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.


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.

SNL Recap May 11, 2013: Kristen Wiig/Vampire Weekend

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Who the hell this Chinese dude?

Cold Opening – Benghazi Hearing
This may have been the most esoteric SNL sketch ever.  Definitely the most esoteric in a good long while. B-

Kristen Wiig’s Monologue
I got the jokes, but I didn’t get the point. B-

1-800 Flowers
There was no need for this to be a commercial for 1-800 Flowers, or a commercial for anything, really.  That’s not to say the funny didn’t work, just, you know. B-

The Californians
This was my brother’s first time seeing a Californians sketch, and he reacted much the same way I did to the first one, enjoying the SoCal accents and propensity to give directions to everywhere.  That was nice to hear, in a way, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s just the same thing over and over for me.  I used to love The Californians! C-

Aw Nuts! Mom’s a Ghost!
Before the reveal of this sketch’s premise, I was enjoying the kids’ continued insistence about how normal they are.  I would have been happy with an entire sketch about a Disney Channel family constantly reminding the viewers how normal they are.  Thankfully, this premise was ingenious, so the rest of the sketch was good as well.  This felt EXACTLY like a Disney Channel sitcom and EXACTLY like J-horror/K-horror. B+

The Lawrence Welk Show
The finger gags are funny, I guess, but come on, we know exactly where this sketch is going to go.  At least we have Fred as Lawrence Welk – perhaps his most underrated recurring role – with choice lines like the “melted Barbara doll” and a girl not needing a man if she has a favorite finger. C

Vampire Weekend perform “Diane Young”
Voice-deepening effects FTW.  Or, wait, was that actually Ezra hitting those low notes? B+

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: Okay, Seth, you survive another week.  The Clinton photo negative, women retrieving something from their purse, and tuba jokes were all silly but clever.  And then he whipped out a totally killer paraprosdokian with the stressful number of kids joke. B
-The Segments: -Secondhand News: The Ben Gazzara story was indeed clever.  The Reese’s Witherspoon Peanut Butter Cup was almost too much.  I would obviously rush out to see The Great Gonzo directed by Boz Scaggs. B
-Garth and Kat: Maybe I’ll like this bit more when I can actually make out what Garth and Kat said, but for now, it’s one of their middling appearances.  I did enjoy them jamming out, though. B-

Target Greatland
I never hated the Target Lady sketches, and I still don’t, but wow is this the definition of SNL mediocrity. C+

Lovely.  Bobby “Yo, whose blood is this” Moynihan was the stealth MVP. B

Vampire Weekend perform “The Unbelievers”
How appropriate that Vampire Weekend would play this song on SNL, what with its organ riff that is reminiscent of Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio.” B+

6th Graders Double Date
This was great in that it wasn’t played as creepy at all.  Bobby Moynihan is simply an expert at playing child roles.  The line about drinking root beer and then burping was one of the best deliveries in the history of delivering lines. B+

Classy Sexy Elegnace
The premise sounded funny, but when you get down to it, it was just as gaudy as what it was making fun of. C+

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, don’t you know.  And being as it’s been only a year since Kristen left the show, we haven’t had much time of absence to allow that fondness to grow.  So the return of her recurring bits just wasn’t going to work by coasting on familiarity alone.  But there was no need to rely on those, because the original sketches were almost uniformly strong.  I love Kristen, but I can understand why some people get sick of her, and this episode didn’t do much to change that.  But it also showed that she is versatile enough to branch out away from the bits that annoy people.  Oh, well. Could have been worse.  But it also could have been better!

The best sketch of the night was the best because it was an ORIGINAL, clever idea: