The 100 Best Songs of the 2010s

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The 100 Best Songs of the 2010s

We already tallied up the 100 best albums of the 2010s. That in itself was a gigantic feat, a product of dozens of writers voting, compiling and re-listening to hundreds of albums. When it was time to choose the best songs of the decade, it felt like an even bigger task. It’s not as simple as looking at the albums list and deriving tunes from therein—the decade’s best songs are from all over the place, EPs and singles and albums and SoundCloud uploads alike. Some of these songs are certified hits and chart-toppers, while others may be entirely new to you. But, as ever, lists like this one serve one main purpose: to share the music we loved the past 10 years, in the hopes you might love it, too. These are the songs that got us through the decade, that filled our playlists and soundtracked our road trips. From hip-hop and pop to rock and country, here are the best songs of the 2010s, as voted by the Paste Staff.

Revisit our Best Albums of the 2010s right here. Then listen to the Best Songs of the 2010s Spotify playlist right here.

100. Miguel: “Adorn”
The first 10 seconds of “Adorn” is like, “Hey, this could be a cool song. That’s a good, skittering beat and the keyboard part sounds like floating droplets of liquid gold.” But then the sub-bass kicks in and all of a sudden you’re immersed in one of the very best songs of the 2010s. Through a decent pair of headphones, “Adorn” instantly becomes a study in balance: The low end rumbles and throbs like one of those massage chairs at the mall turned up to 11, while Miguel—possessor of a pristine voice—declares not just lust for the lady of his dreams, but commitment to her as well. It’s pure romance perfectly captured in the pop-song format, and a stand-out on Miguel’s incredible 2012 album Kaleidoscope Dream—where standing out is no easy task. —Ben Salmon

99. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: “Meticulous Bird”
Thao Nguyen’s work with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners partially inspired her band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down’s 2013 album We the Common, but the follow-up A Man Alive is grounded in something far more personal: Nguyen’s feelings about her estranged father. For the Merrill Garbus-produced album’s catchiest song, though, Nguyen shifts her attention toward liberating sexual assault survivors. On “Meticulous Bird,” the closest a Nguyen song has ever come to hip-hop, she encourages victims to “find the scene of the crime” and reclaim their bodies. But as the song’s hefty bass-and-drum interplay cedes to noisy electronic shrieks and blown-out synth bursts, she sings a lyric likely not about sexual assault, but instead what she’ll do when she finds her father: “Grow my hair so long to wrap around you / You’ve been starving for air ever since I found you.” “Meticulous Bird” is similarly enveloping. —Max Freedman

98. Clairo: “Bags”
“Bags” is a startlingly layered track, slowly adding more and more elements and instruments that complement Clairo’s conversational singing. A set of simple guitar chords, understated drum fills, plunking keys—these are all familiar elements for the bedroom-pop songwriter, but the move toward a studio with co-producer Rostam really fleshes out Clairo’s instincts in a remarkable way. —Harry Todd

97. Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin: “I Like It”
There was no questioning Cardi B’s dominance over the summer of 2018 with Invasion of Privacy, but for anyone with a sliver of a doubt, Cardi pulls zero punches with “I Like It,” a bilingual Latin trap banger that quickly surged as the album’s most streamed single. The track features Cardi B in collaboration with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and Colombian singer J Balvin, a powerhouse of Latino voices both inside and outside the United States. The music video, filmed in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, is filled with hero shots of Cardi B dressed to the nines, nods to working class Cuban-Americans and club scenes from inside the classic 1930s Ball & Chain nightclub. The trio pays tribute to the voices that helped pave their paths, jam-packing the song with references to Celia Cruz, Tommy Olivencia, Bobby Valentín, and Charytín Goyco, all laden over a riff of Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That.” Whether you speak Spanish or not, the message is clear: Latin pop has officially broken into the American mainstream, and it’s here to stay. —Katie Cameron

96. Pusha T: “If You Know You Know”
Pusha T is the most no-bullshit rapper in the game. In a world where every cat on the mic needs a hype man, King Push sits alone on his throne and doesn’t care to sugarcoat anything for anyone. The DAYTONA album opener has it all: Golden State Warriors and Scarface references, reminiscing on the back-in-the-day dope game, tongue-in-cheek pop culture mastery shouting out Puff, Oprah, Al Roker and Ri-Ri…what can’t this guy do? Before Kanye West went totally off his rocker and became a grade-A asshole, he was better known for incredible productions like “If You Know You Know.” The cinematic beat is a canvas for Push’s tale of a supreme dream that started in the streets. He floats above the beat, unadulterated, authoritative, not a shred of auto-tune—just bars for days. He delivers in a way that if the beat stopped, he wouldn’t break stride, and he lets the production serve only as an elevator for his menacing rhymes. Accept no substitutions. —Adrian Spinelli

95. Yuck: “Get Away”
The smeared indie rock and searing noise-pop of Yuck’s 2011 self-titled debut still cuts deep. Their distorted guitars reflect the golden age of alternative rock, and their plucky energy captured a band that was firing on all cylinders in a way that’s difficult to recapture. Lead track “Get Away” is marked by meaty, J Mascis-style guitar shrieks as lead vocalist Daniel Blumberg musters an intense level of melancholia. Blumberg pleads, “Tell me when the pain kicks in” before guitarist Max Bloom erupts with a guitar solo so heartbreakingly perfect that you’ll form a tear in the corner of your eye. Blumberg makes his harsh turn into despair feel like a communal catharsis, and the outro’s live applause and amp dissonance makes this modern classic feel like you’ve just witnessed the greatest DIY basement performance of all time with your closest pals. —Lizzie Manno

94. Craig Finn: “God in Chicago”
Craig Finn, known for his role as leading man of The Hold Steady, has a knack for understanding darkness. “God in Chicago,” the highlight from 2017’s We All Want the Same Things, is part spoken-word, part salute to the middle of country, follows the story of a man who helps his dead friend’s sister sell the drugs that killed him. Finn isn’t exactly famous for subtlety, yet it’s the subtle details that make this song so devastating, from the help the narrator enlists from his old friend “Wayne from Winnetka” who “picked up on the first ring” to the “toothbrush from Walgreens” the pair purchase when they decide to spend the night at a Hyatt on Michigan Avenue. —Claire Greising

93. Noname: “Blaxpoitation”
There was the old Noname, the one who ducked and dodged around the fluttery rhythms and subdued melodies of her debut EP Telefone like a shy hummingbird, beautiful but weightless. But with “Blaxploitation,” from her 2018 album Room 25, Noname is finally ready for all the limelight. She spits out lines like “Penny proud, penny petty, pissing off Betty the Boop / Only date n****s that hoop, traded my life for cartoon,” with a previously unheard vigor over a bass-line that pops. No one is safe from Noname’s polemic—not the artists that blow up and move to the yuppie Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, not those mammy-stereotype “Power of Pine-Sol” commercials, not even Noname herself for indulging in noted anti-LGBT restaurant Chick-Fil-A. It was an unflinchingly powerful introduction to this new Noname, one who was ready, able and fully willing to become the next big thing. And yes, all without label support. —Justin Kamp

92. Vince Staples: “Norf Norf”
Within Vince Staples’ undeniable masterpiece Summertime ‘06 lies one of this decade’s top-tier hip-hop hits. Much of the album is rather morose, but Staples takes a more nostalgic angle when examining his past on the freakishly groovy “Norf Norf,” as he reps his city of Long Beach, Calif. (the “norf” side, the be exact). In a genre in which one’s origin story (and how they tell it) is of the utmost importance, Staples pulls off this narrative without a hitch. Not to mention, the ease with which Staples raps over droning synth and steady beats makes for one of this decade’s most relaxed and catchy party songs. —Ellen Johnson

91. Real Estate: “Darling”
Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney’s move to upstate New York in the late 2010s did nothing to upset the delicate and shimmering sound that he had been nurturing for nearly a decade. The melodies of this first single from the group’s 2017 album, In Mind, still seduce, just as the gentle chime of the guitars still feel like they’re tickling your skin. The only new addition was an injection of pastoral imagery into Courtney’s lyrics that let us listen into this shivering impatience at the arrival of his loved one. The birds on his porch don’t have to worry about where their partner is. Why should he? —Robert Ham

90. Hop Along: “Waitress”
Philadelphia’s punk sweethearts Hop Along took everyone’s hearts with the release of their second LP Painted Shut, and the album’s first single “Waitress” illustrates just why. With lead singer Frances Quinlan’s unique vocals at the forefront, the song is reflective and positive, angsty and upbeat, and whether you’re searching yourself or just floating along, it’s a song that demands being on repeat. —Brittany Joyce

89. Drake: “Hotline Bling”
With its understated hook and roller-rink sample (courtesy of organ-playing soul man Timmy Thomas), “Hotline Bling” is a stealth earworm. It’s the kind of song that gets under your skin and stays in your system for weeks, thanks as much to nineteen85’s supple production as to Drake’s melancholy vocals and lo-fi dance moves. And it did get under our skin, collectively and culturally, inspiring an unbearable cover by Sufjan, a slow-burn version by Son Little, even a shitty SNL sketch featuring Donald Trump (because unchecked xenophobia and arrogance is always hilarious). But the best version belongs to Erykah Badu, who gender-flipped the song and may have one-upped even Drake. —Stephen Deusner

88. Lonnie Holley: “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America”
It’s a pretty dire commentary on Our American Moment to realize that Lonnie Holley was born in Jim Crow-era Alabama and yet waited until 2018 to record a song called “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America.” Holley, a 68-year-old black man who has spent much of his creative career building sculptures from junkyard debris (his work has been exhibited in places like The Met), sings songs, largely improvised, with the same dreamlike, free-associate energy that animates his visual art. On “Fucked-Up America,” his voice is a disturbed rumble as he surveys a rotten country full of walls, greed and “all the vampires.” Holley has expanded his backing group with avant-garde multi-instrumentalists like Shahzad Ismaily, and here Holley’s musical backing is a discordant, warped symphony of blown-out synths and piano—aural representative of a country crumbling into chaos. —Zach Schonfeld

87. Boygenius: “Me & My Dog”
Phoebe Bridgers takes lead on “Me & My Dog,” and if her opening lines (“We had a great day / even though we forgot to eat / and you had a bad dream”) don’t send shivers down your spine, you may want to verify that you have a heartbeat. Seeing Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus step to their mics to sing in unison—to say nothing of Bridgers’ towering sustained note at the song’s climax—is nearly sublime enough to make one forget what an anxiety-ridden time we live in is. —Scott Russell

86. Radiohead: “True Love Waits”
The true “Holy shit, did they really uncover that song?” selection of A Moon Shaped Pool is closer “True Love Waits,” a stark ballad debuted during the 1995 The Bends tour, later recorded for 2001 live LP, I Might Be Wrong. Here, the track—much like In Rainbows’ afterlife gaze “Videotape”—is gutted and re-assembled, with delicate piano loops underscoring Yorke’s heartbreak. The inclusion is shocking, considering producer Nigel Godrich joked to Rolling Stone in 2012 about their inability to work out a decent arrangement. “We tried to record it countless times, but it never worked,” he said. “The irony is you have that shitty live version. To Thom’s credit, he needs to feel a song has validation, that it has a reason to exist as a recording. We could do ‘True Love Waits’ and make it sound like John Mayer. Nobody wants to do that.” —Ryan Reed

85. Tegan and Sara: “Closer”
Tegan and Sara  have undergone numerous musical shifts in their two decades as a band, and their shimmery pop phase is marked best by “Closer.” Their jump from 2009’s Sainthood to 2013’s Heartthrob was one of the most glaring progressions of their career, but swapping off-kilter art-pop for ultra hi-fi pop was another resounding success. Heartthrob opener “Closer” is Tegan and Sara’s most suitable karaoke anthem. While many pop and EDM songs are specifically constructed in pursuit of those satisfying “drops,” which often sound forced, the “Closer” refrain reaches the highest possible peak of pop pleasure. The Quin sisters sing over bubbly dance-pop synths, “It’s not just all physical / I’m the type who won’t get oh so critical / So let’s make things physical / I won’t treat you like you’re oh so typical.” It’s a reflection on pure teenage romance—unaffected by the entanglements of adulthood and characterized more by the pursuit of intimacy than intimacy itself. This fun-as-hell emotional gut-punch is like the triumphant climax during the greatest night out of high school. —Lizzie Manno

84. Iceage: “The Lord’s Favorite”
Danish quartet Iceage aren’t known for country-punk, but one of their best tracks, “The Lord’s Favorite,” would certainly make for a violent squaredance. The punk band’s fourth album, Plowing Into The Field of Love, saw them at their most languorous and lurid, but standout single “The Lord’s Favorite” dials up the tempo and debauchery significantly. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s rough, uneven vocals bring a crazed theatricality as their rollicking, sped-up country riff and shuffling drums will make you want to throw yourself in every direction at the same time. If I could only pick one song to mosh to from the past decade, it’s this one—and I might even do so while chewing on a piece of straw. —Lizzie Manno

83. Moses Sumney: “Doomed”
Moses Sumney is a master in minimalism, and nowhere is that more apparent than on “Doomed,” a gem from his surprise breakout debut Aromanticism and easily one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Sumney’s falsetto is his main currency. He bends and melts his voice to fit the loose energy of “Doomed,” ultimately allowing all the sounds to run together in one fluid stroke. He also confronts some serious questions, like what it means to be on this Earth when you feel numb to it: “Am I vital / If my heart is idle / Am I doomed?” —Ellen Johnson

82. Rosalía: “MALAMENTE”
Even if you don’t know a lick of Spanish, it’s still obvious that “Malamente” is one of the best pop songs of the decade. Matched with a video full of stunning images, budding Spanish superstar Rosalía combines flamenco music with something much more modern to a spectacular result. The poppiest track on her widely celebrated El mal querer, it launched her to international renown and is currently becoming a household name thousands of miles away from her native Barcelona. The song, built upon rhythmic handclaps and Rosalía’s incomparable voice, is about as unique of a hit single as anything you’ve heard all decade. And listeners weren’t alone: She’s since become one of the go-to features for pop and R&B artists across the world, from James Blake to J Balvin. Now one of the biggest female artists on the planet, look for her to be heavily featured on this same list in 2029. —Steven Edelstone

81. Tom Waits: “Hell Broke Luce”
When Tom Waits was in his 30s, he already sounded about 65, as evidenced by the clanging death rattle of Swordfishtrombones. So it seems right that on “Hell Broke Luce”—a song he made once he reached his actual 60s—Waits sounds like a 105-year-old skeleton, snarling and rattling his bones up in the attic. Every bewildering element of the song—the percussive cacophony, the near-random bursts of metallic guitar, the sudden jolts of gunfire—work together in service of a collective middle finger to the idea that artists of a certain age should settle down and make polite music. And Waits’ delivery conveys the brutality of war with his gruff barks and brutish rhyme schemes: “I lost my buddy and I wept! Wept! / I come down from the meth so I slept! Slept!” If Bad As Me proves to be his last album (which I hope it won’t), this is a hell of a sendoff. —Zach Schonfeld

80. Sky Ferreira: “I Blame Myself”
Where Joan Jett doesn’t give a damn, Sky Ferreira instead blames herself. “I blame myself / For my reputation,” Ferreira sings on the apex of her long-delayed debut studio album Night Time, My Time (the follow-up to which has also encountered many delays). Over an infinitely catchy boom-bap drumbeat and synths as new-wave as they are Twin Peaks (a show in which Ferreira would later act), Ferreira’s self-flagellating lyrics comment on being, well, blamed for her label’s interference with Night Time’s release. “Is it because you know my name? / Or is it because you saw my face on the cover?” she asks, not that she expects non-public figures to understand. “I know it’s not your fault / That you don’t understand / I blame myself,” she sings before continuing, “How could you know what it feels like to fight the hounds of hell?” Hearing “I Blame Myself,” listeners can at least approximate it. —Max Freedman

79. Anderson .Paak: “The Bird”
It’s fitting that Anderson .Paak kicks off his excellent Malibu with “The Bird;” it’s the kind of opening track that ensures—demands, even—that you stick around for the rest of the album, but it does so in such a smooth, effortless way that you don’t even realize it’s happening until you’re already hooked and reeled in. All it takes is a few bars, maybe to the end of that first chorus or the first time that trumpet eases in, before you feel as though you’ve always loved this song. That “sweetness of a honeycomb tree” .Paak sings of is palpable, delivered with a warm familiarity. When he weaves in snippets of his life (“my sister used to sing to Whitney, my momma caught the gambling bug”), he ultimately draws the conclusion that “We see the same things/we sing the same songs / we feel the same grief / bleed the same blood.” He’s talking about a childhood friend, but the way he sings it, it feels like he’s singing it to us, welcoming us in to his inner circle, inviting us to come in, kick off our shoes and stick around for the rest of the album. —Bonnie Stiernberg

78. Tame Impala: “The Less I Know the Better”
For some reason, this impeccable song has developed a reputation for being basic and even a bit uncool. But the standout track from Tame Impala’s Currents is a perfect song, arguably one of the most entertaining marriages of electric guitar and synth this decade. Using rhyme and one of the grooviest synthlines you’ll ever hear, Kevin Parker weaves together feelings of desire, regret and jealousy in what has become a dance party staple. The danceability of this song is nearly mathematical—it gets people moving without fail. In the larger context of Currents, it’s a break from the existential dread of the rest of the album. Heard as a single, even on one of Spotify’s “chill indie” playlists, it’s reliable sonic gold. —Ellen Johnson

77. Wolf Alice: “Don’t Delete The Kisses”
Wolf Alice’s second album Visions of A Life saw the British quartet expand their sonic horizons significantly. Moments of tenderness and vexation are both heightened and contain a bulkier sound, and its standout track “Don’t Delete The Kisses” is a true breakthrough. Ellie Rowsell’s lead vocals switch between layered pop transcendence and a stark, murmured inner monologue, reliving a brush with a love interest via carefully preserved detail: “We’d go to The Hail Mary / And afterwards make out instead I’m typing you a message / That I know I’ll never send / Rewriting old excuses / Delete the kisses at the end.” Its dynamic synth-pop pulse, painfully relatable regret and pure-hearted nature will reel you in whether you surrender willfully or not. —Lizzie Manno

76. SZA: “Drew Barrymore”
Months before SZA dropped her hotly anticipated debut studio album Ctrl, “Drew Barrymore” introduced listeners to precisely how Solana Rowe’s Pop Album of the Decade contender would sound. With psychedelic production, percussion equally indebted to indie rock and jazz, and peripheral strings fit for a true R&B tearjerker, “Drew Barrymore” aptly previewed Ctrl and provided the ideal playground for SZA’s nimble-as-Jack voice, which can somehow move with a rap cadence and employ a gently rattling vibrato in the same breath. The track is among the most candid on an album revered for its honesty: As SZA sings about envy, loneliness, and inflated female beauty standards, she embodies an outcast character like those the song’s titular actress has often played. “Why’s it so hard to accept the party is over?” SZA asks at the song’s outset, and at the track’s end, listeners will wonder the same. —Max Freedman

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