music / Columns

The 250 Songs Of The 2010s (#200-151): Lady Gaga, Black Keys, More

May 4, 2020 | Posted by David Hayter
Lady Gaga

The journey has begun, not with a single step, but with 50 tracks, so remember to catch up on PART ONE before continuing.

The criteria:

To keep this countdown from getting too repetitive I am introducing a ONE TRACK PER ARTIST limit.

When it comes to picking tracks we’ll have an eye on cultural impact and importance as well as strict artistic quality. So while there will be album cuts from classic albums that capture an artist’s aesthetic or core message, more often than not these songs will be evocative of the decade at large.

So expect this list to be light on insular or intentionally alienating works (sorry 2010s Metal), while including a fair share of one hit wonders that captured the moment. The goal is to tell the story of the decade in sound.

To put everything perspective I have a 400 artist shortlist! This was an incredibly difficult task, but without further ado let’s get underway.

200. Young Thug – “Danny Glover” (2014)

The 2010s have come and gone, but when it comes to Young Thug we are none the wiser. Has he lived up to his potential or has he flopped? Was he overhyped or was he unfairly maligned? Well it’s safe to say that Young Thug is more accepted in mainstream hip hop today than he and Rich Homie Quan were back in 2014, but the wildly mixed reviews of his records (from Jeffrey and Barter 6 to So Much Fun and the Slime Seasons tapes) suggests we’re no closer to arriving at a consensus. Thankfully, “Danny Glover’s” haunting, vaguely horror core arrangement combined with one of the most wildly addictive hooks of the decade (“Every time I fuck I gotta hit at least two bitches”) established the track as a party anthem, albeit a oddly terrifying one.

An impossible decision to exclude: “Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh)” by Rich Homie Quan

199. Ms Mr – “Hurricane” (2012)

“Hurricane” felt like a throwback even in 2012, the type of post-Trip Hop brooding ballad-cum-haunting-pop-song that dominated the early 2000s. In this light, Ms Mr felt out of step with a vibrant 2012 scene. It mattered little, because “Hurricane” is one of those rare perfect songs, immaculately judge, stately, sorrowful and yet strong. “Welcome to the inner workings of mind” – with such a devastating chorus, MS MR manage to paint in broad brush strokes while also inviting the listeners into a deeply private malaise.

198. Kids See Ghosts ft. Pusha-T – “Feel The Love” (2018)

Take my word for it, there is nothing more exhilarating than being in a sold out crowd who are losing their minds, throwing their drinks and shirts in the air, moshing and shouting (better make sure I get these complex lyrics right): “Brrat, Gat-Tat-Tat-Tat, Ga, Ga, Ga-Ga-Ga-Ga, Brap, Pop-Pop-Pop…”. Okay you get the point. “Feel The Love” is a masterpiece, because it lets three great artists play to their strengths: Pusha-T delivers a stone cold coke dealing verse, Kanye absolutely loses his mind over a beat that slaps while Kid Cudi supplies a soulful chorus.

197. JPEGMAFIA – “Baby I’m Bleeding” (2017)

JPEGMAFIA is on one. He is out of his mind in the best possible way. One moment he’ll be declaring himself a thot or guesting on a banger, the next moment he’ll be disrupting the system, assaulting his audience with noise and spitting psychotic bars. “Baby I’m Bleeding” somehow does all of the above at once. The beat is a never ending blitz of raw, earsplitting dancability while JPEG spits some of his hardest and most vicious bars. He works himself into such a rage that “the chorus” is basically Peggy panting desperately for breath after screaming: “Acting like a slave while I’m gunning for my master”. “Baby I’m Bleeding” is so violent, brutal and intense it stands as almost an anti-pop anthem and thus can only finish so high on a list like this one. Strap in, hold tight and try to survive the onslaught.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “I’m Awake” by Tkay Maidza and “Hacker” by Death Grips

196. Erykah Badu – “Window Seat” (2010)

Sadly, Erykah Badu’s arrest for disorderly conduct in Dealey Plaza, Dallas while shooting the music video has overshadowed “Window Seat”, the beautiful, mournful and ungodly tender single. Erykah Badu’s woes are mounting up, life is grinding her down, America is mistreating her, a relationship has come and gone and she wants nothing but space. She simply desires a window seat, so she can daydream, phase out and let her spirit escape into the rolling horizon.

195. Smerz – “Because” (2016)

Okay enough of the serious and strange stuff for a moment, it’s time for a bone fide banger. Of course Smerz are hardly normies, but by god does “Because” bang. The perfect marriage of a subversive groove with a seductive, skipping vocal ripped right from the R&B playbook, but shot through with outsider cool. Smerz would go onto to release a couple of cracking records, but there’s no topping their ice cool debut offering.

194. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” (2011)

The Black Keys were one of the artists whose exclusion from my album of the decade list raised some eyebrows, simply put I just didn’t find their retro-rock stylings particular thrilling over the longer LP format, but by god have they released some of the best songs of 2010s. “Lonely Boy” edges out some of their classic cuts because, not only does it thrive on some great rip chord riffage and addictive keys, but it is shot through with both desperation and determination. The titular lonely boy is having his heart dragged through the mud, but he perseveres and stays true. “Lonely Boy” is one of those wonderful tracks that can be read as romantic, tragic or creepy depending on your mood.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Gold On The Ceiling”

193. Tirzah – “Holding On” (2018)

Tirzah is understatement incarnate. Drowsily speak-singing, the Londoner’s vocals are drenched in despair and reluctance, as if each murmur or emotion let slip is begrudging. The vocals are the key to this ludicrously lowkey sad banger. Tirzah manages to contrast the genuine hope and optimism of her lyrics with the years of mistreatment and romantic failure inherent in her tone. “Holding On”, a tale of two lovers separated by distance, proves even more poignant in the Covid lockdown era.

192. Royal Blood – “Figure It Out” (2014)

Royal Blood caused quite the sensation when the dropped their self-titled debut album back in 2014. Who the hell were these upstarts conquering the UK Album chart with minimal industry backing and how on earth had they written so many festival slaying anthems without the mainstream gatekeepers noticing? For a brief moment the bass and drums onslaught of Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher had seemingly saved rock music – a new, utterly organic hero had emerged (much like Alt-J in indie circles). Alas, Royal Blood didn’t lead the charge for a new generation, they were instead lone warriors dominating radio airplay with one irresistible scuzzed up groove after another. None was finer than that of “Figure It Out”, a frustrated and seductive hybrid that captured the best of both Muse and Jack White’s off-kilter dynamism while telling the tale of repressed teenage lust.

191. Big Boi – “Shutterbug” (2010)

Andre 3000 might have been on his own trip in the 2010s, but Big Boi was absolutely locked in. “Shutterbug” is a bone fide banger and Sir Luscious Left Foot… remains a superb and a tragically overlooked LP. Big Boi has carved out a sonic universe that is entirely his own, sure his sound originates in Atlanta, but no one is releasing bulldozing cuts like “Shutterbug” – hybrids of rap, R&B, electronic experimentation and the long tradition of pre-trap southern hip hop. Trap should have rendered “Shutterbug” a relic, but it sounds so ungodly clean after a decade of muddied and slurred waters.

190. Bonobo – “Cirrus” (2013)

Bonobo’s delicacy is beyond compare. House is not a genre renowned for subtlety. The looped beats of club music may be hypnotic, but tend to be  large and imposing: designed to move great masses of people, even as they craftily layer groove atop groove. “Cirrus” is something else entirely, using metallic elements that should be dense and heavy almost by definition, Bonobo instead sculpts a sound that twinkles and hangs in the air with a genuine grace. “Cirrus” is beautiful to behold.

189. Koffee – “Toast” (2018)

Dancehall is probably the most influential sound of the 2010s that has little to no representation from its own organic scenes. EDM producers and rap superstars, most notably Drake, have leant on the genre to revolutionize their sound, but unlike Grime or Tropical House few of the scene’s native stars have made it global. Koffee is hardly a household name, but the 20-year-old phenomenon has such a masterful and intuitive understanding of great pop and dance music, that it’s only a matter of time before she breaks through. “Toast” is such a perfect dancehall anthem that your local DJs should be ashamed of themselves if they don’t have it in the mix.

188. Kali Uchis ft. Tyler, The Creator – “After The Storm” (2017)

Kali Uchis has an incredible knack for hiding profound sentiments in soft and sensuous surroundings. There is a depressive undercurrent to the slow walking beat of “After The Storm”, but its obscured by Kali’s deliciously sleepy vocal tone and the soft funk honk of the arrangement. “After The Storm” might feel like a vibe, but it’s actually an ode to both personal endurance and respecting that every last one of us is struggling with an internal weight and we cannot expect to be rescued by someone whose sinking just as fast as we are. Every silver lining has its cloud or as Tyler puts it: “sun is beaming on me like headlights on Bambi”.

187. JME ft. Giggs – “Man Don’t Care” (2015)

JME was never supposed to have a globe straddling smash. The university educated vegan famed for spitting deep political and philosophical bars wasn’t adverse to bangers, but “Man Don’t Care” was something else entirely. Unlike some of the other grime crossover hits, “Man Don’t Care” captures the menace and underground nature of Grime at its peak. Everything about the track is dark and unashamedly intimidating even as Giggs and JME drop some of their most quotable bars.

186. BTS – “Fake Love” (2018)

Time to enter the surreal utopian world of K-Pop where everyone looks utterly immaculate and anybody can rap (apparently). The ascent of BTS should not surprise anyone, the Internet has obliterated the artificial industry borders that kept fans at arm’s length from great foreign language pop music, but even BTS’ biggest supporter would be shocked at just how efficiently they’ve conquered the globe. “Fake Love” makes their ascent obvious, it’s the perfect blend of fuck the haters swagger, tender imploring R&B vulnerability and the uncanny valley, anything goes nature of Korean production. “Fake Love” is tender and tasteful, but also hilariously overblown and gimmick laden. BTS are having their cake and eating it too – and the world at large is eating it up.

An impossible track to exclude: “Spring Day”

185. Whitney – “No Woman” (2016)

Indie and Alternative acts in the 21st century have a nasty habit of scuzzing up or disguising the grand continental sweep of their music in a misguided attempt at cool or auteur status. Whitney seem completely unconcerned with cool. They just want to produce serene pop music that slowly soars above the rockies and swoops down into beautiful green valleys below. “No Woman” a song of uncertainty and want, but also stability and perseverance that speaks so beautifully of walking “in a haze”, but even amidst the confusion, you never question that Whitney will find the right path.

184. SZA – “Supermodel” (2017)

SZA’s took her timing moving from her early singles to guest features and eventually her 2017 debut album, but the finished product was worth the wait. What sets SZA apart is the her ability to mix the trauma and struggles of everyday “real” women (“You see it in me, I don’t see it myself/Wish I was comfortable just with myself”) with the over the top bravado of a bone fide pop superstar (“I might tell you a secret/I’ve been secretly banging your homeboy”). Better still “Supermodel’s” intriguing blend of external confidence and internal anxiety in the face of a break up is soundtracked by a broken, but nevertheless sumptuous arrangement.

183. Marie Davidson – “Work It” (2018)

Marie Davidson doesn’t lack for confidence, her music is brutally hard and almost remorselessly sardonic. She is aware of injustices and she knows how to make bodies move, but she’s more interested in torture – letting her opponents wither on the vine. Behind a relentlessly propulsive beat forged from industrial sounds and handclaps, Marie goes of on a gloriously rant, both deadly serious and deeply ironic. “You wanna know how I get anyway with everything? I work. All the fucking time. From Monday to Friday, Friday to Sunday, I love it, I work” – is it a seduction, a dressing down, a glorious satire or all three?

182. Kelela – “Rewind” (2015)

All eyes were on Kelela after the stunning Cut 4 Me mixtape thrust her to R&B’s forefront, but few expected her to be back two years later with another taster, this time in the form of an EP, led by the jawdroppingly brilliant “Rewind”. There are whispers that Kelela has underdelivered, but this is harsh assessment considering how much A-Grade material she came flying out of the gate with. “Rewind’s” seductively spectral sonics were the result of quest for perfection. Kelela started with a single sample and began reaching out to all the top producers to add their spin to this classic cut. Piece by piece, she assembled the perfect evocation of 2010s R&B and finished it off with an ice cool vocal. Sometimes, too many cooks can supply the perfect broth and patience does pay off.

181. TNGHT – “Higher Ground” (2012)

Supergroups and mega-collabs tend to have a pear shaped quality when it comes to rock and pop, but for some reason electronic pioneers tend to bounce off one another perfectly without indulging each others worst instincts. TNGHT, aka Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, two of 2012’s most in demand producers, combine for an EP that still sounds futuristic to this very day. Their every sonic and compositional innovation has been diluted into mainstream pop and EDM – and yet “Higher Ground” still slaps ungodly hard. It is the Godzilla of beats, terrorising the mundane politely proportioned denizens of music city.

An Impossible Track To Exclude: “Gooooo”

180. Friends – “Friend Crush” (2011)

Sadly Friends couldn’t quite capitalize on their incredible early singles and become an elite indie band – the Google unfriendly name certainly didn’t help, but at least we can look back on those halcyon days when “Friend Crush” surfaced on the blog-o-sphere and the hype machine went wild. Dreamy is understatement, “Friend Crush” is pure ambrosia, a love-turned-lust letter to true friendship that swirls and twirls like Samantha Urbani’s furtive feelings for her BFF.

179. Twenty One Pilots – “Stressed Out” (2015)

Over here in the UK you need only walk a mile and chances are accents will have changed beyond recognition, but when it comes to music – while there is a North/South, England/Scotland divide – generally, if you’re a hit in Birmingham you’re probably a superstar in Aberdeen. America is very different indeed. When the analytics folks did their heat maps for America’s listening habits, they revealed how often US fandom existed as a strange inverse mirror of one another. Migos and Twenty One Pilots, for example, are almost completely flipped. “Stressed Out” is the anthem for fans in Idaho, Wyoming, The Rust Belt and a host of states where contemporary hip hop’s biggest stars struggle to gain anything resembling foot hold. Curious trivia to one side, it’s worth reflecting on the brilliance of “Stressed Out” as a single. In many ways, it is the anthem the 21st Century deserves and needs. Driven by a desire to escape the insecurity of adulthood, Twenty One Pilots are drawn to memories of childhood, before anxiety, before pills, before societal pressure, before the rat race – a return to the  “good old days”. Mental health concerns may be multiplying at an alarming rate in the 2010s, but the “Stressed Out” video reminds us that dreaming of the rose tinted days of yore is the preoccupation of each and every generation.

178. Soccer Mommy – “Your Dog” (2018)

Soccer Mommy knows a thing or two about depression and anxiety, but she’s not dreaming of yesterday. It would be unfair to say that she’s wallowing, but she is teetering between dejected submission and the moment when she throws off the chains of a toxic relationship. “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog”: she has been meek, submissive and respectable for far too long. But can she actually break the ties that bind? Who can say, there’s certainly an resigned air to “Your Dog”, but she is approaching that tipping point. The metaphor is developed in all its brutality throughout and entwined with some wonderfully lyrical flourishes.

177. Brockhampton – “Gold” (2017)

No act has symbolized rap’s evolution beyond recognition better than Kevin Abstract self-described boyband Brockhampton. Genre-fluid, LGBTQ+ friendly, multi-racial, ultra-stylized, wilfully nostalgic, defiantly modernist, serious, facetious, utterly dreamy and yet still spitting hard bars – this crew deals in both wild extremes and perfect harmony. They should be an old head’s nightmare, at least aesthetically, but I suspect older fans will respect the crisp clear bars and buoyant beatwork. “Gold” is Brockhampton’s signature posse cut, a pass the mic joy that provides nonstop feel good vibes in an era when rap often had a miserabalist bent.

176. Perfume Genius – “Queen” (2014)

Stand back and prepare to be overawed by the ache, anguish and repressed anger of Perfume Genius’ soul. On the surface “Queen” feels like a tortured howl of submission from a gay man and a drag queen blighted by disease, raised in the wake of domestic violence, who is struggling with issues of identity (“cracked, peeling, riddled with disease, don’t you know me?”). Far from receding from view, Perfume Genius shoots to center stage in one glorious moment of transcendence: “No family is safe, when I sashay”. From there on there is no looking back, no matter what indignities may yet to be faced. There might be considerable pain, but there is no shame in Perfume Genius’ game.

175. Daniel Avery – “Drone Logic” (2013)

“Drone Logic” might Daniel Avery’s K.I.S.S moment (keep it simple stupid). There is no flashiness in the mix, no elaborate transformation or drum track manipulation, “Drone Logic” thrives on ultra-clean, precision engineered sound. If there’s a criticism it’s that this immaculate groove is too clean and too danceable – in other words, the kind of beat that should be playing as Villianelle runs across the dance floor knife in hand. It’s too sculpted for reality, too high end, too stately – that might be so, but sometimes there’s less artifice in minimalist perfection than in studio engineered grit. “Drone Logic” is utopian Uber-cool on loop at a party the likes of us will never be allowed into.

174. Big Thief – “Cattails” (2019)

“Cattails” is Adrianne Lenker’s eureka moment. Out in the pine forests, powered by loving energy, feeling truly in touch with her surroundings, she was suddenly swept up by inspiration and rushed to lay down one of the most pure and perfect indie-folk songs imaginable. Not only does she perfectly evoke her environment and the sudden onrush of ideas and emotion (“you don’t need to know why, when you cry”), she hints at something more: a grand thread connecting the human and mundane with nature, the universe and death itself. “Cattails” is a true holistic anthem that ties mourning to nature and sorrow to the joy of having even existed at all in such on such a gloriously beautiful planet.

173. Dave – “Psycho” (2018)

It’s always handy when an artist writes a song that perfectly encapsulates the entire breadth of his artistry – and that’s quite the statement when it comes to Streatham icon Dave. His music is ungodly deep mixing rampant bravado, political rage, sensitivity for the plight of black women, sorrow in the face of crippling poverty, a complex understanding of race and a litany of internal struggles. But why listen to me, when I could simply quote “Psycho” itself: “Brother I’m a careful, humble, reckless, arrogant, extravagant…Nigga probably battling’ with manic depression/Man, I think I’m going mad again, It’s like I’m happy for a second and then I’m sad again”. Dave’s gift isn’t his ability to detail the complexity of his psyche, but the believability with which he is swept from euphoria to despair, from righteousness to hypocrisy.

172. Juice Wrld – “Lucid Dreams” (2018)

R.I.P. Juice World. Who can say whether he would have fulfilled his potential, whether he was all hype or the next superstar hitmaker hiding in plain sight, but whatever the case, there’s no defining that “Lucid Dreams” is one of the most perfect pop songs to come from the rap’s new generation. What makes the track so satisfying is that it leans into the tenderness, bedroom vulnerability and oversharing trends of modern rap, but refuses to indulge into shticky trap gimmicks or meme culture at large. In short, this is proper old fashioned pop song written from a defiantly modern perspective. “Lucid Dreams” is littered from start-to-finish with instantly quotable lines. It’s no wonder a generation swooned and now mourns his passing.

171. King Princess – “Hit The Back” (2019)

Okay this section of the list is getting a little heavy, so let’s lighten thing up with a banger all about getting over a break up with glorious, sweat soaked sex. Oh and this is not just any old run of the mill rogering, “Hit The Back” is a flagging waving, chest thumping, disco dancing anthem for bottoms the world over. This is the rallying cry for submissives. If you love to be thrown down, tied up, whipped, paddled, teased or ploughed, stick this on, dance the night away and shout: “ain’t I the best you had?”

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “1950”

170. Torres – “Strange Hellos” (2015)

The quite-loud dynamic is one of the greatest weapons in the Rock & Roll arsenal, from The Pixies and Nirvana right the way through to “Strange Hellos” in 2015 there’s something glorious about building from a whisper to torrential onrush of guitars and guttural emotion. Overflowing with bile and hate, Torres valiantly endeavours to contain her rage as she navigates the intersection of love and hate, but suppression only adds to the ache. Sooner rather than later the dam breaks and all hell is unleashed – through gritted teeth each chorus grows steadily more frenzied until she verges on primal scream therapy at the track denouement.

169. Usher – “Climax” (2012)

Is there any artist quite like Usher? He can release absolute dross for the best part of a decade and then, out of the blue, drop one of the most truly immaculate R&B anthems. That’s perhaps a bit harsh, Usher often releases quality material, but he has this knack for elevating his game seemingly without warning just when it seems his career has peaked. “Climax” is heartfelt and lurid, with a verse and bridge that is perfunctory and only exists to fill space and build anticipation for that divine falsetto sung hook.

168. Schoolboy Q ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Collard Greens” (2014)

Black Hippy’s rise in the late 2000s and early 2010s was a genuine delight and for a while it felt like a never ending hit parade. “Collard Greens” put Schoolboy Q on the map overnight and proved that Kendrick Lamar was not only a game changing individual talent, but the rare rapper whose posse wasn’t full of scrubs. “Collard Greens” is the perfect blend of Schoolboy Q’s laid back swagger and Kendrick’s insane lyrical intensity. This is supposed to be fun club cut (and it is), but we find King Kenny stacking syllables, flipping the script, switching up the flow and rapping in Spanish, all before he delivers a brilliant bridge. Black Hippy had arrived. The hip hop gatekeepers surrendered en masse.

167. Four Tet – “Angel Echoes” (2010)

How on earth is a single track from electronic auteur Keiran Hebden, aka Four Tet, supposed to sit on a list surrounded by three minute chart hits? Well to turn the question on its head, how could we possible exclude “Angel Echoes”? Four Tet might not craft anything resembling pop music, but his endless reflective loops go beyond mere serenity and approach a state of perpetual beauty. Like the infinity room picture above, “Angel Echoes” hangs eternal between sorrow and bliss, sounding divine but haunted by some imperceptible woe.

166. SBTRKT ft. Little Dragon – Wildfire (2011)

The post-dubstep landscape was supposed to be James Blake’s for the taking and, while he is arguable the most accomplished artist to come from that scene, he struggled at the outset while SBTRKT managed to steal his mainstream thunder with a cavalcade of underground hits. “Wildfire” creeps across the dance floor while Little Dragon stalks her prey. Yukimi Nagano is not messing around. Enthralled to the music, burning like a wildfire, she smells blood and she will not be leaving alone and she certainly will not be getting any sleep.

165. Babymetal – “Gimme Chocolate!!” (2014)

Babymetal might look like a gimmick from the outside looking in, but the Japanese idol trio backed by their ferociously talented band have tapped into a strange symmetry. Metal is of course famed for its often contrived ferocity and immense technical precision and so too is J-pop. The vibe might be parma-joy, but the Japanese stars are placed in a box and ruthlessly drilled to always appear perfect in their movements. One results in sweetness, the other brutality, but an underlying intensity exists within both. As such “Gimme Chocolate!!” is both a infectious and addictive pop song and outpouring of pent up aggression and intensity. Neither the metal, nor the pop is bent to accommodate the other and they fit together so perfectly.

164. Denzel Curry – “Clout Cobain” (2018)

It took him long enough but Denzel Curry finally broke through in 2019 with the magnificent “Ricky” and ZUU, but let’s be real, as fantastic as his straight hip hop bars proved, there’s nothing like the manic depressive, genre melting, grotesques of Ta13oo. On “Clout Cobain” Curry’s psyche is overwhelmed by fame. His every action and artistic impulse is ridiculed and picked apart. His friends have become hangers on and he’s surrounded by noise that he hears as mocking laughter. Driven towards suicidal thoughts, Curry could have penned a broody lowkey tearjerker, but instead he throws his pain in the face of the baying crowd. YOU WANT A BANGER, YOU WANNA DANCE? Well you’re going to dance to my self-destruction and pay me for the privilege.

163. Laura Marling – “Nothing, Not Nearly” (2017)

Laura Marling will never be ice-cool and it’s never been hard to rattle off her biggest influences, but she is an incredible musician who has been releasing cracking albums almost uninterrupted since her debut. “Nothing, Not Nearly” however is a step beyond even her best work.  Ramshackle and humble, the single feels almost cobbled together at the outset, but the track swells from a bored and miserable malaise to become a powerful ode to the timeless beauty of true love (even if that love proves fleeting). “We’ve not got long you know, to bask in the afterglow, once it’s gone it’s gone, love waits for no one”.

162. Mosca – “Bax” (2011)

“Bax” set the tone for a decade. Dubstep was in the rearview mirror, post-dubstep was peaking, a house and tropical-house revival was five years away and grime and garage nostalgia was set to run rampant. Mosca captured this transition in one brilliant beat that simple goes ungodly hard on the dance floor. The 90s and early 00s were about to be rediscovered and given surprising critical credibility, pacey bops would soon replace the alien eerie emptiness of dubstep. “Bax” might just be this decade’s defining cut, at least from a European perspective – it’s no surprise that Katy B loved the rhythm so much that she’d immediately jumped on the remix.

161. Kitty Pryde – “Okay Cupid” (2012)

This was definitely a case of how high could I place “Okay Cupid” without inciting a lynch mob. Kitty Pryde might have been run out of the music industry (briefly) by trolls, but her cloud rap smash proved staggeringly ahead of its time. Bedroom proto-meme pop at its finest, Kitty Pryde is lying in bed, high on a cocktail of drugs, planning her wedding with a boy she’s probably never even spoken to. In many ways “Okay Cupid” is brave: a perfect ode to immature, but heartfelt, teenage obsession. There is bravado, but no pretence, this what being young and stupid in 2012 sounded like.

160. Florence + The Machine – “What Kind Of Man” (2015)

Florence Welch delivered no end of gigantic smashes in the 2010s and you’ll hear no arguments for me if you opted for “Ship To Wreck”, “Big God”, “Shake It Out” or “Spectrum” in this slot, but how could I possibly deny Florence’s wild-eyed moment of quiet-loud brilliance. “What Kind Of Man” still feels like the moment when this curious little Brit decided she wanted to write a great American rock song. Fittingly, she juxtaposes the soft delicacy of the opening bars with bulldozing stadium sized guitars before unleashing a torrential bombardment of unhinged vocal virtuosity (“don’t let me dangle at a cruel angle”). Her half in, half out lover is driving her to despair and all that pent up resentment comes howling out in one visceral moment of honesty. “What Kind Of Man” isn’t a breakup song however, she isn’t kicking her lover to curb for his flaws and unintentional cruelty – in fact she and he are devoted. Instead, Florence sings of the small tortures we inadvertently inflicted on our loved ones –  Florence just so happens to be a rock star who can scream her rage away each night on stage.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude” “Ship To Wreck” and “Spectrum”

159. Lady Gaga – “Million Reasons” (2016)

What a bizarre decade for Lady Gaga. She started the 2010s ready to ascend the pop throne, but rather than delivering the party jams many expected, she pivoted towards the quirky 80s pop of her childhood and the world of glorious camp. Born This Way was a hit with the critics, but there was a suggestion she was moving in the opposite direction to the mainstream. By the middle of the decade, she still undeniably a star, but one completely cut adrift, floating with between publicity stunts, overblown, under-realized art projects and moments of unquestioning honesty. Then at the decade’s death, she’s was back, topping the charts as bone fide movie star readying a dazzling dance-pop comeback.

Talk about a rollercoaster. There is no one song that could possibly encapsulate all that craziness, so instead it’s “Million Reasons” that sticks its head above the parapet: a beautiful, honest, but undeniably cinematic ballad – a reminder of the brilliance of her vocal and her absolute command of melody. Gaga has the talent and, as A Star Is Born should have made clear, her career choices are her own. Gaga prizes her autonomy and she’d rather alienate in the search for self-expression than release a million perfect pop songs. So in this light “A Million Reasons” is a mirage, a glimpse of the Gaga that so many long for, but that she will only occasional deliver. She can write perfect ballads in her sleep, but she longs for adventure. So leet’s hope the 2020s prove just as chaotic messy and inane as the 2010s did for Lady Gaga.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Born This Way”, “Shallow”and“Judas”

158. QT – “Hey QT” (2014)

PC Music might have had all the hallmarks of a fly by night scene, but here we stand in 2020 and the sub-genre can legitimately claim to have been one of the most influential movements in all of pop music. A.G. Cook and Sophie have changed the face of pop with their high pitched, girly, glitchy, groovy and malevolently sweet sonics. The strange sound of future past, “Hey QT” is perfection and that is the point. “Hey QT” is nightmare vision of a synthetic future run by the marketing industry, where energy drinks release top 10 singles and there are no blemishes, no anxiety, no ache and no humanity. It’s fucking terrifying, but it’s also alluring – and that’s the point. The beat bangs, the hook is irresistible and the sheer vapid gloss is “Hey QT’s” depth.

157. Tinashe ft. Schoolboy Q – “2 on” (2014)

“2 on” is one of those songs whose sensually controlled sonics offer a complete contrast to the track’s lyrics and narrative spirt. Tinashe might be pulling sophisticated postures, but that’s all they are. She’s just turned 21 and she cannot contain her excitement. She wants to grab her girls, drink way too much, talk way too loud and party too bloody hard. She isn’t ashamed, she loves it. Tinashe was left sitting on the sidelines for so long, now that she’s arrived she going to smoke trees, sip liquor, dip on the floor and fulfil her teenage fantasies.

156. Todd Terje – “Inspector Norse” (2012)

Who would have thought that this strangely subdued, slow-building, piano driven odyssey inspired by a curious Norweigan man who runs a tanning saloon would go on to become this decade’s defining dance anthem. To those left at arms length from dance culture it might seem strange. Todd Terje doesn’t produce “bangers” in the traditional sense. His rhythms are always complex and softly textured, but what Terje has mastered is a bliss like euphoria. “Inspector Norse” isn’t utopian or charged by hallucinogens, it instead taps into a more mundane oddness, it has a quirky calm and the joy of a quiet moment alone – or, perhaps, a friendly conversation with that strange old man down the road.

155. Jay Som – “Baybee” (2017)

Time to walk on a dream with the sensuous and sumptuous “Baybee”. Jay Som could have got away with vibing her way across this immaculately constructed reverie, but instead this cotton coated environment is designed to hide an acerbic lyric sheet. Jay Som is trying to get through to her lover, she’s trying to hold together a fragile romance and she’s unsure whether this dream state should persist or be brought down in the hopes of creating something more real. “You’re content with what you have”. “Sweetheart, listen, make up your mind”. Jay Som clearly isn’t happy even as she revels in the best relationship she’s ever known.

154. Joe Goddard ft. Valentina – “Gabriel” (2011)

Those Hot Chip boy sure know their way around the dance floor. When Joe Goddard decided to step out on his own, expectations where high, but few could have hope for anything resembling “Gabriel’s” perfection. Sounding like both a throwback and a look toward the future of dance, “Gabriel” is one of those songs that seems rooted in dance floor culture, as if it has existed since the beginning of time, even though it is defiantly modern.

153. Anderson .Paak – “Come Down” (2016)

In one of the most meteoric rises in recent pop history, Anderson Paak went from “hey, whose that guy singing the hooks on the new Dre record?” to the leader of a revolution in half-rap, half-sung Californian funk. He might have cribbed his flow from Kendrick, but Paak has done as much as anyone to redefine the signature West Coast sound. Warped G-funk was out, natural live instrumentation and the bravado of rocking a stage and moving a crowd was back in. “Come Down” in an organic revolution in sound.

152. Clairo – “Bags” (2019)

Decade defining tracks don’t have to be big or bolshy. Clairo thrives on tender understatement and the beauty of her seminal cut, “Bags”, relies on almost entirely on suppression. She is crushing on a girl for the first time. She has absolutely no idea how to go about courting a woman or what will happen when she does. Most of All, Clairo is she petrified of being laughed at. Uncertainty reigns, she needs advice, she’s desperate to succeed, but she wants it to be natural and real – so what’s a girl to do? She’s going to go for it (eventually), but for the moment she’s going to dream, second guess, hesitate and build up the fortitude to make the move and leave her inhibitions behind. “Can you see me? Waiting for the right time/I can’t read you, but if you want, the pleasure is all mine”.

151. Passion Pit – “I’ll Be Alright” (2012)

Passion Pit delivered two seminal tracks at the beginning of this decade. Their post-recession middle-class anthem “Take A Walk” just misses this cut, in favor of an explosion of maximalist creativity “I’ll Be Alright”. It was bold enough to introduce the OTT onslaught of maximalism (then a niche in Scottish warehouses) to the rock mainstream, but Passion Pit went a step further by penning a beautiful ode to acceptance in the face of self-made misery. Friends and lovers want to help, but you need to let them go, their support is welcome and more than appreciated, but you’ve fallen into this pit and you have to be the one to pull yourself out.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Take A Walk”