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Top 25 Songs of the 2010's

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

by Mike Scarfo:

A flashback to better times, my favorite 25 songs of the 2010's.

Admittedly, this half of the list was much easier to figure out than the first 25 songs in this list (head over to my previous blog for the first half). The 2010's were a defining time in music, and in my opinion, these were the very best songs to come from the past decade.

25) Jorja Smith & Preditah - On My Mind [2017]

UK singer/songwriter Jorja Smith is often overlooked as one of the brightest young voices in music over the last few years. Her voice is stunningly gorgeous, but also versatile. If you don't believe me, check out her 2018 project Lost & Found and you'll see what I mean; it features a range of different sounds within a collection of pop and R&B/soul induced-songs that are cohesive while remaining diverse.

"On My Mind" wasn't on the album, but it showcases exactly my point. Jorja is able to make her sound transferable to Preditah's more house-pop approach. I love how Preditah utilizes the reverb on her voice in the hook, creating an undeniably catchy melody. The instrumental lends itself to be an easily accessible listen, a combination of hi-hats, synths, and a kick-ass drum-line, that are light and vibrant. It had me coming back again and again since its release.

24) Lil Wayne - Right Above It (feat. Drake) [2010]

Lil Wayne simply dominated the 2000's with the first 3 installments of his Tha Carter series. Make no mistake, Weezy still contained a sense of relevancy during the 2010's, but it pales in comparison to the previous decade. However, he founded soon-to-be music superstar Drake, and showcased his early talents on the first of many of the pair's successful collaborations, "Right Above It".

A grand-sounding synth, mixed with an 808 and horn section create a cinematic energy. The confident first verse from Drake is hungry and emphatic, displaying flow patterns from his So Far Gone days, the classic mixtape that catapulted his career. Wayne does what he always does, deliver clever punch lines with a bravado that was unmatched at the time. Even though Wayne's run shortly after this song took a bit of a nosedive for a number of years, the influence of "Right Above It" is prominent, and has aged extremely well over the decade.

23) Zac Brown Band - Knee Deep (feat. Jimmy Buffet) [2010]

Longtime fans of the podcast are probably giving me the weird eyebrow emoji right now. Country, Mike? Really? I get it, let me explain.

Just to be clear, I don't dislike country. It's certainly not my genre of choice, and my interest in it is pretty limited to the summer months of New England, even then I'm never dying to listen to country. "Knee Deep", however, over the years has been able to resurface and find its way into my speakers each and every summer. It's a feel good, turn your brain off, and just enjoy life kind of song. If you're from Massachusetts, it's more than likely you've been to one of Zac Brown Band's Fenway Park concerts. This song is iconic around these parts, and it's left a positive impression on me for nearly a decade now.

22) A$AP Rocky - 1Train - (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, & Big K.R.I.T.) [2013]

The A$AP Rocky phenomenon in the early 2010's started a wave of atmospheric, druggy boom bap that became grossly popular, and he's continued to be a trend-setter in modern hip-hop culture and fashion. A$AP's discography is lofty and impressive, which includes pulling off the second best hip-hop posse cut of the decade in "1Train".

A$AP kicks off the track with an engaging and lyrical opening verse. How he managed to get guest verses on this track that includes Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, & Big K.R.I.T., is beyond me. With a lineup this impressive and star-studded, it's easy to debate who bodied their verse the most, yet equally as difficult in pinning down the best one. I'm a little biased towards Big K.R.I.T.'s ever-changing flows on his ending verse, but Danny Brown probably has the most memorable set of bars and animated delivery. This was also around the time Action Bronson kept claiming to have fixed college football games. Never understood the significance of that. Kendrick, Joey, & Yelawolf definitely all do their thing. Behind an epic, dark, violin string sampled banger of an instrumental, there's just so much to love about this one.

21) Billie Eilish - Ocean Eyes (Astronomyy Remix) [2017]

To me, Billie Eilish is a once in a generational talent. Her recent sweep at the Grammy's and numerous chart-topping hits coupled with her incredibly young age only indicates that she clearly has staying power. The very first blog on this very website was a feature of Billie Eilish (shameless plug, check that one out after this).

"Ocean Eyes" was the song that completely exploded Billie's career into the limelight when numerous DJ's remixed it. My personal favorite, the Astronomyy Remix, is by far one of the most beautifully captivating lo-fi pop tracks I've heard in years. I love everything about this song from one of music's youngest, brightest stars.

20) Tyler, the Creator - Boredom (feat. Rex Orange County & Anna of the North) [2017]

Tyler, the Creator's growth as an artist throughout the 2010's has been one of the most impressive to witness. Not only has the content of his music matured, but the sound has as well. Flower Boy was the turning point of really his entire career, as Tyler became more relatable, honest, and personal than he ever had been up until then. Riddled with jazzy, neo-soul production, Flower Boy is one of my favorite albums of the decade, period, with "Boredom" as its major highlight.

The beautiful piano and acoustic guitar instrumental blends on "Boredom" capture an eclectic atmosphere through neo-soul driven melodies. Vocal assists from Rex Orange County and Anna of the North give the song depth and emotion. Above all, Tyler's vulnerably raw lyricism which details suffering from loss, writer's block, and lack of focus on simple tasks, render a sense of depressed loneliness and insecurity that we all have felt before, or are feeling now. This is my favorite version of Tyler, the Creator, and it's not even close.

19) JID - Skrawberries (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid) [2018]

Atlanta spitter JID blew up onto the scene amid his 2017 debut The Never Story, and then doubled down on the momentum in 2018, releasing his critically acclaimed DiCaprio 2. We reviewed the album in depth on our second episode ever; "Skrawberries" was one of my favorite songs not only on the album, but of the entire year. And now, it's cracking the Top 20 of this decade list.

JID's talent for rapping and storytelling is profound, and mature well beyond his years. The dude always seems laser focused in his rhymes, and he has potential Top 5 of all-time kind of talent. "Skrawberries" depicts a couple that's having a hard time relating to one another given the different experiences they've had in their lives, and while their relationship isn't perfect, there's a sense of understanding, because everybody needs somebody to hold them down. BJ the Chicago Kid absolutely dominates the hook with such palpable emotional delivery, and I am obsessed with the whiny synth at the forefront of the production. I strongly believe the 2020's are JID's to win, and if he continues on this trajectory, by the end of it we could be looking at arguably the best rapper in the game.

18) Drake - Marvin's Room [2012]

Regardless of your opinion of him, there is no denying Drake simply dominated the 2010's. He became one of the most streamed artists of all-time, and had 9 number one albums in 10 years. Yes, you read that right; further proof that in terms of popularity, Drake is unmatched. While I've always been a fan of Drake, I'm probably in the minority that prefers his R&B influenced music, hence why "Marvin's Room" is my favorite song of his.

Drake portrays a single man who after a night of binge drinking, is desperate for attention. He considers which of the many women in his phone he can call, when he realizes he can't have the one he truly wants because she is happy with another man. While thematically this may not be the most original of songs, Drake successfully creates an ambiance that captures the loneliness and depression of a relatable situation: wanting what you can't have. I love the lo-fi production, and Drake's ability to pack so much emotion into his voice makes this song as authentic and memorable as it is.

17) Dreamville - Sacrifices (feat. EARTHGANG, Smino, Saba, & J. Cole) [2019]

What J. Cole has been able to do in the past decade to grow Dreamville into the conglomerate that it is today is special in itself. The label now consists of Omen, Lute, Bas, Cozz, Ari Lennox, JID & EARTHGANG, an impressive lineup already to begin with. The recording sessions for The Revenge of the Dreamers III is a beautiful representation of musical talent coming together to create a synergetic masterpiece of an album (with even a few of our city's own getting invited to the recordings, such as Cousin Stizz, Latrell James and Van Buren members Luke Bar$ & Ricky Felix).

The Dreamville squad collaborating with artists such as Smino & Saba was awesome to see, and "Sacrifices" could not have been a better end result. A super soulful track as the guitar strings are light and heavenly, blending well with stark hi-hats. Johnny Venus of EARTHGANG gives a passionate vocal performance, while Saba and Smino both deliver deep, thoughtful verses. Cole is the one that steals the show, with one of the most heartfelt vocal deliveries I've ever heard, effortlessly switching flow patterns, explaining how important his wife and family is to him, and how much he has grown in his life as a person. He's at his most vulnerable, and I fully commend him for also continually holding himself accountable to be the best father and husband he can be. It's a stunning song, and despite the recency bias, possibly the most memorable in the Dreamville discography.

16) Nipsey Hussle - Hussle & Motivate [2018]

First and foremost, RIP to the West Coast hip-hop legend. Nipsey Hussle's accomplishments before his death through education and service to his community, and dedication to being a voice for minority groups, makes him now a larger than life figure. What Nipsey represented in his life, and now through his death, is hope of overcoming struggles and creating opportunities.

"Hussle & Motivate" is the perfect song to go along with his message; it aims to do exactly what the title intends. He's going to "hussle" you into buying his attitude of believing in yourself, taking risks, and controlling your life, while also motivating you to take your own meaning of his words, and applying them regardless of who you are. It's powerfully confident, boasting a slow-tempo melodic banger of a beat and charismatic rhymes from Nipsey. Another artist taken from us too soon, but his message will live on. The marathon continues...

15) Anderson .Paak - The Bird [2016]

Anderson .Paak was the artist in the 2010's that probably intrigued me the most. He can do it all: sing, rap, play drums, piano, etc. He blends influences of hip-hop, jazz, neo-soul, and even gospel. There's very little to dislike about Anderson .Paak, not to mention he has the best teeth in the game.

There's so many different songs I wrestled with including on the list as my favorite Anderson .Paak song, but I have to go back to the first one I'd heard of his, which was "The Bird". I was immediately drawn in by the gorgeous piano chords, the eccentric horn section, mixed with some snare drums and hi-hats, all while Anderson's soft singing seem to just float on top of beautiful instrumentation. It's the song I've most come back to since my infatuation with his 2016 album Malibu.

14) Tash Sultana & Matt Corby - Talk It Out [2019]

After hearing this song last year and quickly obsessing over it, I decided to dig back into Tash Sultana's discography, upon which I find quite impressive. I love the modern-indie funk approach that she takes to her music, one that I find unique and a breath of fresh air. If you've been a fan of ours since last year, you know "Talk It Out" captured my #2 song of 2019, and again while the recency bias is still in question, I felt like it held up as one of the best songs of the decade.

What strikes me the most about the song is the how the horns are pitched. Sonically, it gives the track a futuristic vibe rooted in psychedelic keys, drums and guitars, and choral-sounding vocal samples. There's enough reverb in Matt and Tash's vocals that lend the track further towards the psychedelic sounds some of the instrumentation displays. The two lovers at odds are forced to test their communication skills, and realize if they don't talk it out, the entire foundation of their relationship will be in question. Humbly relatable perspectives and the overall aesthetic make this song special.

13) Jay Rock - Vice City (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, & ScHoolboy Q) [2015]

The third and final posse cut on this list, and by far my favorite of the 2010's, Black Hippy's "Vice City" off Jay Rock's 2015 studio album 90059. Jay, Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and ScHoolboy Q each discuss the vices in their own lives, as well as vices of people as a society. I've listened to this song so many times I can rap the entire thing word-for-word. Yeah, the rhymes and flow patterns these guys intertwine with the production is that catchy.

Each member on this track is charismatic in their own unique way. Kendrick and Jay bring the energy early on, while Ab-Soul gives one of the most brilliantly written verses he's ever done, coming from someone that drops gems often. ScHoolboy's bars and delivery cap off the song perfectly. "Got two rollies, but one missing, think my daughter flossin'? She in kindergarten". Gets me every time.

This is just a straight up banger and one of the most fun tracks the group has put out as a whole. We need more from Black Hippy, period.

12) The Weeknd - I Feel It Coming (feat. Daft Punk) [2016]

The Weeknd became a flat out R&B heart-throb superstar in the 2010's, with what I believe to be two classic albums in Beauty Behind the Madness and Starboy, while The Trilogy still holds up as the best example of the persona The Weeknd represents: a lonely, self-sabotaging womanizer who allows himself to cope through drug abuse and promiscuity. His sound reflected this for years, but it's on Starboy where Abel finally begins to grow up a bit. He accepts the position that he has put himself in, and sounds ready to overcome his demons.

"I Feel It Coming" sees Abel mature not only in content, but in sound as well. Daft Punk's production is harmonious with Abel's voice. The melody of the track has an upbeat 80's vibe, with an array of synth grooves combined with lyricism that feels honest and pure. I love where The Weeknd has gone with his overall sound, and I've only grown to appreciate his musical prowess with each album he releases.

11) Meek Mill - Dreams & Nightmares [2012]

If you played sports at all, or went to a sporting event at all during the 2010's, there's a strong possibility you've heard this song. I was a senior in high school when this came out, and I remember this song was on nearly every warm-up playlist I heard during that basketball season, including our own.

Say what you want about Meek Mill, but "Dreams & Nightmares" quickly became an anthem that is still relevant today. Dare I include that the Philadelphia Eagles came out to the song in the 2018 Super Bowl against my New England Patriots and Meek's good friend Robert Kraft, and beat us. It's essentially impossible not to get hyped by this song and appreciate the influence, and the staying power that it's had. It's still in my workout playlist, and probably will never be removed. Meek was good for this kind of song every few years, but nothing he's done has ever topped "Dreams & Nightmares". Not even close.

10) Kendrick Lamar - The Art of Peer Pressure [2012]

Let's just tell it like it is. Kendrick Lamar is the GOAT of 2010's hip-hop. You could try and argue J. Cole or Drake for that top spot, and while you can make the argument for either, Kendrick's resume is more flawless than both of them. I couldn't go wrong with any Kendrick Lamar song here, but for me it had to come from good kid, m.A.A.d. city. I always thought "Money Trees" was an undeniable anthem, "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst" is one of the most brilliant pieces of writing in hip-hop that we had in the 2010's, but my favorite part of Kendrick has always been his storytelling. His ability to make the listener feel a part of the music he's creating is undisputed in this generation. "The Art of Peer Pressure" captures every element of imagining yourself as a Compton teenager riding around with his friends, without you having the experience of being one.

The instrumental is eerie, lo-fi, and emphasizes an anxious build throughout the entire track. Kendrick puts the listener in the car with him and his friends as he paints incredibly vivid imagery of a close-call encounter with the police after performing a robbery. The listener is virtually on the edge of their seat as Kendrick portrays the anxiety and urgency of emotions they experience in this very moment. The dichotomy of fear between rational decision-making and loyalty to friends is palpable, reflecting a broader understanding of what a teenager in impoverished, crime ridden areas goes through on a regular basis to survive. Suspenseful, engaging, and thought-provoking, Kendrick is able to convey a story unlike any other.

9) BROCKHAMPTON - Gold [2017]

BROCKHAMPTON is the modern boy band the world needs, and ever since the Saturation series began I've been hooked as one of my favorite musical acts, period. They stand for equality, diversity, and inclusion through experimental hip-hop that is far more unique than anything I've heard before. Compiled of multiple behind-the-scenes members, the artists at the forefront of BROCKHAMPTON are lead by Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Joba, & Bearface. Before sexual misconduct allegations that forced the group to let him go, Ameer Vann also contributed to the Saturation trilogy. With so many different sounds, there's numerous songs I could've put here, but none struck me more than their hit "Gold".

The keyboard production is wavy and hypnotic, Kevin provides one of his famously catchy hooks, while Merlyn, Matt, Dom, & Ameer all add energy and clever lyricism to an already captivating dynamic. This song is an ear-grabbing jam that embodies all of the best parts of the group, proving that despite some controversy, they are here to stay.

8) Kesha - Praying [2017]

Kesha is an interesting artist; before this track and really her 2017 album Rainbow, I sort of saw her as a pop artist with a likable flare, but gimmicky execution. She seemed to be a one-trick-pony, and someone I never gravitated towards. That all changed when she released the acclaimed single "Praying".

Easily one of the most emotionally poignant songs of the decade, Kesha's performance is utterly jaw-dropping. I have to credit her with some of the most impressive vocals I've ever heard, and applaud the growth and maturity she shows here. The production only helps cultivate the mood she is going for: the piano is sullen and gloomy, leading into an instrumental build that gradually gains momentum, utilizing climactic drums that instill hope and guidance in the listener. There's a powerful contrast between pain and strength that is hard to describe in words, but is too amazing to ignore. I love everything about this song.

7) Jon Bellion - Human [2014]

I've been a Jon Bellion fan since his 2011 mixtape Translations Through Speakers, and upon hearing him, realized the star potential he possesses. Since then, he's exploded into popularity, and only continuing to grow his fanbase. Once concerts become a thing again, I highly encourage seeing him live. I have twice now, and his most recent show in Boston last summer at the Rockland Pavillion in the Seaport District is up there as one of the best shows I've ever seen. Head over to the podcast episode in our catalog (Night School Episode 6) to hear full breakdown and coverage of his live performance.

I posted the acoustic version of "Human" for you to listen to first because of the purity and passion Bellion puts into this rendition, then I suggest listening to the album version. "Human" is possibly even more relatable now than it was in 2015, as Bellion gets introspective about the struggles that come along with human life and figuring out our place in the world. How some of the bad habits we form and ignore can really be what undoes us in the end. Bellion is one of the most authentic artists in music, and it is songs like these that really prove why.

6) Kids See Ghosts - Reborn [2018]

A Kanye West and Kid Cudi collaborative album in 2018 proved to be a success in the eyes of all critics. Kanye may be crazy, but he really is a musical genius in the purest sense of the word. In my opinion, the Kids See Ghosts experiment is what saved Cudi's career, and got his sound back on track.

"Reborn" is not only my favorite song from the album, it was also my favorite song of 2018 (check out of 2018 year-end lists on the podcast). I really felt like this was a rebirth for Cudi in a lot of ways; the track sounds like classic Cudi, Kanye delivers bars that actually have some honesty and depth. The song essentially signifies accepting the problems life can bring, while moving forward without allowing negative thoughts to creep in. The piano chords are brilliant, and Cudi's ad-libs and hums sound perfect over this type of production. In 2018, for Kanye to bring out the best in Kid Cudi, Teyana Taylor, Pusha T, and Nas through selecting production they could all individually thrive on is beyond impressive.

5) Kevin Abstract - Peach (feat. Dominic Fike, JOBA, & Bearface) [2019]

BROCKHAMPTON frontman Kevin Abstract released a solo project Arizona, Baby in 2019, along with my favorite song of last year in "Peach". Kevin has a profound ability to blend sounds of hip-hop, soul, and indie rock that connects so deeply with me. I love what he stands for, and what he's done for the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the realm of hip-hop. I consider him the master of catchy, melodic hooks that stick in your head, and this song is no different.

The vibe of this song displays a sense of innocence that feels organic and authentic. In terms of overall sound, it's one of the most feel-good songs you'll hear from the entire decade. Florida artist Dominic Fike delivers a melodic and memorable opening verse, while he, along with Kevin, and BROCKHAMPTON members Joba & Bearface, harmoniously sing a hook that is one of the most infectious I've ever heard. I think when this song released, I listened to it 10 times straight in a row, and even now it never gets old. The instrumental is one of my favorites of the decade as well. One listen to this song and you'll be hooked.

4) Frank Ocean - Pyramids [2012]

Frank Ocean is an enigma in the sense that beyond his music, we don't seem to know much about him. The mysterious aura surrounding him is what I think intrigues a lot of fans of his; even though we'd all like to see him do more interviews and dive into his psyche, it's entirely plausible that part of the appeal is in fact how private he is outside of music. In a way, perhaps he saves a lot of the introspection and dense thoughts for his music, hence why he is seen as one of the most lyrical songwriters of this generation.

With two critically acclaimed albums in Channel Orange and Blonde. Frank has one of the more flawless discographies in all of music, albeit the sample size is smaller. The former Odd Future star really came into his own on Channel Orange, and a song like "Pyramids" reiterates the impact he's had on the industry and his fans. The song is split into two parts: the first being much more cinematic and grand, comparatively the second half contains a lo-fi influence that shows a clear duality in tone and mood. The song is dynamic, and Frank's performance is nothing short of brilliant. I desperately hope we get a new Frank album in the 2020's sooner than later.

3) J. Cole - Love Yourz [2014]

As previously mentioned, J. Cole is one of the most influential artists of the past decade, and his 2014 instant classic, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is the epitome of Cole's impact as an artist. His socially conscious and self-aware lyricism, coupled with a poetic and confident delivery, made Cole an artist so many people could relate to and get behind. He's easy to root for due to the way he carries himself and the messages he conveys in his music. He's probably my favorite artist overall from the 2010's, as well as my most listened to.

"Love Yourz" was a defining song for Cole, as he essentially portrays to his listeners that no matter what you have in your life, it is vital to appreciate all of it, the good and the bad. Just because you are struggling, does not mean you don't have value in the world. Just because you don't have the fanciest car or the highest paying job, does not mean you aren't rich in life. In an age where social media often defines what society deems as success, Cole attempts to dismantle all of that with this song. You will never be happy if you can't be happy with what you have, and he's absolutely correct. Comparing yourself and your situation to others will only leave you in disarray and disappointment. This song spoke to me so strongly when it came out, to the point I have the bridge "there's beauty in the struggle" tattooed on me as a constant reminder that there is beauty in every obstacle I overcome in life. It's a powerful message, the piano is gorgeous, and Cole yet again finds a way to impact the world beyond his music.

2) Kanye West - Runaway (feat. Pusha T) [2010]

You know the piano melody when you hear it, it's almost automatically recognizable to anyone who's paid attention to music at all over the last 10 years. Off what I would call his masterpiece album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, "Runaway" featuring Pusha T is arguably the most iconic hip-hop song of the decade.

Obviously I mentioned the instrumental, which again, nearly everyone can recognize and has heard before. The build within the production is brilliant, as Kanye mixes in synths, heavy bass, and of course, vocal samples, to create an atmosphere unlike any we heard throughout the decade. Kanye raps and sings on "Runaway" with so much passion, the execution of this song is just so perfect it really speaks to the musical genius that is Kanye West. A guest verse from Pusha T always elevates any song, and this time is no different.

1) Childish Gambino - Redbone [2016]

Alas, we've reached the top spot. My #1 song of the 2010's: Childish Gambino's "Redbone". First of all, I don't know if there's a person in pop culture more talented than Donald Glover. He is a comedian, TV producer, script writer, actor, singer, rapper, the list goes on. The man can literally do it all, I don't know how he has enough time in the day. I was typically a fan of Gambino's music over the years, but Awaken, My Love in 2016 put him in another stratosphere for me, especially with the uniqueness of a song like "Redbone".

For starters, I had no idea that was Gambino singing the first time I heard this song. I never knew he had that kind of vocal talent, it still leaves me speechless to this day. I was absolutely floored at how he was able to use psychedelic funk and neo-soul key and guitar influences from the '70's & '80's in both the production and his voice, all while finding a way to make it sound modern and different. Above all else, this sounds like nothing that has been released in music in the last 10-20 years at least. How uniquely original and out-of-left-field this song really was, yet the critical acclaim and attention it got really speaks wonders about the brilliance and perfection of this song. On this list, Gambino takes the crown. And of course, since it is 2020, with everything going on in our world right now, make sure you "stay woke". Donald Glover said so.

Thanks for tuning in! Look out for an upcoming podcast episode with the best music of mid-year 2020, coming soon! Subscribe to us wherever you listen to your podcasts. Peace and love, y'all.

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