Headphone Nation’s 100 Favorite Songs Of The Decade (So Far): 2010-2014

 Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”

Even if I still think Channel Orange is overrated (feel free to stop reading this if I’ve offended you, I understand), there’s no denying Frank Ocean’s compelling presentation of his music, especially on the soulful “Thinkin Bout You”.

Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”

Frank Ocean’s biggest appeal is his willingness to be open and naked for all of us to see, from admitting to questionable past relationships to stripping away many of the noisy trappings of rap music that conjure up more Marvin Gaye comparisons than Jay Z. “Bad Religion” might be the most honest and the most naked Ocean we’ll ever get. It’s a sort of prayer that Ocean is slowly realizing that he might need but is trying to run away from. It’s a bad religion, but it’s a beautiful sound.

 Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”

What if I told you that this is one of the most romantic and eloquent songs of the decade? No seriously, this song has lovely lyrics and has a beautiful melody. Still no? Oh well, carry on with your headbanging.

Gorillaz – “On Melancholy Hill”

As much as I love how different Gorillaz sounds from that one other British band Damon Albarn was in, my favorite Gorillaz song happens to be the one that most sounds like that one other British band Albarn he was in.

Grimes – “Genesis”

This was a great decade to be a nerd. Superhero and comic-book adaptations dominate the film industry, Game Of Thrones became the most successful HBO show ever, and Grimes was every indie boy’s secret crush and inspiration to make weird, wonderful music from laptops (and she kinda looks like Daenerys).

Haim – “The Wire”

Is this the song that killed Indie Rock? Are you sick of all the Fleetwood Mac comparisons that don’t actually make sense? Is this still a great song? Maybe, yes, and oh my goodness yes.

The Head And The Heart – “Down in the Valley”

In the era of bearded-folk, freaky-folk, and other strange variations of folk, one of the decade’s best folk songs happened to be one of the most simple and familiar sounding. Sometimes, less really is more.

James Blake – “Limit To Your Love”

I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard “Limit To Your Love”. I was driving back home from college and playing my newly purchased James Blake CD in my car, and I remember the first time I heard that bass-drop 55 seconds into the song and freaking out because I thought my car was about to explode from all the sudden rattling. And yet it’s such a smooth song. It demands your attention, and it would be an insult to give anything but your full attention.

Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”

Turn off your computer, get in your car, and drive as fast as you can on the highway while blasting this song on full volume. I can wait.

Jay Z and Kanye West – “That’s My Bitch”

There’s plenty of the fun that you’d expect to come out of the buddy-buddy collaboration between Kanye West and Jay Z on Watch The Throne, but read between the lines and there’s actually plenty of meat to chew on, and by meat I mean songs like “That’s My Bitch” that subtly sneak in angry assaults on security and race. Credit goes to West for continuing his hot streak from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but we can’t undervalue Jay Z’s contribution, who is still the better rapper.

Jónsi – “Go Do”

Sigur Rós remained somewhat quiet in this decade, but frontman Jónsi made up for his band’s tameness by releasing his excellent solo album Go and giving the world “Go do” and other beautiful songs that no one can sing along to.

 Justin Timberlake – “Mirrors”

For all his charm and Jimmy Fallon appearances, it’s easy to miss that Justin Timberlake is actually one of pop music’s more adventurous musicians. FutureSex/LoveSounds was pop music’s Kid A for the Spongebob generation, and The 20/20 Experience was an ambitious take on blue-eyed soul in the Facebook-era (well, at least the first half was). “Mirrors” is just one of the many huge hits from 20/20 that works when it shouldn’t – who else could get away with an 8-minute song like this?

 Kacey Musgraves – “Merry Go ‘Round”

If you want credibility as a country artist among non-country fans, it’s best if you try and sound like Ryan Adams or early Wilco and brand yourself as Y’alternative. But every now and then, a mainstream country artist like Kacey Musgraves writes a song (or in her case, a whole album) that’s so good that you can’t help but to call yourself a country fan, even if it’s just for a little while.

 Kanye West – “Power”

At first I tried to limit this list to one song per artist, but then I realized that I couldn’t have more than one Kanye West song, and that seems inappropriate for a list that talks about my favorite songs of the decade. This is also because there were many Kanye Wests in this decade: the Black Stadium rocker, the GOOD Music curator, Yeezus, the fashion Professor, Mr. Kardashian, and daddy (no you sicko, this kind of daddy). But the one Kanye West to rule them all was the Kanye West of 2010, the 21st-Century schizoid man, the abomination of Obama’s nation, and the man who took over the world with a King Crimson sample and an unexpected question for you (or maybe for himself): you got the power to let power go?

Kanye West ft. Pusha T – “Runaway”

Kanye West first tried it on 808s & Heartbreak, but then he perfected the auto-tune soliloquy that ends this My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy highlight. It’s West at his most open and vulnerable, and it’s a realization that, under all of the dark and twisted madness, this song, and this whole album, is just about one man with a broken heart who wanted to try and say something honest and meaningful. It’s the death of auto-tune, a funeral for one man’s lost love, and a ballet for the rest of us. Let’s have a toast indeed.

Kanye West – “New Slaves”

This song’s now legendary SNL performance was our first taste of Yeezus and it was a sight to behold. Sonically though, what completes the song is the Frank Ocean-featuring freakout ending added to the recording. The rapper with a Benz and a backpack was dead and gone. Yeezus had risen. All hail Yeezus.

Kanye West – “Blood On The Leaves”

On what sounds like a mostly sample-less Yeezus, the two standouts tracks are the ones that rely heaviest on samples: “Bound 2” and “Blood On The Leaves”. The former is a hilarious mashup of Ponderosa Twins Plus One and Wee, but the latter is a more serious, and more epic, endeavor. Only Kanye would (and could) combine a Nina Simone lynching tale with a thunderous TNGHT horn section and make it all about a broken relationship fueled by all drugs and no love. It’s a beautiful, dark, twisted song that channels Kanye’s most under-appreciated album 808s & Heartbreak and gives Yeezus its real bite.

Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”

A timeless-sounding pop song about one of pop music’s most timeless subjects: youthful lust. Well played Perry.

Kavinsky – “Nightcall”

Because we’ve all dreamt of wearing Ryan Gosling’s scorpion jacket while driving really fast on the highway late at night while listening to this song while looking out for some damsel in distress to save and love.

Keaton Henson – “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are”

It seemed to me that this decade had a lack of acoustic singer-songwriters who weren’t lumped up with all the various subgenres of folk music. Keaton Henson makes hushed, emotional acoustic music that at times, like on “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are”, transcends any sort of singer-songwriter title as much as Elliott Smith’s music did, and you can’t help but to become emotionally invested in the music.

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