- The 2010s were a phenomenal era for music, marked by highlights like Beyoncé's ground-breaking single "Formation" and fan-favorite deep cuts like Taylor Swift's "All Too Well."
- Other songs, however, gave the decade a bad reputation — like Robin Thicke's controversial "Blurred Lines" and LMFAO's shallow hit "Sexy and I Know It."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Other songs, however, gave the decade a bad reputation. Shallow EDM hits went viral and other popular songs were condemned for racist or sexist lyrics.
Keep reading for Insider's roundup of the highs and lows from the past 10 years, in chronological order, starting with the very best.
"Runaway" is the tour de force of Kanye West's career.
In early 2010, after his infamous "I'mma let you finish" speech and high-profile split from Amber Rose, the world thought Kanye West was imploding.
Then, at the 2010 VMAs, he premiered "Runaway" — his intoxicating, intricate, instantly iconic "toast for the douchebags." Its effect was immediate. With this nine-minute opus, West simultaneously reveled in his own flaws, asserted his power, and staged a sweeping comeback.
To this day, if that single opening piano note rings out from a speaker, people lose their minds. Musically, it remains the the highest point of West's career — and given its rare fusion of quality and mythology, it's unlikely to ever be dethroned.
"Dancing On My Own" is a breakup bop for the ages.
"Dancing On My Own" is an infectious electronic dance jam about dancing alone in a club as you watch your ex kiss someone else.
While the premise would typically invite a melancholy tone, Swedish singer Robyn turns her pain into a pop anthem that feels overwhelmingly joyful despite the narrator feeling an equally overwhelming sense of loneliness in the middle of a crowd.
Even though this song is about dancing alone, it's so euphoric that it even united an entire subway platform's worth of New Yorkers after Robyn headlined at Madison Square Garden in March — a whole nine years after the song's release.
"All Too Well" has been labeled by both fans and critics as the best song Taylor Swift has ever written.
While Swift's singles like "Shake It Off" and "You Belong With Me" are vastly more recognizable to the general public, true fans know that "All Too Well" shines above the rest of her discography for being her best — and most literary — song to date.
Every second of this track is a testament to Swift's strength as a musician and songwriter: From the way the backing instruments build with urgency as Swift dives deeper into her vivid recollection of a doomed relationship to how she paints a picture that feels so intimate, yet so universal — as if we can all recount dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light.
For those of us who love an emotive breakup ballad, this is it.
"Royals" was a pop song that doubled as a poignant criticism of classism present in pop music.
As Jon Pareles wrote for the New York Times, "Royals" is "a class-conscious critique of pop-culture materialism that's so irresistible it became a No. 1 pop single." Pareles added that the two-time Grammy-winning track is also "palatial-sounding pop that doesn't condescend to listeners of any age."
Not only was it influential on the pop charts, but it also topped Billboard's alternative chart, making the then-16-year-old Lorde the first female solo artist to accomplish that feat in 17 years.
"Run Away With Me" solidified Carly Rae Jepsen as one of the best pop stars to come out of this decade.
Carly Rae Jepsen/YouTube
If "I Really Like You" proved Carly Rae Jepsen wasn't a one-hit-wonder with "Call Me Maybe," her "Emotion" opener "Run Away With Me" was proof that she was a bona fide pop star in her own right.
The sax solo. The yearning. The pulsing beat backing Jepsen's pleas to be a sinner in secret. The layering of the "oh, oh, ohhh," in the bridge. Everything about this song is utter 1980s synth-pop perfection.
Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" became an uplifting anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement.
As Sheldon Pearce noted for Pitchfork, "Alright" is the nucleus of Kendrick Lamar's essential album, "To Pimp a Butterfly."
The song exists within a fraught political and social climate where killing after killing of unarmed black people occurs. But rather than simply observing this pattern or offering a commentary, Lamar comes bearing "a message of unbreakable optimism in the face of hardship" and delivers a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Formation" may be the most important song Beyoncé has ever released.
"You know you that b---- when you cause all this conversation," indeed. Beyoncé knew exactly what she was doing when she dropped "Formation." She probably even knew it would end up on "best of the 2010s" lists even four years before the end of the decade.
While this song provides a genuinely fantastic listening experience for production and performance alone, the message Beyoncé sent with "Formation" elevated this song into a cultural moment.
"'Formation's declarations of identity are carefully chosen for political weight and layers of meaning," Alex Macpherson wrote for The Guardian. "'I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,' she declaims in the half-rapped, half-sung cadence that's served her so well ever since she haughtily flipped 'In Da Club' in 2003. It's radical self-love, of course, but the metaphor is a flashing reminder of the troubled alternative that has faced black stars before now."
"Nights" is the centerpiece of Frank Ocean's sophomore album, "Blonde."
For such a cohesive, consistently magical album like "Blonde," it should be impossible to pick a highlight or standout track. But the hypnotic centerpiece "Nights" is a two-part odyssey that's packed with hidden layers, poetic lyricism, and compositional brilliance.
If Frank Ocean were to reveal someday that "Blonde" would've been finished three years earlier, if only he hadn't spent 900 days perfecting that one mid-song transition, fans wouldn't be surprised or angry in the slightest. It would've been worth it.
"The Time (Dirty Bit)" is one of the Black Eyed Peas' cheesiest songs ever.
Black Eyed Peas/YouTube
Would you ever dream of scrolling through your Spotify and actually deciding to play this song? Does it exist for any reason other than as fodder for eighth-grade graduation parties and particularly cheesy wedding receptions?
The iconic melody from "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" should be reserved for "Dirty Dancing" and "Dirty Dancing" only.
"Red Solo Cup" embodies everything people hate about country music.
There is no reason why anyone should be writing, singing, or producing an ode to the red solo cup, let alone a 50-year-old man who has no business dancing through what appears to be a frat party full of teenagers.
Call it a novelty hit if you want, but your ears would've been better off without hearing "Red Solo Cup." Even Toby Keith himself said it's "the stupidest song I ever heard in my life."
If Justin Timberlake brought sexy back, it certainly left again when LMFAO dropped "Sexy and I Know It."
"Sexy and I Know It" is a massive embarrassment. Truly, anyone who helped this song land at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 should be ashamed.
"Even for a song with an obvious tongue-in-cheek tone, the lyrics are pretty embarrassing, much like the outdated synth loops," Scott Shetler wrote for Popcrush, who noted the song is "so ridiculous it makes Right Said Fred's 'I'm Too Sexy' look like a work of creative genius."
"Blurred Lines" was an awful reminder that rape culture is still incredibly prevalent.
If you could cancel a song the way fans cancel artists, "Blurred Lines" deserves to be that song.
"Blurred Lines" is literally a track about the "blurred lines" of consent and asserts the incorrect idea that a man knows more about what a woman "wants" than she does. It does not matter at all how "catchy" this song is — its existence is a huge injustice to women everywhere.
As you can probably tell by the title, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's collaboration "Accidental Racist" is a whole mess.
Jerod Harris/ACMA2013/Getty Images for ACM
This song is literally just Brad Paisley being racist. He's apparently trying to apologize for wearing the Confederate Flag and benefiting from white privilege and who knows what else, but also throwing his hands up and saying, "Hey, I didn't invent racism!" (No, seriously, the chorus includes the refrain "It ain't like you and me can re-write history / Our generation didn't start this nation").
Unfortunately, LL Cool J kind of makes it worse: "If you don't judge my gold chains / I'll forget the iron chains," he says. He really says that.
"#Selfie" by The Chainsmokers is proudly, lazily sexist.
The Chainsmokers' breakout hit "#Selfie" was a viral sensation in the same vein as "Harlem Shake," and it certainly exposed the EDM duo to a wider audience — but at what cost?
Besides being horrifically bad, "#Selfie" is proudly sexist. A stereotypically "ditsy" female voice narrates the song with lines like, "How did that girl even get in here?" and "Who wears cheetah?" — and, of course, "But first, let me take a selfie" — because apparently the only people who ever take photos of themselves are shallow mean girls who trash talk other girls in the bathroom. The Chainsmokers now say they wrote it "as a joke," but the effect is condescending, not funny.
"Dear Future Husband" felt like a step back for feminism.
Meghan Trainor promises to "be the perfect wife buying groceries" for her future husband on this disappointing track. The entire song is a laundry list of things she wants a man to eventually do for her, including, "take me on a date," "open doors for me," and "If you wanna get that special loving / Tell me I'm beautiful each and every night."
This might have been an anthem for a 1950s housewife, but in the 2010s, it's, at best, outdated, and, at worst, insulting.
"Fall" was supposed to be Eminem's comeback. Instead, it was a reminder why he's lost so many admirers.
After the underwhelmed reviews of his 2017 album "Revival" — many of which, amidst the criticism, actually praised his newly progressive political takes — Eminem wanted to stage a comeback. So, naturally, he spewed homophobic rhetoric and used a slur to describe Tyler, The Creator on his single "Fall." So much for progress.
"Fall" was supposed to be the centerpiece of his newest album, 2018's equally lukewarm "Kamikaze," but it just reminded everyone why Eminem is "a rusting relic from rap's past." Even Bon Iver, who co-wrote the track and sings the hook, has distanced himself from the song.
Read the original article on Business Insider