2010s: Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade

"Psychadelic Passion" by Devante Xiyon

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series



BED · OFFICE · GYM · BATH · COUPE
ALLEY · BONFIRE · CLIFF · VOID · BEYOND

The BATH mix brings the sexiness of the spa to your tub. With its throbbing beats and seductive moans, this mix will melt all stress away while arousing you in places you never thought possible. If you’re feeling frisky, pair the mix with your tub’s massaging air bubbles and jet stream — you’ll thank us later.

PART 4: “BATH” mixed by Corrigan B


Ariana Grande

“imagine”

[01:08]

[Republic; 2018]

In October 2018, I broke up with someone. This isn’t an outlier experience in the grand scheme of orchestrated life: for as long as atoms have comprised bodies, collision, ignition, and separation has been a norm. Such separation isn’t sad. Seeking sadness in breaks is seeing sadness in the water washing the sand. Of course, we do this. I did this. And just when I thought, what if I am not OK, “imagine” arrived, tidal and incomplete and urging me to think beyond “thank” or “you” or even “next.” It urged me to imagine what I couldn’t see. It reminded me it was out there. And for that, I’m so thankful.


D’Angelo & The Vanguard

“Sugah Daddy”

[04:37]

[RCA; 2014]

Earthy and nude, “Sugah Daddy” soothed the 14-year ache of D’Angelo’s absence in a way both contemporary and throwback, locked in rhythmic tension with the immutable, timeless groove of dance and sex. Sung from the basement of his voice in a near indecipherable murmur almost exclusively sensual and expressive, D’Angelo reemerged as pure soul in abstract, returning us to a functional ethos of movement. Jazzy instrumental breaks found inhibition released in the syncopation, while the song’s hard-funk minimalism compelled us into motion as a physical manifestation of the music. Stifled by the terrifying potential of social and political stasis, “Sugah Daddy” was the healing appeal to move that we needed.


Teyana Taylor

“Hurry”

[09:30]

[G.O.O.D./Def Jam; 2018]

You want me to talk about this song? Really? Well, just be aware that every word of mine here will make this song a little less sexy. So do yourself a favor: hit play and stop reading right now. Just do it. You need me to explain what she’s talking about? Discuss the song’s politics? Aesthetics? C’mon. You get it. Teyana Taylor wants you to “Hurry.” What could she possibly be referring to? What is she in such a rush for? Duh. It’s 2019, and we’re not subtle anymore. Light some candles. Sex candles. For sex.


Clairo

“Closer to You”

[12:06]

[FADER; 2019]

Over the last 10 years, auto-tuned vocals have made the evolutionary leap from “effect” to “instrument.” Even though vocals were distorted and contorted to suit a range of aesthetic aims way before 2010, so much music of the past decade has been dependent on it. In the case of Clairo, who’s debut album Immunity came at the very end of the decade, the direction of that evolution reached its peak. The Atlanta musician coupled her distinctive take on auto-tuned vocals with “Closer to You,” the most private and unassured diary pop, where auto-tune was incorporated as a “wall” that she spoke through. Immunity permitted a fresh, impeccably tender insight into auto-tune as a means of exploration, and “Closer to You” provided the bass-heavy lowlight that made it all feel worthwhile.


18+

“EXECUTION”

[14:52]

[Self-Released; 2012]

There’s a ding dong, and then there’s a ding dong. Whether it was ringing from a doorbell or sliding into (and out of) an orifice, the kind of sexual experience offered on 18+’s “EXECUTION” was alluringly vacant and musically asphyxiated, “always situational,” a few late-night mouse clicks too deep. Its muted, thumping sample — find it yourself! — was paired with seductive drawls and assertive commands, juicy pussy and power play, resulting in the kind of sexual tension typical of an 18+ release — which is to say no release. Instead, we had buildup, anticipation, paranoia. “Oh, the doorbell…” moaned Sis. “Oh fuck, she’s home!” exclaimed Boy. We fetishistically observed, from afar.


FKA twigs

“Water Me”

[17:02]

[Young Turks; 2013]

FKA twigs has made a career of stylistic instability, but the Arca-produced “Water Me,” released long before either had reached the mainstream, was the apex of structural instability. Anchored and de-anchored by a persistently tempo-changing ticking clock, the song constantly fell in and out of sync with itself, reverb landing on a beat only to miss it a moment later, breaths added and falling short, the longing vocals continuing plaintively throughout, an effect beautifully highlighted in its now-classic music video. It was sensual in the sense that measuring an ever-changing distance between bodies is. It was both a breakup song and a plea for self-growth, the classic archetype. But under their yearning touch, it inhabited a barely-formed futurity — of music, of love, of bodies — shivering to life like tiny hairs under the palm of an outstretched hand. FKA twigs and Arca would spend the rest of the decade mining the same territory, but here it still sounded so delicate, so fragile that it broke our hearts while keeping us yearning.


Erika de Casier

“Little Bit”

[20:05]

[Safe Distribution; 2019]

It took us a decade to get a proper self-care anthem, but goddamn it was worth it. “Little Bit” was a mood & the color scheme was pastel pink & blue: A sexy bubble bath, sweet seductions effervescent in a foam of whispered invitations. Sure, Erika was “a little bit down,” but it was just a passing feeling. The Birth of Venus, but instead of sea froth, Aphrodite emerged from a bath bomb, kicking back with a joint: “I’ll put it aside/ And take a hit.” No devastation, just good vibes: Come to my place & let’s light some scented candles.


Jeremih

“773 Love”

[24:30]

[Def Jam; 2012]

It’s still unclear to me what fresh wrinkle in Jeremih’s ever-present label issues manifested the DJ Drama-hosted Late Nights with Jeremih, but thank God; Jeremih is not associated with Chicago nearly as closely or as often as he should be, instead existing in the stateless kind of universal bedroom to which the modern R&B star is confined. Unburdened by the expectations of a full-album rollout (and most known at the time as the “Birthday Sex” guy), Jeremih dropped an instantly-classic tape with a time, place, and personality of its own. “773 Love” lay at its heart in more ways than one, an ode to unhurried, unqualified love that was the tracklist’s chronological midpoint and musical peak.


Mariah Carey

“GTFO”

[28:05]

[Epic; 2018]

This decade took our love for granted, left us lost and disenchanted, bulldozed our hearts as if it planned it. Through all the devastation, Mariah Carey has been around — she had two stellar albums in I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse and Caution — but she has been sort of marginalized and left behind in poptimism’s enthusiastic and impotent attendance to the new. Still, as an impotent poptimist myself, I like what I like, and I love “GTFO.” I will offer no critical justification. Instead, I’ll point out that while Caution was not the most challenging or inaccessible album of the decade, it was the only one that began by telling you to “get the fuck out.” It’s one of the best album openers in post-internet pop history.


How to Dress Well

“Repeat Pleasure (A. G. Cook Remix)”

[31:48]

[Weird World; 2014]

A. G. Cook’s vast remix catalog is often the source of his most intriguing work. This goes doubly for his contribution to the bonus tracks of How to Dress Well’s What is This Heart?: a deconstruction of “Repeat Pleasure,” a song that already bore the ideological trappings of a PC Music tune. As its title suggests, “Repeat Pleasure” aimed for a contradictory intersection of the ephemeral and the permanent, the cyclical search for satisfaction and the inevitable need for just a little more — something else. Distorting the track’s pitched-up verse and chorus into near incoherence, Cook zeroed in on its thesis statement, tearing through a synth pad stratosphere: “Even when we get what we wanted / Our hearts babe will never stop longing / Pleasure repeats on and on / Even broken my heart will go Broken my heart will go Broken my heart will go Broken my heart will go Broke̛̜n ḿ̗y ̪̌h̝́e̲͡a̒͟rt w̻̋i̪͌ll̪͝ ́͜go B̫͌r͈͑ǒ͎̈͟k̪̋e̦͗n ̛̺m̬̽y̠͞ ̩̂h̼͎̐̿e̲̟̊͡ǎ͉ṟ̔t ̱̼́̐wil͉͡l̙̍ ̬̉gȏ̺̤̎ Br̞͠okĕ͉͑͜n ̺̲̕͘m̞͌ȳ̳͕͡ heā̝rt ̦͗wiļ̀͘͜l ͍̀go B̛̹̹͌rơ̝͙͝ǩͅe͉̗̍͒n my h̞͌earț̰̾͞ ̡̼̒͋w̙͘i͉̽ll go

Click to the next page to hear the “COUPE” mix by Alex Brown.

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series


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