2010 was the year everyone decided it was cool to become a freak. Everyone was trying so hard to be a forward-thinking individual that it become somewhat clichéd. Still, clichéd or not, true ambition and individuality could not be denied.That’s why two of the year’s most ambitious artists, Robyn and Kanye West are tied for the most entries on the list with 3 a piece. Robyn decided to release 2 mini-albums and capped it all off with a quasi-compilation album that cherry-picked some of the best songs off the first two albums and included five more new songs. While, Kanye harnessed his huge and turned it into the genius album My Dark Twisted Fantasy.
30. “Not Afraid”, Eminem
Eminem came back in a huge way this past year, not only did he score the year’s best-selling album but “Love The Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid” both went number one and sold over three million copies each. Even though “Not Afraid” was the smaller hit of the two (although that isn’t really saying much) it is the better. Eminem declared his return with a conviction few others could match, heck he even disses his last album. What more could you ask for from a comeback single?
29. “You Lost Me”, Christina Aguilera
The first take of the chorus show Aguilera giving one of her most beautifully restrained performances to date. Ultimately though, it’s her signature belting that takes this song to another hemisphere. Classic Christina.
28. “Soldier Of Love”, Sade
Forget about the military style beats and Sade’s rich voice, this song deserves to be on this list on the strength of its opening line alone: “I’ve lost the use of my heart/But I’m still alive“. Brilliant.
27. “Kiss Me When I’m Down”, Gary Allan
The production’s a little heavy-handed, but a cluttered production can’t smother the desperation in Allan’s voice as he pleas for an ex-lover to come back one last night. The chorus paints a painfully realistic picture of a man who knows asking for anything more would be futile.
26. “Blue Sky”, Emily West featuring Keith Urban
A tragic song of a woman who finally decides to walk away from an abusive relationship. West desperately belts that she refuses to stand by her ex and comfort him like he once did. She will no longer be the blue sky to his rainy day. And Urban’s harmonies help make this nothing short of a beautiful disaster.
25. “Rude Boy”, Rihanna
“Rude Boy” marked the beginning of the next chapter in Rihanna’s career. She was done with being a victim, she was once again in control and was ready to give us the ear candy we all secretly loved. Except, this time it was a little edgier, a little fiercer, and all of a sudden Rihanna was a lot cooler than the pop star she used to be, but just as accessible as she was before.
24. “Stuck Like Glue”, Sugarland
Rarely has pop fluff ever been so ambitious as “Stuck Like Glue”, as Sugarland breaks down the boundaries between country-pop and dancehall reggae. Opinions of this single have been pretty split and there isn’t a lot of middle ground on this one; you either love it or hate. Guess what side of the fence I sit on?
One of Maroon 5’s best offerings to date. It’s classic Maroon 5 with a little extra funk than usual. Between the infectious production, Levine’s falsetto, and a killer chorus what’s not to like?
22. “Hang With Me”, Robyn
“Just don’t fall recklessly, heedlessly in love with me“, oh Robyn, it’s much too late for that.
21. “Only Girl (In The World)”, Rihanna
I admit I wasn’t immediately fond of this song, but it has definitely grown on me. Along with “What’s My Name?”, “Only Girl” stands as proof of Rihanna’s evolution as an artist. She may have returned to her dance floor roots, but never before has her voice soared the way it does on this chorus. It may be not be pop art, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be.
20. “Telephone”, Lady Gaga Featuring Beyoncé
On the surface, “Telephone” might appear to be a shallow party jam, but if you dig a little deeper it’s so much more. “Telephone” is a statement of Gaga’s independence, and no one short of the Independent Woman herself came to help her out; Beyoncé! “Telephone” is also a pit of endless hooks, so hectic that it’s almost as if we were getting a peek into Gaga’s brain.
19. “Dog Days Are Over”, Florence + The Machine
If there ever was an anthem this past year than it was without a doubt “Dog Days Are Over”. From its urgent claps and drums to Florence’s mighty voice, this song can feel empowering in just about any context. Honestly though, with a hook like “Leave all your longing and lonely behind/You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive“, how could possibly expect anything less than epic.
18. “From A Table Away”, Sunny Sweeney
One of the most refreshing country releases of the year. Sweeney plays the role of the other women who is devastated when she finds out that her man isn’t leaving his wife. As if that weren’t interesting enough. the song is backed by a great neo-traditional production and a set of razor-sharp lyrics.
17. “Giddy On Up”, Laura Bell Bundy
In a time when country music is becoming more bland than ever, “Giddy On Up” is like a stick of dynamite full of life and gave the rest of country radio a boost of colourful personality.
16. “Cold War”, Janelle Monáe
“This is a cold war/You better know what you’re fighting for“. That is the key line in a song about the importance, nay, the necessity to discover who you are as an individual, rather than just another anonymous face in the crowd.
15. “Rolling In The Deep”, Adele
While the bluesy gospel vibe of the song’s verses might not appeal to everyone, the sweeping chorus is undeniable. Adele delivers an emotionally packed performance on what is the most extravagant break-up anthems in recent memory. The best part? When Adele belts “We could have had it all“, melancholy at its best.
14. “Little White Church”, Little Big Town
Imagine if someone took Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), got rid of everything but the hand claps, replaced it with steel guitar, give it a much raspier vocalist, add some tight harmonies, and then replace the line “If you like it then you should of put a ring on it” with line like “I might be cheap, but I ain’t free” and “No more calling me baby/No more loving like crazy“. So clearly one of the best country singles of the year.
13. “Teenage Dream”, Katy Perry
Yes, I realize that Katy Perry has, and continues, to make some of the most grating pop music out there, but if there’s one song that justifies Perry’s existence in the pop realm then it’s without a doubt “Teenage Dream”. A genuinely sweet love song that’s also catchy as hell. The urgent rush of the chorus when she bids her lover to “runaway and don’t ever look back” might just be the best moment in mainstream pop music all year.
12. “Monster”, Kanye West featuring Jay-z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver
The song offers strong performances from all those involved, but it’s Nicki Minaj who clearly steals the show here. She gives her strongest performance to date that easily justifies all of the hype surrounding her and then some. When she declares “I’m a motherf**kin’ monster” you know she’s not kidding.
11. “If I Die Young”, The Band Perry
The production alone, which is one part bluegrass and one part pop, would have made it one of the most noteworthy country releases of the year. But it’s the song’s morbid and spin-tingling lyrics that steal the show. As lead singer Kimberly Perry ponders the possibility of her own untimely death. Pretty heavy subject matter considering it’s only the band’s second single.
10. “Draw Me A Map”, Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley took a big risk this year by releasing a quasi-bluegrass album called Up On The Ridge, “Draw Me A Map” is arguably the best track on the album. It’s a plea for an estranged lover to return that’s as sweet as it is desperate. In a time when the vast majority of country ballads are becoming more bland and anonymous, “Draw Me A Map”‘s stripped down production, sharp lyrics, and Bently’s heart-on-sleeves delivery comes as a breath of fresh air.
9. “In For The Kill”, La Roux
Elly Jackson’s voice is an acquired taste, but once you develop a taste for it, her shrill coo is downright addicting. She makes lyrics filled with teenage angst sound as urgent and important as they rightfully should. Add a synth driven production that sounds destined to be used in all foreign car commercials and you have an undeniably smash. Furthermore, 2010’s had few couplets as striking as “I’m going in for the kill/I’m doing it for a thrill“.
8. “Tightrope”, Janelle Monáe featuring Big Boi
Like I said, 2010 was the year everyone wanted come off as a freak, but nobody else embodied that special kind of weirdness as effortlessly as Janelle Monáe did. “Tightrope” is living proof of that, it’s one part retro, one part futuristic, one part funk, one part soul, and all kinds of awesome.
7. “Airplanes”, B.o.B featuring Hayley Williams
We always look back on memories with a biased fondness. It’s as if we airbursh our pasts, making them seem more desirable than they actually were. As B.o.B points out, there is also a certain naivety to our pasts; an innocence of sorts. The greatest thing about memories though, is the certainty. The certainty that things work out, something that the present can’t guarantee. Lets face it, we can all use a wish right now.
6. “Power”, Kanye West featuring Dwele
After the ridiculous Taylor Swift incident, Kanye became one of the most hated media figures in the world. “Power” sees Kanye responding to all of this hate, at times mocking it (“I guess every superhero needs his theme music“), at times reacting angrily towards it (“They say I was the abomination of Obama’s nation“), at times clearly hurt by it (“Now this would be a beautiful death/Jumpin’ out the window“), before ultimately making the realization that no one should be allowed to have as much as an influence as his words seem to have on the general public, good or bad. Regardless, he certainly earns the title of “21st century schizoid man”.
5. “Fuck You!” Cee Lo Green
No other song this year managed to find a more perfect balance between novelty and art. This was a viral smash from the moment it was released and eventually found its way to the mainstream. Even after multiple listens, “F**k You!” never ceases to be anything less than giddily amusing. A foul-mouthed classic.
4. “Indestructible”, Robyn
It’s hard to think of another song this year as downright thrilling as “Indestructible”. With its pulsing synths and Robyn declaring with the perfect mix of vulnerability and excitement: “I never was smart with love/I let the bad ones in and the good ones go/But I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before“. Pop music at its finest!
3. “The House That Built Me”, Miranda Lambert
The year’s best country single also managed to miraculously become one of the biggest country hits of the year. Miranda’s biggest hit to date is also one of her best songs to date, it tells the tale of a woman who returns to her childhood home in an attempt to find closure and comfort from her current life. Miranda helps prove that substance and emotion always triumph over style.
2. “Runaway”, Kanye West featuring Pusha T
Only Kanye could get away with making a song saluting all the douchebags in the world that’s also a gorgeous ballad and still be taken seriously. It’s ironic how a song devoted to Kanye’s flaws is itself flawless. Or perhaps it’s actually because of all it’s flaws, like Kanye’s attempt at singing that’s as pitiful as it is beautiful, that makes “Runaway” such an engaging piece of music
Either way, “Runaway” is representative of My Dark Beautiful Fantasy as a whole. Both give us an uncensored view at the man behind the madness, glaring faults and all. This allows Kanye to be at his boldest and most creative yet. The results? Both the song and the album are nothing short of a modern-day masterpieces.
1. “Dancing On My Own”, Robyn
What a year 2010 has been for Robyn, she released no less than three great albums this year, she released three stellar singles, and has found herself near the top of all the critic’s year-end lists. “Dancing On My Own” is the song the started it all, it redeclared her as the Queen of Heartbreak Disco (in case anyone had forgotten about “With Every Heartbeat” and “Be Mine!”) and managed to earn her a Grammy nomination. “Dancing On My Own”, along with the majority of Robyn’s music, proves that dance music is capable of being both ridiculously infectious and surprisingly intelligent. In a world where The Black Eyed Peas and Ke$ha continue to control the charts with shallow and meaningless dance-pop, Robyn gives them a necessary emotional wallop to the groined.
Unlike most dance music, “Dancing On My Own” only gets better with each listen. Lines like the desperate and confused “Stilettos and broken bottles/I’m spinning around in circles” or the uplifting “But you don’t see me standing here/I just came to say goodbye” leave a stronger impression on every repeat. While the chorus: “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her/I’m right over here, why can’t you see me/I’m givin’ it my all, but I’m not the girl you’re takin’ home” is as immediate as it gets. Maybe she didn’t get her love interests attention, but she got just about everyone elses.