Rewind the 2010s: Best Singles of the Decade

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(Courtesy of Twitter)

Alexandra Lange, Columnist

Robyn – “Dancing On My Own” (2010)

Even though it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100, Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” shaped the future of pop music, combining genres from classic rock to disco with refreshing vulnerability and a powerful message. The electro-pop ballad’s upbeat, pulsing synths contradict the Swedish popstar’s warm, achy vocals, which tell listeners to embrace self-love and transcend society’s relationship standards, as being alone is a love story in itself.

 

Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream” (2010)

One of the five number one hits from Katy Perry’s sophomore album, “Teenage Dream,” combines Perry’s signature pop hooks with a retro, disco-rock sound and proved that the California singer was more than just a quirky, over-the-top performer. The song’s bright, romantic melody and nostalgic vibe showcased the strength of Perry’s voice, while also taking listeners on the euphoric journey of falling in love for the first time.

 

Kanye West – “Runaway” (2010)

Kanye West’s signature, blatantly honest style hallmarks his 2010 anthem “Runaway.” The Chicago rapper apologizes for his arrogance, yet implies that he cannot change. Many view the track as a response to his 2009 VMA stunt involving Taylor Swift. However, the song stands alone as a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece. The track’s soulful, eerie production and reflective lyrics combine to create one of hip-hop’s greatest moments. 

 

Drake – “Marvin’s Room” (2011)

Even though “Marvin’s Room” never reached the Billboard chart’s top 20, this minimalist, barebones song may be the boldest song Drake ever recorded. The Canadian rapper tears down his walls on this vulnerable track. Featuring snippets of a voicemail left by his ex-girlfriend and a completely honest self-examination, “Marvin’s Room” gave listeners an inside-look at the megastar’s life and a new appreciation for emotion in the rap genre.

 

Gotye ft Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know” (2011)

Covered and remixed countless times, “Somebody That I Used to Know” has become Gotye’s most successful song. Selling over 13 million copies worldwide, it is one of the best-selling digital singles of all time and has been described by Lewis Corner as “a Bon Iver-styled ballad for the music-buying masses.” Featuring pounding drums, reggae hooks, hushed vocals and a melodic rhythm, the track is one of the most iconic breakup anthems of all time.

 

Adele – “Rolling in the Deep” (2011)

As the lead single from her mega-selling breakup album “21,” “Rolling in the Deep” transformed Adele into a global star. The ballad’s unusual style showcases the British singer’s vocal confidence as she transitions between the stomping anger of the verses and the sorrowful sadness of the chorus. Adele’s vocal control and depth on “Rolling in the Deep” captured the world’s attention and the young Brit’s veteran-like poise and authority shocked listeners.

 

Rihanna ft Mikky Ekko – “Stay” (2012)

Rihanna’s early career was defined by racy lyrics and party anthems like “Pon de Replay” and “S&M.” However, the Barbados-born popstar showcased a more vulnerable side of herself on the 2012 ballad “Stay.” Featuring a simple piano and guitar instrumental, “Stay” highlights the star’s honesty and emotional connection with listeners. Rihanna’s passion seeps through and proves her tender love songs can be just as popular as her up-tempo dance hits.

 

Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt” (2013)

Although “Hannah Hunt” is not Vampire Weekend’s most well-known song, it is arguably their best. Lead singer Ezra Koening pushes his voice to its breaking point, as it transforms from croon to cry when he yells, “If I can’t trust you then damn it, Hannah!” This hair-raising moment takes listeners by surprise no matter how many times they have heard it, making it one of the decade’s most unforgettable songs.

 

Hozier – “Take Me to Church” (2013)

Released as a free download and recorded in his parent’s attic, “Take Me to Church” was Irish musician Hozier’s debut single. The song skyrocketed to worldwide popularity, topping the charts in 12 countries and tying the record for most weeks spent at number one on rock radio. Comparing a lover’s relationship to religion, the lyrics sparked controversy. Still, all listeners can appreciate the epic buildup of the chorus and Hozier’s unmatched vocals.

 

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me” (2014)

Now streamed over one billion times, “Stay With Me” served as Sam Smith’s breakthrough song and was the highlight track on his four-time Grammy winning debut album, “In the Lonely Hour.” The gospel-inspired ballad introduced listeners to the British crooner’s raw, bluntly-honest style and soulful voice. Thanks to its layered vocals and aching simplicity, “Stay With Me” is a classic that will be remembered for decades.

 

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space” (2014)

Funny, self-aware and clever, “Blank Space” demonstrated Taylor Swift’s songwriting prowess in a pop atmosphere. The country-turned-pop star takes advantage of her reputation as a romantic as she owns her failed relationships and allows the gossip to add an ironic twist to the melodic hit. On top of a simple instrumental that leaves just enough empty space for the lyrics to resound, Swift’s vocals shine and appeal to fans of all genres.

 

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk” (2014)

The soul, boogie, and disco-pop groove of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” takes listeners back to the era of ‘80s’s funk music. Filled with lyrics addressing fashion, confidence and masculinity, the Grammy-winning track takes old-school sounds and gives them a modern energy and charm. Thanks to its generation-spanning popularity, the song is bound to be played at every wedding from now until forever.

 

Tame Impala – “Let It Happen” (2015)

Released as the first single from Tame Impala’s 2015 “Currents,” “Let It Happen” introduced a new era for the Australian band. Lead singer Kevin Parker, praised by Ian Cohen as “a classic rock voice with an electronic producer’s mind,” breaks free of musical norms on the track by using elaborate filters, manipulated vocals and psychedelic ambience. The song’s disco groove, made possible by punchy drums and elaborate synths, asserted Tame Impala’s place as a psych-rock original. 

 

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright” (2015)

It’s not often that a song can serve as both festival banger and political chant. Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” preaches a powerful message of optimism in the face of hardship that no matter what, “We gon’ be alright!” The profound track was released near the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement and resonated as an anthem showcasing the resilience of black people everywhere.

 

Frank Ocean – “Nights” (2016)

“Nights” found Frank Ocean at his best. Transitioning from upbeat to dark production, Ocean draws a line between past and present, day and night and nostalgia and regret. Recounting the story of his cocaine addiction following Hurricane Katrina, the beat switch reflects the New Orleans native’s emotional journey with drugs and their impact on his relationships. By pushing the boundaries of R&B, “Nights” signaled the genre’s evolving sound and listeners’ desire to feel empathy in music.

 

Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You” (2017)

Since its release in early 2017, the dancehall-pop hit “Shape of You” has become Spotify’s most streamed song and Youtube’s second most-watched video of all time. Its tropical xylophone riff puts a new twist on the British singer’s iconic sweet-seductive vocals, ushering in a new era for Sheeran. With a catchy harmony and danceable groove, it’s no wonder why it is now the world’s most popular song.

 

Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Lif3” (2017)

Leaked to SoundCloud without his label’s knowledge, using a beat that was recorded on an old computer and a Beats Pill, “XO Tour Llif3” defied the odds and launched Lil Uzi Vert into the national spotlight. Gloomy lyrics like “Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead” and “Xanny help the pain,” paired with Uzi’s pop-punk delivery, established him as one of hip-hop’s most unique voices and biggest personalities. 

 

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber – “Despacito” (2017)

An unlikely collab between two Puerto Rican hitmakers, the Spanish dance hit had already been streamed millions of times before adding Bieber on the remix, which then topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 16 weeks and became the most watched YouTube video of all time. The popularity of this Spanish-language pop track has been credited with popularizing Latin pop music consumption in the United States, often being referred to as the “Despacito effect.”

 

Travis Scott – “SICKO MODE” (2018)

Houston rapper Travis Scott pushed his creativity to its limits on the highlight of his long-awaited project “Astroworld.” With three beat switches and a Drake feature, “SICKO MODE” takes listeners on a roller coaster with twists and turns at every corner. Becoming the Cactus Jack CEO’s first number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first hip-hop song to spend at least 30 weeks in the top ten, this banger was a cultural phenomenon.

 

Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road” (2019)

“Old Town Road” inspired thousands of memes and parodies. Overcoming controversy regarding its genre classification, the country-rap hit became the longest running Billboard number one song, spending 19 weeks on top. With multiple remixed versions featuring country legends like Billy Ray Cyrus and young Internet sensations like Mason Ramsey, “Old Town Road” took over the world and will be remembered as one of the decade’s most iconic songs.