Best Musical Artists of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

One more list! One more list!

My Best of the 2010s list-making journey has finally come to a close! (Or has it? … For now, it has at least. The future will come as it may, and it may just surprise you, and me.) All this week, I’ve been posting my rankings of a few categories that I was inspired to put together after submitting them to a Best of the 2010s polls that I’m participating in with some of my fellow cultural aficionados. To wrap it all up, I guide you along to the realm of music and lyrics, as I present the Best Musical Artists of the 2010s.

My criteria was similar to that of my choices for Best Film Directors. I considered a combination of how much I enjoyed their musical output as well as how much – and how well – they influenced the industry at large.

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Best Songs of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Of all the pieces of art and entertainment that I’m ranking for the decade, songs are probably the most personal. Yet somehow I feel compelled to consider how they affected the world at large moreso than all the other categories. The tunes that I value the most aren’t just the ones that make my own heart sing but also the ones that draw all of us closer together. So as I assembled this list, I asked myself both, “What has made me dance these past 10 years?” and “How would I like to dance with everyone else?” Here’s what that playlist looks like.
(I aimed to stick only to songs that were released as singles, as opening this to deep album cuts would’ve made things so overheated.)

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Best Albums of the 2010s

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One of the big themes about entertainment in the past decade is the incomprehensible explosion of available content in every medium. While this may be a recent development in cinema and television, it’s been the case for music for centuries, or even millennia. Since humans have been banging on rocks and clapping their hands, really. Of course, it was a little more recent than that when recorded music became readily available.

This is all to say, I of course haven’t listened to every album of the past ten years that made its way onto SoundCloud or Spotify, or even all the Billboard chart-toppers. But I did listen to enough of them to be able to assemble a vibrant and varied soundtrack of my life in the 2010s. Here are the musical collections of the era that I just haven’t been able to stop pushing play on.

[4/2/20 2:00 PM UPDATE: This post originally mistakenly included Justice’s , which came out in 2007.]

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Best Albums of 2019

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It’s been a few years since I’ve made an Albums of the Year list, but I really felt compelled to make one for 2019. Here are the audio compilations from the recent past that really made an impact on me:

14. Camila Cabello, Romance – Fun and bouncy.
13. Harry Styles, Fine Line – I like where Harry is headed.
12. Beck, Hyperspace – Reliable Beck.
11. Brittany Howard, Jaime – Great, big rockin’ voice goes solo.
10. The Black Keys, Let’s Rock – They never stopped rocking.
9. Ariana Grande, thank u, next – Lots of adventure from Ari.
8. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold – Band broke up, music’s still great.
7. Tyler, the Creator, IGOR – I feel so comfortable inside this album.
6. FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE – FKA reminds me of Bat for Lashes.
5. Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride – Those Vampire Weekend guys have still got a hold on me.
4. Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! – What a soundscape!
3. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Just plenty of fun.
2. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You – I love you, too!
1. The Chemical Brothers, No Geography – Apocalyptic concept album.

Best Songs of 2019

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CREDIT: Tove Lo/YouTube Screenshot

The following are the singles that had enough of an impact on me in 2019 to make me go, “I’ll have to mark that one down for posterity.” A few of them were originally released before 2019, but they didn’t reach their full cultural impact until 2019. And for the first time in the decade or so since I’ve been doing this, I’ve got a repeat winner, as I also coronated Tove Lo in 2017.

1. Tove Lo – “Glad He’s Gone”: Such friendship, such storytelling. We are all so blessed to have Tove Lo in our lives.
2. Lana Del Rey – “Mariners Apartment Complex”: Four minutes of musical madness that feels like hours of bliss.
3. The Chemical Brothers – “Eve of Destruction”: If you think the world’s gone to hell, have a dance party!
4. Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower”: There have been multiple (good) songs named “Sunflower” the past few years; this is the one that’s most likely to make you feel like a sunflower waking up in the morning.
5. Lizzo -“Truth Hurts”: 100% that mix of references that clearly hold deep emotional resonance for Lizzo.
6. Gary Clark Jr. – “This Land”: Can tasty guitar solos solve racism? Can’t hurt.
7. Hozier – “Dinner and Diatribes”: A galloping piece of soulfulness.
8. Dua Lipa – “Swan Song”: An original track from Alita: Battle Angel, and clearly the sound of future sci-fi feminism.
9. Sara Bareilles – “Armor”: Listen to Sara Bareilles getting down with her jazzy bad self and the rest of us getting down with her!
10. Kimbra – “Lightyear”: Space wonder Kimbra has a message to beam down to us earthbound folks.
11. Shaed – “Thunder”: One of those indie rock “This is who we are!” statements of declaration.
12. Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”: Billie sings about the joys of being devious, but by all accounts, her personal life is quite wholesome. I think that’s a great way to live.
13. Meg Myers – “Running Up That Hill”: I’m just glad that Kate Bush covers are on the radio in 2019.
14. Lana Del Rey – “Doin’ Time”: Is Lana the current Queen of Remix? She just knows how to summon the past into her modern legacy.
15. Tones and I – “Dance Monkey”: We can always use some monosyllabic shouts amidst the more word-like lyrics to convince us to get up there and bust a move.
16. Camila Cabello – “Cry for Me”: Sometimes you need to make an insistent demand for emotional connection to get the message across.
17. Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road”: The epitome of Gen Z’s total lack of recognition of genre constraints.
18. Absofacto – “Dissolve”: A little skitter-skatter of chillax rock.
19. Benny Blanco, Tainy, Selena Gomez, and J Balvin – “I Can’t Get Enough”: A pleasure moan produced into nugget-size song form.
20. Starcrawler – “Pet Sematary”: It really is the perfect unassailable opening guitar riff to kick off some opening credits, no matter which version.

2/15/20 UPDATE: In the spirit of comprehension, I may have overlooked a few songs that I loved enough to be top 20-worthy from a band that had already made the cut. So, to correct the record, some more-than-honorable mentions go to “MAH” and “Got to Keep On” by the Chemical Brothers.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 8/30/19

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CREDIT: Kevin Baker/Netflix

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Don’t Let Go (Theatrically Nationwide)

TV
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Season 1 (August 30 on Netflix)
CONAN Without Borders: Greenland (September 3 on TBS) – Our preeminent civilian diplomat is at it again.

Music
-Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell
-Missy Elliott, Iconology – As relevant as ever.