2010's x 100: THE BEST TRACKS OF THE DECADE
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Look what we could have won? It's hard to keep track of music in this weird and (not very wonderful) decade but here goes...
"It's the end of a decade In another ten years time Who can say what we'll find What lies waiting down the line In the end of……..TWENTY NINE!"
In compiling this list, here are the ten key things I’ve discovered:
1. If you’re French or Swedish you get extra points
2. Despite the avalanche of critical praise, I don’t really like Beyonce that much
3. But, it seems I do really like Royksopp!
4. Remixes are often way better than the originals
5. Harry Styles was easily the best member of One Direction
6. I still have a soft spot for Britpop bands on their second lap of the circuit
7. “Call Me Maybe” was the “Sound of the Underground” of this decade
8. Tegan and Sara are a better version of Haim than Haim
9. No one can sell a double chorus key-changer like Clarkson
10. Death can be a canny career move
Here's a link to the Spotify playlist if that's your bag.
So, without further "ado"...
100. Four Out Of Five/ Arctic Monkeys (2018)
Hotel California re-imagined as a sci-fi Kubrick fantasy moon vacation.
99. Basically / Tei Shi (2014)
Slightly dreamy sounding electro pop with a sinister undercurrent, an unrelenting bass line, and a brilliantly wailed chorus that sounds quite painful for all involved. Nice "Michelle from 'Allo 'Allo" beret too.
98. The Party Line / Belle and Sebastian (2015)
Fey Glaswegians locate their inner Nile Rodgers in this disco-fied stompathon.
97. Fever / Roosevelt (2018)
Euro-Germanic sun kissed yacht-music bop which has you thinking it’s Calvin Harris’s “We Found Love” (and then you realise – with relief – it’s not)
96. Life Is Golden / Suede (2018)
Luxurious and yearning late period stab at glory from one of the key bands of the 90’s, and not a mention of asbestos, concrete or gasoline in sight.
95. Dancefloor / Tracey Thorn (2018)
Squelchy Daft Punk-esque pissed-up travelogue of the best night of your life.
94. Mirrors / Justin Timberlake (2013)
His best single from a pretty patchy decade, but WHAT A SONG.
93. Present Tense / ShadowParty (2018)
The most New Oder-y type New Oder song, without being New Order.
92. Paper Romance / Groove Armada (2010)
A bouncy elastic bass line and great shouty chorus. Sometimes that's all you want in life
91. I Can Change / LCD Soundsystem (2010)
Stop/start bleeps and swooshes from James Murphy, sounding like he's just found out how to work a keyboard.
90. no tears left to cry / Ariana Grande (2018)
Ariana's post-Manchester track is a wrong-footed act of defiance, beginning like a soulful ballad but then taking no prisoners ("I'm lovin', I'm livin, I'm pickin' it up) as she dusts herself down and rounds people up in a show of strength over adversity. Classy
89. Soldi / Mahmood (2019)
The best song to ever to finish second at Eurovision? Yes...better than Sonia. Sung in a flurry of angry sounding Italian, complete with audience participation double-claps. Check out the Eurovision live performance on You Tube for iconic "fingers on temple" moment .
88. Primadonna / MARINA (2012)
An oddly under appreciated pop star, oor Marina? Don't know why as she consistently churns out chunky chorus-led bops with aplomb, this being a highlight.
87. Kill for Love / Chromatics (2012)
Deceptively laid back, sweetly sung vocal disguising some violent claims about what love can drive to you to do in the end.
86. Pray to God/ Calvin Harris feat. Haim (2014)
Having already mildly slagged off Calvin Harris and Haim, here they are teaming up to prove me wrong. Not always a fan of Mr.Harris's revolving-door policy of vocalists chirruping against an Ibizian beat-du-jour, but here it works to great effect with a speeded up 'Edge of Seventeen' style bass line providing urgency and drama.
85. I Love It / Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX (2013)
Who doesn't love a bit of dumb, shouty pop? Charmingly stupid, fantastically nonchalant, and completely meaningless. Which makes it brilliant. A "Shampoo" for the 2010's.
84. Why Don’t You / Tepr feat. JAFAAR (2018)
This music is generally all I want to listen to in 2019. Impeccably produced, French, anonymous perfect club-pop about nothing in particular.
83. Touch / Daft Punk (2013)
A completely over-the-top eight and half minutes, comprising of a murky, electro intro, a 'Windmills in My Mind' lyric, a Bugsy Malone-style interlude, a beautifully filmic bit of orchestra, and ending with a claim that "you've almost convinced me I'm real." Almost. The sound of robots wth a beating heart.
82. Sign of the Times / Harry Styles (2017)
Whilst other ex 1-D'ers went down the route of employing painfully hip producers to create some tuneless meanderings, Harry popped back to 1972, nicked that "swooshing" bit from 'Space Oddity', wore some amazing velvet suites, and became a style and rock legend. And he actually LEVITATES in the video.
81. The Morning / The Weeknd (2012)
The hazy sound of your greatest hangover, set to music. If hangovers can, indeed, be great.
80. Only God Knows / Young Fathers (2017)
Shouty, hands-in-the-air 'Beach Boys-in reverse' religious experience, with the added bonus of the Leith Congregational Choir.
79. Something to Remember Me By/ The Horrors (2017)
Is this the most horrible, nightmarish artwork ever? Never mind, because the song itself it a great wistful big shrug of the shoulders type thing, so all is forgiven.
78. Step / Vampire Weekend (2013)
Graduating from the university of East Coast preppy stylings and summers in Cape Cod, Vampire Weekend relocate to NYC and what should sound like a smug stream of clever clever name checking consciousness, manages to sound sweet, lovely, and like no one else.
77. Something Good Can Work (RAC Remix)/ Two Door Cinema Club (2011)
The remix is better than the original.
76. Love It If We Made It / The 1975 (2018)
Not so much a state of the nation address, more a full on rant about the state of the world as we know it. All summed up in the desolate admission that "modernity has failed us". Modern life really is rubbish.
75. Boys / Charli XCX (2017)
Making the simple sound slyly profound, but reminding us who's in charge at every stage in proceedings .
74. King / Years & Years (2015)
Years & Years seemed to arrive fully formed at the start of 2015 with a complete classic that everyone just 'got'. But beneath the soaring, day-glo chorus, there's a creeping tension in the depiction of a push-pull relationship and all the doubts and compromises that come with it.
73. Body Talk / Foxes (2017)
2019 really was the fuck you/dance through the pain" decade set to song, wasn't it? This being the case in point (see also: Robyn, Adele, Clarkson, Jepsen, Swift).
72. Hot Mess / Chromeo (2010)
A (sort of) funny tale of a broken relationship featuring a messed-up confessional - full of contradictions - from the guy, and a haughty, irritated palm-off from the girl. Best bit: The bored, pissed off "I don't know what you want from me? I mean, I'm not a bloody social worker." Brilliant.
71. My Number / Foals (2013)
Foals get a groove on, and then some.
70. Style / Taylor Swift (2014)
Insidious 80's road-tripping perfection, acknowledging "relationship as favourite jumper that you want to discard but keep on coming back to". Not exactly #metoo in some of it's lyrics ("I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt"), but still her finest moment.
69. Redemption / Frank Turner (2011)
A lovely, lonely, Springsteen-referencing confession to bad choices, mistakes and yearning regret.
68. Green Light / Lorde (2017)
Proof that Lorde was actually great and that 'Royals' wasn't a fluke.
67. On Hold / The xx (2017)
A bittersweet tale of two on/off lovers who always make the assumption they can fall back into previous ways. Until one of them doesn't. A warming against mis-communication and hiding true feelings below the surface.
66. I Had This Thing / Royksopp (2014)
Three quarters of bubbling-under remorse, one quarter full throated cry of "I never meant to let you go!!!"
65. Flesh Without Blood / Grimes (2015)
I take it back, this is worst artwork I've ever seen. Great song though
64. I’m Not Your Hero / Tegan & Sara (2012)
They know how to write a chorus , these two.
63. Marz / John Grant (2010)
Dream-like folky stream of consciousness, sounding like broken Americana - forlorn and creepingly sinister at the same time.
62. Call Your Girlfriend / Robyn (2010)
I'm not sure about the true meaning of this song. Most see it is a a bit of harsh but necessary sisterly advice from new lover to soon-to-be ex girlfriend via the total cad in the middle having his cake and eating it. But I don't think the guy is actually going to "call his girlfriend" at all, and poor Robyn is going to be left dancing on her ...(oh, stop it). Great bit of mental vocal/ keyboard transcendence at 2:29
61. Cut To The Feeling / Carly Rae Jepson (2017)
Jepsen turned into a surprisingly great pop star and Cut To The Feeling has the brilliant but casual nochalance of "oh this? Yeah, plenty more of where that came from. Whatevs."
60. Sorry / Justin Bieber (2015)
Bieber in great track shock. Sparse production intercut with clattering African- style drums, a snake-charmer synth and over treated vocal samples, it also displays a sly, cheeky humour ("I know you know that I made those mistakes maybe once or twice By once or twice I mean maybe a couple a hundred times"). The wee tyke.
59.. Spectrum (Say My Name) Calvin Harris Remix / Florence + The Machine (2012)
Calvin Harris popping up again. Ok, he has his moments. But this is really about Florence's full throated lungful of a chorus contrasted with muted but urgent verses. HANDS. IN. THE. AIR
58.. Wasn’t My Fault / Christie and the Dreambeats (2016)
Knocked up in a Swedish pop laboratory., why this wasn't given to a Perry/Jepsen/Swift/Clarkson to become a monster world wide hit remains one of life's mysteries. A true, lost pop classic featuring the lesser spotted double chorus.
57. Where Are We Now? / David Bowie (2013)
Although released three years before his death, this feels like he was already speaking to us from beyond the grave. “Where Are We Now” sounds like an immaculate time capsule sent from the future, to explain the past, self referencing a Berlin that - like the man himself - constantly changes.
56. Can’t Do Without You / Caribou (2014)
The joy of repetition. Repetition. Repe...
55. Solo Dancing / Indiana (2014)
A sinister sounding flip side to Dancing on My Own. This is a woman not only finding solace in the dancefloor, but absolutely living for it, no questions asked. "No point in asking/'Cause I always dance alone."
54. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) / Jamie xx (2015)
A laid back, tripping, sun kissed track for sundowners and woozy summer days well lived
53. Oblivion / Grimes (2012)
Grimes's dedication to cover art deserves an award in itself. Half light-and -boppy, half indecipherably strange, the whole is an off kilter, seasick ball of wonder.
52. Fast Slow Disco / St.Vincent (2018)
St.Vincent hits the dancefloor with a rousing, communal call to arms. And her thoughts on her night out (I'm so glad I came, but I can't wait to leave?) perfectly mirrors my feelings exactly.
51. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) / Arcade Fire (2010)
The fear of encroaching urban sprawl, anonymous towns and the mundanity of a life spent clocking on is given a jolting spin by a joyously devil may care vocal. Uplifting.
50. Disparate Youth / Santigold (2012)
Clipped keyboards, short sharp bursts of guitars and a world weary, dispassionate vocal combine to create four and half minutes of greatness
49. iLL Manors / Plan B (2012)
A fizzing, spitting riposte to early coalition-era government (remember that?), taking in austerity, London riots, knife crime, immigration, congestion charges and 2012 Olympic-style social cleansing. The protest song is alive and well.
48. Late Night Feelings (Krystal Klear Remix)/ Mark Ronson feat. Lykke Li (2019)
Take a sad song...and make it better. The original is great - all woozy late night breathiness and boudoir longing. This remix adds a booty call ring tone and an 80's disco shuffle to explicitly turn it into the predatory sexual beast it really is.
47. Under The Westway / Blur (2012)
Referencing their past, a reformed Blur released this understated update to "For Tomorrow", taking a sad sideways look at what London has become. Beautiful.
46. The Giver / Duke Dumont (2012)
All my favourite songs are repetitious in some ways. Add in an 80's sounding, bouncing bassline and you've got me.
45. Tilted / Christine & The Queens (2016)
Understated anthem to the weirdness in all of us.
44. Shake It Out / Florence + The Machine (2011)
Exorcising your demons never sounded so....big.
43. Tough Love / Jesse Ware (2014)
Treading a line between heartbreak and tauntingly unsympathetic to a lost love, Tough Love doesn't really square the circle of whether it's worth it in the end. But it does it very beautifully.
42. Seasons (Waiting On You) / Future Islands (2014)
Chiming in with one great track in a career of vaguely Dad-rock indieness, this surges and soars with "life depended on it" urgency. If you're going to do it once, make it count.
41. Everything Now / Arcade Fire (2017)
Fusing Dancing Queen piano fills and pan pipes shouldn't work, but this is a casually brilliant song that mines familiar Arcade Fire themes, but with a laissez-faire 70's panache leading you out onto the dancefloor.
40. Pyramids / Frank Ocean (2012)
Nearly 10 minutes of a tempo shifting dream scape, swapping chunky bass lines with swirling key boards runs that wrong foots at every turn. A track to switch off your mind to and experience.
39. Holding On / The War On Drugs (2017)
Springsteen on steroids version .1
38. Rolling In The Deep / Adele (2011)
Sometimes I think Adele's talent overtakes the songwriting. But not with this. The 'call and response' backing is great, the off-beat hand claps are brilliant, and the vindictiveness of "don't underestimate the things that I will do" gives it a sinister danger that she sometimes lacks. Do not mess.
37. Delorean Dynamite / Todd Terje (2014)
Who doesn't like a bit of 80's inspired Italo-disco, fused with 90's Balearic keyboards? In 2014.
36. My Silver Lining / First Aid Kit (2014)
The gently nagging sound of a solitary road trip of defiance, somewhere in Texas via the Swedish hinterlands. Sweeping.
35. Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) / Kelly Clarkson (2011)
A Neitzsche inspired glorious fuck-you to an ex, proving that Clarko really is the Queen of "give a shit`?" chorus belters
34. Somebody Else / The 1975 (2016)
There's a theme to some of these records. The acceptance of knowing something's over, whilst not wanting to pass into the next emotional state of something being finally - completely - finished. This, introspectively, captures that feeling perfectly.
33. I Was A Fool / Tegan & Sara (2013)
There's a great 80's sheen to this track, and the way it swoops up in a killer chorus makes me think it should have been massive in 1985. An out of time classic.
32. Do It Again / Royksopp feat Robyn (2014)
Brilliant stop/start of a song which Robyn conducts like a particularly strict personal trainer, all ending in a crescendo of keyboard runs and shimmering electronic noises, like splintering shards of ice. Amazing.
31. Losing You / Solange (2012)
Solange wins the sibling rivalry with this. It's always better to be Princess Margaret after all...
30. Can’t Feel My Face / The Weeknd (2015)
The genius of Max Martin channeled into a Michael Jackson-like funk workout. Effortless, hook-filled pop, sounding like "Uptown Funk's cooler, chain-smoking older brother.
29. Everything is Embarrassing / Sky Ferreria (2013)
There's a lovelorn rawness somewhere in here, but it's disguised as "whatever" nonchalance in the line "but I wouldn't bother" delivered with deadpan boredom. Self deception as self protection, but heartbreak nevertheless.
28. Crying For No Reason / Katy B (2014)
Whatever happened to Katy B? She was great. 'Song as therapy' is - of course - not a new concept - but no one does 'unravelling' with quite as much urgency as this.
27. Round and Round / Ariel Pink (2010)
There's another great mid-80's chorus in here somewhere, but the verses take a elegantly languid path to get there that makes it all the more satisfying when we finally arrive.
26. Black Skinhead / Kanye West (2013)
Occasionally, the emperor does wear clothes.
25. Never Ever / Royksopp feat Susan Sundfor (2017)
In case anyone’s asking (probably no one), “Never Ever” encapsulates pretty much 90% of what I like in pop music. It’s got a great chorus, the production is pristinely sharp, it keeps building to a series of “moments”, and it sounds like unthreatening club music a 41 year old me would like to hear at an Ibizian afternoon pool party before it all gets too much. On this track, Royksopp outdo “Do It Again", with bells on.
24. We Used To Wait / Arcade Fire (2010)
Set against a minor chord piano motif, this track feels like watching sand pour through an hourglass, as a past era era slips away, and you realise that progress - in whatever form that takes - isn't always a good thing.
23. The Mother We Share / CHVRCHES (2013)
Electroclash never quite sounded so crystal clear and deliberate, from the iconic "uh-oh" intro onwards. Everything about this track is on point and meticulous. But there's enough sadness behind the coquettish vocals to suggest that there's melancholia behind the electronica.
22. Laura / Bat For Lashes (2012)
A sparse, tender but poignant sisterly pep talk from one friend to another.
21. Call Me Maybe / Carly Rae Jepson (2012)
Born out of 'Canadian Idol', Call Me Maybe had everyone from cheerleaders, frat boy jocks and even the US Army filming parody tributes to it. Sometimes total ubiquity can kill a song's greatness, but from the pin point string flourishes and perfect chorus, it still feels like a sugar rush you want again and again.
20. No Rest For The Wicked / Lykke Li (2014)
Amongst the almost funeral-like stately darkness of this track, there's a euphoric comfort in wallowing alongside Lykke Li's pain. Wouldn't want to stay there too long, mind
19. Royals / Lorde (2013)
Musically, it mines the sparse, less-is-more approach that hit a mid decade peak, but it's the lyrical details that make this an absolute classic. Recounting the pointless excesses of an R'n'B generation (and trashing them dismissively), she states simply that "that kind of lux ain't for us", and in a quiet way, paves the way for a very millennial brand of anti consumerism.
18. iT / Christine and the Queens (2016)
Probably no one in recent times has been quite as Zeitgeist-y as Christine, and with iT, she summed up one of the decade's central questions (and one of it'scentral problems) in one single line...." 'Casue I won/ I'm a man now."
17. Lazarus / David Bowie (2016)
The peerless master of disguise, David Bowie makes one final perfectly timed disappearing act.
16. Loud Places / Jamie xx (2015)
"I go to loud places to search for someone/ To be quiet with who will take me home."
The perfect definition of quiet euphoria.
15. Burn The Witch / Radiohead (2016)
A terrifying panic attack set to music, with violently screeching violins and a sinister wail of "we know where you live." All the more disquieting with the "Crucible meets Wicker Man via Trumpton "video. A song for our times (unfortunately).
14. Melody of Love / Hot Chip (2019)
A sweetly affecting and heartfelt series of questions to which there only seems to be a set of vague and diffident answers. “Have you left space for me in this life?” Alexis Taylor questions, before continuing in a sweetly faltering, hesitant vocal, to ask “Do you have faith?" But there’s hope too in the assertion that “all you need is here/ it’s moving in the air.” The overall effect is impossibly lovely.
13. Hold On (We’re Going Home) / Drake (2013)
3 and half minutes of one big laid-back, luxurious come on. A "Let's Get It On" for the Cristal generation. "It's hard to do these things alone...." It certainly is.
12. Not in Love / Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith (2011)
A great big echoey, churchy record, enhanced by that very specific yearning that Robert Smith injects into pretty much anything.
11. Get Lucky / Daft Punk (2013)
Not so much a song as a never resolved circle of perpetual motion, lodging itself in your head and never letting go. Apparently they poured over the track for 18 months, but rather than sounding like it's had the joy sucked out of it, it achieves that rare thing of sounding - from the first listen onwards - like it always existed.
10. Thinkin Bout You / Frank Ocean (2012)
Underneath the lyrical deflections ("Got a beach house I could sell you in Idaho") and cool bravado ("I don't love you, I just thought you were cute,") there's an uncontrollable nervousness of someone venturing into new emotional territory ("do you think about me still'), that - regardless of the single sex story line - makes it completely universal for everyone. And the intimacy of the introverted sounds makes it quite blindsiding if you're in the right mood.
9. Let It Happen / Tame Impala (2015)
I couldn't even begin to dissect what this song is about, other than it's brilliant and it reminds me of Space Oddity in the line "if I never come back, tell my mother I'm sorry." Space, time, the universe. Everything. Let's just leave it at that.
8. Wildest Moments / Jesse Ware (2013)
Wildest moments, big statements. Portentous drumming drives the track forward, and as she asks the question "Everyone must be wondering why we try," she knows (as we all do) that if you don't try, you never know.
7. Conversation 16 / The National (2010)
Pondering the mundanity of life, conversations merging into one, not knowing if you've said something or only thought it, and wondering what it would be like to become a zombie. And even questioning the payback if you try and fight it. A cheery (although excellent) commentary on modern life
6. Nothing Breaks Like A Heart / Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus (2018)
Starting like it’s being transmitted through a wobbly transistor radio, it’s all Jolene-like plucked country guitars and bruised vocals, sounding like it’s being sung through the bottom of an empty shot class. The brief swoop up the chorus sounds like a chink of light through dark clouds, before she flippantly admits that “things fall apart”……but – devastatingly for all involved- “nothing breaks like a heart.” The Dimitri from Paris Remix gives it a European orchestral flourish if you're into that sort of thing (Yes. Me!)
5. I Follow Rivers – The Magician Remix / Lykke Li (2011)
The remix is better than the original Exhibit B. Housey hands-in-the-air euphoria all round that I've played to death since time began (well, 2011)
4. Video Games / Lana Del Rey (2012)
This takes seen-it-all world weary, into "I'm fucking exhausted with the world" territory. Quietly grandiose, subtly epic, authentically contrived, unarguably amazing.
3. Red Eyes / The War On Drugs (2014)
Springsteen on steroids number 2
2. Dancing On My Own / Robyn (2010)
Imperious 'pleasure-through pain' sad banger in excelsis. Treading the fine line between brutal defiance and crushing self doubt and inevitable heartbreak, Robyn takes matters into her own hands by brutally machine-gunning down the dance floor at 2:42. Age (nor any amount of drippy, vowel mangling cover versions) can diminish her. A classic.
1. Midnight City / M83 (2011)
The city is my church. A hymn to the LA cityscape, this song feels like a communion-like religious experience, perfecting the strange but hard to define alchemy of dizzying ecstasy and impossible sadness in four minutes. It also defines French pop music so succinctly in hurts - aloof, distant, enigmatic, amazing.