lasting moments in music; the ones you don’t expect, yet were everything you ever wanted. —Adrian Spinelli

72. Japandroids: “The House That Heaven Built”


On March 27, 2012, a Magic Johnson-fronted group bought the Dodgers, pink slime and the murder of Trayvon Martin continued to infuriate Americans, and The Hunger Games earned a cool 10 million bucks. But, you might best remember it as the day that you heard Japandroids “The House That Heaven Built.” After streaming the Soundcloud, your reaction was likely to listen again, and then again, and then again while sending the link to a half-dozen friends. Years later, the sincere and sweet words sound as anthemic as ever, the punk “ohs” still receive a raised fist in response, and the sweat-coated guitar swirls and drum fills evoke wonderful things, like youth and innocence, things that made you love rock ‘n’ roll in the first place. —Philip Cosores

71. Margo Price: “All American Made”


The most important message on Margo Price’s All American Made is one of resilience. The title track in particular captures the lifelong struggle of trying to reach that epitomized life of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Over sound bites of presidents past, Price offers a montage of All-American imagery—going to California in vintage pickup trucks over endless highways. But she counters these ideals with our inglorious history of international arms dealing, mistreatment of our own working poor on welfare and a subtle jab at Trump. Although she was singing “All American Made” at shows for months before the announcement of this record in 2017, it still sounds especially pertinent and symbolic in the fraught times. As the closing track, “All American Made” seems to show Price and all of us what we can be at our worst and who we can be at our best. After all, the twin notions of hope and persistence comprise the consummate American-made dream. —Hilary Saunders

70. Sleater-Kinney: “A New Wave”


Following the band’s decade-long hiatus, “A New Wave” feels like one of Sleater-Kinney’s statements of principle on No Cities to Love, an acknowledgement of the movements that have helped give the band exposure in the past, but a simultaneous rejection that they remain bound to any of the expectations or conventions of those movements in the next phase of their careers. There’s some existential grappling here, as in the lines “Every day I throw a little party / But a fit would be more fitting / And every time I climb a little higher / Should I leap or go on living?” which is probably to be expected when one returns to a musical project with another 10 years of age and experience, but there’s also a sense of exuberance and excitement to throw off the shackles of the past. Brownstein speaks in the song of “leaving nothing” behind for those who would seek to deconstruct Sleater-Kinney, while also standing defiant in her proclamation that “no outline will ever hold us.” The song makes for a bit of an odd pairing with the dancing Belcher children of TV’s Bob’s Burgers, as seen in the official music video for “A New Wave,” but as it goes on, the sight of little Louise determinedly punching the air to the beat of “I am raw material / make me plastic / make me fuel” seems oddly fitting. Tina Belcher might not exactly fit the mold of your prototypical riot grrrl, but perhaps it’s exactly what she’ll grow into after a dip into Sleater-Kinney’s deeper waters. —Jim Vorel

69. Waxahatchee: “Silver”


Out in the Storm doesn’t symbolize a physical state of matter like Waxahatchee’s earlier works. On this record, Katie Crutchfield becomes a scientific element—explosive, volatile and uncontrollable. She proclaims on the coincidentally titled “Silver,” “If I turn to stone/The whole world keeps turning/I went out in the storm/And I’m never returning.” —Natalia Barr

68. Nicki Minaj: “Super Bass”


Nicki Minaj’s boy-crazy hit put an effervescent bubblegum pop twist on the take-charge school pioneered by Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Salt-N-Pepa. (There are echoes of “Shoop” here to be sure.) While the song is far from graphic, it’s an excellent soundtrack for boy watching and ticks the objectification box in the sense that, after awhile, her “boys with the polos” and the ones with the booming systems all start to run together. Truth is, they all have her heartbeat running away. —Beverly Bryan

67. A Tribe Called Quest: “We The People”


Who’d have thought the most resonant protest song of 2016 would come from a 30-year-old hip-hop group that hadn’t recorded together in nearly 20 years? “We the People,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s first album since 1998, clearly started out as a rejoinder to the dog-whistle campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump. After his upset (and upsetting) election victory, it’s poised to become a resistance anthem, with a snapping boom-bap beat and layers of synthesizers framing pointed, poetic lyrics that address police brutality, gender inequality and entrenched racism. The track is also an elegy for Tribe rapper Phife Dawg, one of hip-hop’s most influential MCs, who died in March of that year due to complications from diabetes. “We the People” is a powerful endcap to a monumental legacy, and the track’s sudden timeliness made it all the more indelible. —Eric R. Danton

66. Whitney: “No Woman”


When Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich pulled the plug on beloved Chicago indie rockers Smith Westerns and pulled up roots for Los Angeles, there was no reason to believe that they would land on their feet, let alone do so quite so quickly. “No Woman,” then, is a statement of liberation of sorts, albeit one that feels more accidental than defiant. “I left drinkin’ on the city train to spend some time on the road,” Ehrlich sings in his most wistful falsetto over a soft bed of acoustic guitar strums. “Then one morning I woke up in L.A.,” he continues, as if baffled by it all. The rhythms lope, the guitars twinkle and twirl, and some gauzy strings and trumpets crash around like in a Spaghetti western. As road songs go, this one is more of a slow train than a convertible with the top down. —Matt Fink

65. Camp Cope: “The Opener”


Melbourne-based trio Camp Cope’s biting punk track “The Opener,” from their 2018 album How to Socialise & Make Friends, starts like a typical breakup song: “Tell me you never wanna see me again / And then keep showing up at my house.” But as the track progresses, it morphs into an intense, overt call for gender equality in the music industry. Lead vocalist Georgia “Maq” McDonald has a guttural reaction to the sexism her band has faced as she yells, as loud as she can, “Yeah, tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene.” —Ellen Johnson

64. Drake: “Passionfruit”


More than his high-profile beefs, his endless groundswell of Rihanna thirst, or his bid for rap game Andrew Carnegie status, Drake’s modus operandi was as pop’s resident culture vulture, sanitizing the sounds of dancehall and house into fare for the masses (bringing everyone into his tent from Erykah Badu to, sigh, Donald Trump). Between “Hotline Bling,” “One Dance” and “Fake Love,” few other artists got as much mileage out of importing tropical sounds to the mainstream as Drake. With “Passionfruit,” the last, great breeze of Drake’s trop-pop phase, Drake engineered the platonic ideal of him as pop scion. Its longing is so accessible and its programmed groove so indelible that it never lost its integrity even as it was transposed at the hands of acts as wide-reaching as Paramore, John Mayer and Yaeji. It’s Drake at his essence, a perfect blank slate of sad-boy desire filtered and smoothed out to go down just a bit too easy. —Joshua Bote

63. Adele: “Rolling in the Deep”


Everyone knew that Adele had an incredible voice in 2011; she had the Grammy for Best New Artist to prove that. But like she sings on “Rolling in the Deep,” “there’s a fire starting in her heart.” With the power of Amy Winehouse and the passion of old-school Alanis Morissette, she crafted a song that stayed at the top of the charts (and nearly every radio format) all of 2011 for good reason. —Ross Bonaime

62. Maggie Rogers: “Alaska”


The hauntingly beautiful song that rocked Grammy winner and NYU artist-in-residence Pharrell Williams’ world during a music master class in 2016 is by the preternaturally talented Maggie Rogers, who also included the song on her 2019 album Heard It In A Past Life. “Alaska” is a folk-dance hybrid that attained near-mythic status and confounded listeners by not being available online, but was later mixed, mastered and added to streaming services. “Alaska” was inspired by a hiking trip Rogers went on: “When I had been hiking in summers after Alaska, I had been creating a natural sample bank of birds, noises,” she told Pigeons and Planes. “A good chunk of the rhythm in the song started from me just patting a rhythm on my jeans. That sample is the main rhythm. Me snapping in a room. I wanted to make dance music, or pop music, feel as human as possible.” Mission accomplished. —Scott Russell

61. Mannequin Pussy: “Drunk II”


I know what you’re thinking—ugh, another breakup song about getting drunk and forgetting your troubles, but hear me out on this one. Mannequin Pussy’s “Drunk II” from their newly-released second album Patience isn’t just one of the best breakup songs of 2019, it’s one of the best songs of 2019, full stop. This Philly indie-punk outfit crystallizes the extreme highs of a night out and plunging lows of heartbreak with wailing guitar licks, a cutting bassline and vocals that span the emotional gamut. Lead singer Marisa Dabice dishes out headstrong lyrics with both vigor and vulnerability, never quite settling on one or the other, which further underscores the emotional restlessness of a relationship’s end. It’s in this paradox of strong-willed proclamations and cries for help that Dabice draws her power, particularly via the piercing outro and this shouted line of rock ‘n’ roll perfection: “I still love you, you stupid fuck!” —Lizzie Manno

60. Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug: “Havana”


If you’ve never heard of Camila Cabello, 1. Learn her name right now—you’ll be seeing her around, and 2. You’ve probably at least heard her voice. The American-Cuban pop star’s ridiculously catchy single featuring Young Thug, “Havana,” is the most-streamed song ever by a solo female artist on Spotify (that’s more than a billion streams, y’all), and it has spent more time atop the Billboard pop charts than any other song in the last five years. It’s easy to hear why “Havana,” which also appears on the former Fifth Harmony member’s stunning solo debut Camila, is so addictive: The repetitive lyrics (mostly just “Ha-va-na-ooh-na-na / He took me back to East Atlanta”) rhyme to perfection while the same handful of beats, piano chords and Young Thug backup quips drift along like crashing waves. —Ellen Johnson

59. Parquet Courts: “Wide Awake”


While it might not have made the cut as our pick for the best song of 2018, Parquet Courts’ absolute banger “Wide Awake” deserves the award for the funkiest. This song is everything you need to get your body, well, “movin’ and groovin’, “ain’t ever losin’ the pace,” as the song itself says. The percussion, led flawlessly by drummer Max Savage, drives the track with a Latin-inspired rhythm that somehow fits just fine in a New York City rock band’s repertoire. Thrown on top of that is arguably the grooviest bass line of 2018 by Sean Yeaton, layered unexpectedly with A. Savage and Austin Brown’s raucous signature guitar stylings. This song forces you to dance, it forces you to yell “WIDE AWAKE” whenever the band does, and it works well both within its record and on its own. It’s the sonic equivalent of that level of caffeine when you can’t close your eyes, and I mean that sincerely in a good way. —Annie Black

58. Future Islands: “Seasons (Waiting on You)”


“Seasons (Waiting on You)” sees a universal experience portrayed with respect for the human condition, and Samuel Herring showcases an even-handed distribution of youthful longing and frustration with mature wisdom and perspective. Herring’s deep, husky and often untamable delivery peppers this spread with personality, sounding like an only son of Dracula raised in an ‘80s disco. —Philip Cosores

57. Brandi Carlile: “The Joke”


“The Joke” is an anthem for the marginalized. “Don’t ever let them steal your joy,” Brandi Carlile sings. “And your gentle ways, to keep ‘em from running wild.” After a bleak year, both for the Grammys and for the country, the Americana’s breathtaking performance of this song during the 2019 telecast was one of the most memorable (and arguably star-making) moments on live TV this decade. Frankly, I can’t imagine a Best Songs of the 2010s list without this song. Carlile has long been one of our most reliable storytellers, but here she takes flight in a whole new way. She not only sings for herself, but also for the millions of people who can’t. Carlile’s voice has never sounded this powerful. —Ellen Johnson

56. The National: “Bloodbuzz Ohio”


Who knew that a song about compounding loans could be so good? The crown jewel of The National’s arguable career best High Violet, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” opens with a heavy drum solo that never lets up. Matt Berninger’s regal croon carries the tune as always, but he’s at his strongest here when he allows himself to be nostalgic for his previous life in his native Ohio. The track explodes when the Dessners unleash a guitar solo, cementing it as a live staple in every National set going forward. “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” with its cryptic lyrics and building instrumentals, is everything we love about The National all in one track. —Steven Edelstone

55. M.I.A.: “Bad Girls”


Before it was destined to appear in every trailer for every comedy with a female ensemble cast, M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” arrived with a huge “bang,” further proof that the British rapper is one of the boldest visionaries in hip hop. “Bad Girls” is equal parts party anthem, feminist rager and action movie fodder. It doesn’t have the political undertones of M.I.A.’s first great masterpiece, 2007’s “Paper Planes,” but it’s just as ballsy, brilliant and deliriously fun. And it gave us a mantra for the ages: “Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.” —Ellen Johnson

54. Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean and Migos: “Slide”


Four patrons of the night time—Calvin Harris of EDM’s biggest tents, Frank Ocean of the three a.m. missed call, and Migos (well, Offset and Quavo) of the backrooms of the club—link up for “Slide,” a line-dance number that feels improbably sunny, the blur of late-night hedonism recalled in stark daytime. Plenty of songs at the latter half of the decade revelled in this contradiction, but few mastered the balance so adroitly. Too concerned with the night before to think about the day ahead, “Slide” is stuck in perpetual turmoil with itself, the minor-note piano line at odds with the neon-bright, staccato-snare funk that follows. Frank’s aching drawl feels perfectly out-of-place, as if sighing to himself while two-thirds of Migos—Offset and Quavo—try to push him out of his melancholy shell. It’s a song tailor-made for these nihilistic times: Blow a bag on a Picasso or some jewelry; slide into those DMs; do whatever it takes to avoid confronting what happens when the sun comes up. —Joshua Bote

53. Hurray for the Riff Raff: “Pa’lante”


Meaning “onward, forward,” “Pa’lante” is a rallying cry, starting off simply with Hurray for the Riff Raff frontwoman Alynda Lee Segarra singing, “Oh I just want to go to work and get back home and be something.” As her voice gets stronger, the anger and passion more obvious, she continues, “Colonized and hypnotized, be something.” She’s speaking about the Puerto Rican experience in America (and “Pa’lante” includes a powerful sample of Pedro Pietri’s poem “Puerto Rican Obituary”), but in today’s political climate, it’s a fitting anthem for anyone marginalized. In the song’s final minutes, Segarra erupts and declares, “From Marble Hill to the ghost of Emmett Till, pa’lante.” —Bonnie Stiernberg

52. Savages: “Adore”


While Savages built their name on the unrelenting righteous fury of their in-studio and live performances, the most striking and intense moment of their sophomore album, Adore Life, actually occurs during a moment of silence. For the most part, the title track plays like a post-punk power ballad, with Ayse Hassan’s lumbering bass placing a firm choke on Jehnny Beth’s croons of carnal guilt. “In the distance there is truth which cuts like a knife/Maybe I will die maybe tomorrow so I need to say,” Beth manages to gasp before she and her band disappear completely. “I adore life,” she suddenly declares as the rest of Savages mount a caterwauling sonic assault to claw their way out of the ether. Even at their most life-affirming, Savages can’t help but smile with a mouth full of blood. —Reed Strength

51. Katy Perry: “Teenage Dream”


Kay Perry is capable of crafting some absolute stinkers, but every now and then, she achieves pop perfection. That was the case with 2010’s extravagantly sweet “Teenage Dream,” one of the best pop songs of the entire decade, from the excellent album of the same name. Perry projects her youthful fantasies over a synth-laden three-and-a-half minutes, vastly improving the lost-in-the-sheets high John Mayer sang about on “Your Body is a Wonderland” in 2001. Listening to this song in middle school felt decidedly naughty, but Perry, clad in her “skin-tight jeans” actually approaches the first-time butterflies with some maturity. Ten years later, the words “Don’t ever look back” still hang in the air. —Ellen Johnson

50. Soccer Mommy: “Your Dog”


Few opening lines this decade have shook and scorned like, “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog / that you drag around.” The story of being trapped in an abusive relationship is not an easy one to consume, and Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison doesn’t sweeten any of the details. “Your Dog” is honest and painful and necessary, a massive “back off” to every man who’s ever emotionally or physically abused. —Ellen Johnson

49. Leon Bridges: “River”


Leon Bridges knows how to convey a message through melody. In his song “River” he sings about finding yourself in moments of darkness and searching for the hope you need to get through it. Sure, this song is full of Christian undertones, but you don’t need to be religious to appreciate it. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, and Bridges proclaims that with the simplicity of guitar strums and a tambourine. The beauty of this song, which closes out his first record, Coming Home, is found in raw, powerful harmonies. It forces you to feel things even if you’re not spiritual, and that’s what makes it one of the best songs of the decade. —Annie Black

48. James Blake: “The Wilhelm Scream”


With a stripped-down, uncluttered sound, Blake’s creations are hauntingly beautiful. His voice echoes soulfully throughout his self-titled album, with lyrics as deliberate as the heavy beats that accentuate each track. Part of what’s so potent about his songs is that Blake tends to replicate the environments he sings about. On”The Wilhelm Scream” he sings, “I don’t know about my dreaming anymore, all that I know is I’m falling, falling, falling, falling, falling,” and the floating music drops the floor away. —China Reevers

47. Sampha: “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”


Soulful British singer Sampha made his much-anticipated full-length debut in 2017 with Process, and no song from the album represents him quite as well as “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” The song finds Sampha looking back on the death of his mother, with the family piano—the very instrument on which he wrote much of Process—symbolizing the way in which music saved the singer’s life in the face of unspeakable loss. It’s little more than Sampha, his beloved ivories and “something some people call a soul,” as he sings, a simple yet undeniably powerful ode to the saving grace of songcraft itself. —Scott Russell

46. Kendrick Lamar: “DNA”


When he’s found himself on that vaunted plateau of superstardom, Kendrick Lamar still didn’t appear ready to hit cruise control. Instead, he roped in everyone from jazz freaks Badbadnotgood and arena rockers U2 to help turn his fourth album DAMN. from great to instant classic. But it says so much about his talent that the best track on this record is nothing but rhymes over a trap beat from Mike Will Made It. The song is positively steaming as Lamar spars with the music and explodes with wit, ego and humor. —Robert Ham

45. Tyler, The Creator: “Yonkers”


Though Bastard had been winning over certain corners of the internet since its release on Christmas 2009, “Yonkers” was Tyler, The Creator’s mainstream introduction, a stunning track that showcased virtually everything that made Odd Future so special: punishing beats, bizarre lyrical references (the first verse calls out Rugrats, The Flintstones and the cinnamon challenge), an impressive flow and the group’s own new sub-genre, horrorcore. Paired with one of the best music videos of the decade—yes, the one where he eats a cockroach and then hangs himself—Tyler seemed destined for stardom all the way back in early February, 2011, a week before his and Hodgy Beats’ infamous Fallon performance, a month before their chaotic SXSW breakthrough and two months before their Pharrell-assisted Coachella coming out party. But it all seemed to start with “Yonkers,” a song written by an angry and ADHD-addled 20-year-old where every single line was quotable. Soon, Tyler and the rest of Odd Future would start a hip-hop revolution that sent shockwaves through a genre badly in need of one, giving us all one of the most fun and batshit crazy rides in recent memory. —Steven Edelstone

44. FKA twigs: “Two Weeks”


Though its followup “Pendulum” comes close, nothing on FKA twigs’ first album kicks quite like “Two Weeks,” LP1’s first single and the closest she gets to a traditionally structured pop song. Its fluttering beats clench and scatter at each hook, while FKA twigs’ voice rains down in sheets at the climax. With her gasping staccato, it’s a transparently sexual song, but the steamy details in the lyrics might not reveal themselves until the third or fourth listen. —Sasha Geffen

43. Grimes: “Oblivion”


In the opening of “Oblivion,” Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, is terrified of what could be looming in the dark. The music sets that tone, with synth sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place in an ’80s slasher flick. Grimes needs someone to accompany her through the dark, and as she becomes less afraid, she mocks the shadows with a light, little “la la la la la.” In a year where ear-shattering bass and dubstep ruled, Grimes brings humanity back to dance, ready to skip through the darkness rather than fear its looming presence. —Ross Bonaime

42. Sufjan Stevens: “Death With Dignity”


Ever unconventional, Stevens unleashes Carrie & Lowell’s emotional climax in album opener “Death with Dignity,” offering forgiveness, admitting vulnerability and embracing finality among a cascade of acoustic arpeggios. Final lines “Your apparition passes through me in the willows….You’ll never see us again” provide a bizarre and immediate catharsis for the tension and acceptance that define the following 10 tracks. Yet knowing the ending of the story doesn’t make Carrie & Lowell any less of a soul-shaking tour de force: it simply offers a bittersweet roadmap. —Sean Edgar

41. Bon Iver: “Holocene”


The mark of a good song is the memory it makes in an individual—that moment that plays and replays in your brain like a movie clip, always to the same soundtrack. For me, “Holocene” epitomizes that. When my son was born, he couldn’t sleep for anything until he heard the slow burn of this tune. At less than a year old, I took him with me to see Bon Iver live, excited to share this one song with him and leave. He squirmed on the drive. He cried when we arrived. He fed on a bottle warmed on my car engine when the set started. But as the first notes of “Holocene” rang out, he froze. He smiled. With my baby boy in my arms, I ran into the gates, standing as much at the edge of the seating bowl as on the edge of infinity.The song itself embodies that sense of looking and longing of that endless horizon. The xylophone’s an icicle melting; the acoustic guitar’s the steady, if still soft ground. Vernon whispers sweet nothings, and the sounds deliver us into the ether, maybe to sweet sleep like my little boy or into some subliminal space only God knows where. —Nick Margiasso IV

40. Janelle Monáe: “Make Me Feel”


We don’t deserve Janelle Monáe and we never have and we never will, but the Prince protégée continues to grace us with her music anyways. “Make Me Feel,” the second single off her third album Dirty Computer, is an homage to being, as Monáe describes herself, a “free-ass motherfucker.” Monáe’s voice is honey-rich, and the song doesn’t get too caught up in either its breathy, ’80s-style dance riffs or its modern electronic grind but bridges the gap between both, creating a slick-and-sexy sound only a legitimate musical genius like Monáe could master. Top it all off with a smoldering video starring Tessa Thompson, and if this song doesn’t make you tingle from head to toe, you may want to get your pleasure centers checked. —Libby Cudmore

39. The Black Keys: “Everlasting Light”


“Everlasting Light” may be the closest thing The Black Keys have to a pop song. It doesn’t bear any conventional pop tones—no cherry-kissed electronica or gushy lyrics but plenty of guitar sludge and grimy production—but the mood of the song is grandiose, loud and groovy. What better way to open Brothers, arguably the most multifaceted Black Keys album? —Ellen Johnson

38. Japanese Breakfast: “Road Head”


Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner conjures otherworldly sounds like no other, but she also captures bitter truths that are uniquely human. “Road Head” from 2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet is gritty in its depiction of a car hook-up and last-ditch effort to preserve a relationship. A funky bassline, gleaming synths and circling guitar riff meet Zauner’s haunting vocals as the song floats between lucid reality and a hazy mirage. When its hypnotic rhythms cross with distinct American realism via “turnpikes” and “big rigs,” dreamlike grandeur and sharp actuality duke it out with no clear victor. —Lizzie Manno

37. Alabama Shakes: “Hold On”


Roots-rock group Alabama Shakes originally intended to be known as The Shakes, only being forced to add the word “Alabama” to their name in order to differentiate themselves from another group with a similar title. However, one listen to Alabama Shakes’ vocalist Brittany Howard was more than enough to set their group apart from seemingly every band recording music this decade. Arriving onto the scene in early 2012 with “Hold On,” Alabama Shakes immediately turned heads with their refreshing take on the traditional music that makes up their influences, headlined by Howard’s stunning vocals. —Brian Tremml

36. Lorde: “Royals”


If we’re going to let outside factors affect discussion of this finger-snapping, simple singalong, can it be how the first woman to top the alternative chart in 17 years hadn’t even been alive that long at the point of its release, and it outlasted Alanis’ “You Oughta Know,” which okay, was funnier. But the racism charges ignore the fact that while half her targets are rap signifiers (“Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece”), the other half are not (“trashin’ the hotel room” at least dates back to Van Halen, and there’s no star of any race that owns “islands, tigers on a gold leash”). Being teenage and a woman who speaks her mind, Lorde’s will be up to her curls in sexist double standards for years to come. Let’s remember this out-of-nowhere triumph from before she had a target on her back herself, a finger-snapping, simple singalong for people who simply haven’t seen a diamond in the flesh, and plenty who have. —Dan Weiss

35. Blood Orange: “Augustine”


The past and present are not as separate as we think, instead existing symbiotically, with history influencing present events and, likewise, people continually finding ways to retell past narratives. No one knows this better than Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, who uses the ’80s-inflected “Augustine” to explore his identity through historical figures and the lives of his loved ones. Trance-like drums immediately draw you into the song, reminiscent of the intro for Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses.” Every aspect of the track adds a new layer of meaning; lyrically, Hynes references St. Augustine of Hippo, but brings a queerness to traditionally religious language—“See, Augustine / Late have I loved and chose to see / Skin on his skin / A warmth that I can feel with him.” Even the production on the chorus feels hymnal, as Hynes’ angelic vocals climb further and further into the ether. Hynes also speaks to his experience as the son of immigrants and as a black man—“Cry and burst my deafness / While Trayvon falls asleep.” In the music video, he sings in front of a Sierra Leonean flag and wears a hat adorned with the Guyanese one, representing his parents’ homelands. Hynes expertly holds up the mobius strip of past and present to the light on “Augustine,” leaving you with much to ponder and the tune inevitably stuck in your head. —Clare Martin

34. LCD Soundsystem: “Home”


As the last song on This Is Happening, “Home” beautifully wraps up the three album experience that was LCD Soundsystem (before their reunion, at least). “Home” feels like a warm hug goodbye and wraps up the entire album wonderfully, recalling the “aaahhhhhhh” verse from “Dance Yrself Clean,” but this time with the dancing coming to a close. Murphy has said that LCD felt to him like home, which he hints at in the last lines LCD would release until 2017, “look around you, you’re surrounded, it won’t get any better until the night.” —Ross Bonaime

33. Lizzo: “Good As Hell”


If I got to choose the motivational angel/devil combo on my shoulders, I’d pick rapper/singer Lizzo without a doubt. She exudes confidence in her body and her skin and suffers no fools trying to diss either. With this track off 2016’s Coconut Oil EP, Lizzo confidently walks listeners through a break-up depleted of respect. “If he don’t love you anymore / Just walk your fine ass out the door,” she commands in the melodic hook. As the beat drops, she lists off, “Head toes, check my nails / Baby how you doin’?” before the communal response fires back, “Doin’ good as hell!” It’s still the self-empowerment anthem that we need and deserve. —Hilary Saunders

32. Fleet Foxes: “Helplessness Blues”


If there was one track in 2015 that made you question your place in the world, it was probably Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues.” Frontman Robin Pecknold’s near-paranoid lyrics ask the big questions. The singer even touches on the meaning behind creating music itself in the loaded five-minute track backed by the band’s breathtaking arrangement and harmonies. —Tyler Kane

31. Taylor Swift: “Blank Space”


Taylor Swift’s early-career propensity for embittered post-breakup kiss-offs and her late-career propensity for inescapable electropop earworms joined forces to bring us “Blank Space.” Swift’s bold leap away from her country roots on 1989 was assured as long as she had this song in her back pocket: Its so infectious, its pre-chorus sounds like a chorus. “Bank Space” (and its video, which brought us the sublime image of Swift jamming a kitchen knife in a pearly-white cake) managed to play with the singer’s messy tabloid image without getting insular or exhausting about it (cough, Reputation). And it’s got the single greatest misheard lyric of the decade, as all the lonely Starbucks lovers can tell you. —Zach Schonfeld

30. Chance the Rapper feat. Vic Mensa and Twista: “Cocoa Butter Kisses”


On “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” a mama’s boy grows up. Acid Rap is Chance and his rawest, realest and scrappiest, not quite yet a Kanye prodigy with a gospel bent. There’s something so fun and innocent about “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” one of the album’s most re-listenable tracks. Right there in the first verse, after some silly “na-na-nas,” Chance lays out the dilemma of growing up for his growing audience. How can you please both your mom and your friends? “Cigarettes on cigarettes, my mama think I stank / I got burn holes in my hoodies, all my homies think it’s dank.” —Ellen Johnson

29. Father John Misty: “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”


The story of I Love You, Honeybear is well told by now: sardonic boy meets beautiful girl, falls in love, and subsequently suffers an identity crisis upon realizing his feels probably constitute a concept more commonly referred to as “love.” Josh Tillman’s second record as Father John Misty explores these themes in the most cynical and romantic ways, and “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” showcases the latter. Tillman begins by describing his then-wife by name: “Emma eats bread and butter / like a queen would have ostrich and cobra wine.” The song serves as an honest recollection of the early days of their relationship, and Tillman manages to romanticize even the most comically droll aspects of cohabitation, while also glorifying the spontaneity of the sentiment. Musically, “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” pays homage to a (supposedly) real life experience that included a mariachi band. As the trumpets mimic Tillman’s original vocal melody, the anticipation builds into a joyful premonition of their new reality, and he asks coyly, “What are you doing with your whole life? How ‘bout forever?” It’s a wealth of emotion for the enigma known as Father John Misty to convey at all, much less in less than three minutes. —Hilary Saunders

28. M83: “Midnight City”


The lead single off of M83’s monster double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming sees Anthony Gonzalez at his spacey, dramatic best. “Midnight City” paints a vivid picture of neon-lit drives through dark cityscapes, capturing both the beauty and isolation of modern urban life. —Kyle Smith

27. Kacey Musgraves: “Merry Go ‘Round”


We already know that Kacey Musgraves has a way with words, but “Merry Go ‘Round” off her first record Same Trailer, Different Park, might be her strongest lyrically. On “Merry Go ‘Round,” she sings about growing up in a small town (in a trailer, nonetheless) and regardless of whether that was your upbringing or not, the familial themes and underlying anxieties of growing up are relatable to all. It’s certainly not be her flashiest song, but it shouldn’t be. The lyrics alone are clever enough, and you’ll find yourself hanging on to every single word on the very first listen. If we didn’t see from this song in 2013 that Kacey Musgraves would explode into the magical, colorful Golden Hour that we now know and love dearly, in retrospect we should all be kicking ourselves. After all, “same checks we’re always cashin’ to buy a little more distraction.” —Annie Black

26. Frank Ocean: “Self Control”


Compared to the larger-than-life characters that populated Frank Ocean’s 2012 masterpiece channel ORANGE, the scope of his follow-up Blonde is more interior, laden and tangled with the mental back-and-forths that plague relationships: heartbreak, desire and doubt. Nowhere is this clearer—that is, clear by Blonde’s cryptic standards, an album without a singular recognized spelling for its title—than on “Self Control.” With a pitched-up intro reminiscent of Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” the track oozes lust before abruptly transitioning that longing into something more mournful, repositioning Ocean as squarely exterior to someone else’s relationship. With a nonchalant “Keep a place for me / I’ll sleep between y’all, it’s nothing,” Ocean seemingly brushes off the nostalgia for what he had, though the lush, underwater arrangement of the song that follows suggests otherwise. Despite that the title of “Self Control” is a reference to choosing composure over vulnerability, the track is fragmented and indecisive, aching most in the moments where Ocean lets his slip. —Katie Cameron

25. Frightened Rabbit: “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”


It’s tricky finding a balance between despair and wry wit, but Scott Hutchison had the knack in his music, and never more than on this song from Frightened Rabbit’s 2010 album The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The singer attributed his outlook to being Scottish, part of a people who combine misery and black humor into something like a national temperament. Here, as he contemplates wading into the North Sea with no return, he juxtaposes flashes of absurdity: if he doesn’t drown now, there’s always the possibility that he “may have died in a landslide of rocks and hopes and fears.” Later, as he goes deeper in, “She is there on the shoreline, throwing stones at my back.” Hutchison also had a way with melody, and the hook on this song elevates it beyond mere bleakness into something deeper and more powerful, with beautiful chiming guitar and a sing-along refrain that builds into rousing catharsis. Unfortunately, Hutchison’s death by suicide in 2018 has transformed “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” and much of the band’s work, into a wrenching elegy for a singer who, in the end, lost sight of shore and couldn’t make his way back. —Eric R. Danton

24. Arcade Fire: “The Suburbs”


“The Suburbs” captures so many different emotions in one five-minute track, setting the tone for an ambitious album that set out to spearhead the themes introduced in Arcade Fire’s previous records. The pain and beauty of growing up…the jadedness and suffocation that a childhood in the suburbs inspires—it’s all here, emoted by Win Butler’s croons about “moving past the feeling.” —Lori Keong

23. Childish Gambino: “This Is America”


When Childish Gambino released “This Is America” while simultaneously hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live in May 2018, the searing music video accompanying the track sparked a national conversation about the binary black Americans occupy and the complex intersection between entertainment and race in this country. Split between delicate folk melody and pulsing trap beats, the song’s symbolism-drenched video, directed by Atlanta collaborator Hiro Murai, required (or rather, demanded) rewatch. In it, Gambino performs choreography derived from viral hip-hop videos and traditional African dance with schoolchildren, all smiles even as violence permeates the fringes of the video: He manically pantomimes Jim Crow caricatures and shoots bystanders in the head; riots erupt behind him, but never quite take center stage; guns are laid down gently on red velvet, while gunned-down black bodies are hastily dragged out of sight. The music video faced its share of criticism—some felt it exploited real-life tragedies like the Charleston church shooting, others noted similarities between the track and Jase Harley’s “American Pharaoh”—but, regardless, the song’s unsettling and unshakeable coda makes it a grim success. —Katie Cameron

22. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Run Away With Me”


The girlish charm of “Call Me Maybe” did not last long for Carly Rae Jepsen, but only because the synthy new ‘80s sound she debuted on 2015’s Emotion blares with a lively conviction that silenced all her critics. A prime example of that sound is on her robust call for adventure “Run Away With Me.” Jepsen worked with a large roster of producers including Dev Hynes, Ariel Reichstag, and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam to reclaim lovelorn vintage pop for modern day radio. Over ebullient saxophones and pulsing synths, Jepsen proclaims she’s ready to leave, and we’re packing our bags as we run out the door with her. —Kurt Suchman

21. Snail Mail: “Pristine”


Indie rock wunderkind Lindsey Jordan and her band, Snail Mail, released their debut album in 2018, Lush. “Pristine” continues the personal, intimate feel of Jordan’s debut Habit, which was written in her suburban Maryland bedroom. But “Pristine” aims a bit higher, with soaring choruses and crisp guitars crafting a shimmering backdrop for Jordan’s musings on young love. “Don’t you like me for me?” she sings. “I know myself, I’ll never love anyone else.” Ah, to be young. And yet, “Pristine” was a grand step forward for a promising songwriter who—despite the continued hype—is really just getting started. —Loren DiBlasi

20. St. Vincent: “New York”


Few lyrics have resonated more this decade than “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me.” But “New York’s” strength doesn’t necessarily come from its refrain as much as its hyper-specific ode to Manhattan crossed with a breakup song. From callouts to Astor Place (she even spins in the Astor Place Cube in the music video!) to 1st and 8th Aves, Annie Clark bemoans the loss of a lover—presumably her ex, Cara Delevingne—and her friends, who like many in the arts community this decade, packed up their belongings and moved to Los Angeles. The piano ballad is easily the best song about New York released in some time, miles more emotionally affecting than the Google Maps-like, landmark-referencing “Empire State of Mind,” and it’s one that does a lot with a little, stripping away Clark’s manic guitar-playing in such a way that you almost forget she’s still the best guitarist of her generation. —Steven Edelstone

19. Jason Isbell: “Cover Me Up”


Each of the songs on Southeastern is a stunner. “Cover Me Up” is on the one hand a gentle, insistent love song, and on the other a moving testament to personal redemption that never once turns a blind eye to past indiscretions. It sets the tone for the remainder of the album, which is given equally to the promise of romance and the ever-looming possibility of suffering, both self-induced and arbitrary. —Jerrick Adams

18. Kevin Morby: “City Music”


Kevin Morby’s fourth solo album is a dusky ode to urban life, and its core is its seven-minute-long title track, which perfectly captures a carefree wander down a city street on a warm summer night. “City Music” travels at a walking pace atop a pulsing bass line, as Morby coolly sings a love song to downtown sounds. But it’s his army of guitars that make this tune truly soar. They’re squirrelly and skyscraping and seductive, like Television plucked out of a New York City punk dive and plunked down in front of some sweeping L.A. vista at sunset. That vibe? That’s the vibe that carried “City Music” to the top of our list of 2017’s best songs. —Ben Salmon

17. Car Seat Headrest: “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales”


“Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales” is six minutes of self-awareness and an examination into the unnecessary importance placed on other’s expectations. The Chris McCandles-inspired message is relatable, addressing listeners in second-person: “You build yourself up against others feelings / And it left you feeling empty as a car coasting downhill.” Songwriter Will Toledo described it as a song about “post-party melancholia. Wishing to either be a better person or care less about the whole deal.” The song compares drunk drivers to rebellious killer whales in waterparks—how they’re both pressured to perform for others but get freedom from recklessness, even if it’s temporary. Though the song’s main message is depressing, it offers a sense of hope that “It doesn’t have to be like this,” a line which repeats throughout the song. The track doesn’t match Car Seat Headrest’s past lo-fi discography, but it continues to find meaningful ways to reflect in the everyday through Toledo’s lyricism. —Lily Lou

16. Beyoncé: “Love On Top”


“Bring the beat in.” With those four little words, Beyoncé kicks off one of her grooviest hits, setting the stage for a decade defined by retro-pop sounds. The finger snaps, funky synth and triumphant horns are sure to make even the shyest dancer start tapping their toes. It’s difficult not to see “Love On Top” as a narrative precursor to the betrayal depicted in Lemonade, especially considering that the former Destiny’s Child member announced her pregnancy at the end of her 2011 Video Music Awards performance of the single. Whatever the context, though, this hyperbolic expression of love showcases an artist on the rise—and we mean that literally. The song features four damn key changes. All hail Queen Bey. —Clare Martin

15. Vampire Weekend: “Hannah Hunt”


In an ideal world, “IF I CAN’T TRUST YOU THAN DAMNIT HANNAH!” would be the defining moment of Vampire Weekend’s career. The way Ezra surprises you with the octave-raised pleading cry towards the end of “Hannah Hunt,” just after Tomson’s drums unexpectedly enter the fray is unparalleled, not only throughout the band’s back catalogue but the entire indie rock genre of the 2010s as a whole. It’s one of those moments, like when Frank Ocean hits that note at the end of “Bad Religion” or Julien Baker comes in with that first “BUT WHEN I TURN OUT THE LIGHTS.” It’s indescribable, one of those hair-raising moments in music that hits you like a ton of bricks no matter how many times you’ve heard it, knocking you on your ass the same way on your 100th listen as it did on your first. The song itself, a story about a figurative road trip from the East to West Coast named after a very real classmate of Ezra’s at Columbia, is magnificent from its seaside start to its wiry closing note. Koenig is front and center with little instrumentation behind him throughout most of the track, takes us on the trip from Providence to Phoenix by way of Waverly to Lincoln until we reach Santa Barbara, where his companion cries on the beach, an ugly end to a beautiful journey. It all leads up to the song’s final crescendo, that moment, before dropping off towards its initial tempo once again. It’s a meandering journey, but one that’s unforgettable. —Steven Edelstone

14. Kanye West: “Runaway”


Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is cloaked in life’s excesses—ego, money, sex and fame. Those excesses are often a sign of underlying insecurities, and this album wouldn’t work if West wasn’t also occasionally vulnerable. The music and lyrics of “Runaway” are indicative of both sides—the braggadocious and introspective. While the striking piano plunks represent a poignant simplicity, the bold vocoder solo and sampled shouts of “Look at you!” represent the chest-puffing that this album tries to wrestle with. “I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most,” sings West with candor as guest Pusha T reflects on flashy wealth, potentially coming to a realization of emptiness by the end of his verse: “Invisibly set, the Rolex is faceless / I’m just young, rich, and tasteless, P!” The nine-minute run-time, topped off with grand strings, reflects this LP’s indulgence, but there’s never a moment you’ll want back. —Lizzie Manno

13. Courtney Barnett: “Pedestrian At Best”


The same trobairitz who once proclaimed that she “Should’ve stayed in bed today / I much prefer the mundane” opens her sophomore album with an audacious takedown of both herself and an implied lover. “I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny,” Courtney Barnett taunts on “Pedestrian at Best,” the breakout track from Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett shifts from metaphysical folk gardener to aggressive insult comic for a joyride of merciless snares and squelching feedback, hell-bent on undefining whatever previous impressions may have been formed. As she openly admits in the lyrics, this is the mark of an ascending, experimental artist who has clearly outgrown herself. —Sean Edgar

12. Solange: “Cranes in the Sky”


2016 was one of the most incredible years for music not only this decade, but also this century as a whole. The year was defined by both unabashed, even unreasonable, hope and a deep sense of forthcoming peril. That makes for a hell-of-a landscape for artists to try and interpret, and the ones who did it best found ways to seize the moment in all its chaos while simultaneously telling their own stories. Solange, the younger Knowles sister, nailed that task better than just about anyone, most notably on “Cranes in the Sky,” the tour de force from A Seat at the Table. The song not only tracks a difficult time in Solange’s own life as she was going through a breakup, but it also describes a city under siege as she witnessed developments overtake Miami. The bass, drums and neo-soul infusions are a genius sonic palette, one Solange would paint from again on her 2019 album When I Get Home, but never to such a satisfying and successful degree. Solange comes to terms with herself on the majestic “Cranes in the Sky,” the album’s true triumph and one of this decade’s best songs. —Ellen Johnson

11. Lucy Dacus: “Night Shift”


“Night Shift,” the opening track on Paste’s best album of 2018, is Lucy Dacus’ first and only break-up song, and a modern classic of the form at that. Dacus processes her fractured romance in front of us, working through the immediate aftermath in her opening lines (“The first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit / I mistakenly called them by your name / I was let down, it wasn’t the same”) and moving from anger (“Am I a masochist, resisting urges to punch you in the teeth / call you a bitch and leave?”) and resignation (“I feel no need to forgive but I might as well”) to empowerment (“Don’t hold your breath, forget you ever saw me at my best / You don’t deserve what you don’t respect”). It’s a cathartic emotional journey that ends on a note of renewed hope: “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers / dedicated to new lovers,” Dacus sings, as if recognizing that she’s created something timeless. — Scott Russell

10. Angel Olsen: “Shut Up Kiss Me”


“Shut Up Kiss Me” is where many of Olsen’s strengths intersect—floaty vocals, heartbreaking lyrics, clamoring rock ‘n’ roll, and a fiery delivery and emotional core that couldn’t possibly be phoned-in. Olsen stomps out the complexities that turn into relationship roadblocks, which can unnecessarily lead people astray. The song is also a stomper in its own right—it’s about as good as three-minute guitar pop gets. When she sings the chorus, it’s not a polite, dainty request for someone’s companionship—it’s playfully pushy. Her defiant vocals are nurturing, alluring and angry at the same time—it’s not a matter of if you’ll get wrapped up in them, it’s when. —Lizzie Manno

9. Frank Ocean: “Thinkin Bout You”


Frank Ocean’s 2012 masterwork channel ORANGE has many moments of chill, reverb-soaked R&B, but none sound quite as moving as “Thinkin Bout You.” The album is firmly rooted in Southern California where Ocean interacts with a wide array of outcasts, of which he also considers himself, too. In beautiful falsetto, Ocean welcomes listeners into his circle and provides an intimate portrait of an artist trying to parse through his emotions. On “Thinkin Bout You,” Ocean describes the complexities of his first love against minimal beats, windy synths and occasional swells of strings, and the result is a painful, wistful tune that sounds like his whole world has come crashing down. It captures a deep anguish outside of time and space, and after Ocean posted a Tumblr post divulging that his first love was a man, it adds another layer of powerful, brave frankness. —Lizzie Manno

8. Sharon Van Etten: “Seventeen”


The intensity of “Seventeen” matches that of the two other singles from Sharon Van Etten’s daring 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow, “Comeback Kid” and “Jupiter 4.” We’ve always counted on Van Etten to bring excellent lyrics and brooding melodies to the table, but we’ve never heard her like this—emboldened and chasing a darker, more driving strand of rock ‘n’ roll. “Seventeen” is almost Springsteen-esque in its grandiosity and nostalgia, though it’s more charged. —Ellen Johnson

7. Phoebe Bridgers: “Motion Sickness”


This stunner of a song from Bridgers’s LP Stranger in the Alps is bewildered from the beginning: “I hate you for what you did,” Bridgers sings against some fuzzy pop-rock rumble, “and I miss you like a little kid.” That couplet alone crystallizes the dizzying emotional trauma that often accompanies the end of a relationship, but the fast-rising L.A. artist spends the next four minutes painting a vivid picture of heartbreak, sorrow and defiance. The hurt is real, but there is hope in the song’s elegant, loping melody, which sounds like it dropped to Earth straight from heaven. —Ben Salmon

6. Alvvays, “Archie, Marry Me”


As if this song weren’t already impossibly catchy, it’s also a marvel of structure. While singer Molly Rankin addresses her wary paramour in wistful tones, the roiling fuzzed-over guitars suggest there are more chaotic impulses lurking just below the surface of her rational, rather modest and drily hilarious requests for commitment. —Eric R. Danton

5. Kendrick Lamar: “Alright”


The standout song on Paste’s top album of the decade, “Alright” is perhaps the defining symbol of Kendrick Lamar’s power as an artist. The track captures a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was rising in response to increasing police brutality, with lines like “And we hate popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure” conveying a cold, hard truth, irking Fox News (a bit of misplaced outrage Lamar himself would later sample on DAMN.) and delivering what Rick Rubin has called “our generation’s protest song” in the process. Built around an indelible Pharrell Williams hook, and an intoxicating beat by Pharrell and Sounwave, “Alright” defies pat categorization, much like Kung Fu Kenny himself; it’s equal parts protest, prayer and party-starter, a clear-eyed acknowledgment of dark times that fiercely shields the fires of hope, inspiring others who dream of living in their light—of being alright. —Scott Russell

4. Mitski: “Your Best American Girl”


“Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me, but I do,” proclaims the primal punk poet Mitski Miyawaki, better known simply as Mitski, on “Your Best American Girl.” Throughout her album Puberty 2, Mitski reacquaints herself with the tumultuous uncertainty of adolescence, but with an unassuming wisdom attained only by time and experience. On “Your Best American Girl” in particular, Mitski ponders over unrequited love and cultural boundaries in an angst-ridden anthem about an identity crisis. Mitski finds herself, loses herself, and starts all over again as she sings, “You’re the one / you’re all I ever wanted / I think I’ll regret this.” Cutting the astute poetry is grating fuzz that runs throughout the album, juxtaposing aged intelligence with a vigorous rebellion. Puberty is never fun to go through, but Mitski boldly maneuvers through it all with unforeseen grace the second time around. —Kurt Suchman

3. Beyoncé: “Formation”


Every once in a while, you come across a work of art that makes you wish you’d grown up in the South, or that you’d spent summers there—that you could, at least, claim to have some access to certain aspects of the culture. Texas in Friday Night Lights, Atlanta in Thug Motivation 101, Florida in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Oklahoma in Paradise, Mississippi in The Sound and the Fury; a great artist knows how to convey the specificities of the world they come from, making you feel both like an outsider, and a welcome voyeur, if you’re not from that world. And if you are from that world, then you feel validated, blessed in some way by the homage paid to your hometown. With “Formation,” Beyoncé (backed by writers Khalif Brown, Jordan Frost, Asheton Hogan and Mike WiLL Made It) achieves the task of reclaiming her own Southern roots (a task she’s always down for—see “Bow Down/I Been On”), all while translating a certain aspect of that Texas Bama/New Orleans culture to the rest of us. That “Formation” does all of this, while also playing like an infectious New Orleans bounce/marching band/hip-hop/R&B track is the reason it’s the best song of 2016 and one of the best songs of the decade. In fact, there still may not be a better reflection, in music today, of the term “melting pot,”—and as white supremacists and their associates take over the highest political offices in America—we need the themes of “Formation” more than ever. —Shannon M. Houston

2. Robyn: “Dancing On My Own”


Robyn doesn’t shy away from turning sad songs into synth-pop hits. In this heartbreak anthem, Robyn takes inspiration from disco anthems to turn the sadness that comes with heartbreak into empowerment in this goosebump-inducing dance floor staple. While she’s singing about seeing her former lover with someone else, she declares that she’ll “keep dancing on my own,” proudly wearing her heart on her sleeve. —Tatiana Tenreyro

1. LCD Soundsystem: “Dance Yrself Clean”


If you were going to listen to the entire LCD Soundsystem discography back-to-back, the middle of Sound of Silver would be quite the downer, with “Someone Great,” “All My Friends” and “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Considering the leap from non-personal to incredibly personal music between their first and second album, it was hard not to wonder what LCD would do with its (assumed) final album. James Murphy knew that not only did he have to mess with the perceptions of what people wanted and were expecting, while also starting over anew. At first, “Dance Yrself Clean” is a surprise—so soft, it almost demands you to turn up the volume to even hear what Murphy is saying. Then as the great LCD songs do, it builds and builds, until it abruptly makes you turn that volume right back down, but if it does its job correctly—which it obviously does—you won’t reach for that volume dial.

After an entire second album of introspection, Murphy second-guesses himself saying “killing it with close inspecting, killing it can only make it worse.” After lamenting those who have gone with “Someone Great” and “All My Friends,” he presents the idea that maybe your friends are actually all shitty. So if thinking too much and hating the company you keep have got you down, what’s the best remedy? Why, dancing yrself clean of these worries of course! But “Dance Yrself Clean” is also the beginning of the funeral party, the beginning of the end before LCD Soundsystem is no more. Instead of mourning the loss of LCD, “Dance Yrself Clean” asks its audience to dance for the end of an era and shocking them into the final stretch. —Ross Bonaime

Listen to the Best Songs of the 2010s Spotify playlist right here.

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