Mainstream music in 2010 felt like one bad teenage dream from an unlikely collaboration between Justin Bieber to Ludacris to the abomination of Ke$ha, who thrust her way into the pop culture lexicon. With some minor setbacks, music still thrived in the last year with the following songs (and several more unlisted).
Arcade Fire – “We Used to Wait”
The crisp production of “We Used to Wait” and the rest of Arcade Fire’s album “The Suburbs” finally moved the band out of the alternative purgatory they have settled in and into the public consciousness. “We Used to Wait” reflects culture’s rapid progression and the difficulty of regressing back to a simpler time in society.
Beach House – “Zebra”
The haunting and mellow production of “Zebra” is a must-listen for any mood.
Best Coast – “When the Sun Don’t Shine”
The sunny disposition of Best Coast is best reflected in “When the Sun Don’t Shine,” which has the sweet pop sensibility of The Mamas and the Papas and cuttingly ingenuous vocals of Courtney Love fused into one. With few lyrics and a run time of 2:15, Best Coast reveals so much with so little.
Brandi Carlile – “That Year”
“That Year” poignantly reflects the suicide of one of Carlile’s friends from high school. Carlile finally forgives him with this breathtakingly subtle and effective tune. This song is especially resonant following the recent suicides of high school and college students in the past year.
Cee-Lo Green – “Fuck You”
Cee-Lo gives the finger to the materialistic girls who leave their significant others for someone with more money. The slick production and insanely catchy lyrics give the betrayed a new anthem.
Eminem feat. Rihanna – “Love the Way You Lie”
Eminem returned in 2010 in a big way with “Recovery,” arguably his best album since 2002’s “The Eminem Show.” “Love the Way You Lie” is subversive in its lyrical depiction of a physically abusive relationship. Shady’s back, and he’s here to stay.
Florence + The Machine – “You’ve Got the Love”
Originally re-released at the end of 2009, “You’ve Got the Love” is a cover of Candi Staton and The Source’s single “You Got the Love.” Florence + The Machine replace the ‘80s synths with honest vocals and the beautiful backing from a harp, which adds a dose of serenity to the song.
Kanye West feat. Dwele – “Power”
Kanye West has never been better with the release of his newest album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” With assistance from Dwele, West adds another masterpiece to his collection.
MGMT – “Congratulations”
MGMT significantly changes it up with “Congratulations,” which cynically deals with fame and success, following the release of their album “Oracular Spectacular” three years ago.
Miranda Lambert – “The House That Built Me”
Country stalwart Lambert finally found her place in country music with her 2009 album “Revolution.” “The House That Built Me” is a slow, but stunning masterwork of not appreciating what you have until it’s gone. Lambert’s usual tough and gritty exterior is toned down here. Lambert gives one of her most angelic and heartbreaking vocal performances.
Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man”
Mumford & Sons broke out this year in the United States with the release of “Little Lion Man.” The vocals are rich and the lyrics about revealing the foolishness of pushing away the one you love is delivered with the utmost conviction.
Rihanna – “Only Girl (In the World)”
After the subdued “Rated R,” Rihanna returns with the up-tempo dance jam “Only Girl (In the World).” Stargate and Sandy Vee produced the song, which channels popular Eurodance songs with its throbbing beats, soaring chorus and sexy vocals.
Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
Robyn sounds fearless in the song she co-wrote with Patrick Berger. The dance-pop stunner recalls the 80s, while updating the sound to 2010. “Dancing On My Own” is dynamic, just like Robyn. Her risk-taking and willingness to showcase her vulnerability is refreshing.
Sleigh Bells – “Rill Rill”
Composed of Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss, the Brooklyn based duo Sleigh Bells released their debut album “Treats” this year. “Rill Rill” is a confectionary pop treat that has changed the face of pop music in 2010 with its chirpy production and bold lyrics.
The Swell Season – “Feeling the Pull”
The folk duo best-known for their Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” from the film “Once” released their third album “Strict Joy” at the end of 2009 featuring “Feeling the Pull,” which offers one of Glen Hansard’s strongest vocal performances to date.
The best of the rest…
The Black Keys – “Tighten Up”
Duck Sauce – “Barbra Streisand”
Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
Jamie Lidell – “Enough’s Enough”
Janelle Monae feat. Big Boi – “Tightrope”
Kelis – “Acapella”
Kings of Leon – “Radioactive”
Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce – “Telephone”
LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean”
Lost in the Trees – “Walk Around the Lake”
The New Pornographers – “Crash Years”
Sia – “You’ve Changed”
Vampire Weekend – “Giving Up the Gun”