It feels weird writing a “best of the decade” list as we head into 2020. The 2010s seemed to have past by so quickly, even though it feels like recent years have dragged on for centuries already.
The decade in music has been nothing short of insane as the industry rapidly changed to reflect the tastes of internet and streaming-obsessed listeners.
Many artists have dropped some of their best work to date as they focused on figuring out who exactly they wanted to be in this decade, which made it pretty hard to roundup just ten of the best songs of the decade.
The below are, arguably, the best of what the 2010s had to offer with artists such as Beyoncé, who left a massive cultural mark on music, to Kendrick Lamar, who’s singles have become protest anthems. Whether you agree or not, it will be fun to see what these artists tackle in the decade to come, maybe our best of the 2020s list will be something completely different.
Beyoncé - "Formation"
No album had a greater impact this decade than Beyoncé's Lemonade, which featured lead single "Formation," a politically-charged ode to Black culture. The video, directed by Queen & Slim's Melina Matsoukas references racism, Hurricane Katrina, police brutality, Louisiana Creole culture, and a cameo from Blue Ivy, rocking beautiful natural curls.
Rihanna - "Work"
Rihanna's "Work" took the year by storm in 2016 and has since become a staple on every club, going out, summer, girls night playlist. The lead up to arguably her best album to date, ANTI, the dancehall-influenced track tips its hat to Rihanna's roots with its Barbadian patois.
Kanye West - "Runaway" ft. Pusha T
Released after a tumultuous time in his life—the previous year, West had interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and he'd recently split from Amber Rose—"Runaway" is one of West's most personal songs, reflecting on past relationships, fame, and public perception. The track, from West's celebrated My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, also features rapper Pusha T, the perfect juxtaposition to West's auto-tuned heartbreak.
Drake - "Hotline Bling"
While Views is certainly not Drake's best album, "Hotline Bling" is arguably the best song on the project and one of the rapper's best of the decade. Catchy with lyrics that see Drake lamenting the loss of a woman who decided to move on with her life and a video that launched a thousand memes, "Hotline Bling" rests at the height of Drakemania.
SZA - "Broken Clocks"
From SZA's debut album, Ctrl, a nostalgic look back at being 20-something, "Broken Clocks" is the perfect embodiment of what trying to find a balance feels like in your twenties — or really, any age. Bouncing from job to job, late nights, long shifts, and still struggling to find time for love.
Frank Ocean - "Novacane"
The lead single from his debut mixtape nostalgia,ULTRA, "Novacane" is Ocean's exploration of loneliness and numbness as he tells the story of meeting a dental student at a festival and tripping on Novocain. The best song on his debut mixtape, "Novacane" floats and fades in and out just as Ocean does in the song.
Nicki Minaj - "Anaconda"
In 2014, it was impossible to escape Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda." Minaj told Complex she wanted a song "that embraced curvy women. I wanted to be sexual but be playful with it." A nod to the ways in which women can feel empowered by and profit from their curves, "Anaconda" is Minaj's highest charting song to date.
Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"
The fourth single from Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, "Alright" transcended the charts, becoming part of a cultural movement as the song became an anthem for Black protestors everywhere. Throughout the summer of 2015 as Black Lives Matter activists marched against police brutality, "Alright" took on a bigger meaning as we collectively mourned the young Black lives lost and hoped for a better future.
Solange - "Cranes in the Sky"
A Seat at the Table ushered in a new era for Solange, one that felt more soulful and reflective than previous projects. "Cranes in the Sky" is a glimpse into the singer's on battles with sadness and depression. On the title, Solange told Uproxx that "Cranes in the Sky" was an observation of the changing landscape around her. "I remember looking up and seeing all of these cranes in the sky," she said. "They were so heavy and such an eyesore, and not what I identified with peace and refuge."
Azealia Banks - "212" ft. Lazy Jay
Yes, Azealia Banks is on this list. Her hit debut single "212," which dropped in December 2011, was everywhere upon its release and appeared on her incredible 2014 debut album Broke with Expensive Taste. One of the first female rappers to fuse internet sensibilities with pop and hip-hop, Banks' influence on the decade's hip-hop is undeniable, even if it seems she's squandered it all away.