Rolling Stone – 50 Best Songs of 2010
In 2010, Eminem got sober, Arcade Fire got spooked, Katy Perry flashed her hits, and Kanye sang one for jerk-offs everywhere. Read on for our obsessively curated list of the very best songs of the year.
Written by Jon Dolan, David Fricke, Will Hermes, Melissa Maerz, Jody Rosen, Rob Sheffield and Jonah Weiner.
50 – Ke$ha, “We R Who We R”
Over Dr. Luke’s arena-electro beat, Ke$ha takes stupid-savvy pop to bombastic heights.
49 – Elizabeth Cook, “El Camino”
A twangy, hilarious vignette about a schoolgirl who becomes powerless against the charms of a mulleted, El Camino-driving skeezeball.
48 – Das Racist, “hahahaha jk?”
NYC trio transcend joke-rap status by making a song about transcending joke-rap status, set to a finely stoned beat.
47 – Kid Rock, “Born Free”
Rock throws on a fringed jacket and cuts a Seventies-rock anthem that’s perfect for cruising in a vintage Chevy â€” or just pumping your fist.
46 – MGMT, “Congratulations”
The psych-pop jokers let down their guard and rip off the Band for a hazily pretty singalong about fast fame.
45 – The Rolling Stones, “Plundered My Soul”
An expertly reconstructed track from the Exile on Main Street sessions, with Keith Richards’ damaged licks crying across the years.
44 – Neil Young, “Love and War”
“I’ve been in love, and I’ve seen a lot of war”: Young wrestles with his two biggest topics â€” and meditates on his entire career.
43 – B.o.B. feat. Bruno Mars, “Nothing on You”
A nearly perfect pop-rap ballad, with the Atlanta MC telling his one and only, “You the whole package, plus you pay your taxes.”
42 – Surfer Blood, “Floating Vibes
Florida guys combine a Beach Boys-style surf tune with Nineties alt-rock riffs. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?
41 – Junip, “In Every Direction”
Pale-voiced Swede JosÃ© GonzÃ¡lez kicks up the volume for a supremely pretty folk swirl.
40 – Kanye West, “Power”
The first sign of how crazy Twisted Fantasy would be: ‘Ye goes all schizoid while sampling King Crimson.
39 – The Gaslight Anthem, “The Diamond Church Street Choir”
Brian Fallon triangulates doo-wop, Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey emo. Result: a finger-snapping ode to basement gigs and lost love.
38 – Spoon, “The Mystery Zone”
2010′s most mesmerizing guitar groove â€” a dark, dubby burner with lyrics about basement gigs and lost love.
37 – Lloyd Banks feat. Juelz Santana, “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley”
Two New York badasses team up over the year’s rawest beat to celebrate paying way too much in car insurance.
36 – Drake feat. Nicki Minaj, “Up All Night”
One of the year’s great driving songs, with Minaj “doing doughnuts in a six-speed.”
35 – Massive Attack feat. Hope Sandoval, “Paradise Circus”
The U.K. trip-hoppers call in guest moaner Hope Sandoval for a narcotic ballad that’s both surreal and unnervingly erotic.
34 – Gorillaz feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack, “Stylo”
Your favorite cartoon primates cook up a disco jam that’s sexy enough to make Donna Summer sigh with pleasure. And that synth-bass line? Unstoppable.
33 – Wavves, “Post Acid”
The San Diego trio turn in a sweetly psychedelic punk nugget: part Buzzcocks, part acid-damaged beach rock.
32 – Die Antwoord, “Enter the Ninja”
The year’s freakiest rap song: Three South Africans mix machine-gun flows with warped hooks, suggesting Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on mescaline.
31 – Gil Scott-Heron, “I’m New Here”
The long-lost Seventies rap pioneer rasps his way through an acoustic version of a Smog ballad. He turns indie-rock melancholy into the darkest, deepest country blues.
30 – Jakob Dylan, “Nothing but the Whole Wide World”
Dylan delivers a roots-folk lullaby with a hushed melody James Taylor would kill to have written.
29 – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “The Trip to Pirate’s Cove”
A classic Petty road story, outfitted with black-ice organ and sneering guitar.
28 – Band of Horses, “Laredo”
A country-rock ballad about needing to get away, built around shimmering guitars that go on for miles.
27 – The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
“I still owe money to the money to the money I owe,” croons Matt Berninger, singing so seductively you’ll want to toss him a few bucks.
26 – Robyn, “Dancing on My Own”
The Swedish diva spots her beloved with another girl â€” then turns her sadness into sparkling pop, perfect for solo freakouts.
25 – Nicki Minaj, “Did It On’em”
A hazy, synapse-butchering throwdown. Nicki: “If I had a dick, I would pull it out and piss on ‘em.”
24 – Eminem, “Not Afraid”
Em opens up about sobriety, disses his last album and pledges to be a better dad. His most inspiring song ever.
23 – Jamey Johnson, “Macon”
Johnson rolls slow and steady on this rough diamond of Seventies Southern rock.
22 – Rick Ross feat. Styles P, “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”
Ross flows like the Barry White of white powder on this lush drug-lord fantasia.
21 – Sleigh Bells, “Infinity Guitars”
A classic girl-group tune set against skull-rattling guitar fuzz that hurts so good.
20 – Best Coast, “Boyfriend”
A heartbreaker about a lonely summer â€” imagine Brian Wilson as a sensitive stoner girl.
19 – The New Pornographers, “Your Hands (Together)”
The indie-rock collective harmonizes about silver bullets and piles on the classic-rock guitars. Result: bizarro pop that’s hard to shake.
18 – Jenny and Johnny, “Scissor Runner”
Power pop finds its own George Burns and Gracie Allen. Her best borscht-belt joke? “I’ll forgive you/If I outlive you.”
17 – LCD Soundsystem, “I Can Change”
The year’s best Depeche Mode song is also its best Smiths song. James Murphy shows off a great falsetto while expressing pain with wild humor.
16 – Cold War Kids, “Coffee Spoon”
SoCal kids hallucinate about the high life, turning “ascetics wring their hands” into a killer chorus.
15 – Drake, “Over”
Drake rhymes about how stardom is both terrifying and awesome. With a huge, clattering beat, it’s also irresistible.
14 – Big Boi feat. Cutty, “Shutterbugg”
OutKast’s brawnier half throws an electro party, coaxing players to the dance floor with a nasty ghetto-tech bass line.
13 – The Dead Weather, “Hustle and Cuss”
Jack White and Alison Mosshart howl over the dirtiest riff of the year, generating ungodly amounts of sexual electricity.
12 – Mark Ronson and the Business International feat. Q-Tip and MNDR, Bang Bang Bang”
Ronson turns a French kiddie tune into a Technicolor hook on this synth-pop fire starter.
11 – The Black Keys, “Everlasting Light”
A steady-grooving blues-rock ballad, with Dan Auerbach’s falsetto floating over craggy funk like some beautiful ghost.
10 – Kanye West feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver, “Monster”
On this rumbling id-fest, Minaj delivers the cameo of the year, switching personae and voices like she’s rap’s Meryl Streep. Kanye has the good sense to let her go on for 31 thrilling bars.
9 – Broken Bells, “The Ghost Inside”
This noirish jam mixes Danger Mouse’s steely funk with a creepily addictive chorus from the Shins’ James Mercer. Bet you loosen your collar.
8 – Janelle MonÃ¡e feat. Big Boi, “Tightrope”
Sister-from-another-planet MonÃ¡e delivers a ferocious, horn-splashed burner that mashes up Cab Calloway, hip-hop, James Brown and art-pop wackiness.
7 – Vampire Weekend, “White Sky”
Synth foam, perky digital rhythms, joyful whoops and African-flavored guitars. The sound of a young band discovering how much is possible.
6 – Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone”
A modern hymn, written by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and sung with maternal assurance by the voice that once told you to “Respect Yourself.”
5 – Arcade Fire, “We Used to Wait”
“Now our lives are changing fast,” sings Win Butler, spooked and sleepless. But his empathetic croon â€” and his band’s orchestral- rock wallop â€” make high anxiety sound almost sublime.
4 – Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream”
Co-written by Max Martin and Dr. Luke, this buoyant electro-pop singalong is 2010′s catchiest tune. As for that “teenage dream,” Perry doesn’t mince words: “Let’s go all the way tonight.”
3 – Sade, “Soldier of Love”
Nobody knows where Sade disappears to for years at a time between hits, but “Soldier of Love” proves she knows how to make a hell of a re-entrance. She sings about emotional devastation over a beat that mixes quiet-storm synths with acid-damaged riffs straight out of TV on the Radio’s playbook. It’s as close as she’s ever come to blowing her cool.
2 – Cee Lo Green, “Fuck You”
The title alone would have guaranteed hundreds of thousands of Web clicks. But Cee Lo didn’t just say “Fuck you” â€” he said it with humor and serious panache. Despite the bummed-out lyrics, the Motown-style beat is DayGlo-bright, and Cee Lo’s lovelorn lament doubles as an anthem for lean times: “If I was richer/I’d still be with ya/Ha, now ain’t that some shit?”
1 – Kanye West feat. Pusha T, “Runaway”
It takes a special kind of dark, twisted genius to raise the white flag of surrender while raising a middle finger. Kanye West is that genius. “Runaway” is Kanye’s musical response to the Taylor Swift affair, but it’s much more than that: a nine-minute meditation on romantic failure and public infamy. Kanye creates a huge, eerie beat out of thunderous drums and plinking piano, and he turns the phrase “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags” into a refrain nearly as catchy as “She loves you â€” yeah, yeah, yeah.” In 2010, no other song was so crazily epic or jaw-droppingly gorgeous â€” not on the radio, not anywhere. Now, everyone raise your glasses.