music / Columns

The Top 250 Songs Of The 2010s (#250-201): Nicki Minaj, Halsey, More

May 1, 2020 | Posted by David Hayter
Nicki Minaj Night is Still Young 1

Back in December we unveiled The Top 200 Albums of Decade and I’d like to thank you for all the feedback, comments and suggestions, it was a really enjoyable enterprise. Sadly, despite the requests, there was no time to organise a best songs list.

When the albums’ list was published I was on holiday in the Tennessee (I’m from London, UK) enjoying some great country, folk, blues and gospel music and by the time I returned it was Christmas.

Well it will not shock you to learn that I suddenly have plenty of time on my hands thanks to Covid-19, so why not revisit the defining tracks of the 2010s?

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.

250. Giggs – “Look What The Cat Dragged In” (2010)

Within the course of a decade Grime went from a dead and buried DIY scene to the one UK sound capable of conquering the world, setting trends and influencing Drake. Few would have predicted the UK’s resurgence back in 2010, but something was most definitely in the water. Giggs led the charge with his biggest, most club ready crossover single to date, “Look What The Cat Dragged In”. The foundation was laid; Grime would embrace slower tempos and cleaner hooks without surrendering their artistic autonomy to US Hip Hop.

By the middle of the decade I would go out for a night out in Switzerland and hear nothing but grime in the mix and head to San Francisco and hear Skepta sitting side by side with Migos and Drake. The evolution gathered pace in 2010 with Giggs, he’d written better tracks before (“Talking The Hardest”), but now he was beginning to breakthrough.

249. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” (2017)

Why not wait five albums to truly blow up. “Feel It Still” is one of those tracks that became so ubiquitous and unescapable in 2017 that many of us (myself included), would rather tear their hair out than have to listen to it again. Thankfully, time heals all wounds and what remains is an immaculately slick piece of pop music. Portugal. The Man are ungodly tight, full of swing and dip, while John Baldwin Gourley’s falsetto proves lithe and utterly irresistible.

248. Fang Island – “Life Coach” (2010)

The 2010s are genuinely viewed as a regressive decade for guitar music, light on new ideas, big hits or innovation, but that certainly wasn’t true at the decade’s outset. Sleigh Bells and Fang Island both suggested that 21st Century guitar music would sound bigger, bolshier and weirder than ever before. On their eponymous debut, highlighted by the intergalactic sprawl and human roar of “Life Coach”, Fang Island master a guitar and key sound that collapses in on itself like the world’s most visceral accordion.

247. Daniel Caesar ft. Kali Uchis – “Get You” (2016)

With the extreme gloss of the 2000s washed away and with a rediscovery of the classic black canon of the 60s and 70s in full swing, the scene was set for the return of gorgeous soul balladry (albeit with plenty of modern Frank Ocean influenced undercurrents). Enter “Get You”, an sublime cut that sees Daniel Caesar deliver a virtuoso vocal performance detailing an immaculate love he feels undeserving of.

246. Gorrilaz ft. Mark E Smith – “Glitter Freeze” (2010)

The great post-punk poet and polemicist Mark E Smith sadly have passed away in 2017. Despite being a gritty voice of alternative realism, he still managed to make his mark on Gorrilaz’s surreal intergalactic-onslaught-turned-dancefloor-killer, “Glitter Freeze”. Dripping with sarcasm and completely out of whack with his futuristic surroundings, a relic from Manchester has washed up on the shores of our plastic coated ecological apocalypse. It’s a bizarre hybrid that captures Gorrilaz jamming out a groove rather than indulging their more overwrought songwriting tendencies.

245. Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream” (2010)

The mistress of millennial whoop was always at her best when she wasn’t trying so damn hard. “Teenage Dream” is a simply breezy sentiment tied to a delicious hook and a traditional all American sentiment: wear denim, hit the open road, head to the beach, pop some beers and fuck. Writing great pop music doesn’t have to be complex.

244. Jeff Rosenstock – “Nausea”  (2015)

Jeff Rosenstock had an absolutely incredible decade and as much as I’d love to include a cut from Worry, it’s impossible to deny that “Nausea” and its set the sky aflame chorus captured the anxiety facing a generation struggling to stay above water in the gig economy. “I got so tired of discussing my future, I started avoiding the people I love” is a line so heartbreaking, because it proved so true for so very many.

243. A$AP Ferg – “Shabba” (2013)

A$AP Ferg is a bone fide hitmaker, there’s no two ways about it, but he reached unprecedented new heights when he invoked the name of dancehall icon Shabba Ranks. The production is eerily vacant and yet somehow, Ferg’s flair for quotability and his raw force of personality made “Shabba” an inescapable hit. The kind of song you were as likely to hear bumping out of car stereos on street corners as you were in your local hipster dive bar. Somehow these menacing, ghostly instrumentals became the soundtrack to boisterous flexing. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

242. Miley Cyrus – “Wrecking Ball” (2013)

Bangerz was an absolute masterclass in adolescent rebellion and bad taste: it was a lewd, trend chasing and instantly dated release, but that was also why it was so ungodly effective. It made no concession to good taste, maturity or critical approval, this was a fresh faced starlet being unashamedly and unrepentantly young. It’s remarkable then that such a braggadocio collection would also happen to feature the best song of Miley Cyrus’ career. “Wrecking Ball” is an equal and opposite reaction: a devastating tearjerker inspired by a brutal break up leading to an explosion of raw “I don’t give a fuck” table-flipping catharsis masquerading as a chorus.

241. Queens Of The Stone Age – “…Like Clockwork” (2014)

The 2010s were a strange decade for Josh Homme. Almost by default Queens Of The Stone Age assumed the position of one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, but rather than consolidating their position in the absence of any real contenders to the throne, they instead embarked on a deep dive into the rock and pop cannon. Expanding their sound and exploring glorious niches, the results were spellbinding, including this slow boiling piano ballad that eventually drifts out across the desert and into the depths of despair. “…Like Clockwork” is a tragic reflection on personal bitterness and the realisation that you must let go of resentment, because your fellow humans will continue to go about their lives blithely hurting others, there’s no point letting the darkness drag you down.

An impossible track to exclude: “My God Is The Sun”

240. Haru Nemuri – “Yumewomiyou” (2018)

Driven by a stabbing and irrepressible piano, Haru Nemuri conjures the whispering voices of her subconscious to deliver this tale of abject lonliness. On the surface the arrangement feels almost happy, but it is merely a cage. Haru is trapped in her room, processing her grief and tweeting out into the echo chamber of oblivion while contemplating suicide. It’s heavy, but beautiful stuff.

239. Kreayshawn – “Gucci Gucci” (2011)

Kreayshawn is a cautionary tale. She wrote one perfect hit, a cocksure anthem to individuality in a reality tv era of “Gucci Gucci, Louie Louie, Fendi Fendi, Prada”, and then she blew up. Therein lies the problem, she was aggressively marketed, signed to a ludicrous deal, released an atrocious album and flopped hard. Just deserts for a greedy and short sighted industry still struggling to find a new A&R model, but let’s not forget why she blew up in the first place: “Gucci Gucci”, a joyous slice of fuax-G-funk escapism from an artist who, for three short minutes, did have swag pumping out her ovaries.

238. The Killers – “Runaways” (2012)

The Killers would broaden their sonic horizons considerably in the 2010s with decidedly mixed results, but at the outset they wanted one last stab at writing a glitzy-Springsteenian epic and they absolutely knocked it out of the park with “Runaways”. Full of kitsch and knowingly cliche postcard imagery, “Runaways” is all about momentum and borrowed cultural capital. Pulled in by the unmistakable lure of the great American mythos, Brandon Flowers and his love have no choice but to fire up the Harley, escape the mundane and run toward the horizon.

An Impossible decision to exclude  “The Man”

237. Fidlar – “No Waves” (2012)

It feels incredibly wrong to have Fidlar represent the Surf Rock revival that brought new life to the indie rock scene in the early 2010s. Fidlar were effectively a flop. They represented a second wave after Surfer Blood and Wavves, they were supposed to take the genre to charts and wider relevance, but ultimately, they failed to deliver. So surely, one of those dynamic first wave bands should stand in their stead? Well maybe, but there’s one problem, “No Waves” is utterly undeniable: a perfect summation of pent-up adolescent energy and aspirations. The sentiments are so fundamentally true and expressed in the voice of genuine youthful frustration, this is the moment Fidlar dropped out.

236. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen” (2014)

In today’s light, it seems almost unfathomable that Fetty Wap and “Trap Queen” proved so dominant back in 2014. The hit single sounds bizarre upon reflection. Sonically “Trap Queen” feels sandwiched between the gloss of a previous era and the slurred hooks and adlibs of Trap explosion that would take Rae Stremmurd to the top of the charts. Odder still, the New Jersey star bucked the rap trend, rather than capitalising on his three gargantuan hits, he bounced. He is supposed to be returning with a project in 2020, but it’s almost more poetic if Fetty arrived, captured a moment of transition in hip hop and then disappeared into the ether.

235. Sleater-Kinney – “No Cities To Love” (2015)

Of course nothing has defined the 2000s, let alone the 2010s, like grand returns and reunions. In truth among the cash ins, the vast majority of returns have delivered, not just live, but on record. That was certainly the case for Sleater-Kinney who remerged with better grooves, sharper structures and some of the best pop songs of their career to date. “No Cities To Love” is a raucous clatter that deftly builds to the moment when the three women sing together, ever so slightly out time (“it’s not the weather it’s the people we love”) before that wonderful winding guitar riff kicks back in.

234. Alessia Cara – “Here” (2015)

It’s refreshing to take a break from writing best album lists, because so much fantastic pop music exists outside of the album format. The LP will always be the genre’s ultimate form: the place where statements are made, but sometimes the right voice, finds the perfect moment to express something succinct and divine in three short minutes. That was the case with Alessia Cara: a woman bored of being dragged to house parties where she was relentlessly hit on and forced to go through the motions of being the type of girl she has no interest in ever becoming (“I’m standoffish, don’t want what you’re offering”).

233. PNL – “DA” (2016)

France might have an issue with its own rap scene and the artist’s who produce their chart topping hits, but while their home nation was busy having a identity crisis, PNL were conquering the world at large. “DA” isn’t PNL’s best cut, but it is the song that launched them beyond the Francophone orbit and into the stratosphere – a brutal diatribe about growing up as Mowgli and surviving in the jungle by being utterly and repentantly ruthless. Pleasant it ain’t, but it kicks like a mule.

232. PWR BTTM – “I Want A Boi” (2016)

Could any band be more perfectly representative of the 2010s than PWR BTTM. They stood at the forefront of an explosion of queer artists into rock, rap, dance, pop and every conceivable genre. Their music was goading, sexy and subversive in the best ways and then they ran straight into cancel culture and the #metoo movement. If the reports are true, the band deserve no sympathy given their actions, but talk about riding the entire rollercoaster of the 2010s. Thankfully if you can divorce the artist from the art, then you can enjoy this wonderful rampaging power-pop anthem to finding the perfect subversive fuck.

231. Ed Sheeran – “Shape Of You” (2017)

Well this was a nightmare, trying to tell the story of the 2010s without the busker turned biggest-pop-superstar-in-the-known-universe, Ed Sheehan, is impossible. The trouble is, Ed’s most important songs tend to land in one of two camps: 1) dodgy rapping 2) saccharine paint-by-numbers balladry. His music is extremely professional and effective, but it’s hard to extol their creative virtues. Thankfully, “Shape Of You” manages to capture his incredible one-man-band ability to create layered grooves using only a repeater peddle while simultaneously writing an openhearted, infectious and unashamedly romantic lead single.

230. Alabama Shakes – “Hold On” (2012)

Albama Shakes and their phenomenal frontwoman Brittany Howard would go on to release more creative and forward thinking music, but truth be told, there’s nothing quite like the first time. “Hold On” was a revelation, the arrival of one of modern music’s most perfect voices. The arrangement is sumptuous and pleasingly simple, the perfect backdrop for Howard to absolutely rip it up. She is a woman overflowing with soul and tenderness who is tired of waiting to permitted, to be accepted, to be loved, but who nevertheless must hold on, not matter how badly it may bruise her soul.

229. Wolf Alice – “Don’t Delete The Kisses” (2017)

Now this was a tough choice, Wolf Alice have released a host of stunning indie rock anthems, but none cuts remotely as deep as “Don’t Delete The Kisses”. Less a song and more a beautiful reverie: a coy reminiscence of that glorious moment when you come out of your shell and fall head long, if not into love, then at least into a perfect moment of hedonistic lust. Will you even remember each other in five years time –  let alone know each other? Who can say, but for the time being, don’t delete kisses and don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the possible. Just get out there and live.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Freazy” and “Bros”

228. Ella Mai – “Boo’d Up” (2018)

For those quick to criticize the attention spans and microwave culture of the internet age, it’s worth exploring the breakthrough singles of the 2010s. “Boo’d Up” is entirely organic and understated anthem that swept an unknown, Ella Man, to superstardom. This is a luxurious slow burn, an ode to lying entwined and staring longingly into your lovers eyes. “Boo’d Up” is slick in its hook, but built on the steady contentment of classic R&B and soul music.

227. White Reaper – “The Stack” (2017)

When you call your album The World’s Best American Band you better deliver some A-grade rock music and that’s exactly what White Reaper did in 2017. “The Stack” is a complete throwback full of immaculate observed nods to rock and roll history, but amid the bar room piano and lavish pre-chorus licks, the track is built on the back of great songwriting and one eternal truth: “if you make the girls dance, the boys will dance with ’em”.

226. Halsey – “New Americana” (2015)

Halsey’s breakthrough single “New Americana” might be painfully indebted to Lorde (so too was great swathes of pop in the mid-2010s), but the track is one of those rare anthems that works as prophecy. In “New Americana’s” wake Halsey would be a catapulted to the forefront of the new American pop industry: part-oversharing celebrity, part-depressive langor and always genre fluid. Raised on hip hop as much as rock or pop and embracing new forms of identity as well as new 21st Century forms of poverty, Hasley’s vision might well have been cribbed from Lorde, but she made it big, brazen, blue-haired and defiantly American.

225. Nicki Minaj – “Beez In The Trap” (2012)

Reflecting on Nicki Minaj at the end of the decade is strangely depressing. You’d assume picking a single from one of the biggest, most iconic and influential pop stars of the last ten years would be easy. Instead, Minaj delivered a litany of underwhelming cuts. There were moments when she let her guard down or offered virtuoso bars that, by and large, failed to chart or there are those throwaway party cuts that verge on novelty (“SuperBass”, “Anaconda”). Truth be told, if I hadn’t implemented a one track per artist limit, then Nicki Minaj would be represented by “Monster” and her scorched earth verse – but isn’t that sad? The verse that launched her into the stratosphere is still her finest achievement nearly a decade later?

“Beez In The Trap” makes the cut because it represent the thrilling side of Minaj’s schizophrenic sound. Pink Friday was overloaded by cash ins, so in 2012 Nicki beefed up the record with some harder and colder cuts. “Beez…” is the perfect blend of cocksure superstar charisma, ratchet aggression and an ice cool, futuristic Kenoe beat.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Super Bass” and “Monster”

224. 100 gecs – “Money Machine” (2019)

Who would have thought that this is where the 2010s would have ended up? It might have been impossible to predict, but it all makes sense in retrospect. “Money Machine” with its strangely irresistible hook is the story of the decade in a single song: slamming guitars straight out of Sleigh Bells playbook, the obvious influence of trap on alt-culture, an embrace of sweetness via PC music, a vocal opening ready for Tik Tok and an aesthetic born of meme culture. In many ways, “Money Machine” is the song of 2010s, just not the decade’s best track.

An Impossible Track To Exclude:Zack Fox – “Jesus Is The One (I Got Depression)” (another cut that captures our strange hybrid meme culture)

223. Savages – “Husbands” (2013)

Witnessing the rise of Savages and their howling front woman Jehnny Beth was a dark delight. Suddenly the pubs and barrooms that were struggling in the wake of indie’s demise had a dark and ferocious post-punk band to throw their weight behind. Not only did Savages and “Husbands” seethe and slide hypnotically, they had a hell of a lot to say: reflecting on romance, self-worth and interpersonal violence.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Adore”

222. Playboi Carti – “Magnolia” (2017)

Style or substance? Playboi Carti music might flirt with emperor’s new clothes status, but there’s no denying that “Magnolia” not only conquered the clubs, but perfectly captured the aesthetic of modern hip hop. Slang laden, driven by charisma and incessant adlibs rather than coherent bars, this three minute vibe masquerading as a song remains irresistibly danceable.

221. Nina Kraviz – “Ghetto Kraviz” (2011)

The trouble with constantly writing albums lists is that it tends to exclude modern dance music. There is a thriving culture of sonic innovation and modernity in every major city (and of course in the Balearic Isles) that doesn’t happen to conform to the album or traditional single structure. This is music to make you move, to get blissed out and paranoid to in equal measure. Russian superstar DJ Nina Kraviz perfectly captures a hybrid of house and the emerging minimalism of post-dubstep on her hauntingly disinterested “Ghetto Kraviz”. Nina isn’t talked about as influence in critical circles (outside of Mixmag), but back in 2011 she was perfectly distilling the eerie sound of the world’s abandoned streets into thrilling danceable music.

220. Kevin Gates – “2 Phones” (2015)

Okay so let’s not pretend that Kevin Gates was at the forefront of any scene or that “2 Phones” captures the sound of 2015. Let’s simply acknowledge that “2 Phones” is a fantastic concept for a pop song, a drug dealer who divides his life between two phones: one for the wife and family life, one for creeping and dealing. I mean it should be reprehensible, but Kevin Gates made living a double life sound like a walk in the park.

219. Deerhunter – “Desire Lines” (2010)

“Desire Lines” is almost a tease. For about 15 seconds it sounds as though Bradford Cox is going to launch into an arena anthem in the Arcade Fire mould, but the marching beat and infectious riff is only the Segway between dreamy verses. Deerhunter’s greatest asset, more so than even their subtle melodic prowess, is their ability to hover in the middle ground. Cox’s vocals hang in this soft, hazy, dreamlike indie drift, he isn’t bellowing in the foreground, floating in and out of view or whispering in the distance, he somehow manages to be a proper indie frontman without overawing his tender composition. “Desire Lines” is a close as Deerhunter will ever come to writing a hit, it’s both an anthem and something more personal and private.

218. Arca – “Desafio” (2017)

“Desafio” might just be Arca’s most remarkable achievement – and that’s quite the statement considering that the Venezuelan maestro has deconstructed the form and function of R&B, reshaped the human voice and led Bjork to a late career purple patch. Despite all Arca’s accomplishments, “Desafio” did something outsider artists are not supposed to be able to do: it conquered the club scene without sacrificing one shred of artistic integrity. This haunting masterclass in balancing loss and lust is poignant in the extreme, but unlike its equally exceptional peers (“Reverie”), “Desafio” is also a perfect slice of seductive R&B. They type of song that pushes listeners into strange and terrifying new worlds.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Reverie”

217. Jessie Ware – “Wildest Moments” (2012)

Being tasteful is considered the ultimate “no no” in pop music, but Jessie Ware managed to ooze a sense of sensual composure while being one of London’s most in demand vocalists in the early 2010s. “Wildest Moments” is a traditional open ended ballad that oozes a supreme longing. The reflection on a perfect romance uncomplicated by forethought or over-analysis. They might be self-destructive, they might only truly click in their most volatile and hedonistic moments, but who cares when it feels so undeniably right?

216. Nicholaas Jaar – “Space Is Only Noise If You Can See” (2011)

This song will always hold a special place in my heart, because it was a discussion about seeing Nicholaas Jaar that earned me the opportunity to work and write for Sony Records. That’s not why Jaar features here, “Space Is Only Noise If You Can See” is a wonderfully coy work, laced with creeping grooves and unsettlingly ironic whispers that set Jaar on course for auteur status, but it does tell you just how much organic excitement surrounded Jaar in 2010. Everyone was a desperate for a taste of this Chilean-American’s hypnotic otherness.

215. Jessy Lanza – “It Means I Love You” (2016)

This is an impossible decision, “It Means I Love You” is one of those perfect anti-pop pop songs that makes me want to shoot it right to the upper echelons of this list every time I hear it. Then upon reflection, it’s hard to deny how slight, coy, deconstructed and thin the track is. That is of course Jessy Lanza’s great strength, “It Means I Love You” almost deserves a categorisation all of its own: the imperceptible banger, the song that hits so hard it leaves absolutely no trace. It is a seductive and skittish delight whose serene impact exists solely within its fours minutes and forty one seconds. Its a masterpiece, but almost a world unto itself.

214. Anna Calvi – “Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy” (2018)

Anna Calvi arrived with an immaculate aesthetic, a bulldozingly resonant vocal and a flair for grand cinematic gestures, she simply lacked the subject matter to elevate her perfect poise towards pop perfection. It turns out that what she needed with was lurid and dark sexual edge, “Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy” is an ode to fluidity and furious fucking. The intertwining of bodies and beings, where all societal priors are forgotten and anything is permissible. Anna Calvi is of course wonderful sardonic, but this is no rye gesture, this is all in the aid of glorious, world class, inhibition-free fucking.

213. Doja Cat – “Say So” (2019)

Who run the world? Tik Tok! Or at least that’s what every record executive worth his salt is screaming: “We need dance routines and memes, stat!” Of course the trouble with this approach is that, for all Drake’s pandering, the tracks that tend to truly take off on Tik Tok are organic discoveries. Doja Cat, the comedy rapper turned R&B star, was already on route to superstardom before people started playfully embarrassing themselves to this sensuous and immaculate observed 70s inspired gem. So don’t fear for modern music, just hope for more “Say So” and less “Tootsie Slide” in the years to come.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Bottom Bitch”

212. John Maus – “Quantum Leap” (2011)

There’s only so high John Maus could possible rank despite the strangely enduring influence of his curious, quasi-ironic throwback sounds. “Quantam Leap” is a wonderful off-kilter journey: starting with a classic punk groove (think “We’re A Happy Family”) bolster by stiff new wave handclaps before Maus’ ghostly vocal arrives riding a swirling wall of sci-fi synths. “Quantum Leap” is a delightful farce of a pop song – anti-prufundity that, against all odds, ends up cutting surprisingly deep.

211. Paramore – “Rose-Colored Boy” (2017)

“And really I’ll I’ve got is just to be pissed off, if it’s alright by you”. “Ain’t It Fun” might be Paramore’s biggest smash of the 2010s, but it’s on “Rose-Colored Boy” (and After Laughter as a whole) that Hayley Williams truly found her voice. The grind and mundanity of her late 20s overwhelmed her sense of rebellion as she found herself depressingly trudging through a world of soul crushing societal expectations where even  her anger and sorrow require permission, if not an outright apology.

An Impossible Choice To Exclude: “Ain’t It Fun”

210. Young M.A. – “OOOUUU” (2016)

Young M.A.’s breakthrough smash is less a song and more a cocksure onslaught of raw braggadocio. Even the titular “OOOUUU” is less a hook and more a reaction, the moment when the young rapper takes a step back and thinks “god damn, I am the shit”. There is something intriguing about seeing a female rapper deep in rap game, spitting bars not about her looks, but about street code and her ability to steal your girl. It’s a tired trope, but the inversion is irresistible: a woman flipping the script as she boasts: “If that’s your chick then why she texting me?”

209. Khalid – “Young, Dumb and Broke” (2017)

The end of the party and the onset of adulthood is one of the most resonant and truly perpetual themes in all of pop music. Living in the wake of the financial crisis and the opioid epidemic, the dread of taking that next step into meat grinder of the working week proved particularly prevalent in the 2010s – so Khalid wrote an anthem GenZ’s for dropout generation. There is no remorse or surface level anxiety on “Young, Dumb and Broke”, although its drugged out bliss is of course underwritten by the terror of what has been lost and what is yet to be faced.

The image of Khalid, high as a kite, lying on the lawn, just staring at the sky contemplating breaking up with his high school girlfriend as he embraces the wide world of opportunity is both romantic and tragic. Khalid has stumbled upon an essential truth, relationships will come and go, times will get hard, so enjoy your one chance to be young, dumb and broke, because being old, dumb and broke is genuine terrifying.

208. Run The Jewels ft. Zach de le Rocha – “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” (2016)

Picking one Run The Jewels track to represent their remarkable decade long journey from unicorn and dragon obsessed stoners-turned-political-polemists to festival conquering rap superstars is next to impossible. “Close Your Eyes” isn’t their best or most sophisticated cut, instead it is a brute force onslaught of noise, bravado and densely stacked rhymes. In other words, it’s RTJ’s statement of intent that always sets it off live. That’s not to say that “Close Your Eyes” is content light, it ends on a harrowing note courtesy of Rage Against The Machine’s Zach de le Rocha: “the only thing that closes quicker than our caskets be the factories”.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Legend Has It”

207. TQD – “Vibsing Ting” (2017)

It’s time to hit the streets and dive into club culture once more, this time with the help of production super group TQD – aka Royal-T, DJ Q and Flava D. To say “Vibsing Ting” is a banger is an understatement. The primary function of the track might be to make bodies move – it does that exceptionally well of course – but it is also an entire history of the UK’s street-level dance music in the last three and a half decades. This is a celebration of the unglamorous sounds that were suppressed during the Superstar DJ era, but have since come to conquer the globe. “Vibsing Ting” feels like a victory lap for British electronic music post-garage.

206. Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built” (2012)

“The House That Heaven Built” is impetus incarnate. Japandroids capture the sound of a band gritting their teeth in the face of shabby, scuzzy underground existence. They put their head down, determined and striding headlong into the wind and the rain. “And if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go hell” – indie bands have a tendency to be “in their feelings”, but Japandroids wrote a transcendent anthem to resisting pressures, both external and internal, and actually taking action. “The House That Heaven Built” is about living, about doing, about silencing doubt – this is the beauty of the act and the strength to see it through (or, at the very least, taking that first step).

205. YG – “Twist My Fingaz (2016)

One of the finest and most consistent hitmakers in modern hip hop, it was impossible to decide which track best represents YG’s oeuvre. On the surface “Twist My Fingaz” is an odd choice, it’s a throwback G-Funk anthem that could have been released anytime in the last 30 years, but on the other hand, it’s YG’s ultimate “I’m realer than you anthem”. His attempt to reclaim the West Coast throne from the fly ins and imitators. His chance to dance his dance on his haters and remind the world that he’s “the only one to make it out of the west without Dre…the only one who got hit and was walking the same day”.

An Impossible Decision To Exclude: “Who Do You Love?” and “FDT”

204. Kehlani – “Undercover” (2017)

Wait a minute. The serene and sensual “Undercover” by Kehlani doesn’t have a music video? I’m not really a YouTube person, but this has blown my mind. Is Kehlani’s label allergic to money? Not that it matters, video or no video, “Undercover” is impossible to deny. The soft and playful arrangement is an act of subterfuge, on the surface “Undercover” feels light, but Kehlani stacks so many effective hooks atop one another than the listener will be overawed within seconds. The joyful backdrop serves another purpose. Kehlani is creeping and cheating, but she has no remorse, this is an exhilarating act – she is over moon and will not deny her love, even as she’s “Sliding under covers, undercover”.

203. Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait” (2012)

Mumford & Sons have endured their fair share of brutal album reviews and twitter snipes – for my part I’ve always been a skeptic – but anyone who denies the quality of their opening run of singles is burgeoning on try hard status. They have a quiet loud formula of their own making and they stick to it rigidly, but by god is it effective. “I Will Wait” is the very definition of a rousing anthem. Their rootsy instrumentation is strummed and plucked to within an inch of their lives as horns add some endearing spirit while Marcus Mumford promises to wait for his lover ever-long and a crazed collective euphoria sets in. Joyous, romantic and ungodly uplifting, Mumford & Sons may be flawed, but “I Will Wait’ certainly isn’t.

202. Ghost – “Cirice” (2015)

Deciding where to place Ghost on this list proved impossible. They make such undeniably brilliant and rampagingly ambitious music, but even their biggest hits feel entirely detached from modern rock, let alone the larger culture of the 2010s. That’s not to say Ghost are a throwback, their grand narrative sweeps and driving cinematic suites might recall the greats of eras long past, but they are a defiantly modern proportion. “Cirice” is a masterwork of  juxtaposition, the tender imploring nature of the lead vocal performance speaks to a very human tenderness, but of course, the opposite is true – as the apocalypse approaches, a satanistic priest is luring his lambs toward the devil. There is an underlying heaviness to the guitar work, but “Cirice” works because is it so seductive and passionate, this is how the Satan worked in the garden of eden – not with threats and venom, but with delicate well chosen whispers in the ear.

201. Jai Paul – “Jasmine” (2012)

When we talk about the underground legends of decade past whose influence far exceeded their actual output (be it The Feelies, The Modern Lovers, Throbbing Gristle or For The Carnation) none will have a story stranger than Jai Paul. On the tip of every tastemakers tongue, the bedroom producer looked set for superstardom, but the debut album never arrived, nor did the next single. His album was eventually leaked unfinished and unedited. Paul was devastated and disappeared into depression, returning only at the decade’s end to officially release, not the finished album, but the original leak itself. Remarkably, this hobbled together collection made album of the decade lists (mine included) and it really shouldn’t come as any surprise when you hear the muted, distorted, but heavenly lilting tones of “Jasmine”. A love and lust so precious, Paul can barely manage raise his voice above a submerged whispered falsetto. He is overcome and yet he still produced a track with more swing, soul and groove than anything his fellow bedroom genius James Blake managed in the same time span.