music / Columns

The Top 250 Songs Of The 2010s (#150-101): Radiohead, Charli XCX, More

May 8, 2020 | Posted by David Hayter

100 down, 150 to go, before we dive in don’t forget to catch up on PART ONE and PART TWO.

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.

Vote for your Top 10 Tracks of The 2010s: Please submit an ordered list from 1-to-10 for our readers poll.

150. Migos ft. Cardi B + Nicki Minaj – “Motorsport” (2017)

The rise of Migos, the triplet flow and trap music proved meteoric in the 2010s. Considered somewhat of a joke a decade ago, Migos quickly showed a flair for effortlessly cool adlibs and surprisingly clean bars despite the gimmicky nature of their early hooks. By the 2017 Migos had not only shaped “the culture”, they had defined and copyrighted the sound of the 2010s. Despite their undeniable influence, picking a signature cut is tricky, Migos always dealt in quantity of hits rather than life changing quality. “Motorsport” stands out however for a couple of reasons: firstly it functions as a victory lap for the trio. The world had fallen at their feet and they were, tragically, about to dive into the lazy game of algorithm manipulation on the Culture II, but for this one shining moment they truly did rule the pop cultural roost. Secondly, the beat is so alien and lowkey, it evokes an era when the strangest and most subterranean of productions could conquer the clubs. Finally, “Motorsport” is a glorious posse cut, elevated by Cardi B’s show-stealing, scorched earth verse.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Slippery”, “Versace (Remix)” and “Bad and Boujee”

149. Sleigh Bells – “Infinity Guitars” (2010)

Chanting like a psychotic cheerleader bumping to a minimal beat while distorted guitars fold the universe in on itself, Sleigh Bells breakthrough sound remains one of this decade’s most daring and sneakily influential. Rock music was set to get defiantly weird in the 2010s, but it never really happened. Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller set the stage for an explosion of visceral and wilful chaotic fusion, instead the subsequent 10 years saw bands retreat into cosy niches and artfully observed nostalgia (with some notable exceptions). Perhaps the 2020s will see rock finally re-discover its sense of adventure.

148 MØ – “Pilgrims” (2012)

MØ might have blossomed from a bedroom auteur to a festival rocking guest-vocalist-to-the-stars, but her finest work remains the curiously seductive noir pop she forged in her Danish home. “Pilgrims” is a masterclass in precision. Everything is in its right place as the young Dane wrings every ounce of ghostly poignancy out of a seemingly simplistic blend of handclaps, horns and  her own eerie sterile vocal samples (“Hey yo!”). In “Pilgrims” MØ constructed a slice of intoxicatingly danceable unease.


147. Popcaan – “Ghetto (Tired Of Crying)” (2014)

Talk about match made in heaven, “Ghetto (Tired Of Crying)” brings together dancehall kingpin Popcaan and super producer Dre Skull, two men who’d cast a long shadow over western hip hop and dance culture in the 2010s. “Ghetto…”, however, isn’t concerned with cheap thrills or grinding on the dance floor. Popcaan is taking the listener on a tour of a Jamaican ghetto. We start with a breakfast of water and crackers before witnessing a blend of murderous gang culture and street violence all soundtracked by one of the decade’s most soulful and deftly judged vocal performances.

146. Crystal Castles – “Celastica” (2010)

Alice Glass and Ethan Kath started the decade on the fast track from noisy agitators to dancefloor and festival slaying sensations – ten year’s later they are not even on speaking terms. Following claims of sexual abuse Crystal Castles live on in fraudulent form while Alice Glass ploughs a solitary furrow with decidedly mixed results. It’s a shame it had to end this way, because “Celastica” shows a band with a masterful control of both aesthetics and sonics. Ghostly, groovy, skittish and driven by both a pulsating rhythm and an illusive almost immaterial hook, “Celastica” was the unexpected elevation of Crystal Castles’ sound from blunt force trauma to wounded vulnerability (“When it’s cold outside, don’t hold me”).

145. Future – “Same Damn Time” (2012)

Picking a single song to represent Future’s decade is next to impossible. The Atlanta hitmaker proved ungodly prolific and influenced almost every corner of the rap and pop world. There’s the slurred drugged out nightmare of “Mask Off”, the Pharrell assisted hard bars of “Move That Dope”, his victory lap with Drake “Diamonds Dancing” and of course the stream of consciousness insanity of “March Madness”. Despite some extremely stiff competition, “Same Damn Time” makes the cut because it represents the moment when Future announced himself on a global scale. Here was a hitmaker who couldn’t be denied. His sound might have been conventional compared to what was yet to come, but “Same Damn Time” is pistol butt to the dome: the arrival of pop superstar not content with underground or statewide notoriety.

144. Best Coast – “Goodbye” (2012)

Bethany Cosentino started the decade in a stoned stupor and, well, she’d at least make it to the beach before the decade was out. “Goodbye” is a despairing dream. Depressive and almost comatose on the couch, Beth is enlivened by her lover, but is forced to confront the empty, purposeless of her existence when left at home with only her weed, her tv and her cats that simply refuses to talk. “My highs are high, my lows are low and I don’t know which way to go” – Best Coast turned the cresting surf rock revival into the perfect medium to discuss a quarter-life crisis defined by a desperate longing and fundamental lack of purpose.

143. Pup – “Doubts” (2016)

Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you. Pup where flying high, living the life and relishing their relationship, but then it all crumbled away. Their job is lost, their spirits are crushed, they crumple to the floor and they desperately are in need of support. Suddenly, the support mechanisms that seemed so strong evaporate as friends and lovers withdraw: “Now that I’ve got nothing, you’re having your doubts”. Of course, Pup are partly to blame, they are desperate (“what am I supposed to do?”), dependent (“I’ll never get you out of mind, it keeps me awake and keeps me alive”) and they clearly are not living right (“I haven’t felt quite like myself for months on end”), but there’s a tragedy in seeing a man drive away his loved ones at the moment he needs them most. The blame flows both ways in this pitiful tragedy that plays out in the form of a bulldozing punk/barroom rock hybrid.

142. Wild Flag – “Romance” (2011)

Like 90s fan fiction come to live Wild Flag emerged from the remnants of Sleater-Kinney, The Minders and Helium and the burst onto the scene with an immaculate lead single “Romance”. The long awaited union of Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony more the lived up to the hype, as the pair merged a tubular riff with glorious new wave hand claps and an ungodly urgent chorus that saw Timony and Brownstein falling ever-so-slightly out of step as they fired off their respective syllables. “Romance” is an ode to being swept away with the moment, the sound or a lover, who proves transformative.

141. Kamaiyah ft. Hottboy Zay – “Out The Bottle” (2015)

There’s nothing big, clever, complex or subversive about “Out The Bottle”. Kamaiyah simply wanted to capture the joy of taking a shot straight out of the bottle and letting go of your woes (whether it be the working week or childhood abuse) if only for the night. Great pop music doesn’t have to be profound: escapism itself can be both worthy and necessary. “Out The Bottle” is a celebration and the epitome of self confidence.

140. White Lung – “Kiss Me When I Bleed” (2016)

“I will give birth in a trailer, huffing the gas in the air/Baby is born in molasses, like I would even care”. White Lung’s “Kiss Me When I Bleed” might seem nihilistic from the outside looking in, but it is anything but. Mish-Way Barber is instead imploring her listeners to cast off the shackles of societal expectation and shame. Live the life you want to live and for the love of God don’t apologize. Have bloody period sex, wear what you want and dance to the music you love regardless of whose watching.

139. J Hus – “Did You See” (2017)

The UK native rap scene has always like to separate itself from American Hip Hop. The artists have always stressed their connection to Caribbean culture and the legacy of reggae and dancehall MC’s on the scene’s flows. Despite this, there has always been a somewhat arbitrary separation between Grime, Dancehall and Afrobeat. Those walls melted away when J Hus became the latest breakout star in the grime scene. “Did You See” is his buttery, but chronically stoned breakthrough anthem. “Did You See’s” concept is similar, J Hus is smooth as silk, but not to be fucked with. The type of guy who rocks up to the club in one Benz and leaves in another, staying strapped all the while.

138. Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (2012)

Taylor Swift’s wholehearted embrace of pop has proved undeniably shrewd. She is now one of, if not the, biggest pop star on the planet, but the artistic consequences have been wildly hit and miss. Swift has churned out some great records and also some of the most embarrassingly misjudged singles of her career to date. “All Too Well” is an album cut from Red and is perhaps the last moment of country storytelling she afforded herself before diving headlong into the world of acerbic tabloid pop. Recalling Lisa Loeb in her absolute pomp, “All Too Well” is a glorious reflection on the art of reflection itself. Swift strolls through an old town and memories of a lost love flash vividly to the fore. The ache, intensity and the warmth of his embrace suddenly grip her, for a moment she flirts with regret, before twisting the knife: “you lost the one real thing you’d ever known”.

137. Kevin Morby – “I Have Been To The Mountain” (2016)

“I Have Been To The Mountain” is a compositional wonder that sets Kevin Morby’s voice of distant judgement against a rattle-and-hum rhythm that speaks to the grandeur of nature and a sweeping gospel choir. Against this portentous backdrop Morby shakes his head as he reflects on Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York City policeman. The chorus is chilling in the extreme, Martin Luther King’s dream is evoked, but Morby suggests that it is slowly fading from view.

136. Teyana Taylor – “A Rose In Harlem” (2018)

2018 was a surreal year for Kanye West. His hot streak of solo albums came to end with the good, but not particularly great Ye, but as a curator of the pop scene he remained astute. Over the course of two months executive producer Kanye dropped albums from Pusha-T, Nas, Kids See Ghosts and Teyana Taylor. “A Rose In Harlem” uses a Stylistic sample to devastating effect to create a chilly, minimalist banger. Teyana Taylor more than holds up her end of the bargain as she details her struggle to rise above the poverty, divergent loyalties and social complexity of her hometown.

135. Gesaffelstein – “Viol” (2011)

Time to enter the macabre and yet strangely seductive world of Techno super-producer Gesaffelstein. The Frenchman has an uncanny ability to find the brutality lurking within our urban environment. If Burial discovered the haunting tranquility of walking at alone at night inside the concrete jungle, then Gesaffelstein makes the terror of strange nocturnal noise oddly seductive – be it a motorcycle engine or a melting siren.

134. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Llif3” (2017)

Which track best captures the sound of GenZ hip hop? It’s a tricky question. Travis Scott, Brockhampton and Tyler, The Creator’s hits might be more influential in the strange bedroom built, genre hopping, xanny popping world of the 2010s, but no song captures the incoherent vibe of our pop cultural moment quite like “XO Tour Llif3”. Lil Uzi Vert’s signature hit is drowsy, depressive, danceable, full of meme-able brags and enlivened by an ultra-macabre chorus. Is the nihilism just for show? A joke fit for a Twitch stream or YouTube comment section or is actually a cry for help? Who can honestly say, but it is nonetheless fitting that one of this generation’s defining crossover hits saw kids the world over crooning: “all my friends are dead, push me to the edge”.

133. FKA Twigs – “Cellophane” (2019)

FKA Twigs flair for aesthetic clarity and fractured sonics is unquestionable, but there is a sense that the artist has yet to make start-to-finish records that prove to be as good as they are interesting. Thankfully, her singles almost always deliver. “Cellophane” is a torturous slow burn. FKA Twigs is reflecting on a relationship that shattered in the glare of the limelight, overrun by outside opinions and media scrutiny. It’s too late now, but she still wishes she could wrap herself and her lover in “Cellophane” to shelter their love from the vultures who eventually picked it apart.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Two Weeks”

132. Sky Ferreira – “Everything Is Embarrassing” (2012)

Sky Ferreira is suffering from a fundamental imbalance in her relationship. She is wholeheartedly committed, her partner is withdrawn, playing it cool, refusing to return her love – and to his credit – he may just not be that into her. “Everything Is Embarrassing” perfectly captures how a two speed romance can pull two lovers apart. By the time Sky’s lover begins to show affection, the damage has been done. Dev Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid’s production proves sublime, filtering the silky power of 90s R&B in the verse through the hazy miasma of 2000s dream pop as Sky shift through the gears on route to a slow motion break-up.

131. ILOVEMAKONNEN ft. Drake – “Tuesday” (2014)

ilovemakonnen’s premier anthem feels like it should have been with us from the beginning time and perhaps that’s exactly why its arrival felt so startling. The message is purity itself: a depressive glorification of a wild night clubbing on a Tuesday. The beat conveys blurry drunk apathy as Drake and ilovemakonnen spin a surprisingly sensitive tale of a man working all weekend long and refusing to let his inhibitions ruin this one chance to escape and lose himself to hedonism. Nothing will damper ilovemakonnen’s high, even as he recognises the inherent sorrow of the situation.

Ultimately, “Tuesday” is so fundamentally true that its heavy eyed mantra-come-hook proves impossible to resist.

130. Autre Ne Veut – “Play By Play” (2013)

Arthur Ashin, aka Autre Ne Veut, possesses an incredibly tender and tortured vocal. Famed for contorting and warping in his sweet voice into the most painful and devoted postures, he achieved aesthetic perfection on “Play By Play”. This act of extreme vulnerability sees Ashin desperate for the companionship of his lover. He wants to lie together, but he also happy just hearing their voice, because the silence and the distance is what truly tortures him. In this light, “Play By Play” is ripe for a revival in the Covid-19 era.

129. Stormzy – “Shut Up” (2015)

Stormzy was destined for superstardom, but sometimes it takes a diss to light a fire under even a prodigiously talented artist’s arse. There’s no doubt that “Shut Up” accelerated the timeline on Stormzy’s rise. What inspired this hastily assembled response, that is now a classic hit in the UK that people actually “sing” at karaoke to this very day? Well, Wiley’s brother decided to make fun of Stormzy for appearing behind Kanye West during his iconic Brit Awards performance of “All Day” (one of the greatest award show performances of all time, you can feel the tension in the room to this day). Well suffice to say Stormzy didn’t take Kindly to being labelled a “back up dancer”, so assembled the goons, took to the park, fired off some choice bars over a pied piper beat and conquered the charts.

128. Yaeji – “Raingurl” (2017)

Korean-American electronic superstar Yaeji has been liberally mixing the most effective elements of both house and trap for years now. “Raingurl” certainly isn’t the world’s most sophisticated cut, instead the track thrives on glorious posturing. Functioning as both a hedonist escapist anthem and a satire, “Raingurl” is a club banger that coyly mocks the stupidity of coolness itself. Yaeji doesn’t mind looking like a complete muppet: she’s knocking back cups of vodka, her glasses are fogging up and she’s lost to the pulsating insistence of the music. “Raingurl” message is simple, don’t think, dance – and dance fucking hard.

127. Kings Of Leon – “Pyro” (2010)

The 2010s were a curious decade for the Kings Of Leon. Cemented as arena headliners and ensured of good-to-great album sales, the band continued to plough an atomspheric furrow while folding new wave and classic rock elements into their sound. In truth, they haven’t really managed to scrabble together anything that can be described as a hit, nor have they delivered a knockout LP to rival their first three records, instead they’ve dealt in professionalism highlight by some stunning stand-alone flourishes (oh and pigeons shit in their mouths and forced them to cancel a show mid-performance).

In this strange middle ground between runaway success and gentle irrelevance came “Pyro”: the kind of arena-ready pseudo-ballad that makes time stand still. Designed to fill cavernous halls with glorious echoing sound, the track would be a touch too conventional were it not for Caleb Followhill’s exquisite vocal performance. His lyrics deftly pluck at the heartstrings (“I won’t ever be your cornerstone”, “everything I cherish is slowly dying or its gone”, “If I’m forgotten, you’ll remember me for a day” etc.) and his chorus is a soaring delight – a lryic-less howl that conveys an incredible depth heavyhearted anguish.

126. Solange – “Cranes In The Sky” (2016)

Solange has been releasing tender and thoughtful R&B for a very long time, but she finally got the opportunity to overshadow her superstar sibling when she dropped A Seat At The Table – a nuanced and incisive album built on reppression, but enlivened by angelic vocals. “Cranes In The Sky” is the icing on the cake, a sultry slow burning lament that sees Solange trying to escape and outrun the misery that’s been racking her brain for months on end. She can’t manage it of course, but she still endeavours to try by visiting new places and meeting new faces, but her psychological scars prove immovable.

125. Japanese Breakfast – “Everybody Wants To Love You” (2016)

The great thing about celebrating the songs of the decade, as opposed to the albums, is that we get to spread the love to a band like Japanese Breakfast. Michelle Zauner has been staggeringly good across two straight LPs and a host of singles without threatening to upturn the culture or break the charts. Her albums might narrowly miss the cut when it comes to epoch defining greatness, but her dreamy tale of overenthusiastic seduction, “Everybody Wants To Love You”, cannot be denied. The folk rattle of her original recording is both sped and beefed up as Zauner veers between the extremes on this delightful indie jaunt: “Will you lend me your toothbrush and make me breakfast in bed? Then ask me to marry you and make me breakfast again”.

124. A$AP ROCKY – “Peso” (2011)

Signed to a farcically large deal on aesthetic and swagger alone, the self-described “pretty motherfucker” had to come flying out of the gate to avoid ridicule and that’s exactly what Rocky did on his now legendary debut tape, Love. Live. A$AP. Truth be told, A$AP wasn’t spitting the world’s most revolutionary bars. Instead, he oozed effortless bravado and proved the perfect receptacle for Clams Casino’s sumptuous shimmering production. Clams over-delivered, creating a sonic playground that evoked both the extremes of platinum laced luxury and the blurred lines and hypnotic smears of narcotic bliss.

123. Porches – “Be Apart” (2016)

Synth-Pop is a one of those genres that may never revisit the heady heights of 1980s chart domination, but every other year a band comes along who can harnesses those stately and oddly inhumane sounds and create something transcendent. “Be Apart” is all about eerie detachment: a young man desperate to feel the unity of a scene, the dance floor and the human experience. He’s clearly nervous, he’s not party animal or socialite, but he feels the pull of human cultural connection. Porches want to “be apart of it all”, almost inspire of themselves.

122. Disclosure ft. AlunaGeorge – “White Noise” (2013)

Post-dubsteps embers were slowly fading, it was time for the next evolution in crossover dance culture and it came in the form of two unassuming lads from Surrey, Guy and Howard Lawerence. House was ripe for revival and the British music scene was littered with fantastic vocalist mining their own dancefloor adjacent niches in search of superstardom. Disclosure stood and delivered, serving up the perfect blend of stand offish hypnotically cool and wilfully cheesy chart flirtations. The playful spirit of dance’s past returned on “White Noise” and somehow sat coolly alongside the self-serious grooves of big room house. “White Noise” is one of those rare tracks that functions as a slick pop single and also as a mesmeric journey that can be stretched out over 10, 15 or 20 minutes in the club context.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Latch” ft. Sam Smith

121. Post Malone – “White Iverson” (2015)

Which song could possibly hope to represent the popstar of 2010s. Other artists may have sold more records and played bigger rooms, but Post is the rap, pop and occasional rock star who defines the blurred lines and cross-cultural swagger of GenZ. Ultimately, it was impossible to look beyond “White Iverson” – the moment when Post called his shot and half the world, myself included, misjudged him. I like many others thought – “woah, what an incredible hit, but I wonder if we’ll hear from this Post Malone guy again?” Of course, Post was certain the world would remember him when he was gone and, like Allen Iverson, he would unrepentantly shoot his shot, wear whatever the hell he wanted to wear and go on to define the aesthetic and attitude of an entire era.

120. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)” (2013)

There’s something undeniably reassuring about the fact that Tove Lo is such a giant star in the 2010s. She might project as the sex positive, give-no-fucks, “Cool Girl” of the male imagination, but her entire aura is defined by the sheer joy of being herself. She can appear helpless, fucked up and desperate as she does the brilliantly ode to escapist addiction “Habits (Stay High)”, but she is unmistakably comfortable in her own skin – a no filter, no fillers popstar. She’ll make mistakes and she’ll make an arse of herself, but there is no calculation – only a thoroughly modern woman stumbling through a 21st Century existence with plenty of hiccups and sorrow, but absolutely no shame.

119. Haim – “Falling” (2013)

Never write any sound or any era off. Every fashion can and will be revived, reinterpret and reinvigorated in the right hands. The Haim sisters took on the improbably task of reviving the smooth palette of MOR 70s rock alongside the spiky synthetic pop of the late-80s/early 90s. It might sound like a mess of bad taste on paper, especially when filtered through the defiantly D.I.Y. shabbiness of modern indie, but somehow the three siblings harmonized to create serene pop music soundtracked by the most danceable of polyrhythms. Sororal love, earth mother vibing, disco speckled guitars, stiff handle claps and an ungodly raucous rhythm section – to this day I’m not quite sure how “Falling” manages to hold itself together, let alone flourish so seductively.

118. Rustie – “After Light” (2011)

To be honest practically any cut from Rustie’s Glass Swords could fill this slot. The maximalist explosion of the early 2010s induced both crippling headaches and a decade long wave of innovation, but it started in warehouses in Glasgow with drunken, blissed out revellers having their eardrums assaulted, not just by any sound, but seemingly every sound. More is more in Rustie’s world, but that’s not say he lacks precision or taste. “After Light” is sculpted to within an inch of its life and would cast a long shadow over mainstream electronic music – informing both PC Music’s pop takeover and contemporary effervescent club music. “After Light” is on the subtler end of Rustie’s sound, but the drop still hits like a tonne of bricks flung form atop the Burj Khalifa.

117. Justin Beiber – “Sorry” (2015)

Beiber might have had to endure the indignity of begging his fans to buy his latest single (“Yummy”) to send it to the top of the charts in 2020, but back in 2015 everything the Canadian touched turned to gold. His album, Purpose, might have been underdeveloped, but Beiber’s singles were pure perfection in the summer of 2015. “Sorry” remains the pick of the bunch. The tropical house flavor and pitched vocal effects will no doubt fall out of fashion (they already have in truth), but “Sorry” is a smooth and sensual pop jam that would have been a hit in this or any generation. There is little posture and no pose, just a simple sentiment and a divinely danceable beat.

116. Radiohead – “True Love Waits” (2016)

Radiohead sat uncomfortably alongside pop culture in the 2010s. They started the decade with an embarrassingly pedestrian attempt to reconcile the skittish sounds of “Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box” with the eerie urban sonics flourishing in dubstep’s wake, but by the time A Moon Shaped Pool rolled around in 2016 the band had rediscovered their isolationist mojo. “True Love Waits” was originally written in the mid-90s and it tells in the raw immediacy of the lyric sheet and vocal performance. Thom Yorke is vulnerable in the extreme, imploring his lover to wait and to think. There is no obfuscation only desperation. Yorke is crystal clear as he cries “don’t leave, don’t leave” against an abstract arrangement of crooked piano-played teardrops.

115. Sheck Wes – “Mo Bamba” (2018)

Where on earth do you place a song like “Mo Bamba”? Sheck Wes’ self-produced incoherent ramble of a freestyle that somehow turned into the most titanic rap anthem of the entire decade. There are bigger selling tracks, there are certainly better written verses and more complex compositions – but if you stick this track in the mix it will fuck up the club five ways from Sunday. Subtlety, complexity, logic, who on earth cares – “Mo Bamba” is the anthem, this generation’s weapon of mass destruction.

114. Beach House – “Zebra” (2010)

Dream pop pioneers Beach House’s potential blossomed in the 2010s as they approached pillowy perfection on a series of stunning LPs and singles. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s gift lay in balancing a tender, almost immaterial beauty with a dense heaviness of sound. Dream pop is often considered slight, but it is anything but. Heard live Beach House are almost deafeningly heavy, but it is from that heaviness that these melodic slivers and tender sentiments emerge. The result is a sonic caress – a masterwork of the escapism, “Zebra’s” hypnotic allure is rooted in the rich sonic timbre of a gloriously stripey guitar riff (for which the track is named).

113. Bobby Shmurda – “Hot Nigga” (2014)

Bobby Shmurda might not have lasted long on the streets, but he made one hell on an entrance with “Hot Nigga”: the hardest banger to come out of New York City in god knows how long. The “schmoney dance” would turn Bobby’s debut into a meme, but that did a disservice to an aural onslaught of off-kilter, jarringly-empty, sonics and macabre, murderous lyricism. “Hot Nigga” was a visceral and brutalistic onslaught in an era of throw away, half-conscious hedonism. Bobby’s eyes were open and his gun was pointed squarely at the listener’s dome.

112. Katy B – “Katy On A Mission” (2010)

Post-Dub Step’s conquest of the mainstream culminated with Katy B’s dance floor destroying “…On A Mission”. Victory was total, the charts had surrendered, the Brixton underground had stormed the gates. Of course, “Katy On A Mission” is both Dub Step’s biggest commercial achievement and its last relevant moment. The underground would move on and the scene’s influence would be subsumed, but for one shining moment Katy B – a woman head over heels in love with dance culture – got to deliver the perfect crossover hit from an album overflowing with immaculate dance-pop smashes.

111. Fever Rey – “IDK About You” (2017)

Karin Dreijer could easy have return to her genuinely beloved solo project Fever Ray and delivered another album of distant, soulful and understated outsider folk/electronica and watched the five star reviews roll in – but standing still never suited her. Instead, Fever Ray returned to the shattered sonics and unsettling loops of The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual. “IDK About You” is a polyrhythmic club banger that no major nightclub on earth would willingly play. From it’s opening panting to its final bars, “IDK About You” aims to dislocate. Karin wants to break each and every one of your bones and then force you to dance like screaming marionette. She might not be sure of us, but we should be bloody terrified of her – especially when she coos, “you can trust me baby”.

110. Blood Orange – “Sandra’s Smile” (2015)

Dev Hynes journey from scruffy punk-turned indie outsider playing Star Wars riffs on guitar in his native UK to the most in demand alternative R&B producer in the USA is still nigh on impossible to comprehend, and yet here he stands. “Sandra’s Smile” is unquestionably the finest work of Hynes’ run as Blood Orange. Reacting to the tragic suicide of Sandra Bland in the wake of her encounter with law enforcement, Hynes’ was moved to create a dignified and solemn ode to women whose voice was taken away in a horrible moment of traumatic misunderstanding (to put it charitably, as Malcolm Galdwell did). The silencing of Sandra’s voice is hauntingly evoked, as is her strangulation, but it’s her smiling face that torments Hynes’ dreams and provides the anchor for the track’s ungodly powerful chorus.

109. Jamie xx ft. Romy – “Loud Places” (2015)

Jamie xx is a fanscinating character – a dance music obsessed young man who had no interest in dancing or clubbing in any traditional sense. He would produce The xx’s seminal For-The-Carnation-reimagining LPs and, when he branched out on his own, he chose remix Gil Scott Heron’s plainspoken poetry for the dancefloor. Everything he touched was a runaway success, but he still felt like an utter enigma. Then came “Loud Places” and In Colour – and everything suddenly made sense. Jamie xx might have no interest in getting smashed and dancing the night away, but he loved hearing electronic music in person – feeling its spiritual quality to uplift as he watched an entire room of bodies reacting in unison to a heavenly beat. “Loud Places” is his attempt to document this outsider experience of euphoria in the form of a perfect five minute pop song.

108. Pistol Annies – “Cheyenne” (2019)

Miranda Lambert never sounds better than when harmonizing with her fellow Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. The album cut “Cheyenne” remains The Annies’ finest work to date, despite sidestepping the band’s typical acerbic wit and playful boisterousness. Rather than cutting loose, the Annies sculpt a swooning ode a to woman who has survived a horrific upbringing and now has the strength to withstand both heartache and heavy drinking. Does Cheyenne actually exist or is she merely a semi-mystical spirit animal, immune to sorrow and emotional bruising? It’s hard to say, but even harder to deny a chorus dripping with such yearning and admiration: “If I could treat love like Cheyenne, I’d be just as cool as the beer in her hand”.

107. Charli XCX & Christine and The Queens – “Gone” (2019)

Narrowing Charli XCX’s decade down to single track is a fool’s errand, not only does Charli hop from sound to sound and scene to scene between records, she radically experiments within each release as she swaps one collaborator for the next. Under the stewardship of PC Music impresario AG Cook she been flung to the forefront of modern pop and it is alongside Christine and The Queens that she delivers, not her most innovative offering, but her biggest, boldest and most brazen pop moment to date. “Gone” feels like an event: the meeting of two alternative pop superstars at the absolute peak of their powers, half-battling, half-collaborating, either side of one Charli’s finest hooks to date (“lately, baby”).

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Boys”, “White Mercedes”, “Shake It”, “You (Ha Ha Ha)”, “Boom Clap”, “Track 10” and “Vroom Vroom”

106. The xx – “Angels” (2012)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Angels” is hardly a major departure from “Islands” or any of the classic cuts that shot the unassuming xx to unlikely superstardom, but that is entirely beside the point. Sonic innovation should be cherished and rewarded, but there is nothing that quite compares to writing the perfect love song. “Angels” is intimacy incarnate. The soft whispered words of lover’s subconscious as she is held in a close embrace.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Come Alive (War Of The Roses)”, “Tightrope” and “Make Me Feel”

105. Slowthai + Mura Masa – “Doorman” (2018)

“Doorman let me in the door, spent all my money, you ain’t getting no more”. Slowthai sure knows how to make an introduction. “Doorman” is an incendiary anthem that grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck, shoves a fag in your mouth, lights it and forces you to down a cocktail of Stella, painkillers and amphetamines  before proceeding to frogmarch you up and down the austerity strewn streets of Northampton.

104. Chairlift – “Ch-Ching” (2015)

“Ch-Ching” is Chairlift’s very own sexual revolution. The stately, somber and thoughtful synth-pop wizards whose music was primary private and touching, suddenly exploded into glorious technicolor. Horns honk, syncopated handclaps deliver a rump rattling rhythm and the previously reserved Caroline Polachek goes completely off her nut. Amidst a frenetic, half-gibberish, onslaught of hooks, adlibs and expertly layered crescendos, “Ch-Ching” emerged as the most unlikely of bangers.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “I Belong In Your Arms” 

103. 21 Savage + Offset + Metro Boomin – “Ric Flair Drip” (2017)

Metro Boomin deserves the MVP award for one of the decade’s coldest beats. “Ric Flair Drip” is a perfect slow, assured, strut that conveys both underlying menace and effortless cool. Thankfully, this peach of trap beat wasn’t wasted on 21 Savage and Offset, who are both experts at playing cool while throwing in a cavalcade of iconic ad libs. Lyrically and thematic on point, Savage and Offset mix luxury brand bragging with the unmistakeable promise that, should you step to them, they are packing heat and will not hesitate to shoot first.

102. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues” (2011)

Fleet Foxes anti-poetic masterpiece “Helplessness Blues” is the painful that, after years of yearning to be unique and special, it might be better to just get your head down and accept your lot in life. This is not an act of submission per se, it is in fact the opposite: “Helplessness Blues” is about finding purpose in action, in work, in living and in loving. Fleet Foxes are not looking for immortality, just the opportunity to work their orchard till they are sore and ready to come home to their waitress lover and actually live life without being suffocated by comparison or impossible dreams. “Helplessness Blues” is both enlivening and crushing at the same time, just like life itself.

101. Snail Mail – “Pristine” (2018)

Of course I bemoan guitar music’s lack of innovation and then find myself celebrating a song so sublimely judged it could have been an indie anthem in any of the last four decades. “Pristine” finds Snail Mail wallowing in denial. She has broken up with her lover, but she has no interest in moving on or letting go. Instead she’s clinging, not desperately or hopelessly, but honestly to the love she still feels. “I will never love anyone else/If it’s not supposed to be, then I’ll just let it be”.

On the surface “Pristine” seems like an immature act of denial, but it is in fact the polar opposite. Snail Mail understands that her relationship is over, but she refuses to pretend her feelings can be denied. She loved him, she still loves him and no number positive aphorisms can deny that fact. “Pristine” is both wise and foolish. She will love someone else and she will move on, but Lindsey is right: this relationship will be part of her being forever more – so why put on a brave face and live in denial, when you could be “Pristine”?

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