The 2010s has definitely been a rollercoaster of a decade, for better and for worse. Social media has made the world a much smaller place. Politics has been one giant circus that’s being engulfed in flames, especially here in the U.S. where we went from one of the better presidents of recent times to one of the worse ones. At the beginning of the decade, the overall mood seemed more optimistic, especially if you weren’t paying attention to what was going on in the news. Then, somewhere in the middle, there was a shift to the opposite direction for the end where it feels like everything sucks. The 2010s is special for me compared to other decades. I wasn’t around during the 60s, 70s, 80s, and nearly half the 90s. I have nostalgic memories of the late 90s and the 2000s growing up, but I didn’t really pay attention to the world around me until around 2010 and that was also the same time I paid attention to the music landscape. This decade established hip-hop as the new Americana to the point where other genres started pulling from it. From that came trap and Soundcloud rap (or what people would call mumble rap), which would see more success in the latter years. Rock was severely struggling on the charts to the point where outside of a few established acts, it became represented through indie/alternative and folk and even that’s stretching it at times. R&B started pulling in sounds from hip-hop, pop, and even EDM in order to thrive. Speaking of, EDM has went through its own transformations from the excesses of the club boom to stadium-ready house tracks and even its own version of trap. While country music remained popular, the hip-hop and R&B influences were starting to be evident, especially in bro-country, and you can see the galaxy-brain decision making of Music Row and Nashville radio at work. Pop music is like a chameleon, it changes its colors to the environment it’s in. That’s been true ever since the beginning of pop music. When EDM was big, pop music sounded like EDM and when hip-hop dominated, that’s where the sound of pop music went. With the rise of streaming and the influence of social media, the lines between genres have been blurring for a while where in some cases, it’s hard to tell what genre a certain song is. I don’t know which decade is better, the 2010s or the 2000s. They’re similar in that I grew up with the songs of those times and that they both have high points that were amazing (2002, 2004, 2012, 2015) and low points that were excruciating (2006, 2007, 2016, 2018). Now that we’re in a new decade and I’ve gone through the worst of the past 10 years, it’s time I look at the best. This is my list of the 100 best hit songs of the 2010s.
You all know how I feel about Lil Wayne. He’s made several appearances on my Worst lists and I don’t believe that he’s anywhere close to being the best rapper alive as his fans hyped him up to be. But when he tries, the dude can rap his ass off. Case in point, 6 Foot 7 Foot. Released after getting out of prison, Wayne had something to prove with bars on top of bars. This time around, the majority of the lines like “real G’s move in silence like lasagna” actually land and there’s more hits than misses. Bangladesh, who also produced A Milli for Wayne, provides the beat to the song rooted on a sample of Day-O and it isn’t annoying at all. But the real star of the show is Cory Gunz, who just murdered this track. He should have gotten more attention after this because he had potential. While Tha Carter IV would end up being a big disappointment even for fans, 6 Foot 7 Foot remains one of the highlights of his career.
In 2010, Eminem released Recovery, which while it wasn’t a flawless project, it was a major improvement after Relapse became a dud and showed Eminem going into a different, possibly more mature direction. This is signified in the first single Not Afraid, which isn’t a Slim Shady song, but a more serious motivational message of changing your life for the better. Bad singing and corny lines aside, this is something I could get behind and Eminem sells it well, bringing up his own life and how he’s making a change for the better. He’s at his most focused and triumphant, matching the soaring strings and drums of the production. Em has made better songs of this type in his career, but Not Afraid still stands strong.
Next, we have Luke Combs, who has become a rising star in country music with nonstop hits. One of those hits is Beautiful Crazy, a love ballad with rich, warm acoustics and steel pedals that lean into the more traditional organic sounds of country music. Nitpick about calling this girl aside, there’s a sweetness to the song that’s endearing thanks to Luke Comb’s performance, whose vocals match the tone of the music. Among the country scene, Luke Combs is one of the genre’s bright spots in the mainstream and I hope he has more continued success.
It’s easy to write off OneRepublic as just another generic pop rock band with a frontman who overshadows the group, but they managed to make some really good songs like Counting Stars. I dig how the acoustic guitars are mixed alongside the pulsing drums to give the song a gospel-like energy. It also has one of the best choruses of 2013. Ryan Tedder puts on one hell of a performance, matching the energy of the music while not worrying about making money, but achieving your goals. It’s a feel-good song that’s reminiscent of a time with less worries in the world. I miss those times.
I still can’t believe that The Chainsmokers has only made one appearance on my Worst list as a dishonorable mention, yet they made TWO appearances on my Best lists in the Top 10. That doesn’t feel right. Yet I can’t deny that they’ve made some good songs like their collaboration with Coldplay, Something Just Like This. In this case, most of my reasons for liking this song has to do with the fact that this is pretty much a Coldplay song thanks to the atmospheric production and Chris Martin doing this thing, with one of the better Chainsmokers drops as the cherry on top, even if is a copy-paste retread of Roses. Even when it’s from an act that I don’t like (in this case, The Chainsmokers), I can’t deny a good song when I hear it. If this duo is ever gonna go back to making good music, I hope it’s something just like this.
Am I the only one who likes Ghost Stories? I know it’s not Coldplay’s best work, but for me, it works as an album to vibe with like a lot of good Coldplay songs. A Sky Full Of Stars should not work at all. A band doing an EDM song? That alone screams sellout, but Coldplay manages to make it work while retaining their core. The way the production mixes the piano chords (done by the late Avicii) and guitars of a typical piano ballad and mixes that with the synths and beat from your typical house song makes for a song that’s best played at nighttime while looking at the sky or just dreaming and it also works as an EDM staple. But we’re not done with Coldplay just yet.
You ever want to hear Coldplay and Beyonce on a song together? Well, they made it happen in 2016 with Hymn For The Weekend. It’s an awesome ode to partying and being with the one you love that goes big with the production thanks to the piano melody and the horns kicking off the chorus. The vocals are on-point here from Chris Martin and yes, even the uncredited Beyonce, whose harmonies elevate the mood of the song like an angel flying down from heaven. There’s a remix to this song from SeeB and it’s just as good in its own right. Whether it’s the remix or the original, Hymn For The Weekend is perfect for a weekend’s worth of partying and alcohol consumption.
Leave it to Cardi B to take I Like It Like That by Pete Rodriguez and turn it into a Latin trap banger. That’s exactly what she did with I Like It, infusing the flavorful salsa horns of the 60s with a banging modern trap beat to pay tribute to Latin culture of the past and present. Cardi B comes in with her brand of braggadocio bars and her personality and flows shine through. We get features from both Bad Bunny and J. Balvin, two artists who I’m no fans of and they do their thing on here, giving this song some cred. This was one of the songs that solidified Cardi B as the next rap superstar, who would kick open the door for more female rappers to blow up in the mainstream. It’s been two years since she released her debut album and it’ll be interesting to see where she goes with the next one.
Songs named after famous actors/actresses are a thing and the next song I’m gonna talk about comes from Fall Out Boy. Uma Thurman aims to capture the feel of a song that would get used in a Quentin Tarantino film with its surf rock instrumentation that samples the theme song to The Munsters. Seriously. And it’s perfect for two people going into town to have the time of their life like John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s characters in Pulp Fiction. It’s just pure insanity that works. Considering the number of rock songs that became hits in the 2010s is very small, I’m glad that this is one of them because it kicks a lot of ass.
Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa making songs together makes way too much sense and yes, a lot of it has to do with weed. Early in the decade, the veteran rapper and the then-rising rookie teamed up to make a direct-to-video stoner comedy called Mac & Devin Go To High School. Don’t waste your time watching it. It’s bad. Trust me. If there is one saving grace, it’s the soundtrack, which contains Young, Wild & Free featuring Bruno Mars. It’s everything the movie should have been, but isn’t; chill, light-hearted, carefree, etc. This mood is accentuated by the jaunty pianos and drums. Both Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa trade bars that coast on their charisma and laidback attitudes on this stoner anthem while Bruno Mars delivers an anthemic chorus. Whether you’re a stoner or not, this is a song that still holds up eight years later.
Cheap Thrills was originally written with Rihanna in mind, but she rejected it, so Sia decided to record the song for herself and here we are. I originally wasn’t too hot on this song, but it initially grew on me and became one of my favorite hits of 2016, especially the remix with Sean Paul. And that remix is the main reason why this song is here. Like Beyonce on Hymn For The Weekend, Sean Paul’s presence makes the song better. But there are other things to like about the song like the colorful tropical production and the idea of not needing a lot of money to have fun (though it does help). It’s not the most complex song out there, but considering how lackluster 2016 was, I’ll take what I can get. And while we’re on the subject of songs that are good despite lack of depth, …
This song is one of the final relics of the club boom and it gained some notoriety years later thanks to memes. I remember hearing this song a lot in late 2010 and 2011 and going back to it now, it’s amazing how it still holds up. Stereo Love comes from Edward Maya and Vika Jigulina, both Romanian, and it’s a feel-good Eurodance song that features an extremely catchy accordion riff and two lovers trying to rekindle a relationship that’s not working out. Again, not complex stuff, but for this type of dance song, this is all I need. If you have a chance, revisit the song. And check out the Mia Martina remix, it’s just as good, maybe better.
If I had to describe Charlie Puth’s career so far, he made a good first step in his feature on See You Again, tripped and fell over himself with his debut album and songs like Marvin Gaye, One Call Away, We Don’t Talk Anymore, etc., and he’s picked himself up and improved himself afterwards. This brings us to How Long, which is a part two of Attention with production that leans more into a sound that has groove and taking the story of Attention and flipping it to the girl’s perspective for her side of the story. It also has one of Charlie Puth’s best vocal performances so far. If he’s gonna make more songs like this, plus Done For Me, I would be perfectly okay with that because this is good stuff.
Here’s a name I haven’t heard of in a while, Adam Lambert. He was the runner-up of American Idol’s eighth season in 2009 and released his debut album later that year. The big hit from that album is Whataya Want From Me. This song reminds me a lot of Pink, which makes sense considering that she wrote the song for her Funhouse album, but didn’t make the cut. I can definitely hear the Pink influences here thanks to the pop rock instrumentation and Adam Lambert’s big howling voice that can sell the frustration being expressed in the writing. I don’t see a lot of people talk about this song that much, which is a shame because it’s pretty damn good.
After FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake took a hiatus from music in order to focus on acting. In 2013, he made a comeback to music with The 20/20 Experience, which is one of the best pop albums of the decade. It also has one of JT’s best songs in Mirrors, a love ballad that goes for big with layered strings and synths, rock ballad guitars, and Timbaland percussion. It’s an ode to that special significant other who’s pretty much your other half. It does drag at eight minutes long (seriously, you didn’t need that last part), but it’s still a fantastic song that’s well-produced and sung. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a staple at future weddings because it has that vibe.
With the success of Counting Stars, OneRepublic seems to have found a niche that works for them and they continued on that niche with Love Runs Out. The bluesy piano is in-sync with the stomping drums and handclaps to make for production that has some punch and groove in a pseudo-gospel way. Ryan Tedder is once again putting on a hell of a performance, pushing his range to the limit. This song proves that when they want to, OneRepublic can certainly rock. Love Runs Out, another great song from OneRepublic.
Remember when Imagine Dragons were good? I do. When I initially made by Best list for 2012, It’s Time was initially at the top. As you can see, that’s no longer the case, but that doesn’t mean that the song isn’t good because it still is despite overuse in commercials and a Glee cover. The prominent mandolin riff and stomping percussion drive the folky instrumentation and has a good swell to it as well. Meanwhile, Dan Reynolds delivers an inspiring anthem of staying true to who you are in the face of change. Funny how that pans out later on in the band’s career. Snark aside, it’s a brilliant song showcasing the potential of Imagine Dragons.
There was a brief period in the mid-2010s when the tropical sound was big and one of the best songs to come out of this scene is Lean On. This song is a collaboration between Major Lazer and DJ Snake that leans heavy into an Indian influence in its melody and groove that comes with one of Snake’s signature hard-hitting trap drops. MØ is the main vocalist who sings about young love and how spontaneous it can be. In a period where there was a bunch of failed, cheap attempts at the tropical sound, Major Lazer was one of the few acts who pulled it off successfully and created an EDM staple of the entire decade.
I’ll say it again: I was no fan of Kesha early in the decade as I found a lot of her early stuff to be annoying and unlistenable. Then, she released Warrior, which showed signs of improvement, but for a while, Kesha wasn’t able to release new music thanks to a legal battle against a certain P.O.S. producer. When she was able to put out music, she released Praying, a power ballad about healing and forgiveness, even for those who don’t deserve it. For some people who’ve been through abuse, they’ll connect to and relate to the the song’s message. This song surprised the fuck out of me because of how great it was. She shows that she has some serious pipes and is able to hit higher notes than a lot of people thought. After hearing this song and reading about all of the shit she’s been through, I gained a newfound respect for Kesha and her most recent material. This is something powerful.
Holy shit, it’s been more than a year since Old Town Road. It’s one of the biggest songs of all time, holding the record for number of weeks spent at number one on the Hot 100, and crossed over genres to the point of debate. Old Town Road was the phenomenon that made Lil Nas X a star and gave Billy Ray Cyrus a third shot at relevance. We got a country trap fusion that pairs a banjo from a Nine Inch Nails sample with a kicking beat and has more twang than half the country hits out now where Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus live the life of an outlaw. A song like this should not have worked, but by some miracle, all of the right elements came together to make this song work and I can’t help but tip my hat off to it. Can’t nobody tell Lil Nas X nothing, indeed.
Staying on the topic of country rap, here’s The Git Up by Blanco Brown. Again, it’s not anything deep or thought-provoking, it’s just a loose, silly song about dancing that brings acoustic guitars and steel pedals and trap drums together while Blanco Brown, with the most twangy delivery, gives out dance instructions. This is one of those songs that you don’t need to think too much about, just dance along to it. Please, more songs like this, please. It’s better than whatever Sam Hunt shitted out.
Again, on the topic of songs that are just inherently silly, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made a song about buying mopeds and driving them around town. That’s exactly what Downtown is. That alone should be enough for this song to be on a Worst list, but goddamn, it just works. First off, Macklemore has the wit and flow to pull off this type of song. There’s also Ryan Lewis’ production, which pulls from funk, old-school hip-hop, and even arena rock in its chorus where Eric Nally does his best Freddie Mercury impersonation. It’s also dope to see Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, and Melle Mell on here as a nod to the golden age of hip-hop. A shame that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ second album isn’t as good as this song.
Next up, we have Miguel, whose music is reminiscent of the slicker, sensual side of R&B from the 80s and 90s, exemplified in Sure Thing. It’s not the most complex song lyrically, it is another love song that relies a bit too much on metaphors. But where it excels is in its sound. I like how the production is anchored by a guitar riff and the layered percussion creates a smoky and sexy atmosphere perfect for this type of song. I welcome more R&B songs of this type that doesn’t revolve around rap. It keeps things the soundscape more balanced.
There’s a couple of artists who can claim to have dominated the 2010s and one of those artists is Adele, whose last two albums have broken all the records out there and deservedly so. Straight out of the 21 album is Set Fire To The Rain. It’s a big breakup ballad with lust soaring instrumentation that’s suited for Adele’s stellar vocal performance. It’s even more goosebump-inducing watching live performances of this song. This is not going to be the last time you’ll see Adele here as she’s made multiple appearances on this list.
Here’s a song that most of you probably haven’t heard in a long time. Nico & Vinz are a Norwegian duo who scored their biggest hit in 2014 with Am I Wrong. It’s about achieving success in the music business and not caring about whether it’s gonna work out or not. The aspirational nature of the track is matched by the production, which leans into an Afropop sound with the percussion, guitar riffs, and brass paying tribute to their West African roots. They’re considered one-hit wonders in the U.S., but they’ve seen success internationally, especially in their home country of Norway.
Well, here’s the other Chainsmokers song that made the list and it does help that it’s one of their best. I was iffy on Roses, especially since it came from the duo who gave us #Selfie (remember that atrocity?), but it grew on me a lot, mainly due to the production. It’s the sort of light, breezy production that creates perfect vibes and then we get to the drop where we get a wide variety of synths and melodies, but it never sounds too messy. There is a tightness to them that blends together fluidly and makes the drop work. There’s not much to say about the writing, which is all on young love, or the performance from Rozes and Andrew Taggart, which were adequate enough. My main reason for liking this is because of the music. Again, I’m no fan of the Chainsmokers, but I have to give credit where credit is due and they made a good song here.
Orianthi is a guitarist who was originally slated to perform for Michael Jackson’s final tour before his untimely death. Then, she scored a hit song in 2010 with According To You. This is one of those 2010s hits that legitimately rocks thanks to the intense 80s-like instrumentation that features a kickass guitar solo, something that was rare on the Hot 100. Vocally, Orianthi takes a page out the Kelly Clarkson book, which is matched by the writing where she’s no longer being defined by what an ex views her to be. This would be Orianthi’s only hit song as she’s now more focused on being a supporting guitarist, but hey. If we have to have some legit rock songs on the chart, I’m glad this is one of them.
Here’s more of that Imagine Dragons that I like. Of all the songs that this band has released, Radioactive remains their biggest, most well-known of them all and it is awesome. It’s one of the few songs that uses dubstep and not sound like shit. Alex da Kid mixed the dubstep bass with a beat that hits like a sledgehammer while Dan Reynolds’ shouts make for an incredible chorus. This dark sound matches the writing, which brings up imagery of revolution and a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And to make a great song even better, there’s a remix with Kendrick Lamar that was premiered at the 2014 Grammy Awards and it’s just as awesome. I miss this Imagine Dragons so much.
Going back to the topic of R&B, the next song I’m gonna talk about is Love Galore by SZA, a tale of complicated feelings where an ex wants to get back into an old relationship, but that would involve cheating on their current spouse. The production has a really solid groove along with the muted synths that fit this kind of confessional track and we can’t forget how dope the switch-up on the outro is. Both SZA and Travis Scott kill their performances and give the song a more loose atmosphere with their vocals. I don’t know about you, but while we have a good fill of Travis Scott, I want to hear more new music from SZA. She’s one of those acts that’s keeping the R&B scene fresh and exciting.
This is one of those songs that had to grow on me, but I’m glad that happened here. Otherwise, I would not have checked out Amine. I don’t consider Caroline to be his best song, but as a loose, bouncy track named after the main antagonist of the OutKast song Roses, it’s a good track. Amine is just having fun on this track rapping and singing at the same time. Granted, not every line on this song lands like, “let’s get gory like a Tarantino movie,” but there’s enough witty lines that makes me overlook that (almost). Also, check out some of Amine’s other songs. The dude is dope and talented and he deserves more attention.
Man, was I disappointed that Lush Life by Zara Larsson wasn’t a big hit in the U.S. because it’s great and it would have made this spot if it did. But I’ll settle with Never Forget You. It’s a collaboration between Zara Larsson and MNEK where two partners clearly miss one another. Both singers sound great and have solid chemistry with one another, which is evident by how potent the final chorus hits. I also like the multi-layered production that has a sense of swell and rattled melody. It’s a solid pop track that makes me want more from Zara here in the U.S., but I’ll take what I can get.
Another artist you should expect to see more of on this list is Ariana Grande, who has delivered some of the best pop hits of the 2010s. Having her around is always a delight, save for a few stinkers but that’s besides the point. No Tears Left To Cry was released a year after the horrific Manchester bombing and considering what Ariana Grande went through, this had to be therapeutic, soldiering on in the face of doubt and uncertainty, to not waste time on any crying. This is reinforced by the glimmering synths and UK garage beat of the production that gives a hopeful vibe to the song. Good song overall.
And on a somewhat related note, we have Shawn Mendes battling anxiety on In My Blood. It seems like with his more recent material, Shawn Mendes is still trying to make up for Treat You Better by making more mature music with depth, this song included. Musically, it pushed towards a more rock direction, but maintaining Shawn Mendes’ acoustic roots. Looking at the lyrics, it perfectly describes what being anxious feels like and how overbearing it could all be. But the main message of the song is to not give up even in the face of adversity. This is a message that applies way too well in recent times.
Usher had adapted to the club boom to mixed results. OMG was trash, DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love was alright, but then came More, which is much closer to the Usher that I liked. There isn’t much lyrical depth in this song, but that’s because it’s a party song meant for the clubs, which leaves us with the production. I’m going by the RedOne Jimmy Joker Remix for this one because the beat to the original isn’t anything special. With the remix, you get these pulsating Hi-NRG synths and drums that pump this song full of energy along with a stellar performance from Usher himself. Oh, and some people are saying that Disney ripped off the bridge of this song for Frozen II’s Into The Unknown. You be the judge of that. It’s not my favorite song from Usher, but for a club song, I can’t really complain. I’ll take this over OMG any day of the week.
It’s not her best song and I would have loved for Juice to be a hit, but Truth Hurts is a pretty good first impression for Lizzo. She’s expressing her disappointment with guys who don’t live up to expectations in a relationship. Like Cardi B, Lizzo’s carefree personality is what drives most of her songs, plus her vocal delivery, which elevates material that would otherwise either not work or be bland given to a lesser artist. There’s also the production which has a lot of bounce to it thanks to the piano loop and the beat. Like I said, this isn’t even the best that Lizzo could do. Check out the rest of her material if you haven’t because she has talent. Don’t sleep on her music because of the outside antics.
After a near-four year hiatus, Fall Out Boy made a comeback in 2013 with My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up). Nice to see that Fall Out Boy is still competing with Panic! At The Disco for ridiculously long song titles. That aside, I remember a bunch of people hating this song and I never understood it. I think this is another kick ass song from Fall Out Boy with rocking instrumentation and Patrick Stump giving it his all on the vocal department. Then, I’ve read somewhere that the song is aimed at FOB fans who turned on them when they became less relevant and in some way, I got a better understanding of some of the backlash. Still, this song is still awesome in my eyes.
I reviewed his latest album this month and now I’m talking about him again on this list. The Weeknd, ladies and gentlemen. After being an underground sensation for years, The Weeknd made his way into the mainstream with several hits, including Can’t Feel My Face. With this song, he threw the gauntlet of being the next successor of Michael Jackson and while there’s no recreating the magic, The Weeknd comes very close here with his vocal delivery and the disco-influence production, courtesy of Max Martin. This is a song about cocaine, which is pretty obvious if you look at the lyrics and consider that The Weeknd has made several songs about drugs. Here, cocaine is personified in the same way Rick James personifies weed in Mary Jane. This would be one of many songs from The Weeknd that embraces the pop sound, mainly by borrowing from the past.
I’ve reached a point where I stopped caring about tabloid drama and my life is all the better for it because that means that my time is spent on better things. Which is weird considering my enjoyment of Don’t by Ed Sheeran because of its content. I think it all comes down to the framing and here, Ed Sheeran is just laying out all the facts about what happened in his relationship with Ellie Goulding and sharing equal blame for why things didn’t work out. It also helps that the music is great with the acoustic strumming and the rougher clattering percussion matching the mood of the song. Don’t is definitely up there with some of Ed Sheeran’s best work to date.
Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard this song. It took me back to my high school days. Neon Trees was one of the few rock acts that were charting on the Hot 100 in its time and they deserve it. Animal was their first big hit in 2010 and it’s a terrific record. The production leans into the tight and slick new wave reminiscent of the Killers, who were an obvious influence to Neon Trees. There’s also the killer performance from lead singer Tyler Glenn, who brings a lot of personality to what’s basically a hookup jam. The band would have one more hit two years later and fade into obscurity. A shame, really. This band deserves more hits.
Remember when B.o.B was one of the most promising talents in rap and wasn’t into wacked-out conspiracy theories? That seemed like a lifetime ago. Here’s one of the last hits that B.o.B had in So Good, a song that earned its title because of how good it is. It’s a nice song where B.o.B takes his girl around the world and talk art and fine wine complete with an effortless flow from B.o.B and light, breezy piano-driven production courtesy of Ryan Tedder. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to other rap songs that mentioning stealing your girlfriend and killing people. This is where B.o.B is at his best, doing these alternative/pop-leaning rap songs that shows off his artistic versatility, not the horrible trap shit that he would do more of afterwards.
Man, Alessia Cara pretty much came and went. She was one of many younger artists of the time who was hailed as the next successor of Lorde and considering that the lineup included Halsey and Daya, she was easily one of the better ones as proven by Here. It’s an introvert anthem that captures the feeling of being at a party that you don’t want to be at and just want to leave and there’s a graphic amount of detail that makes this party feel real. The production creates a smoky, almost claustrophobic atmosphere along with a prominent Isaac Hayes sample. This song showcased the potential that Alessia Cara had, potential that’s never fully realized in subsequent singles afterwards.
And now we move on from one anthem of the youth to another. Khalid has been another promising act in R&B who finds his way on the Hot 100. He’s on this list for Young Dumb & Broke, an anthem for Generation Z hooking up while still in high school. Despite not having the wisdom or the finances of an adult, Khalid croons that he and his target of affection still have love to give. Along with that is the sparse production, which consists of an organ and a bumping beat that fits the more anthemic vibe of the song. This and Location would be the start of a very fruitful career so far. Can’t wait to see where Khalid goes from here.
I’m amazed that I didn’t get a lot of pushback for including this song on my Best list because most people I saw weren’t really fans of this song. But I’m not one to be dissuaded by having an unpopular opinion and I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thinks Happier is good. This collaboration with Bastille has some of Marshmello’s better production that has a bit of a rock edge while retaining its EDM core. Also, it’s great to hear from Bastille again. Despite the title of the song and the more uplifting production, the writing is much more melancholic in that it presents a situation where a relationship has to end because it’s best for both parties. Kind of a downer, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying this song. It’s on this list for a reason.
In terms of emulating Queen, fun. is one of the more successful groups who were influenced by this classic rock band. It’s evident in their last album Some Nights, which aimed for the grandiose sounds of Freddie Mercury. The last single from that album is Carry On, which is all about empathy as Nate Ruess is doing the best he can to cheer up a friend who’s depressed, telling them to carry on. Very timely message there. The Queen influences ring strong thanks to a combination of the writing, the vocal performances, and the instrumentation, which includes a big chorus and a guitar solo. This is some real potent music right here and its message will always resonate. If you’re ever feeling down, carry on.
There needs to be more rock women on the charts because they kick just as much ass, if not, more, than some of the rock dudes. Case in point, Elle King, who scored her only hit in 2015 with Ex’s And Oh’s. This song takes the “love ’em and leave ’em” premise and flips it on its head where she tells off ex-boyfriends who want to come back to her life. It’s shallow, but Elle King has the personality and grit to make this work. There’s also the music, which leans into that blues rock sound with a little bit of Southern rock. Like I said, with how little actual rock songs there are on the Hot 100, I’ll take what I can get, especially if they’re this awesome.
I don’t know what the hell happened, but Thomas Rhett, a guy known for shitty bro country songs and whose biggest hit at one point was an Ed Sheeran ripoff, actually made a great song. I was just as flabbergasted as everyone else when it happened, but here we are. In Marry Me, Thomas Rhett is going down memory lane and remembering all the times he spent with a girl that he missed out on starting a new life with and now, he’s watching her get married to someone else and is wishing her good luck. This song showcases a maturity that I did not expect to see, but it’s welcomed, especially if we’re gonna get more songs like this.
True story: my Class of 2012 picked this song as our theme song for graduation. I honestly couldn’t complain because Good Life by OneRepublic is great. Musically, it’s a warm folk-like song with acoustic strumming, handclaps, and occasionally whistling that creates a feeling of positivity. It oozes of optimism as it looks forward to living what will possibly be a good life. That is a message that is relatable and is desperately needed in this time and age. This has always been one of my favorite songs from back when I was younger and I still love it now.
Looks like I’m not done talking about Coldplay like I thought. This honestly shouldn’t be that surprising since I am a Coldplay fan. Straight out of Mylo Xyloto comes Paradise. I’m a sucker for this dream-like production, which utilizes heavenly orchestral strings with the flurry of synths and guitars anchored by the piano work. The whole vibe of the song gives off a sense of euphoria as it tells the story of a girl escaping the hardships of the real world through dreams of a paradise. Again, this hits way too close to home. Still, it’s more of that Coldplay that I really enjoy listening to.
Here’s another band that I’m a huge fan of, Paramore. When I was starting to get into rock music, they were one of those bands that I gravitated towards as they’ve made some of my favorite songs in the genre for the past 15 years. When Ain’t It Fun became their biggest hit, I was ecstatic because I fucking love it. I like how the music both rocks and mixes together different genres and sounds together, from a bouncy xylophone melody to a funky bassline to even having a gospel choir halfway through the song. It all comes together for this delicious cake of a song and Hayley Williams kills it on the vocals. And in another case of a song hitting too close to home, it’s about growing up. There’s two valid interpretations of this song: it could be a celebratory anthem about being independent for the first time in your life or it could be a sarcastic dig at the conception that kids and teens have about growing up and being independent, especially when the choir repeats “don’t go crying to your mama, because you’re on your own in the real world.” Either interpretation works. Ain’t It Fun, great song from one of my favorite bands.
It’s the 21st century New York City anthem and Jay Z’s biggest hit song so far in his career. This is Empire State Of Mind, a love letter to the City That Never Sleeps where Jay describes all the different locations, residents, and the overall feeling. Listening to this song makes you feel like you’re in New York. The production has the classy pianos and big orchestral strings with a big soaring chorus courtesy of Alicia Keys. It makes sense for both her and Jay to make this type of song since they’re both New York natives and they bring that authenticity and class that would be needed for such a big song. It’s one of the best songs of both of their respective careers and it’s an anthem that New Yorkers would be proud of.