The 10 Finest Songs of the 2010s

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The 2010s will possible be identified for a way music consumption was remodeled—bye bye, poorly tagged MP3s, good day streaming-service exclusives. However that change was accompanied by boundary-breaking pop music from big-name stars and up-from-SoundCloud hopefuls alike.

Right here, introduced chronologically, are TIME’s picks for the very best songs of the 2010s, singles that helped outline the last decade’s musical panorama. Additionally learn TIME’s listing of the very best tv shows, miniseries, movies, movie performances, nonfiction books and fiction books of the last decade.

Adele, “Rolling In the Deep” (2010)

Songs about love gone unsuitable remained a pop staple within the 2010s: All the last decade’s technological advances didn’t do a lot for love, when all was mentioned and executed. The lead single from Adele’s blockbuster second album 21 was a four-minute primal scream formed right into a rolling-thunder epic, with the British belter’s formidable alto making each cost towards her ex—abandonment, manipulation, simply being a usually dangerous man—add up till they had been as excessive as a funeral pyre. It’s an train in pop catharsis that doubles as an exorcism for the demons that lurk after an affair flames out.

Robyn, “Dancing on My Own” (2010)

Since her days as a teen pop protégé of Max Martin, Robyn has been certainly one of pop’s singular figures, veering in her personal route in ways in which the lots would finally comply with. 2010’s heartbroken “Dancing on My Own” is an element mini-movie, half energy ballad, and all feeling. Her to-the-bone descriptions of watching her love curiosity kiss one other are searing but glum, with the power they conjure channeled into punching-bag drum programming that shrouds her ache in a cleaning fireplace.

Sky Ferreira, “Everything Is Embarrassing” (2012)

A sluggish burner with the shiny synths of late-’80s sophistipop and the furtively wounded vocals of late-’90s alt-rock, Sky Ferreira’s sulky 2012 single “Everything Is Embarrassing” was a throwback that represented pop’s subsequent wave. Artists like Ferreira, Charli XCX, and Haim all operated in a method that was parallel to the charts, exploring how they may take the verse-chorus-verse ultimate to 21st-century realms. “Everything Is Embarrassing” evokes the full-body cringe that’s typically felt when taking an emotional danger, its plush association offering the consolation for any agonies which may comply with.

Luke James, “I Want You” (2012)

New Orleans-born singer-songwriter Luke James’ attraction and chops helped his appearing forays, together with his flip as Johnny Gill in BET’s The New Version Story and his comedic cameo in 2019’s Little, a reputation with audiences. His soulful, bursting-with-energy voice established him as certainly one of R&B’s main vocalists, and this 2012 mash word is a shining instance of why. A heart-eyed emoji set to music, “I Want You” takes the love tune to church—and because of James’ skyscraping falsetto and utter gusto, he makes romance appear to be probably the most holy quest.

Taylor Swift, “All Too Well” (2012)

Taylor Swift’s 2010s had been stuffed with stadium-sized spectacles that cemented her standing as one of many world’s greatest pop stars. This monitor off 2012’s Purple is proof that she grew to become certainly one of music’s grande dames due to her potential to crystallize emotional particulars. A midtempo guitar ballad with quietly devastating lyrics, “All Too Well” nods to her country-prodigy previous, however with the kind of maturity that transforms even probably the most dramatic moments of 1’s life fade into shades of grey.

Hospitality, “I Miss Your Bones” (2013)

The opening of this 2013 single by Brooklyn trio Hospitality is all about crispness. Its piston-precision guitar riffs and the clipped supply of vocalist Amber Papini flip her requests to a long-gone lover—”Take me on a aircraft tonight,” “Tell me not to leave and cry”—into determined instructions. As her sense of longing reaches a fever pitch, the band leans on an incipient groove and a full-on indie-psych coda breaks out, full with sputtering guitar solo—so when the tune lastly whirls to a halt, it evokes the tail finish of a crying jag that may solely be stopped by a sudden, deep sleep.

Paramore, “Ain’t It Fun” (2013)

Tennessee emo-pop band Paramore rebooted itself with its 2013 self-titled album, bringing programmed drums and shiny strings into its high-energy guitar-bass-drums combine. It labored like a attraction, with vocalist Hayley Williams sounding newly energized by the chances of her band’s larger sound. On “Ain’t It Fun,” she makes use of that expanded palette—and a feisty gospel choir—to whoop and holler her method by means of the gnarlier bits of rising up.

Dierks Bentley, “Drunk On a Plane” (2014)

The title of “Drunk On A Plane” hints at a cautionary story concerning the risks of open-bar flying, however nation wanderer Dierks Bentley’s songwriting talent turns this 2014 singalong into an affecting story about being caught with the fallout from a love gone unsuitable. Bentley’s narrator has nonrefundable tickets to his now-canceled Cancún honeymoon, so he decides to take the flight; alongside the best way, he displays on how he arrived in seat 7A. It’s a good-humored replace of Nashville’s drinking-song template, and Bentley’s expert songwriting makes plain the pathos behind each whiskey-and-Coke order.

Khalid, “Young Dumb & Broke” (2017)

Flipping the “millennials are killing [x]” trend-piece assemble on its head with a smirk and a few desert-heat synths, this 2017 single by Houston-based pop prodigy Khalid is an anti-anthem for “young, dumb, broke high school kids.” Its sing-song topline eases it into even probably the most overstimulated listeners’ minds, however its simmering anxiousness about life’s huge questions helps it resonate past its fade-out.

Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (2019)

2019’s greatest pop sensation didn’t get there due to TikTok, or the yeehaw motion, or controversies over chart placements. Lil Nas X’s sparse smash—based mostly off a 9 Inch Nails flip sourced from YouTube—gained momentum steadily, then unstoppably, as a result of it’s a lot enjoyable to eat, whether or not in its authentic barely-two-minutes type, as certainly one of its star-studded remixes, or merely mimicking the hook whereas round buddies. It’s a freshly minted constructing block for pop, permitting listeners to listen to the potential in nation, entice, country-trap, and some other hybrid style which may come to life within the streaming age.

Contact us at editors@time.com.



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