I was chatting with a friend recently who was trying to narrow down his top ten favorite songs from the past decade. I knew I could do the same, but began to wonder if I could I make a playlist that size of songs that truly defined that era – songs that were from albums or artists or trends that influenced the music scene so much between 2010-2020 that their impact could not be ignored. I took at stab at it – and this is is what I came up with!
Now, you might skim that list and roll your eyes. Taylor Swift? John Mayer?? Twenty One Pilots??? But I chose each song for a reason, so let me explain:
- Miss Jackson by Panic! at the Disco: Because the impact of emo rock on this decade’s music cannot be ignored. This was the song that shifted the genre from angsty teenage bedrooms to top 40 radio stations.
- Drunk in Love by Beyoncé (feat. Jay-Z): This duo has built an empire like no other and defined what it means to become icons in the music industry. They hang out with the president and first lady, she drops a surprise album and still tops the charts, and she is known as Queen B for a reason. I chose this song because came out right when she was becoming a household name.
- Blank Space by Taylor Swift: Love her music or hate it, you’ve definitely heard it and that means she deserves to be on this list. This song made a splash because it embraces the hate she receives from the public.
- The Sky is a Neighborhood by Foo Fighters: Formed in 1994 (!!) these guys demonstrate what a rock band needs to do stay relevant. (Hint: being genuinely nice people who your fans can relate to plays a big part).
- Elastic Heart by Sia: I felt Sia deserved a spot in the list because she wrote many of the hits that topped the charts in the 2010’s, but this album is made up of “rejects”, songs she wrote with another artist in mind. They may have declined on these songs, but this anthem really demonstrates Sia’s resilience and incredible songwriting skills.
- Carry on by fun.: Oh what a joy it was to live in the brief period of time when this band existed. One of my biggest regrets is missing an opportunity to see them live. Nate Ruess’ vocals paired with Jack Antonoff’s production skills is truly an incredible combination, and this is one of the best examples of their unique style. (ps: this is also one of my go-to karaoke songs!)
- Born and Raised by John Mayer: He’s one of the best guitar players ever. He’s also a good example of what happens when a person comes of age while living in the spotlight. Yes, he said and did some very stupid things, but this song shows his growth both as a person and a musician, and I feel is a unique turning point in his career and musical style.
- Mind over Matter by Young the Giant: If you know me you know I love this band. I’ve seen them live three times, so some of that bias may be creeping in. However, the fact that I saw them live three times on three tours in two years is an example of what’s becoming the new normal for musicians. Putting out an album every three years is not enough. Releasing more singles, touring frequently, and pushing merch is what it takes for artists to survive, especially indie rock groups like YTG. I chose this song because it’s the one that first got played on the radio (with good reason!).
- Car Radio by Twenty One Pilots: Honestly, I can’t remember my reasoning for choosing this song, but instead of changing it I’m being honest and keeping it here. We do already have an angsty teenage anthem on this list, but this band is unique in the way they integrate jazz, Caribbean, r&b, & emo rock influences into their work – making them a very interesting group.
- Suit & Tie by Justin Timberlake (feat. Jay-Z): This is hands down one of the best albums from the decade. Yes, he was trying very hard to emulate Michael Jackson’s r&b-meets-pop style, and you know what? He nailed it.
So – what do you think? Disagree with all my choices? Love some choices but not others? Let me know!