100 BEST SONGS OF THE 2010s (100-1)

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I’m a lifelong lover of music. Seriously, my enjoyment of music is one of my earliest memories as a three or four year old, when I danced on my stubby little legs to the rock’n’roll records my older brother spun on his record player. For me, the years 1964-72 and 1982-88 were the best periods for music. But now that I’m in late middle-age, I have to concede that the 2010’s, especially the years 2013-2018, are right up near the top in terms of music excellence. In fact, there was so much great music in the 2010’s that it was excruciating to have to cull my list of best songs of the decade to only 100 songs. There are close to 200 songs that I wanted to include but, this being a top 100 list, I had to cut it off at 100.

I’m not going to bore my readers with a recap of the decade, but will offer up just a few observations about music that were meaningful for me. As I’ve pointed out numerous times on other posts, my favorite music genre is alternative rock, followed by pop-rock, R&B and punk, so most of my picks for best songs of the 2010’s reflect those genres. Also, given my advanced age, I’m partial to melodic music with lush or complex arrangements, so I’ll be using the words “gorgeous” or “beautiful” a lot. Finally, most of the songs on this list are from mainstream artists, which will likely cause some of my readers to be highly critical or even dismissive of my choices. Fair enough, but at the end of the day, these are my favorite songs of the past 10 years.

One of the most important acts to emerge in the decade for me personally was twenty øne piløts. They’ve become one of my all-time favorite bands, and have six songs on this list, more than any other artist or band. Another of my favorites is Foster the People (who are still pictured on my Twitter header photo), as well as Cage the Elephant, Arctic Monkeys, MISSIO, Foals and The Neighbourhood. Some of the other incredibly talented and influential new artists represented on this list include Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, The Weeknd, Highly Suspect, Tame Impala, Lana Del Rey, Hozier, Two Feet and Billie Eilish, among others. Unfortunately, there was a substantial amount of really bad shit too – most bro-country, mumble rap, and anything from the horrific Iggy Azalea or Cardi B. Ugh!

Several artists who appeared on my Top 100 Best Songs of the 2000s, including Coldplay, Green Day, Cage the Elephant, Muse, The Killers, OneRepublic, John Mayer, P!nk, Lady Gaga, Adele, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Maroon 5, Panic! At the Disco and Train, are also represented on this list. Some of the artists I love whose songs unfortunately didn’t quite make the cut include Florence + the Machine, AWOLNATION, Death Cab For Cutie, Of Monsters and Men, Arcade Fire, alt-J, Royal Blood, Post Malone and Sia, to name a few. So without further ado, here are my picks for the Top 100 Best Songs of the 2010s, counting down from #100 to 1. I’ve embedded or provided links to the YouTube videos for each one, as well as a Spotify playlist at the end of the post.

100. DANG! – Mac Miller featuring Anderson .Paak
The untimely death of Mac Miller (born Malcolm James McCormick) was one of the more unfortunate and sadder losses suffered by the music industry over the past decade.  Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Miller was a musical genius of sorts, learning to play the piano, guitar, drums, and bass by the age of six. As he entered his teens he decided he wanted to be rapper, and started recording and releasing mixtapes at 15, becoming prominent in the city’s hip hop scene. By the time he reached 21, he was presented a key to the city by the mayor of Pittsburgh, and had a day named in his honor. He was such an amazing talent who produced an impressive catalog of music by the time of his death at 26, and we can only imagine what more great music he would have given us.

The first single from his fourth studio album The Divine Feminine, “Dang!” is ear candy from start to finish, featuring not only Miller but also Anderson .Paak to sweeten the mix. Over a thumping retro-soul groove and shimmery synths, .Paak delivers the hook in his smooth, soulful croon: “I can’t keep on losing you / Over complications / Gone too soon / Wait, we was just hangin’ / I guess I need to hold onto, dang!” Then Miller enters the scene, delivering his flow with swagger tinged with just enough vulnerability to reveal his consternation over the fragile state of his relationship. Initially boasting of his sexual prowess: “Yeah the dick ain’t free, I don’t give no fucks”, he later concedes love ain’t so simple: “Can’t concentrate, you always on my brain. If it’s love then why the fuck it come with pain?” The sexy and colorful video produced for the song is superb.

99. SHINE – Mondo Cozmo
I’m not a religious person (I grew up Catholic but am now Atheist), so it’s kind of surprising that I would love “Shine” by Mondo Cozmo as much as I do. I guess it’s because of its inspirational melody, the way the instrumentals build into a sweeping gospel-like crescendo, and his raw, soaring vocals that remind me of Bob Dylan. Mondo Cozmo is the artistic name of Philadelphia-born and now L.A.-based singer-songwriter Josh Ostrander, who told ABC Radio in an interview that he “wasn’t in the best headspace” when he wrote ‘Shine’. He added “It’s so cool that something written during that [low] time could be looked at now as being an inspirational thing. I didn’t think about the mixes or the recording, it was just all really loose, and I like to keep it like that. I think some of the charm is the shittiness of the recording.” I think it’s perfect.


98. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna
Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados) is an international music superstar, fashion designer, actress and businesswoman who emerged on the music scene in 2005 at the tender age of 17. Since then, she’s racked up an impressive string of monster hits and earned numerous awards and accolades. I love many of her songs, especially “Only Girl (In the World)”, “Stay”, We Found Love” and her duet “Love the Way You Lie” with Eminem, but my favorite of all is “Love on the Brain”. The song is from her eighth studio album Anti, and features a sultry doo wop/R&B vibe in the style of many great R&B songs of the late 50s and early 60s that strongly appeals to my mature music sensibilities. It’s a stunning torch song that beautifully showcases her considerable vocal talent.


97. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy
The UK has a thriving music scene today, perhaps the best since the late 1970s, and one of the standout acts I’ve come across is Liverpool new wave/indie pop band Wide Eyed Boy. I’ve featured them several times on this blog, starting with my review of their fantastic debut single “Wolves”. That song is so awesome that I didn’t think they could top it, but I was even more blown away by their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy“. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, sweeping gnarly synths and vocalist Oliver Nagy’s captivating vocals are all positively breathtaking. The video produced for the track is visually stunning, with a minimalist set and subdued lighting, accentuated with background fluorescents, creating the perfect mood for the sensuous track.

96. WANDER – Vox Eagle featuring Pierre Fontaine
Vox Eagle is the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby. One of the tracks from his outstanding 2018 album TriumAvium, “Wander” is an enchanting mashup of melodic dream rock and hip hop, and when those magical keyboard and string synths wash over us like a shower of tiny diamonds, I’m covered with goosebumps. Eventually, a trip hop beat ensues as Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Guest vocalist Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over on the last third of the track, adding another wonderful textural element. I love this song so much I’ve probably listened to it five hundred times.


95. MY TYPE – Saint Motel
Like many of the songs on this list, I loved “My Type” by Los Angeles-based band Saint Motel the moment it first hit my eardrums. Their rousing, sophisticated sound is a nod to the brassy exuberance of the Big Band era, but delivered with a fresh, contemporary indie pop approach. “My Type” is a deliriously catchy song with an exuberant horn-driven hook and one of the best tongue-in-cheek lyrics ever: “You’re know you’re just my type. Oh, you’ve got a pulse and you are breathing.” Band front man A.J. Jackson produced and directed the stylish video for the track, which was filmed in a Mid-Century Modern house in L.A.

94. DREAMS – Beck
Beck (born Bek David Campbell in Los Angeles) has been making great music ever since the unexpected success of his breakout single “Loser” in 1994. Over his long, innovative and prolific career, he’s recorded and released an astonishing 14 studio albums, continually experimenting with an eclectic myriad of genres including alternative rock, folk, country, hip hop, soul, funk and electronic. He just released his latest album Hyperspace on November 22. “Dreams” was released in June 2015, a few months after his Album of the Year Grammy win for Morning Phase. Beck stated he wanted to make a record that “would be good to play live“, and did he ever! The song is exhilarating, with a fantastic guitar-driven groove, cool psychedelic synths and the kind of strong drum beat that I adore. The song was ultimately included on his 2017 album Colors.


93. RIPTIDE – Vance Joy
“Riptide” is a delightful, upbeat love song from Australian indie folk-rock singer-songwriter Vance Joy (born James Gabriel Keogh). With his ukelele as the primary instrument, he adds piano, guitar and percussion, and combines them with with a breezy melody and lovely backing harmonies to create an incredibly pleasing track. His heartfelt, earnest vocals convey an endearing vulnerability as he sings the lyrics about being besotted with a girl. “I love you when you’re singing that song, and I’ve got a lump in my throat ’cause you’re gonna sing the words wrong.” The song has sold over 7 million copies (both physical copy and digital download) worldwide, and holds the record for the most weeks in the top 100 of the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Assn.) Singles Chart – 120 consecutive weeks.


92. THE SOUND OF SILENCE – Disturbed
It’s hard to believe anyone could do a respectable cover of this iconic Simon & Garfunkel song, but David Draiman and his heavy metal band Disturbed accomplished the feat and then some. Wow, what a magnificent and emotionally raw interpretation it is! Some people I know hated it for reasons unfathomable to me, but I love it. After seeing the band perform the song on the late-night talk show Conan, Paul Simon sent Draiman an email praising his performance, writing “Really powerful performance on Conan the other day. First time I’d seen you do it live. Nice. Thanks.” Draiman responded, “Mr. Simon, I am honored beyond words. We only hoped to pay homage and honor to the brilliance of one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Your compliment means the world to me/us and we are eternally grateful.” (Loudwire) That live performance on Conan is the most watched YouTube video ever from the show.


91. SUPERPOSITION – Young the Giant
California alt-rock band Young the Giant has an instantly recognizable sound unlike no other, thanks to their brilliant instrumentation and front man Sameer Gadhia’s engaging and distinctive vocals. “Superposition” is the second single from their fourth studio album Mirror Master, and one of their most beautiful songs. Starting with a deep bass line and a rhythmic toe-tapping drumbeat, the band layers moody synths, delicate piano keys and an enchanting ukelele riff to create a gorgeous backdrop for Gadhia’s captivating vocals, which are in turn backed by lovely vocal harmonies. The term ‘superposition’ is used in physics to describe how things or items in nature overlap or interact. For the song, Young the Giant uses the term to describe the strong pull or connection we feel to those we love, and how fate and inexplicable events can bring us together.


90. CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – The Weeknd
The Weeknd (born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye in Toronto, Canada of Ethiopian ancestry) is in incredibly talented singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. His music is a wonderful mix of R&B, hip hop and dark wave, and his gorgeous, velvety vocals at times seem to channel Michael Jackson, who he cites as one of his main influences. “I Can’t Feel My Face” is from his brilliant and critically acclaimed second album Beauty Behind the Madness, and I loved it the instant I heard it. The song speaks of being so love-drunk with someone they make you feel lightheaded, and everything else around you is meaningless in their presence. Rolling Stone and Billboard both named it the best single of 2015, and it certainly ranks among mine.


89. THRIFT SHOP – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
The first time I heard “Thrift Shop” I hated it. But after a couple listens, damn if it didn’t hook me in with it’s irresistible hip hop beat and hilarious lyrics. With added vocals by rapper Wanz, Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) freestyles about saving money by buying cool second hand shit at a thrift shop, rather than wasting money on expensive status symbols like a lot of rappers. The fourth single from their debut album The Heist, “Thrift Shop” was a massive worldwide hit, reaching #1 not only in the U.S, but also the UK, Ireland, Canada, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. and was named the Billboard’s #1 song of 2013.

88. READY TO GO (GET ME OUT OF MY MIND) – Panic! At the Disco
It may be one of Panic! At the Disco’s lesser-known hits, but I absolutely love “Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)”. From their third album Vices & Virtues, it’s such a euphoric, celebratory song, with lush, almost whimsical orchestration and Brendon Urie’s delightful exuberant vocals. It’s a great example of the band’s theatricality and musical creativity, and just makes me happy to be alive when I hear it! The charming video shows the band re-enacting old musical films such as Grease, Mary Poppins and Singin’ In The Rain, and Urie is just too damned handsome and charismatic for his own good! I like how at the end of the song, he’s heard talking and puffing on a cigarette.


87. CHLORINE – twenty øne piløts
As far as I’m concerned, twenty øne piløts can do no wrong. Incorporating too many different genres to mention, and a vast array of instruments and synth sounds, they combine them with intricate, complex melodies, deep lyrics and Tyler Joseph’s amazing vocals to create truly unique and spectacular music. “Chlorine” is the third single from their monumental concept album Trench, and the first of their six songs on this list. The song was co-written by Joseph and MUTEMATH frontman Paul Meany, who produced Trench, and whose voice we hear in the opening lines. They’ve stated the lyrics address how creativity can cleanse dark impulses, but also cause pain. Like many of the tracks on Trench, the song shows a growing maturity in twenty øne piløts’ sound and music style. I love the sweeping, spacey synths, Josh Dun’s sharp percussion and Joseph’s haunting layered vocals. The wonderful little twinkling piano riff adds a slightly menacing vibe to the track. It’s a dark and stunning song.


86. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile
I became a fan of Kurt Vile when I fell in love with his wonderful song “Pretty Pimpin’,” which ended up at #19 on my Top 100 of 2016. He followed up a year later with the outstanding “Loading Zones”, which I love even more. His intricate guitar work is phenomenal, and the talkboxy wah-wah riffs toward the end of the track are so damn good. He’s also quite the wordsmith. He sings of driving around his “dirty little town” of Philadelphia, running errands and parking for free in loading zones as he tries to stay one step ahead of the parking meter police, humorously played by actor Kevin Corrigan and Matt Korvette of the band Pissed Jeans in the entertaining video. He defiantly declares “I park for free! One-stop shop life for the quick fix / before you get a ticket / That’s the way I live my life” – leaving little doubt he’s the coolest musician around today.

85. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers
Denver, Colorado based folk rock band The Lumineers first made a splash in 2012 with their massive breakthrough single “Ho Hey”. “Cleopatra” is the title track and second single from their sophomore album Cleopatra, and my personal favorite of all their songs. I love songs that tell a compelling story, and “Cleopatra” certainly fills the bill. Schultz explained his inspiration for the song in a 2017 Facebook post: “It’s inspired by a true story about a female taxi driver who, when she was younger, was proposed to. But her father had just passed away, so she didn’t give her boyfriend an answer. So he left the village broken-hearted and rejected and never returned again. He was her great love and she wouldn’t wash the footprints off the floor after he had left.” The toe-tapping rhythms, jangly strummed guitars and rousing piano are really wonderful.


84. ROYALS – Lorde
New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde (born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) stunned the world in 2013 with her mesmerizing single “Royals”. Only 16 years old at the time, she was the youngest artist to have a #1 song on the Billboard chart since Tiffany in 1987. The song had a totally new sound, unlike anything that had been done before. Lorde wanted to write a song expressing her disapproval of the luxurious lifestyle of many contemporary artists, and reportedly penned the lyrics in half an hour. The song title came to her after seeing a photo in the July 1976 edition of National Geographic of Kansas City Royals baseball player George Brett signing baseballs, with his team’s name ‘Royals’ emblazoned across his shirt. “Royals” spent nine weeks at #1, and also topped the charts in Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It sold 10 million units worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all-time, and was awarded the Grammy for 2013 Song of the Year.


83. MADNESS – Muse
“Madness” is another song I hated when I first heard it. The opening lines “Ma ma ma ma ma ma madness” nearly drove me to the point of madness until one day the song suddenly clicked for me, and I fell madly in love with it. Formed in 1994 while they were in high school, Muse is an immensely talented band from Britain who’ve had a phenomenal string of hits since the early 2000s. “Madness” is from their sixth studio album 2nd Law, and spent an astonishing 19 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart. Band singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy was inspired to write the song after having a fight with his then girlfriend Kate Hudson, and later said in an interview that the song was an attempt to strip down the sound of the album. To me, the song seems to be somewhat in the Bolero style, starting off slowly with a wobbly, pulsating melody, then gradually building to a dramatic crescendo, highlighted by Bellamy’s phenomenal guitar work and enthralling vocals that soar to the heavens. Fun fact: Bellamy’s father George was the rhythm guitarist of the 1960s pop group The Tornados, who had a #1 hit with “Telstar”.


82. COUGH SYRUP – Young the Giant
I’ve expressed my love for Young the Giant earlier, and now feature one of their most well-known songs, and my personal favorite, “Cough Syrup”. It was released in 2011 as the second single from their eponymous debut album, but actually predated the band, as it was composed when they were called The Jakes, and first appeared on their 2008 EP Shake My Hand. About the song’s meaning, band front man Sameer Gadhia has stated it was written at a time when the band was unsigned, had no money and “felt somewhat oppressed by the universal expectation of what to do in Orange County…in suburbia in general. I think we really yearned to break out of that and do something a little bit different. [The song] is kind of a cry for help to break free, not necessarily from oppression, but from the common symptoms of suburbia like boredom, normality and homogeneity.” The gorgeous swirling guitars, rather somber cello and spirited drumbeats create a stunning backdrop for Gadhia’s passionate soaring vocals. I saw Young the Giant in concert last summer (in a double bill with Fitz & the Tantrums), and their performance of “Cough Syrup” was wonderful.


81. SOME NIGHTS – fun.
New York City-based alternative pop-rock band fun. was formed in 2008 by Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff. Their debut album Aim and Ignite was fairly well-received, though a commercial disappointment. But it was their second album Some Nights that propelled fun. to international fame. The title track “Some Nights” was the second single and follow-up to their massive hit “We Are Young” (which I’ll be discussing later). The song has an exuberant melody, with a strong, almost military-style drumbeat that gives it a jubilant vibe that’s been favorably compared to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”. In fact, in an interview with Billboard, Ruess stated that Paul Simon’s Graceland was a major influence for the song. He added that the song is about “just being someone different on any given night.”


I’m embarrassed – no, make that mortified – to admit that I was not familiar with Austin, Texas-based band Spoon until 2017, despite the fact they’ve been around since the mid 1990s! When I heard their brilliant ninth album Hot Thoughts, I became an instant fan and began listening to their impressive music catalog while kicking myself for all their great music I missed out on hearing all those years. I love their art rock sound, especially band front man Britt Daniel’s distinctive gritty vocal style that gives their songs so much authenticity. My favorite track from Hot Thoughts is the deliciously sexy “Can I Sit Next to You”. The song has an almost sinister vibe, with a deep, bass-driven beat and heavily-strummed gnarly guitars contrasting with twinkling and swirling synths that impart an otherworldly feel. I love the dramatic spiraling synths in the chorus, as well as Daniel’s hoarse vocals as he seductively snarls his way through each verse. It’s fucking awesome, and the surreal video is a trip.


79. STEREO HEARTS – Gym Class Heroes featuring Adam Levine
“Stereo Hearts” is a great song by American rap/rock band Gym Class Heroes, featuring additional vocals by Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine. The song is so damned upbeat, with a catchy hip hop beat that makes me feel glad to be alive! The delightful lyrics are filled with music-based metaphors that make the song very relatable to a music freak like me. The track opens with Levine singing the chorus hook: “My heart’s a stereo. It beats for you, so listen close. Hear my thoughts in every note. Make me your radio. Turn me up when you feel low. This melody was meant for you. So sing along to my stereo.” Gym Class Heroes front man Travie McCoy raps “If I was an old-school, fifty pound boom box. Would you hold me on your shoulder, wherever you walk. Would you turn my volume up in front of the cops, and crank it higher every time they told you to stop. And all I ask is that you don’t get mad at me when you have to purchase mad D batteries. Appreciate every mix tape your friends make. You never know we come and go like we’re on the interstate.” Songwriting doesn’t get any better than this.

78. TROUBLE – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant are one of my all-time favorite bands, and “Trouble” is the first of three of their songs on this list. The song is from their fourth album Tell Me I’m Pretty, which was released at the end of 2015. Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, the album really shows his strong influence. “Trouble” was the second single from the album (after the uneven “Mess Around”) and it’s brilliant. The song has an almost magical vibe, thanks to the beautiful piano, xylophone and intricately strummed guitars, accompanied by Matt Shultz’s swooning vocals. The song’s entertaining video was shot at Joshua Tree National Park, which is near my home and one of the most popular places to make music videos.


Bruno Mars (born Peter Gene Hernandez in Honolulu, Hawaii, but his father nicknamed him “Bruno” at the age of two, because of his resemblance to professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino) is a hyper-talented singer, songwriter, producer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist dynamo with a style and showmanship reminiscent of Michael Jackson, James Brown and Little Richard all rolled into one. He came from a musical family which exposed him to a diverse mix of music genres. His mother was both a singer and a dancer, his father performed Little Richard rock and roll, and his uncle was an Elvis impersonator, and encouraged three-year-old Mars to perform on stage. By the time he was four, Mars began performing five days a week with his family’s band, The Love Notes, and became known in Hawaii for his impersonation of Elvis Presley. He moved to L.A. in 2003 when he was 18, and a year later signed a recording contract with Motown Records, but the deal went nowhere. Success eluded him until 2010, with the release of the successful singles “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B and “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, both of which featured his vocals. Soon after, Mars struck gold with his debut studio album Doo-Wops & Hooligans which generated the hit singles “Just the Way You Are”, “Grenade”, and “The Lazy Song”. In 2012, he followed up with his hugely-successful second album Unorthodox Jukebox , the lead single of which was the fantastic reggae/pop/funk song “Locked Out of Heaven”. Tim Sendra of AllMusic described the song as “a breezy mashup of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’, The Police, and Dire Straits“, while Paul MacInnes of The Guardian called it “a brazen but successful welding of Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing’ and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ by the Police.” In fact, Mars stated that The Police were a strong influence for him in writing the song, which addresses the rapturous feelings of a loving and sexual relationship, something all of us can identify with.


76. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay
I’ve liked James Bay and his music since his first breakout single “Hold Back the River” in 2014, but wasn’t what I’d call a huge fan. With his signature hat and long hair, and pleasing low-key folk-rock style, he quickly built a huge following. Then, in early March of 2018, he released “Pink Lemonade” and appeared on Saturday Night Live, revealing a major change in both his look and sound. When I watched his performance on SNL, I nearly fell out of my chair! James had ditched the hat, cut his hair and replaced his casual clothing style with a hot pink sequined shirt and black leather pants, and he looked hot! Not only that, I loved the song’s exuberant, harder rock vibe. Many of his fans seemed to prefer his mellower folk ballads to this edgier sound, however, so “Pink Lemonade” was not as successful as his other singles. Their loss, as I loved it and couldn’t hear it enough. The song is about escape and not wanting to commit to a relationship, and the video for the song is cleverly done, showing scenes of James building a rocket ship, only to be revealed at the end as a young version of himself playing pretend in his garage.

75. OUT OF MY LEAGUE – Fitz and the Tantrums
As with several artists on this list, I was not familiar with Los Angeles-based pop/neo-soul band Fitz and the Tantrums until my musical awakening in late summer 2013. One day I discovered the Billboard Alternative Rock chart, and it was a revelation! I saw songs by lots of artists I’d either never heard of, or who I knew about but wasn’t aware they had new music out. One of the songs riding high on the Alternative chart at that time was “Out of My League”, and I instantly fell in love with it’s bouncy, piano-driven synthpop grooves. I became a huge Fitz and the Tantrums fan, and bought their CD More Than Just a Dream, which I played nearly to death. Their sound is unusual in that they have no guitarist, but they more than make up for it with a strong rhythm section and James King’s saxophone (although his sax is not prominent on “Out of My League”). Sadly, their two follow up albums have been disappointing to me, many of their early fans and critics alike. They seem to have abandoned their earlier soulful, groove-based sound in favor of a more pop-oriented style that just sounds generic and predictable. Also, their newer stuff hasn’t utilized Noelle Scaggs’ great vocals nearly enough.


74. JUST GIVE ME A REASON – P!nk featuring Nate Ruess
The gorgeous and deeply moving song “Just Give Me a Reason” is one of my favorite songs from P!nk. The track was co-written by P!nk, Jeff Bhasker, and fun. lead singer Nate Ruess, who also provides his stirring vocals. The song is a heartfelt plea between two people desperate to hold on to a relationship that appears to be falling apart. It was originally intended to be sung just by P!nk, but she soon realized that she needed someone else to sing the song with her, as she felt it was more of a conversation between two people rather than a one perspective song. She asked Ruess to sing the song with her as a duet, and the result was magical. The song was a massive worldwide hit, topping the charts in 21 countries including the U.S.


My first introduction to singer-songwriter and guitarist John Mayer was with his wonderful debut single “No Such Thing”. The song was a poignant look back at the high school experience that really resonated with me, as it was played a lot on the radio during the time of one of my milestone High School reunions. I loved that song so much it ended up at #17 on my Top 100 Best Songs of the 2000s list. Another of his songs that I really love is “Heartbreak Warfare”, a darkly beautiful song from his fourth studio album Battle Studies. Like a lot of his music, the song is has a mellow tempo, with his skilled guitar work taking center stage. The lyrics speak of a toxic relationship, and is a plea for his lover to ease up on her poisonous behavior in the hope they can salvage what’s left: “How come the only way to know how high you get me is to see how far I fall? God only knows how much I’d love you if you let me but I can’t break through it all.”


72. THE JOKE – Brandi Carlisle
The beautiful and deeply moving song “The Joke” is singer-songwriter Brandi Carlisle’s poignant ode to the delicate boys and striving girls who continue to struggle in our society. She explained her inspiration: “There are so many people feeling misrepresented. So many people feeling unloved. Boys feeling marginalized and forced into these kind of awkward shapes of masculinity that they do or don’t belong in…so many men and boys are trans or disabled or shy. Little girls who got so excited for the last election, and are dealing with the fallout. The song is just for people that feel under-represented, unloved or illegal.” Carlisle has a strong, beautiful voice and her stirring, passionate vocals on on this song send chills up and down my spine. Hearing her sing the defiant lyrics in her gorgeous voice, backed by soaring instrumentals highlighted by beautiful strings courtesy of the late Paul Buckmaster (a music genius who arranged Carlisle’s album By The Way, I Forgive You as well as such legendary recordings as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and many of Elton John’s early hits), is a religious experience indeed.


71. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs are one of the best bands making music today, and I love their lush melodic sound. I became a fan of the Philadelphia alternative rock band a few years ago after hearing their spectacular song “Red Eyes.” So it was natural that I’d love their beautiful track “Holding On” from their brilliant critically-acclaimed and Grammy-winning album A Deeper Understanding. Having six band members, including two guitarists, two keyboardists, one of whom also plays sax, a bassist and a drummer, gives their music a lush, full sound. The piano, guitar and synths on “Holding On” are stunning, and singer Adam Granduciel’s sublime vocals bear a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan.


70. MOVES LIKE JAGGER – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera
One of my guilty pleasures on this list is the rousing duet “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera. Both Aguilera and Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine were judges and coaches on the hit music competition show The Voice at the time, and their great chemistry shines through in the song and video. The song was a massive worldwide hit in 2011, reaching #1 in the U.S. and 25 other countries from Brazil to Finland to South Korea, and selling over 15 million digital units. In an interview on the ABC program Nightline in November 2011, Mick Jagger stated he was flattered by being named in the song, and later joked on the Late Show with David Letterman about not seeing any royalties from it. Fun fact: “Moves Like Jagger” is one of two songs on this list featuring prominent whistling, the other being the upcoming “Pumped Up Kicks”.


69. DIZZY – The Million Reasons
“Dizzy” is an outstanding rock song by Chicago indie rock band The Million Reasons, and I loved it at first listen. (I love this band and all its members too, as they’re as gracious and kind as they are talented.) The song is about a relationship in which both parties are blinded by an obsessive and possibly irrational desire for each other. It opens with an enthralling guitar riff that immediately pulls us in with the promise that something really beautiful is about to unfold, and as the music swells into a soaring anthem, we’re not disappointed. The instrumentals and lead singer Scott Nadeau’s fervent vocals are perfection, and by the time the chorus arrives with Mike Nichols’ jaw-dropping solo from his screaming guitar and Nadeau’s raw, impassioned wails, I’m left gasping for breath. This is truly one of the most beautiful rock songs I’ve ever heard.

68. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples
The strikingly handsome Irish singer-songwriter Hozier (born Andrew John Hozier-Byrne) burst onto the music scene in 2014 with his massive hit “Take Me to Church” (coming up later in this list) and self-titled album Hozier. Exhausted from nearly two years of touring, he took a break in 2017 and then began writing new songs, but it would be four years before he followed up with a surprise release in September 2018 of a four-track EP Nina Cried Power, which includes the title track. He later released his second album Wasteland, Baby! in 2019. “Nina Cried Power” is a magnificent and stirring gospel-infused ode to Hozier’s love of American rock and roll and it’s roots in R&B and gospel, with tributes paid to artists like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday, James Brown and Mavis Staples, who lives up to her reputation by adding her powerful vocals to the song. In addition, legendary musician Booker T. Jones contributed his organ-playing to the song and other tracks on Wasteland, Baby! It’s a stunning masterpiece in my not-so-humble opinion, yet seemed to fail to connect with very many listeners for reasons I don’t comprehend. It was a hit only on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart, where it reached #1.


67. JUMPSUIT – twenty øne piløts
I’ve already professed my love for twenty øne piløts. Like Blurryface, Trench is a concept album, and tells the saga of the fictional evil city of Dema ruled by nine bishops, referred to as “Nico and the Niners” in the companion single of that name that was released concurrently with “Jumpsuit”. The bishops impose the religious cult of Vialism upon their citizens, and they do everything in their power to prevent them from leaving the walled city. Because they are unable to see the color yellow, the only way to escape is by wearing a yellow garment. Tyler Joseph’s alter ego is a character named Clancy, whose escape attempt is described in “Jumpsuit”. The song is a metaphor for the struggle with mental illness, with the evil city of Dema representing mental illness, and the bishops representing the internal struggles of a person suffering from mental illness. Given its subject matter, “Jumpsuit” is one of their darker songs. It opens with Joseph’s altered vocals shouting “cover me“, referring to his jumpsuit. As the song progresses, the music alternates between barrages of Joseph’s heavy bass guitar riffs and Josh Dun’s pounding drums, and soothing interludes of hushed vocals, lush synths and haunting piano. Joseph’s vocals gradually build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo towards the end as he desperately wails “Jumpsuit, jumpsuit cover me!


66. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man
Rock band Portugal. The Man are originally from Wasilla, Alaska, but now based in Portland, Oregon (they refer to themselves as ‘Lords of Portland’). They’ve released a whopping eight albums since forming in 2004, but “Feel It Still,” from their eighth and most recent album Woodstock, was their breakthrough single. Following up on that monster hit, (which was my #1 song of 2017), they hit the mark again with “Live in the Moment.” It’s an exhilarating track, with a hard-driving beat, sweeping synths, chugging guitars and soaring choruses dominated by John Gourley’s wonderful tenor vocals. The song lyrics are pretty deep with lots of hidden meaning, but they basically touch on subjects of religion and mortality: “Let’s live in the moment. Come back Sunday morning. Got soul to sell. When you’re gone goodbye, so long, farewell.” Toward the end it transitions to an almost church hymn with a dominant organ riff and chant-like vocals produced by computer text-to-speech software that sing “Oh, God, I can hardly believe my eyes. Wake up everybody you know. Come and watch the garden grow. I’ll see you when you get there.” The imaginative video shows the band riding in a car with a giant puppet of a guy skateboarding on top, being chased by another with a policeman puppet on top of that car.


65. COMING OF AGE – Foster the People
Though I really liked their debut single “Pumped Up Kicks” a lot, it was the beautiful, introspective song “Coming of Age” that made me fall in love with Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Foster the People. Hard as it is to believe, prior to hearing it in January 2014, I was unaware of any of their other songs besides “Pumped Up Kicks”, as I’d had my head up my ass from a musical standpoint for a very long time. I purchased their first album Torches and second album Supermodel, and had both on repeat for the rest of 2014. I saw them in concert at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium that November, and a photo I took of them has been my only Twitter header pic ever since. The song was inspired by Mark Foster’s experience and introspection after two years of touring with the band. He told XFM London: “Lyrically it is almost a confession. It’s about having a moment of clarity…after the storm of touring for two years and my life drastically changing. It was kind of the first breath I had to really look around and see that there were some things that happened during that period with my friends and with my loved ones, with the people that are close to me and with myself as well. It’s about growing up.” Musically, the song is melodically complex and utterly stunning, with glittery synths, haunting piano, gnarly guitars and lively percussion. I love Foster’s soaring vocals that at time channel his idol Brian Wilson.


64. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids featuring Bishop Briggs
Cold War Kids is an alt-rock band from Los Angeles, and I love their vibrant, hard-driving sound. Singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs, also based in L.A., is pretty awesome too, with a distinctive, powerhouse voice. So, combining her passionate vocals with those of Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willett on “So Tied Up” results in auditory fireworks to match the biting lyrics about a destructive co-dependent relationship you can’t escape. The song is from their sixth studio album L.A. Divine, which also features another great song “Love is Mystical”. I loved “So Tied Up” at first listen and never tired of hearing it. The darkly amusing and somewhat violent video shows Willett and Briggs singing the song interspersed with scenes of a couple hell-bend on killing each other.


Coldplay were my favorite band in the 2000s, and continued to produce some great music in the 2010s, although many criticized them for putting out music that was too ‘pop’. I suppose that’s partly true, but I still love a lot of their songs from this decade. They pulled out all the stops with their joyously upbeat “Adventure of a Lifetime”, one of the songs featured on their seventh studio album A Head Full of Dreams. Jonny Buckland’s gorgeous swirling guitars, Will Champion’s spot-on drums and Chris Martin’s signature soaring vocals make for a truly great song. Guy Berryman’s strong bass gives the feel of a heart beating and the mandolin at song’s end is stunning. The whimsical video shows the band members transformed through the magic of CGI into gorillas cavorting about in the jungle.


Washington, D.C. indie dream-pop band SHAED struck gold in 2019 with their haunting breakthrough single “Trampoline”. The song was originally released in May 2018, but got little airplay until it was featured in an Apple MacBook Air commercial that October, and the song quickly took off. The song debuted on the Billboard Alternative Chart in early December 2018, and as I write this one year later, it’s still in the Top 10! The gorgeous track was named the #1 song of 2019 on the Alternative Chart, and finished at #5 on my own year-end list. SHAED’s inspiration for the song came one night as the trio sat together watching old family videos of Spencer and Max jumping on a trampoline as small children. The song’s meaning has been the subject of debate, ranging from death to suicide to drug addiction, but SHAED simply wanted to write a great song loosely based on the idea of the Stranger Things alternative dimension “Upside Down”.(Genius.com). This is artfully captured in the beautiful and stylish video for the song.


61. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts
twenty øne piløts are back with their third single on this list, the superb “Heathens”, which was recorded for the Suicide Squad film soundtrack. The dark song has been described as rap rock in style, with a haunting arrangement set to a slow hip hop beat. Mournful piano, rough scratching sounds, Tyler Joseph’s monotone vocals, and a mysterious disembodied voice chanting “watch it” contrast with the dramatic, sweeping orchestration, creating a rather menacing sense of foreboding. The lyrics speak to not making snap judgements about people you don’t know, and to be more sensitive to others, as we all have hidden issues. “We don’t deal with outsiders very well. They say newcomers have a certain smell. You have trust issues, not to mention, they say they can smell your intentions. You’re lovin’ on the freakshow sitting next to you. You’ll have some weird people sitting next to you. You’ll think ‘How did I get here, sitting next to you?’ But after all I’ve said, please don’t forget.”


60. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals
“Life Itself” by British psychedelic art pop band Glass Animals is one of the most interesting and musically complex songs on this list and I adore it. The song is from their second album How To Be a Human Being. The band employs all kinds of instruments, from harps and tom toms to tambourines, piano and unusual guitar synths to create an exceptionally strong track. Lead singer Dave Bayley’s distinctive vocals are hypnotic and mesmerizing, and the lyrics about being a millennial slacker are superb: “I can’t get a job, so I live with my mom. I take her money but not quite enough. I sit in the car, and I listen to static. She said I look fat, but I look fantastic.” The rather intense and artfully-filmed video made for the song is quite good, but seems to tell a different story than that described in the lyrics.


British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE are among my favorite indie bands making music today. Their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic, groove-based sound, and I love every single one of their songs. But my absolute favorite is “Closer”, and I was stunned the moment I first heard this fiercely beautiful and monumental track. It opens with a mysterious throbbing synth chord that slowly builds into a dramatic soundscape, enveloping us as lead singer Matt Warneford wearily implores to someone with whom he seems to have an obsessive and destructive relationship: “Who, who am I? I’m just living to die. This old night, when it comes, I’ll be free of these old bones.” With that, the music explodes into a maelstrom of grinding synths, fuzzy guitars, buzz-saw bass, and thunderous percussion, punctuated by almost violently crashing cymbals that emphasize the feelings of desolation expressed in the bitter lyrics. Warneford’s deeply emotional vocals seem filled with despair and resignation over a love affair that now lies in tatters. “Feel I’m walking on shattered glass. This romance just has to end, to reset, erase, begin again.” The dark, ghostly video has a gothic quality that’s at once disturbing and breathtaking.

58. BANG BANG – Green Day
Legendary rockers Green Day proved their staying power with the 2016 release of their 12th studio album Revolution Radio, 26 years after their first album 39/Smooth in 1990. The album’s hard-driving first single “Bang Bang” stays true to the band’s penchant for topical themes, with lyrics that speak to America’s culture of gun violence and mass shootings in an era of narcissistic social media: “I want to be a celebrity martyr. The little man in my own private drama. Hurrah (bang bang), hurrah (bang bang) the hero of the hour. Daddy’s little psycho and Mommy’s little soldier.” The song’s musical high points are Billie Joe Armstrong’s furious guitar riffs and Tré Cool’s awesome drum solos.


57. FEVER – The Black Keys
The Black Keys, consisting of childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, have been putting out fantastic music for almost 20 years. From their eighth studio album Turn Blue, “Fever” was one of my favorite songs of 2014. The song spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart. The album was co-written and co-produced with noted producer Danger Mouse, and was a continuation of the duo’s departure from their earlier blues/garage rock roots, much to the chagrin of some of their fans. The song has a slicker, psychedelic rock vibe, with an infectious dance beat and greater use of lush, throbbing synths in addition to driving guitar riffs and snappy drums. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards, for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. The unusual video features Auerbach portraying a sweaty televangelist preaching to an audience as drummer Patrick Carney sits nearby.


56. HIGH – Sir Sly
“High” is a wonderful song by Los Angeles alt-rock band Sir Sly, and is the lead single from their second album Don’t You Worry Honey. Led by a dominant buzzing bass line, the exuberant track lives up to its title, bopping along with a snappy dance beat and heavily-strummed jangly guitars. I love lead singer Landon Jacobs vocals, and the guys’ vocal harmonies in the choruses are exhilarating. In a general sense, the lyrics address the topic of drug use and the struggle of withdrawal, but a deeper analysis reveals more nuanced meanings. The opening lyrics “I’ve been smoking on the peace pipe. I’ve been wondering just what would peace be like” speaks to using drugs as an escape, and wondering what the world would be like if discord was replaced with tranquility. “I remember back in Oakland. I was lying there in rapture on the bathroom floor.” refers to an incident when Sir Sly was touring with The 1975, and Jacobs got much too high and ended up having a panic attack on the bathroom floor of their motel room. He stated the original lyric was “I remember back in Oakland, when I thought that I was dying on the bathroom floor”, but changed it after realizing the panic attack was actually a positive, transcendental experience. I love this song, and the delightfully trippy video is my absolute favorite of 2017. How can anyone not like this band and song after watching them dancing about like marionettes channeling Cirque du Soleil!

55. BELIEVE – Mumford & Sons
British folk rock band Mumford & Sons have been putting out consistently great music for over ten years, beginning with their debut album Sigh No More. I love many of their songs, but my absolute favorite is the magnificent “Believe”, from their third album Wilder Mind. The song was written by band members Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane, minus front man Marcus Mumford, and is a departure from their usual acoustic folk rock sound. For it and the rest of Wilder Mind, they abandoned their signature acoustic instruments (such as banjo and upright bass) for electric ones and added a session drummer to fill out their rhythm section. The result is a dramatic, sweeping song that builds to near-epic in scope, leaving me covered with goosebumps. The lyrics speak to betrayal in a relationship, with Mumford passionately crying “I don’t even know if I believe, everything you’re trying to say to me.” If this song doesn’t move you, you’re dead.


54. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar and SZA
The gorgeous “All the Stars” by acclaimed songwriter and rapper Kendrick Lamar and singer-songwriter SZA is one of many outstanding songs featured on the soundtrack for the hit superhero film Black Panther.  A stylistic departure for Lamar, the song is highly melodic, with vibrant sweeping synths and orchestration, set to a thumping drumbeat. His vocals are mesmerizing and powerful as he sings the biting lyrics about duplicity and betrayal, while SZA captivates with her bewitching soulful vocals. She passionately sings about her inability to resist another’s charms despite the fact he’s no good for her, always putting her faith in love and the stars.  The song received much critical praise, but also a few withering reviews. Most critics and fans much prefer Lamar’s edgier rap songs like “Alright” and “HUMBLE” for their artistic innovation and how they speak to issues in the Black community (which I certainly appreciate), however, I’m more drawn to this type of beautiful and melodic song. Sheldon Pearce of Pitchfork called it “generic and so nondescript that it reeks of compromise, devoid of personality or any true vision, and pales in comparison to both Lamar and SZA’s recent works“.  Screw him, I love it! The lush and colorful video is visually stunning, and one of the best of the year.

53. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet literally blasted onto the music scene in 2017 like an atom bomb with “Highway Tune.” ‘Wow, just wow!’ was my – and most everyone else’s – reaction upon first hearing this explosive head-banger from the young Michigan foursome (though they’ve had their share of detractors who’ve dismissed them as a cheap Led Zeppelin cover band, to whom I say go fuck yourselves!). Greta Van Fleet consists of the three Kiszka brothers Josh, Jake and Sam (Josh and Jake are twins), and drummer Danny Wagner, all of whom were in their late teens or early twenties when they recorded the song. Despite their youth, these guys are highly skilled musicians, and lead vocalist Josh – a diminutive guy with a gargantuan bluesy voice – sounds disarmingly like a young Robert Plant.


52. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man
A powerfully moving song with a gospel feel, “Human” was a huge, breakout hit for British singer/songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man (born Rory Charles Graham). With his raw bass-baritone voice, he passionately sings of having human frailties, and that he’s neither a saint nor a demon. The song was released in July 2016, but didn’t chart in the U.S. until early 2017. It reached #1 in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Poland and Slovakia, as well as the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts. Shockingly, it peaked at only #74 on the Billboard Hot 100, a chart I personally now find largely irrelevant.


51. BREAKEVEN – The Script
The beautiful “Breakeven” from Irish alternative rock band The Script is one of the most poignant songs on this list. From their self-titled debut album The Script, the song was actually released as a single in late November 2008, and quickly became a hit in Ireland and the UK, but didn’t appear on the U.S. charts until a year later. It eventually peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Top 40 charts in May 2010, and is one of my favorite songs of that year. The song is about how the breakup of a relationship can affect each of the two parties involved quite differently, leaving one feeling free while the other is heartbroken, and unable to move on: “I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing. Just prayed to a God that I don’t believe in. ‘Cause I got time while she got freedom. ‘Cause when a heart breaks, no, it don’t break even.” The chiming guitar work, snappy drums and sparkling keyboards provide a dramatic backdrop for lead singer Danny O’Donoghue’s heartfelt vocals, which beautifully convey the terrible sadness and pain one feels after a breakup: “What am I gonna do when the best part of me was always you? And what am I supposed to say when I’m all choked up and you’re OK? I’m falling to pieces..


50. SEASONS (Waiting On You) – Future Islands
Despite releasing three studio albums and touring almost non-stop for years, American synth-pop band Future Islands remained relatively unknown since forming in North Carolina in 2006. That all changed in 2014 with the release of their superb fourth album Singles, particularly the breakthrough single “Seasons (Waiting on You)”, and their riveting performance on The Late Show with David Letterman in March 2014, which became the show’s most-viewed video. Lead singer Samuel T. Herring, who actually started out as a rapper, is a lifelong lover of performance art. His on-stage performances are characterized by his elaborate and animated dance movements and raw, aggressive vocals, and he literally owns the stage when he performs. He also has Reinke’s edema, a condition involving swelling of the vocal chords that has caused him to compensate for the fact that he can no longer hit certain notes by growling, which is now part of his signature vocal style. In an interview with Stereogum, Herring attributed his condition to four causes: “Acid reflux, smoking, talking too much or overuse of the vocal cords, and then chronic misuse of the vocal cords … which is how I sing.” Now based in Baltimore, Maryland, Future Islands has long rejected being called synth-pop, instead calling their music “post-wave”, a combination of the romanticism of new wave with the power and drive of post-punk. “Seasons (Waiting on You)” is a stunning, almost heartbreaking song about finally giving up on trying to win the love of another, and Herring makes us believe every word he sings. The song was named best track of 2014 by NME, Pitchfork and Spin.

British alternative rock band Foals rank among my favorite bands and I passionately love their distinctly unique sound. From their magnificent fourth album What Went Down, “Mountain At My Gates” is a gorgeous dramatic anthem about perseverance, and overcoming life’s obstacles. Lead vocalist Yannis Philippakis has an amazing and instantly identifiable singing voice that smolders, wails and soars. The powerful song builds to a climactic flourish that gives me chills every time.


48. POMPEII – Bastille  
British alternative pop/rock band Bastille started out in Leeds in 2010 as a solo project of singer-songwriter Dan Smith, who named his project after the French holiday that’s celebrated on his birthday of July 14. Bastille later grew into a four-piece, releasing an EP Laura Palmer, featuring songs Dan had previously written. That December, they signed with Virgin Records, and began recording and releasing a series of singles that would become part of their debut album Bad Blood, which dropped in March 2013. One of those singles, “Pompeii”, would catapult Bastille to international fame. Smith wrote the song in 2010 while still a student, after reading about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. It made him think about all those who perished being forever frozen in time. He later told The Daily Telegraph that he imagined what those dead inhabitants might have to say to one another, and explained the song’s meaning “It is essentially about fear of stasis and boredom. Being quite a shy, self-conscious person, I was afraid my life might get stuck.” “Pompeii” is darkly beautiful, immediately grabbing our attention with its ominous opening chant of  “Eh, eheu, eheu…” (“eheu” is Latin for alas, which is an exclamation of grief, pain, or fear) that’s repeated throughout the track, ending as it started. The fascinating video shows Smith frantically wandering about an empty-looking Los Angeles at night, discovering the few people he encounters all have unnatural vacant black eyes that resemble the looks of the petrified remains of those who perished in Pompeii. He steals a car and flees to the desert to try and escape, but the car breaks down. The next morning, in a scene filmed next to the Whitewater River in north Palm Springs not far from where I live, he realizes he’s been infected too. In the final scene, he’s atop Mt. San Jacinto looking out at the view, then turns around to reveal his own eyes have turned black.

47. A SKY FULL OF STARS – Coldplay
Coldplay are back with the beautiful, uplifting song “A Sky Full of Stars”, from their sixth album Ghost Stories (which received mostly positive reviews, other than from the aptly-named Pitchfork, which tends to skewer everything that sounds the slightest bit mainstream or formula.)  “A Sky Full of Stars” was co-written and co-produced by the late Avicii, which accounts for its sweeping piano and synth-driven EDM and progressive house sound. The song is a jubilant celebration of someone for whom their love shines brighter than the stars. A bit sappy, yes, but so darn pretty and exhilarating that I can’t help but love it!


46. HAPPY – Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams is a renowned and prolific singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer and fashion designer, with a successful career as a solo artist, part of the record production duo The Neptunes (with Chad Hugo), lead singer of rock/hip hop band N.E.R.D., and frequent collaborator with numerous artists. In late 2013, on the heels of his monster collaborative hits “Get Lucky” (with Daft Punk) and “Blurred Lines” (with Robin Thicke), Pharrell released “Happy”. One of five tracks he wrote for the Despicable Me 2 film soundtrack, “Happy” was originally intended to be sung by CeeLo Green, whose version Pharrell actually thought was better than his. However, Green’s label Elektra Records decided against it, as he was about to release his Christmas album, so Pharrell’s recording was used for the film soundtrack and released as a single instead, and also later included on his album Girl.  The irresistibly catchy song became a massive worldwide hit, reaching #1 in over 30 countries, and was the #1 song of 2014 on the Billboard Hot 100. To coincide with the single release, the website 24hoursofhappy.com was launched, featuring a 24-hour long video of “Happy” consisting of the song repeated multiple times, with footage of various people dancing and miming along to the song on streets and parks around Los Angeles. An official four-minute long edited video was also released, and has been viewed over 1 billion times. The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, but lost to “Let it Go” from Frozen.

45. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish
2019 was a huge year for the insanely talented young Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Billie Eilish (her full birth name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell). With the meteoric success of her ground-breaking debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, one of the biggest-selling albums of 2019, she became a superstar. I was blown away by her riveting performance at the 2019 Coachella Music Festival, when she was only 17 years old. “Bad Guy” reached #1 on numerous music charts in the U.S.  and around the world, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Greece, Hungary, Norway and the Czech Republic. Musically, the song has an unusual minimalist bass-driven melody that pulls us headlong into a thumping, ominous soundscape. Eilish’s clipped, breathy vocals have a seductive, almost menacing quality as she sings the provocative lyrics that seem beyond her tender years, yet she makes them believable. “I’m that bad type. Make your mama sad type. Make your girlfriend mad tight. Might seduce your dad type. I’m the bad guy, duh.” It’s brilliant!


Pop-rock band WALK THE MOON scored big in 2015 with their wonderful sleeper hit “Shut Up and Dance”.  From their second album Talking is Hard, the song first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in late November 2014, then fell off after only two weeks, only to re-enter a week later. From there, it slowly climbed the chart, ultimately peaking at #5, but spent many weeks at #1 on the Alternative and Hot Rock charts. Band front man Nicholas Petricca was inspired to write the song after an experience at a nightclub in Echo Park, Los Angeles. The place was packed and it was taking forever to get a drink, and he was frustrated because he wanted to dance to the great music that was playing. His girlfriend basically told him to stop complaining and dance with her, inspiring the title “Shut Up and Dance’.  He envisioned the song “as an anthem for letting go of frustration and having fun”, and set the lyrics to a jubilant, catchy-as-hell dance beat, embellished with rolling riffs of jangly guitar, jazzy synths and thumping drums. The endearing video portrays Petricca as, in his own words, “an incredibly uncomfortable, awkward adolescent dude” at a bar, trying to look cool.


43. THIS IS AMERICA – Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino is the artistic name for the music project of the multi-faceted and incredibly talented actor, writer, director, producer, singer-songwriter and rapper Donald Glover. His brilliant song “This is America” uses an alternating mix of African-folk inspired melodies and pulsating hip hop-driven trap beats and pairs them with provocative lyrics that address issues of racism, police brutality and gun violence in America. It features background vocals by rappers Young Thug (who also co-wrote the song), Slim Jxmmi, BlocBoy, JB, Quavo (of the group Migos), and 21 Savage. The companion video for the song, directed by Hiro Murai, drove home the lyrics’ message with shocking and often disturbing visual imagery. Released on YouTube simultaneously with Gambino’s performance of the song on Saturday Night Live on May 5, 2018, the video quickly went viral, receiving 12.9 million views in the first 24 hours. As I write this, it’s been viewed over 630 million times. In February 2019, the song won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video.

42. COUNTING STARS – OneRepublic
I’ve been a big fan of pop-rock band OneRepublic since falling in love with their beautiful song “Apologize” in 2008, which ended up at #8 on my Top 100 Songs of the 2000s. Their fantastic song “Counting Stars”, from their third album Native, was a huge hit around the world, and my second-favorite of their many wonderful songs. The song has a powerful driving beat, with touches of soul, gospel and dance-pop that make for a colorful, exciting listen. Band front man Ryan Tedder wrote the song while staying in a house in the Hamptons being rented by Jay-Z and Beyonce, and said it’s about “laying in bed awake at night when you’re stressed out of your mind, thinking ‘How are we gonna make ends meet? How are we gonna pay the bills?’ You know, all those things you wanna do with your life – how are we gonna make them work? How’s this actually gonna happen or come to pass? So, instead of counting sheep, we’re counting stars.” The music video for the song shows the band performing in a dusty, decrepit building beneath a church service going on upstairs. As I write this in early January 2020, it has received nearly 2.9 billion views, and currently ranks as the 11th most-viewed video ever.


41. BAD ROMANCE – Lady Gaga
From a bad guy to a bad romance, the business of love can be a hazardous minefield. At the dawn of the 2010s, Lady Gaga (born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) was already an international star, thanks to the success of her debut album The Fame, which launched her career like a shot from a cannon. Two singles from the album – “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” were both huge worldwide hits, topping the charts in the U.S. and many countries. In late 2009, she followed up with Fame Monster, released as both a stand-alone EP and as a deluxe reissue of The Fame, which included two discs, one consisting of the eight new tracks, and the other consisting of the original tracks from The Fame. One of the new tracks was “Bad Romance”, which I think is her best song ever. The melody and song structure are interesting and fairly complex, featuring elements of German-esque house and techno that Gaga described as being experimental pop. The lyrics address aspects of a bad relationship and her poor choice in men, specifically, of being attracted to men with whom romance never works, and falling in love with your best friend. In an MTV interview, she stated that in the verse, “I want your psycho, your vertigo shtick, Want you in my rear window, baby, you’re sick“, she used Alfred Hitchcock film titles to express that she wanted “the deepest, darkest, sickest parts of you that you are afraid to share with anyone because I love you that much.” The stylish and surreal video for “Bad Romance” has garnered 1.15 billion views.


40. RENEGADES – X Ambassadors
“Renegades” is a beautiful song of inspiration from Ithaca, New York-based rock band X Ambassadors. The song was already in the process of being written by the band when their label Interscope Records was approached by Jeep, who wanted a song to promote their new Jeep Renegade SUV. The band and label delivered the song within a few days, and it was simultaneously released as a single. The lyrics speak to courage and perseverance in living one’s life, which not only satisfied Jeep’s goal of having a song that would appeal to young people’s sense of freedom and exploration, but also had personal meaning for the band, as one of its members Casey Harris was blind since birth. The video that was later produced for the song shows several people with disabilities working to overcome their challenges. Musically, the song starts off with a tender acoustic guitar riff that slowly builds, then a thumping drumbeat ensues along with swirling keyboard synths as singer Sam Harris fervently sings “Long live the pioneers, rebels and mutineers, go forth and have no fear, come close and lend an ear.” The band’s soaring choruses at the end give me goosebumps.


39. RADIOACTIVE – Imagine Dragons
Since the release of their breakout single “It’s Time” in 2012, Imagine Dragons has grown to become one of the biggest and most successful music acts in the world, selling over 35 million singles in the U.S. and 20 million albums worldwide (RIAA). “Radioactive” was their second single, and was included on their EP Continued Silence and later on their debut album Night Visions. It’s a powerful alternative electronic rock song with booming dubstep beats, loads of distortion, and dramatic soaring choruses that make for an intense and exciting listen. The dark lyrics reference apocalyptic and revolutionist themes, though band front man Dan Reynolds told Rolling Stone that it’s “basically about my struggle with anxiety and depression. It’s about becoming self-empowered and rising above that. I wanted to write a masculine and primal song about conjuring and rising above human weakness.”


38. THE MAN – The Killers
I’m a huge fan of The Killers, and I love their deliciously bombastic single “The Man,” from their fifth studio album Wonderful, Wonderful. Though it received mixed reviews from critics and bloggers, I think it’s terrific, and it spent five weeks at #1 on my own personal music chart. The song revs up at the beginning, then explodes into a pounding dance beat courtesy of Ronnie Vannucci’s power drums. Throw in a sturdy bass line, sweeping synths and Brandon Flowers’ soaring tenor vocals, and you’ve got a fun, exhilarating track. I also love when Flowers pays homage to David Bowie late in the song with the line “headed for the hall of…FAME!”. Vannucci has stated that the song was basically about how a lot of men feel invincible when they’re younger: “Sort of your chest out, the breadwinner, nothing could stop you… It’s sort of tongue-and-cheeking that, how that is not really the point of being a man at all. It’s actually more about compassion and empathy.” The fantastically entertaining video shows Flowers playing several different arrogant characters who are full of themselves, all thinking they’re ‘the man’.

37. HEY, SOUL SISTER – Train
“Hey, Soul Sister” by San Francisco-based pop-rock band Train is a sweet, upbeat celebration of lust and love. From their fifth studio album Save Me, San Francisco, the song is their highest-charting and best-selling single. Band front man Pat Monahan teamed up with New York-based Norwegian songwriting and music production duo Espionage (consisting of Espen Lind and Amund Bjørklund, who wrote Beyoncé’s smash hit “Irreplaceable”, among others) to write “Hey, Soul Sister”.  Monahan told them he wanted the song to have an INXS vibe, and after they wrote the melody, he wrote the lyrics and started to sing the song, but wasn’t pleased. He later recalled: “Espen, who’s like a huge star in Norway, picked up a ukelele and said, ‘Hey, how about this?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And it made the difference. It made my words dance. It made sense. These words were meant to dance with ukulele and not guitar.” (Wikipedia) The lyrics speak to being besotted with a woman, and singing her praises: “Hey soul sister, ain’t that Mr. Mister on the radio, stereo. The way you move ain’t fair you know. Hey soul sister, I don’t wanna miss a single thing you do tonight.


36. SAFE AND SOUND – Capital Cities
“Safe and Sound”, by Los Angeles-based indie pop duo Capital Cities, is another fun, upbeat song that brings me immense joy. Capital Cities is comprised of Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant, who seem like nice guys you’d want to have a beer with. They formed their music project in 2010, a few years after Merchant responded to a Craigslist ad by Simonian, who was looking for music production jobs. Their lineup includes other musicians who assist in the recording of their songs and for live performances. The song has a catchy synth-driven melody with an infectious dance beat, but the real highlight is the exuberant trumpet line that gives the track incredible energy and depth. The guys’ vocal harmonies are pretty great too. A sleeper hit, “Safe and Sound” was originally released in January 2011, but didn’t chart until 2013, when it was included on their debut album In a Tidal Wave of Mystery (the album title is from a lyric in the song). The song reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart that June, and was the #2 song of 2013 on that year-end chart. In a 2013, interview with USA Today, Simonian explained that “‘Safe and Sound’ is an ode to humanity and all living things. We want people to recognize that life can be good, things are getting better.” The wonderful official video, directed by Grady Hall, was filmed in the historic Los Angeles Theatre, and shows Capital Cities performing on stage as dancers emerge from pictures on the wall and film clips from different time periods in the theater’s history, and compete in a dance-off. It received a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video.

Ohio alternative folk-rock band The National have been putting out consistently good and well-received music for 20 years, and one of their finest works was their critically acclaimed and Grammy-winning seventh studio album Sleep Well Beast. The lead single from that album, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” is a phenomenal track, and one of the best of 2017. The song opens with a dreamy a cappella female vocal, then lovely piano chords and gnarly guitars ensue, propelled by an urgent drumbeat as lead singer Matt Berninger sings in his stunning and heartfelt baritone vocals. Aaron Dessner delivers a blistering guitar solo in the bridge, giving the track a dramatic edge. I was shocked to learn this was the band’s very first single to ever appear on any airplay chart in the U.S., going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart.


British singer-songwriter Adele (born Adele Laurie Blue Adkins) first came to prominence in 2008 with her debut album 19 and hit single “Chasing Pavements”, for which she was awarded Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal. In 2011, she released her second album 21, which became one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, setting numerous chart and sales records, and topping the album charts in the U.K., U.S., and around the world. It was the top-selling album in the world both in 2011 and 2012. As I write this, 21 has spent 445 weeks and counting on the Billboard 200 Album chart. The album’s third single “Set Fire to the Rain”, was also the third consecutive single to reach #1, and is one of my favorites of Adele’s many songs. The song was co-written and produced by Fraser T. Smith, and it’s a sweeping, piano-driven anthem, with the kind of lush orchestration that I love (though a few prickly critics called it ‘over-produced’ and a ‘misfire’, and to them I say fuck off!). The dramatic arrangement creates a cinematic wall of sound befitting Adele’s soaring, emotionally-charged vocals. The lyrics speak to the contradictions that occur in some relationships, how a partner can seem so wonderful at times, yet awful at others: “You and me together, nothing gets better. But there’s a side to you that I never knew, never knew. All the things you’d say, they were never true, never true. And the games you play, you would always win.”


33. CAN’T HOLD US – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton
On the heels of their worldwide smash hit “Thrift Shop”, Seattle hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis hit the jackpot again with their follow-up single “Can’t Hold Us”, although it took a while for the song to catch hold. The single was first released in August 2011, but didn’t gain much traction or airplay until after the release of their debut album The Heist more than a year later. The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2013, and reached #1 that May. Featuring guest vocals by R&B singer Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us” is a wonderful celebratory anthem of hope and perseverance. Macklemore freestyles the lyrics about overcoming naysayers and fighting onward in the pursuit of his dreams with a flow that’s truly impressive: “Chasing dreams since I was fourteen with the four-track, bussing halfway cross that city with the backpack / Fat cat, crushing labels out here, nah, they can’t tell me nothing. / We give that to the people, spread it across the country.” Dalton sings the hook “Can we go back, this is the moment / Tonight is the night, we’ll fight ’til it’s over /So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us / Like the ceiling can’t hold us.” Musically, the song features an exuberant array of instruments, including piano, horns, strings, tambourine, guitar and drums, all accompanied by bold handclapping, foot-stomping, and a soaring gospel-like chorus that make for a truly uplifting and electrifying track. The video produced for the song is a mini saga, filmed in several locations around the globe.


32. TAKE ME TO CHURCH – Hozier
The stunning, gospel-like “Take Me to Church” was the debut single by Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. Raised as a Protestant Quaker, he now identifies as agnostic, and was inspired to write the song by his frustration with the Catholic Church, which he saw as a negative dominant force on social and political life in Ireland. He told Rolling Stone,Growing up, I always saw the hypocrisy of the Catholic church. The history speaks for itself and I grew incredibly frustrated and angry.” (As a former Catholic myself, I completely agree.) In another interview with New York magazine, he stated: “Sexuality, and sexual orientation…is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.

Hozier uses religious terminology in the lyrics to describe his feelings of romantic and sexual obsession with his lover, while also condemning church dogma: “My lover’s got humor. She’s the giggle at a funeral. Knows everybody’s disapproval. I should’ve worshiped her sooner. If the Heavens ever did speak. She is the last true mouthpiece. Every Sunday’s getting more bleak. A fresh poison each week. ‘We were born sick’, you heard them say it. My church offers no absolutes. She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom’. The only Heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you. I was born sick, but I love it. Command me to be well. Amen, Amen, Amen.” The darkly disturbing black and white video produced for the song tells the story of a gay relationship in Russia and the violent homophobic backlash that ensues when the community learns of one of the men’s sexuality.


31. STARBOY – The Weeknd
The second song by The Weeknd on this list, “Starboy” was the title single from his third album of the same name. The song features music by Daft Punk, who along with others, co-wrote the track with The Weeknd and collaborated on the album. It’s a moody, but beautiful R&B song with electro-pop elements, and speaks to various trappings of celebrity life, including references to some of the expensive cars owned by The Weeknd, including his McLaren P1, Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, and a Bentley Mulsanne. The dark and rather violent video, which was directed by Grant Singer, who also directed the videos for “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills”, has been described as The Weeknd’s attempt to murder his former persona, a sign perhaps that he was reinventing himself with his new song and album. It shows a masked figure, eventually revealed to be the Starboy incarnation of The Weeknd, killing his former self, and destroying posters and awards for his previous album Beauty Behind the Madness.

30. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant are one of my favorite bands of the past decade, with a long string of consistently great singles. The title track from their fifth studio album Social Cues, this song now ranks among my top favorites of their many songs. The bouncy tempo is incredibly catchy, and those chirpy synths are irresistible, but what I love most of all are Matt Shultz’s wonderful vocals that always sound so genuine. The rather poignant lyrics speak to the anxieties and insecurities of being a rock star: “Hide me in the back room, tell me when it’s over. Don’t know if I can play this part much longer. I don’t know if it is right to live this way, yeah. I’ll be in the back room, tell me when it’s over. People always say, ‘Man, at least you’re on the radio’.” The song’s production and arrangement are flawless.


29.  BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges
American singer-songwriter and producer Leon Bridges is like a breath of fresh air with his throwback R&B style that echoes some of the great soul singers of the 60s like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. It’s a reflection of my advanced age, but I loved so many of the artists and music coming out of Detroit (Motown), Memphis and Philadelphia from the early 60s to the late 80’s. “Bad Bad News”, from his second album Good Thing, is fantastic, with jazzy guitar, gorgeous brass, crisp percussion and deep bass set to a soulful, hypnotic beat. Add Bridges’ smooth vocals, and the result is sonic heaven. He sings about overcoming others’ lack of faith in him, and making it on his street smarts, honesty and belief in himself: “Ain’t got no riches, ain’t got no money that runs long. But I got a heart that’s strong and a love that’s tall. Ain’t got no name, ain’t got no fancy education. But I can see right through, a powdered face on a painted fool./ They tell me I was born to lose. But I made a good good thing out of bad bad news.


28. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey
One of the best songs of 2019 is “Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey. The song was the lead single from her stunning and critically-acclaimed sixth studio album Norman Fucking Rockwell, which she co-produced with Jack Antonoff. It’s a cover of the song originally recorded by the ska punk band Sublime, which itself samples the great classic “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess, written in 1934 by George and Ira Gerwshin, with lyrics by DuBose Heyward. Del Rey’s version is faithful to Sublime’s ska vibe, but her beautiful, seductive vocals and dreamy instrumentals take the song to a whole new level, as well as capturing the languid, sultry feel of the original “Summertime”. I love that she kept the lyrics and pronouns exactly as written by Sublime, which describe a cheating girlfriend whose infidelities and poor treatment of her lover makes him feel like he’s in prison. “Me and my girl, we got this relationship. I love her so bad, but she treats me like shit. On lockdown, like a penitentiary. She spreads her lovin’ all over, and when she gets home, there’s none left for me.


27. BURN THE WITCH – Radiohead
The release of English rock band Radiohead’s amazing ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool was one of the music highlights of 2016. The brilliant lead single from that album “Burn the Witch” is one of the most eerily beautiful and haunting songs of the decade. The band had worked on the track on and off for over 10 years, considering it for inclusion on several of their previous albums, but were never satisfied with the results until it was given this gorgeous arrangement by their guitarist Jonny Greenwood, with lush strings performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. What gives the strings their dramatic percussive effect was the use of guitar plectrums, rather than bows, on the orchestra musicians’ strings. The dark lyrics, hauntingly sung by Thom Yorke’s beautiful falsetto, are an attack on groupthink and authoritarianism: “abandon all reason / avoid all eye contact / do not react / shoot the messengers / burn the witch“. Yorke stated in an interview with BBC Radio that the lyrics were inspired by a 2000 article he read in News of the World that published the names and addresses of sex offenders. The clever, stop-action animation video, directed by Chris Hopewell, pays homage to the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man.

“The Less I Know the Better” by Tame Impala is arguably one of the most enchanting tracks on this entire list. Every time I hear it, I wish I was 20 again. Tame Impala is the music project of Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, who writes, records, performs and produces all his own music, although he collaborates with a number of musicians, many of whom are members of his other psychedelic rock band Pond, for live shows. “The Less I Know the Better” is one of the singles from his gorgeous, critically-acclaimed third album Currents (which ended up on many best album of 2015 lists). I could just as easily have chosen the equally beautiful song “Let It Happen” for this list, but I think I love “The Less I Know the Better” more.

Parker stated in an interview with Under the Radar that the song “shouldn’t be on a Tame Impala album, because it has this dorky, white disco funk. I wouldn’t call it cheesy, but it’s not trying to be too cool, because the lyrics are pretty dorky and the groove is pretty dorky. But at the same time, for me, I love that kind of music.” So do I. Swirling, glittery synths are coupled with Parker’s layered chiming and gnarly guitars to create an achingly beautiful and dreamy backdrop for his ethereal falsetto vocals. The lyrics express the protagonist’s intense longing for a girl he can’t have, which Parker so beautifully expresses with his enthralling vocals: “Oh my love, can’t you see yourself by my side? I don’t suppose you could convince your lover to change his mind. I was doing fine without ya, til I saw your face, now I can’t erase.” Why this song was not a huge #1 hit is a complete mystery to me. The unusual but entertaining video brings the song to life.

25. PAIN – The War on Drugs
The second single from The War on Drugs’ magnificent, highly-acclaimed album A Deeper Understanding, as well as the second of their songs on this list, “Pain” is my favorite of their many incredible songs. As I’ve alluded to earlier in this post, I know I love a song if it gives me chills, and “Pain” brings them in spades. It boggles my mind that people are capable of writing and creating music as exquisite as this. The layered guitars and sparkling synths are so fucking gorgeous they literally bring tears to my eyes, and lead singer Adam Granduciel’s vocals are brimming with a heartfelt urgency that touches the soul. He told Q Magazine that “Pain” was inspired by the physical agony he endured from a ruptured disc. (Having suffered myself with intense pain from just a back sprain, I can empathize.) It’s one of several tracks on A Deeper Understanding where he touches on the excruciating experience. “I couldn’t sit to work and I couldn’t stand up to play guitar,” he said. “The idea of chronic pain and what it does to the mind is scattered throughout the songs.”


24. PUMPED UP KICKS – Foster the People
The second song by Foster the People on this list, “Pumped Up Kicks” was their debut single, becoming their breakthrough hit and one of the most popular songs of 2011. It was the #1 song of 2011 on the Billboard Alternative chart. The track was later included on both their self-titled EP and their debut album Torches.  It has a bouncy, upbeat synth-driven melody accompanied by cheerful whistling, that contrasts with the dark lyrics describing the thoughts of a troubled and delusional youth. Mark Foster wrote and recorded the song in about five hours, playing all the instruments himself and arranging and editing it using music software. He also electronically altered his vocals, giving them a menacing, almost creepy vibe. The demo he recorded was ultimately the version of the song the band released.

Foster later told CNN.com “I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn’t start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation.” He wanted to raise awareness of gun violence among disaffected youth. The subject also hit close to home for the band. Foster was bullied in high school, while then-bassist Cubbie Fink has a cousin who survived the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. The song was temporarily pulled from several radio stations after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. And in a recent interview with Billboard, Foster stated he continues to wrestle with the song’s legacy in light of the ongoing epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S., and is considering retiring the song and no longer performing it in their shows. The lighthearted video does not make reference to the dark subject, instead showing scenes of the band performing the song and having fun surfing and socializing.


23. LONELY BOY – The Black Keys
“Lonely Boy” is my favorite song from The Black Keys, and one of their biggest hits, reaching #1 on the Billboard Rock, Alternative and Adult Alternative charts. It also won Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance of 2012. The track is from their seventh studio album El Camino, and was co-written and produced by Danger Mouse. Auerbach’s grimy, bluesy riffs are fantastic, chugging along to Patrick Carney’s aggressive drumbeats as he laments about his love that keeps him waiting, making him a ‘lonely boy’. The quirky but charming video features actor, musician and part-time security guard Derrick T. Tuggle dancing and lip-syncing to the song in front of the Pepper Tree Motel in North Hollywood, one of the many communities that make up the city of Los Angeles. The video, shot in a single take, went viral upon its release on YouTube. The original video produced for the song had a script and a cast of more than 40 people, but the guys were not pleased with the results. Auerbach recalled, “A couple of weeks after we shot it they sent us the edit and it was awful. We sent it back… they sent us another edit and it was terrible. That’s when we said ‘what about that one guy, the extra who had that one dance scene’ and that’s the video – the most expensive single shot ever recorded.”

22. EX’S & OH’S – Elle King
Singer-songwriter Elle King (born Tanner Elle Schneider, and the daughter of actor and comedian Rob Schneider and former model London King), blew us away in 2015 with her fantastic breakout single “Ex’s & Oh’s”. The song is a ballsy, foot-stompin’ mix of blues and alternative rock, with generous amounts of Country swagger thrown in. The hard-driving beat is infectious as hell, and when paired with a pummeling bassline, lively banjo and riffs of distorted guitar, the result is an electrifying backdrop for King’s big, raspy ‘don’t fuck with me’ vocals. King plays the alpha figure here, turning the tables on men by objectifying them as sexual playthings to be used and discarded: “One, two, three, they gonna run back to me / ‘Cause I’m the best baby that they never gotta keep / One, two, three, they gonna run back to me / They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave.” The terrific video, directed by Michael Maxxis, is one of the best and funniest I’ve ever seen, and perfectly brings the lyrics to life in a way that most other videos fail to do. King is the only female, surrounded by hordes of adoring, scantily clad beefcake. I love it!

21. FIRST – Cold War Kids
“First” is a dramatic and stunning anthem by Cold War Kids, and their second track on this list.  The song is from their fifth album Hold My Home, and their most successful single, spending an incredible 64 weeks on the Billboard Alternative chart, seven of them at #1. “First” is about a troubled relationship in which both parties are deeply unhappy, and wracked with both guilt and anger toward each other. The intelligent lyrics are particularly compelling: “Flying like a cannonball, falling to the earth / Heavy as a feather when, you hit the dirt / How am I the lucky one? / I do not deserve to wait around forever when you were there first / First you get hurt, then you feel sorry.” Musically, the song features a gorgeous chiming guitar line over pounding drumbeats and bold hand claps, creating a magnificent wall of sound for lead singer Nathan Willett’s plaintive vocals.


20. WE ARE YOUNG – fun. featuring Janelle Monae
The debut single for fun., and their second song on this list, “We Are Young” is a life-affirming, fist-pumping anthem celebrating the hope and promise of young adulthood. The band teamed up with producer, songwriter & instrumentalist Jeff Bhasker (who’s produced albums and songs for Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z and Beyonce, among others) for their album Some Nights, of which “We Are Young” was the lead single. Together they employed a rich palette of orchestral instrumentals and synths, and layered them over a thumping drumbeat that starts off like a military march, then slows to a pounding, bass-driven hip hop groove. Lead singer Nate Ruess’ vocals are lovely, with an almost tender vulnerability as he sings the poignant opening lyrics: “Give me a second I / I need to get my story straight / My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State / My lover she’s waiting for me just across the bar / My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking ’bout a scar, and I know I gave it to you months ago / I know you’re trying to forget / But between the drinks and subtle things / The holes in my apologies, you know I’m trying hard to take it back / So if by the time the bar closes and you feel like falling down / I’ll carry you home / Tonight / We are young /So let’s set the world on fire” He told Rolling Stone that the lyrics were inspired by “my worst drinking night of all time.” He said he was kicked out of a taxi for vomiting all over it, and all he could do was stand on the street corner with is head against the wall. Singer-songwriter Janelle Monae, a personal friend of Bhasker, provided guest vocals for the chorus, but some felt her talents were wasted by giving her such a small presence on the song. That said, “We Are Young” is a great track overall.


19. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
The spectacular Blurryface by twenty one pilots is one of the greatest albums of the decade in my opinion, and ranks among my all-time favorite albums. I had the CD in my car stereo, and played it every time I went anywhere, and turned multiple friends onto it as well. It’s of such high caliber that literally every track could be a hit song, and in in fact, in 2018 it became the first album in the digital era to have every track receive a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. Blurryface was released in May 2015, and has remained on the Billboard album chart ever since, now in its 242nd consecutive week as I write this. “Ride” was was the fourth album cut to be released as a single. It’s a wildly upbeat alternative hip hop song with strong reggae elements. The lyrics speak to uncertainties and anxieties over the meaning of life, with references to thinking about death, which Tyler Joseph raps about at high speed: “‘I’d die for you,’ that’s easy to say / We have a list of people that we would take a bullet for them, a bullet for you, a bullet for everybody in this room / But I don’t seem to see many bullets comin’ through / See many bullets comin’ through / Metaphorically, I’m the man / But literally, I don’t know what I’d do / ‘I’d live for you,’ an’ that’s hard to do / Even harder to say when you know it’s not true.” At the end, he concludes “I’ve been thinking too much, help me.”


I was blown away the moment I first heard the dark and sultry “I Feel Like I’m Drowning”, and quickly became a devoted fan of New York City-based singer-songwriter Two Feet (born Zachary William “Bill” Dess). This man can play guitar, and is one of the best blues guitarists making music today, in my opinion. I love his soulful, bluesy music style, and his songs are accompanied by some of the deepest bass grooves around, giving them tremendous heft and impact. His vocals have a seductive, yet vulnerable quality that’s incredibly appealing. He first gained notariety in 2017 when the video for his first single “Go Fuck Yourself” went viral. “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” is about drowning in a toxic relationship, but could have also described his own mental state early in the year as the pressures of fame and professional commitments took their toll on his emotional well-being. The song was later included on his debut album A 20 Something Fuck, and reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart.


17. COME A LITTLE CLOSER – Cage the Elephant
My favorite song by Cage the Elephant, “Come a Little Closer” was my first introduction to the band during my 2013 music epiphany I discussed earlier. The song is from their stellar third album Melophobia, and was a huge hit on the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts, spending many weeks at #1 on both. Though em>Melophobia literally means “fear of music”, in an interview with American Songwriter, band front man Matt Schultz said “it wasn’t necessarily an actual fear of music, but a fear of making music to project premeditated images of self rather than being an honest communicator.” The band essentially wanted to go outside their comfort zone with the album. He was inspired to write “Come a Little Closer” one morning after watching the sunrise from his hotel room in Sao Paulo. As he looked out over the favelas, he wondered what each soul living within those crowded neighborhoods felt, whether it be heartache, love, loss or joy, and decided to write a song about the concept of looking at things more closely. Musically, the song is a magnificent psychedelic trip, a sort of sonic magical mystery tour, with endless melodic twists and turns that keep us on the edge of our seats, wondering what’s coming next. The instrumentals are fantastic, highlighted by an intriguing surf guitar that erupts into a wailing barrage in the choruses, with Shultz fervently urging us “Come a little closer, then you’ll see. Come on, come on, come on“.

16. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People
As I’ve already stated numerous times, Foster the People are one of my favorite bands, and I adore their song “Sit Next to Me.” The third single from their third album Sacred Hearts Club, it was released in July 2017 and was a sleeper hit. It debuted on the Billboard Alternative chart that September, and slowly climbed until peaking at #3 in early 2018, then remained on the chart until September 2018! Song intros are important in setting the tone for a song, and “Sit Next to Me” has one of the most enthralling openings of any song I’ve ever heard. It starts with a delicate shimmering synth and Mark Foster’s ethereal vocal, then opens into a breezy ballad loaded with gorgeous sweeping synths, subtle guitar and Mark Pontius’ perfect drumbeats. I love Foster’s vulnerable vocal style that includes lots of soaring falsettos and beautiful harmonic choruses.

The song was inspired by his time spent in the L.A. bar scene. Foster explained in an interview with Rolling Stone: “Everyone was trying to look cool, say the right thing and be at the center of the universe. It was like a fashion show. In that environment, I felt alone in a room packed with people. I kept waiting for someone authentic to come walk through the door and sit next to me.” About the song’s slow rise and longevity, he stated: “I’m just kinda shocked. It’s kind of crazy to me that it’s been on the radio for so long and it keeps continuing to grow. I guess it’s a sleeper.” I never tired of hearing it, and my Spotify Wrapped report for 2018 showed that it was my most-played song that year.


15. DO I WANNA KNOW? – Arctic Monkeys
British rock band Arctic Monkeys have had quite a musical journey since forming in 2002, while still in their teens living in Sheffield. They’ve released six studio albums, won seven Brit Awards, been nominated for five Grammy Awards, played numerous music festivals – including twice headlining at Glastonbury, and performed at the London Summer Olympics opening ceremony in 2012. “Do I Wanna Know?” is from their fifth album AM, which received widespread acclaim from both music critics and fans upon its release in 2013. The album was partly recorded in Joshua Tree, in the high desert not far from where I live in Palm Springs, with contributions by area native and Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme. “Do I Wanna Know” has a moody, psychedelic/stoner rock vibe, with a dominant drumbeat and accompanying bass line forming the track’s mesmerizing rhythmic foundation. But the real highlight is the spectacular shimmery guitar work by front man Alex Turner, courtesy of his Vox Starstream 12-string electric guitar, which produces a richer, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. (Wikipedia) The lyrics speak of uncertainty and doubt as to whether the object of one’s affection shares your feelings, leaving you wondering if you really want to know the truth: “Do I wanna know, if this feeling flows both way? Sad to see you go / Was sorta hoping that you’d stay / Baby, we both know that the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can’t say tomorrow day.” The interplay between Turner’s sultry croons and the falsetto backing vocals is exquisite. The magnificent song is the band’s biggest hit, spending 10 weeks at #1 and a total of 58 weeks on the Billboard Alternative chart, and is their only song to chart on the Hot 100.


14. BROKEN – lovelytheband
One of the catchiest ear worms of 2018, the debut single “Broken” by Los Angeles-based three-piece lovelytheband actually came out in 2017 as an exclusive release to Billboard that April, but didn’t chart until the beginning of 2018. It ended up being the #1 song of 2018 on the Billboard Alternative chart, and was my personal pick for top song of the year as well. “Broken” holds the current record for the longest time spent on that chart – an eye-popping 76 weeks! The song speaks to the idea that everyone’s flawed and has problems, and of finding someone who’s just as fucked up as you, and trying to make a go of it: “I like that you’re broken, broken like me. Maybe that makes me a fool. I like that you’re lonely, lonely like me. I could be lonely with you.” I love the chirpy synths, intricate guitars and assertive drumbeat, as well as lead singer Mitchy Collins’ irresistible, quirky vocals that had me listening to the song over and over.


13. TONGUE TIED – Grouplove
I love “Tongue Tied” by Los Angeles alt-rock band Grouplove with a passion. There, I said it. It’s an exhilarating synth pop song that fills me with strong feelings of euphoria, like a kid jumping up and down on a bed at a slumber party. So it was a surprise to discover in researching about the song that it was widely panned by music critics upon its release. A lot of music critics make me sick. They’re so fucking smug, self-impressed and full of shit. OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me say that I think “Tongue Tied” is wonderful, and one of the best songs of the 2010s. Grouplove’s music is fun, quirky and infectious, and always a joy to listen to, even their downtempo songs. “Tongue Tied” starts off with what sounds to me like a sweet little banjo riff, then explodes into a cacophony of exuberant synths, deep bass, smashing drums and a boisterous chorus of cheers that set the stage for the adventure about to unfold as they head to a party. Singers Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi wail “Take me to your best friend’s house / Go around this roundabout Oh yeah / Take me to your best friend’s house / I loved you then and I love you now Oh yeah / Don’t take me tongue tied / Don’t wave no goodbye Don’t… / Right!” By song’s end, I’m left feeling happy, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Many of their fans loved it too, as it ended up as the #2 song of 2012 on the Billboard Alternative chart.


12. DARK NECESSITIES – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been making great music for 30 years, racking up scores of hits. Thirteen of their songs have reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart, more than any other artist in the chart’s 31-year history. I love many of their songs, but my favorite is “Dark Necessities”, from their 11th studio album The Getaway. I think it’s their greatest song yet and a real masterpiece. The band teamed up with Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse for the writing and production of the song and album, and say what you will about the use of more complex music and instrumentation, but I love it. Flea’s wonderful opening bass riff, the vibrant piano keys, and Josh Klinghoffer’s layered funky guitars are all drop-dead gorgeous, and I especially love the repeated “aah aah” in the backing chorus. In a video interview for the band’s YouTube channel, lead singer Anthony Kiedis explained that the song “speaks to the beauty of our dark sides and how much creativity and growth and light actually comes out of those difficult struggles that we have on the inside of our heads that no one else can see.” He added that the song meant a lot to Burton and it was one of his favorites on the album. Mine too! The meaningful lyrics show a real maturation of The Red Hot Chili Peppers sound, which is totally appropriate for a band whose members by then were in their late 40s to early 50s.


11. NEED YOU NOW – Lady Antebellum
“Need You Now” is a stunning, bittersweet song by Nashville-based country band Lady Antebellum. First released as a single in August 2009, it topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart that December, then crossed over to the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts in early 2010. I haven’t cared for very many country songs in recent years, however, I love “Need You Now” and it was my favorite song of 2010. It could be argued that the song contains strong pop-rock elements, which might explain why I like it so much. Be that as it may, the arrangement and instrumentation are exquisite, especially the poignant piano keys and mournful slide guitar that really tug at our heartstrings. The highly relatable lyrics, beautifully sung by vocalists Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, describe making a phone call to a former lover in the middle of the night out of loneliness and longing for companionship: “And I wonder if I ever cross your mind / For me it happens all the time / It’s a quarter after one / I’m a little drunk and I need you now / Said I wouldn’t call, but I lost all control and I need you now.” “Need You Now” won four Grammys in 2011, including for Record and Song of the Year.

It’s not often I love an entire album at first listen, but that was the case with the spectacular The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man by Austin, Texas-based duo MISSIO. Comprised of singer-songwriter/producer Matthew Brue and songwriter/producer and instrumentalist David Butler, MISSIO’s unique, eclectic sound is a glorious mashup of alternative electronic rock, hip hop and dream pop. In 2017, they released their outstanding debut album Loner, which generated several singles, including “Middle Fingers” and the mesmerizing “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea”. “I See You” was the third single from The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man, and my favorite song of the 2019. This was further confirmed by my Spotify Wrapped report, which identified it as my most-streamed song of 2019. And what a gorgeous song it is, at once sad yet hopeful, and brimming with emotional intensity. The lush, sweeping instrumentals, highlighted by beautiful piano, sparkling synths and crisp percussion create a stunning soundscape for Brue’s stirring falsetto vocals. He raises goosebumps as he sings the poignant lyrics that can be interpreted as being directed either to a loved one or to oneself, reassuring the intended that they are understood, supported and loved despite their shortcomings. “I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me. What a mess you’ve made of everything. I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me. And I’m hoping that you will see yourself like I see you.”

9. MY NAME IS HUMAN – Highly Suspect
“My Name is Human” by American alternative rock band Highly Suspect is fucking mind-blowing, featuring some of the best guitar work of any song on this list. The heavy, gravelly bass riff at the opening sends shivers down my spine, then spooky guitars, crunchy percussion and otherworldly synths enter along with lead singer Johnny Stevens’ intense, breathtaking vocals that go from seductive to wailing, adding goosebumps to the ones already covering my body. The track is perfection from start to finish. It was released in September 2016 in advance of release of their superb second album The Boy Who Died Wolf, but peaked on the charts in early 2017. The song’s brilliant video showing a human being built by robots and then given finishing touches by Stevens is a little creepy, yet stylish and riveting. The song spent eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

8. UPTOWN FUNK! – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Uptown Funk”  needs no introduction. From the moment it was released in November 2014 with a terrific accompanying video, the feel-good ear worm went viral, becoming an international hit. Originally written by British music producer Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, Phillip Lawrence and Jeff Bhasker (the same guy who worked with fun. on Some Nights), the song incorporates elements of funk, soul, boogie and what is referred to as Minneapolis sound, a subgenre of funk rock pioneered by Prince. Accordingly, it seems to pay homage not only to Prince, but to the master of funk himself James Brown, Rick James and Morris Day & The Time. A cast of characters were ultimately involved in the song’s production; besides the people listed above, additional collaborators and musicians included Mars’ backup band The Hooligans, afrobeat band Antibalas, the horn section of The Dap-Kings, and sound engineer Charles Moniz, among others. And what’s mind-boggling to me is that the song involved recording sessions in Los Angeles, London, Memphis, New York, Toronto, and Vancouver! The stress over the recording and production of “Uptown Funk” was so high that Ronson passed out during one session while trying to perfect the guitar part. Two days later in Toronto, he finally got what he was looking for after 82 takes!(Wikipedia)

The song received critical praise and garnered numerous accolades, including Brit, Grammy and American Music awards, but also generated some blowback by artists who accused the writers of plagiarism. Copyright infringement lawsuits were filed by The Gap Band, Collage, The Sequence and Zapp. The Collage and Zapp lawsuits were later dropped, but the one from The Gap Band resulted in the writers and producers of “Oops Up Side Your Head” being added as songwriters and awarded 17% of publishing royalties. Billboard named “Uptown Funk” the #1 song of 2014 and of the decade, and its YouTube video has been viewed over 3.7 billion times.

7. TEAR IN MY HEART – twenty øne piløts
Although they’d been putting out music since 2009, it was their single “Tear in My Heart” that introduced me to twenty øne piløts in April 2015. I instantly loved the song and became a huge fan, bingeing on their back catalog of music, especially the brilliant album Vessel. “Tear in my Heart” was the second single from their phenomenal album Blurryface, and is a delightful song of love inspired by Tyler Joseph’s marriage to his wife Jenna a month earlier. Not only do I adore the song’s arrangement, lively melody, colorful instrumentation, and Joseph’s wonderful plaintive vocals, I also love the endearing lyrics about the contradictory emotions of joy and agony that often come from romantic love: “The songs on the radio are okay. But my taste in music is your face. And it takes a song to come around to show you how. She’s the tear in my heart. I’m alive. She’s the tear in my heart. I’m on fire. She’s the tear in my heart. Take me higher than I’ve ever been!” The video shows Joseph and drummer Josh Dun performing the song in L.A.’s Chinatown, with the people around him barely paying attention. Eventually, the surrounding buildings begin crumbling as Joseph notices Jenna in a group of people, and follows her down an alley and into a restaurant. She sings to him the opening lyrics of the song: “Sometimes you’ve got to bleed and know that you’re alive and have a soul“, to which he responds: “but it takes someone to come around to show you how“, whereupon she starts beating him until he’s bleeding. The video ends with them kissing.

6. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man
The second song by Portugal. The Man on this list, “Feel It Still” is one of those songs that virtually everyone loves, thanks to an irresistibly catchy retro dance beat and driving bass line, that awesome little guitar riff, and lead singer John Gourley’s delightful falsetto. It was the second single from the band’s eighth album Woodstock. The melody used in the chorus was inspired by The Marvelettes’ 1961 hit “Please Mr Postman”, and the band included that song’s original writers in the songwriting credits for “Feel It Still”. The lyrics are filled with meaning, making reference to both personal and sociopolitical themes. For example, the line “In case my baby girl is in need” was inspired by Gourley’s young daughter, while “I been feeling it since 1966 now, Might be over now, but I feel it still” refers to a year of seismic societal and cultural changes, and “It’s time to give a little to the kids in the middle, but, oh until it falls won’t bother me” is a back-handed slap down of Trump’s call for a border wall. It’s a short track, only 2 minutes and 43 seconds long, but packs a real punch. The song was a massive hit for Portugal. The Man, spending an astonishing 20 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, as well as many weeks at #1 on the Adult Alternative and Adult Pop charts. It also peaked at #4 on the Hot 100. It’s a fantastic song and an instant classic.

5. LOVE ME AGAIN – John Newman
“Love Me Again” is a magnificent and electrifying song by British singer-songwriter and musician John Newman. I was blown away the first time I heard it, and to this day it still has the power to stun me. Released in May 2013, it was the lead single from Newman’s debut album Tribute, and was a big hit in the UK and Europe, but had only moderate success in the U.S., where it peaked at #13 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40. (It spent 4 weeks at #1 on my chart.) Newman has an arresting powerhouse voice, characterized by a raspy, soulful quality that gives him a distinct sound unlike any other singer I know of. With a raw, unbridled passion rarely heard in other vocalists, he laments over the hurt he’s caused his lover “Know I’ve done wrong / I left your heart torn / Is that what devils do? / Took you so low where only fools go / I shook the angel in you“, then fervently pleads for forgiveness as if his very survival depends upon it: “I need to know now, know now, can you love me again?” The song’s arrangement and instrumentation are spectacular, with a dramatic and bold piano riff, wailing organ, swirling synths, and some of the fiercest drum beats I’ve ever heard. Wow!

4. SWEATER WEATHER – The Neighbourhood
Words cannot adequately describe how much I love “Sweater Weather” by Southern California alternative band The Neighbourhood. I know I’ve stated this a number of times in my discussions of several songs on this list, but I fell in love with it at first listen. The gorgeous song is from their debut album I Love You, and was originally released in March 2012, but didn’t chart until a year later. It spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart during the summer of 2013, and later peaked at #14 on the Hot 100.

“Sweater Weather” is a hauntingly beautiful love song with a unique melody and arrangement that’s pretty spectacular, especially given that it was one of the first songs  The Neighbourhood ever wrote. Starting with a sharp, rapid drumbeat, the band layers a rich palette of sparkling synths and gorgeous plucked guitars to create a breathtaking, almost ethereal backdrop for lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s sensual vocals. I love his voice, which so beautifully captures the fervor of a budding romance expressed in the lyrics: “She knows what I think about / And what I think about / One love, two mouths / One love, one house / No shirt, no blouse / Just us, you find out / Nothing that I wouldn’t wanna tell you about, no / ‘Cause it’s too cold for you here / And now, so let me hold both your hands in the holes of my sweater.” Two-thirds into the track, the melody and instrumentals abruptly transition to an achingly beautiful strummed guitar and bassline, with Rutherford cooing “Woah, woah, woah / Woah, woah, woah, woah…” before repeating the final chorus “‘Cause it’s too cold for you here / And now, so let me hold both your hands in the holes of my sweater.” It’s perfection from start to finish.

3. STRESSED OUT – twenty øne piløts
2016 was clearly the year of twenty øne piløts, as the duo saw their fame skyrocket with the popularity of their album Blurryface, as well as their enormously successful Emotional Roadshow World Tour (which I had the good fortune to see and write about in 2016). “Stressed Out” is one of the many outstanding tracks from that album, and is my favorite of all twenty øne piløts songs. It’s a brilliant alternative rap-rock song about facing the burdens and responsibility of adulthood while longing for the simplicity and safety of one’s childhood: “Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days. When our mama sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.” The song also references the album’s title “Blurryface”, which is the alter-ego of Tyler Joseph. “Blurryface” represents his doubts, fears and self-loathing, expressed in the lyric “My name’s Blurryface, and I care what you think.” “Stressed Out” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs, Mainstream Top 40, Adult Top 40 and Alternative charts, where it spent 12 weeks on top. It spent 11 weeks #1 on my own weekly chart. The delightful video portrays Joseph and Dun as both children at play and young adults grappling with the onset of adulthood.

2. SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW – Gotye featuring Kimbra
I still vividly remember the night in 2013 when “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra won the Grammy award for Record of the Year. Prince was presenting the award in that category at the ceremonies that night, and as he opened the envelope to announce the winner, he said “I love this song.” So do I. Not only did it win a Grammy, it also won the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) for Single of the Year, and was a massive worldwide hit, selling over 12 million copies and reaching #1 in the U.S., UK, Australia and 23 other countries. It was named the #1 song of 2012 on the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Pop and Alternative charts.

Gotye (born Wouter “Wally” De Backer in Belgium, and now based in Melbourne, Australia) is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has recorded as both a solo artist and with his band The Basics. Kimbra is a singer from New Zealand. “Somebody That I Used to Know” was first released in Australia and New Zealand in July 2011 as the second single from Gotye’s third studio album Making Mirrors, and later released that December in the UK, and in January 2012 in the U.S. The song explores the bitter breakup of a relationship from the perspective of both parties: “But you didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing / And I don’t even need your love / But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough / No you didn’t have to stoop so low / Have your friends collect your records and then change your number / I guess that I don’t need that though / Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

Musically, it samples the opening guitar riff from Brazilian composer and guitarist Luiz Bonfa’s instrumental track “Seville”, and builds from there with spooky synths and an array of mesmerizing beats. One of the notable features is the use of xylophone that gives the song an intriguing, almost exotic vibe. Many music critics noted the similarities between the song and works by Sting, Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver.  Jon O’Brien of AllMusic called it an “an oddball break-up song whose stuttering rhythms, reggae hooks, and hushed vocals sound like The Police remixed by The xx.” (Wikipedia) As for me, I remember being dumbstruck when hearing it for the first time, wondering “what is that song!?!” It’s a masterpiece.

Then there’s the amazing video, which was directed by Australian artist Natasha Pincus. It shows Gotye singing the song while standing naked against a neutral backdrop. As he sings, his body and the backdrop gradually become covered with paint so that he seems to be part of a painting. My take is that his identity is being swallowed by his surroundings. The camera eventually pans to include Kimbra, who then sings her response to Gotye. As the video nears the end, the paint starts to disappear from Kimbra’s body, signifying her escape from what was left of their relationship.

It’s fitting that Adele would have my #1 song of the 2010s, as her song “Chasing Pavements” was my #100 song of the 2000s. It’s also owing to the fact that Adele is one of the greatest female vocalists of our time, and that “Rolling in the Deep” is a fucking phenomenal song. It’s been well-documented that Adele conceived of and wrote many of the songs on her seismic second album 21 after a painful breakup with her then-boyfriend. She had begun writing and recording songs for the album while still with him, but couldn’t seem to find much inspiration. Then, the day after her break-up, Adele contacted producer Paul Epworth (who’s co-written and produced songs for Foster the People, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Bloc Party & Coldplay, among others), wanting to capture her seething emotions in a song. She told London newspaper The Sunday Times: “We’d had a fuming argument the night before … I’d been bubbling. Then I went into the studio and screamed.” She and Epworth restructured a song she’d been working on, rewriting the lyrics and renaming it “Rolling in the Deep”.  The melody and instrumentation evolved as they went along. After trying out various jazz riffs, Adele sang the first verse “There’s a fire, starting in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark” a cappella, which then inspired Epworth to come up with a melody on his acoustic guitar. They came up with the strong thumping drum beat to mimic her racing heartbeat.(Wikipedia)

As the song unfolds, Adele’s emotions, as told through the lyrics, run the gamut from angry: “Go ahead and sell me out and I’ll lay your shit bare / See how I leave with every piece of you / Don’t underestimate the things that I will do“, to defiant: “Baby, I have no story to be told / But I’ve heard one on you and I’m gonna make your head burn / Think of me in the depths of your despair / Make a home down there as mine sure won’t be shared“, to wistful: “We could have had it all / Rolling in the deep / You had my heart inside of your hand / But you played it. You played it, You played it, You played it to the beat.”

The dark and rather surreal video, directed by Sam Brown, shows Adele sitting on a chair in an abandoned house. Various scenes show a room filled with hundreds of water-filled glasses vibrating to the beat, a drummer playing his drums under a staircase, a ghostly figure dancing about a room kicking up white dust, while in yet another room, white china is thrown against an illuminated piece of plywood suspended from the ceiling. Finally, a white model of a city on a large table is set afire by five bursting light bulbs, all of which seems to signify a relationship that’s gone up in flames.

Here’s my Spotify playlist:

100 BEST SONGS OF THE 2000’s (100-1)

Music is very subjective, and every single one of us likes or dislikes songs for our own particular reasons and biases. I’m a huge fan of melodic and alternative rock, so my picks for the best songs of the first decade of the 21st Century are going to reflect that. Coldplay, one of my favorite bands of all time, has six songs on this list, as does another favorite, Incubus. Green Day and Weezer, two bands I also love, have four each, and Linkin Park, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys have three. I’m sure that no one will completely agree with my selections, though I hope readers will find this list interesting and agree with at least some of them, and comments are welcome.

I’ve included videos for each song, some of which are embedded into the body of this post. The rest are provided as links you can click on to listen to the songs.

“Chasing Pavements,” from British singer/songwriter Adele’s debut album 19, was inspired by an incident she had with a former boyfriend of six months, according to an interview she did with Rolling Stone. After learning he had cheated on her, she went to the bar he was at and punched him in the face. After being thrown out, Adele walked down the street alone and thought to herself, “What is it you’re chasing? You’re chasing an empty pavement.” She came up with the lyrics then and there, sang and recorded it on her mobile phone, and arranged the chords when she got home. With her first hit, Adele proved what an incredible voice she had, and it was only a matter of time that she would explode onto the music scene with her monumental album 21, which would become one of the greatest selling albums of all-time.

99. BEATING MY HEART – Jon McLaughlin
“Beating My Heart” by American pop-rock singer/songwriter Jon McLaughlin, is a really great, underrated song. The song received a glowing review from Billboard Editor Chuck Taylor, who wrote that the song “…is a joyous uptempo romantic romp, featuring hook after hook, from tinkling piano to driving percussion and a start-and-stop bridge, alongside a joyous effortless vocal that soars with falsetto to the high heavens.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

98. WISH YOU WERE HERE – Incubus
The sixth song from Incubus on this list, “Wish You Were Here” is basically about being happy living for the moment and not looking forward to the future as some event, according to band member Mike Einziger. Lead vocalist Brandon Boyd stated that “the song wasn’t specifically about a person. It was about me acknowledging a very brief moment in my life and my experience with all of these guys in making this record. In that moment, I wish that I had somebody to go, ‘I love you, man.’ I was wishing that there was someone there to share that moment with.” Musically, the song features crunchy guitars, moderately heavy percussion and recurrent dj scratching.

97. PORK AND BEANS – Weezer
Rivers Cuomo wrote “Pork and Beans” after meeting with Geffen executives, who told Weezer that they needed to record more commercial material. Cuomo remarked, “I came out of it pretty angry. But ironically, it inspired me to write another song.” The many references to popular culture in the song were described as a “statement of defiance” according to Internet reviewer David Ritter, that explores what it means to be an aging band in the music business. The song is about being yourself and happy with who you are. The lyrics also make reference to Timbaland with the line “Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the chart.” “Pork and Beans” spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart.

96. BROTHERS ON A HOTEL BED – Death Cab For Cutie
A mellow, bittersweet song by alt-rock band Death Cab For Cutie, “Brothers On a Hotel Bed” is about someone telling a loved one that, over time, as he grows older his looks will fade, and they will grow more distant and even possibly out of love: “You may tire of me as our December sun is setting, ’cause I’m not who I used to be. No longer easy on the eyes, these wrinkles masterfully disguise the youthful boy below.” Their relationship will be like two brothers on a hotel bed, who lay on opposite sides not facing each other nor touching. As on all their songs, Ben Gibbard’s vocals are sublime; he sings the poignant lyrics with a soothing calmness that borders on melancholy, though not depressing.

95. ALREADY GONE – Kelly Clarkson
Another beautiful but sorrowful song about a failed relationship, “Already Gone” is one of Kelly Clarkson’s best, and really showcases her impressive vocal abilities. The song was written for Clarkson by OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, and features lush orchestration and Clarkson’s soaring vocals.

94. HERE WITHOUT YOU – 3 Doors Down
The second song from 3 Doors Down on my list, “Here Without You” is a decidedly more ballad-type song than their typical post-grunge rock format. Still, it’s a really moving song about missing a loved one, and became popular during the Iraq War as an anthem for deployed troops and their families and friends back home.

93. SOMETIME AROUND MIDNIGHT – Airborne Toxic Event
One of the most emotionally wrought songs on this list, “Sometime Around Midnight” was written by lead singer Mikel Jollett after he saw a former girlfriend while out at a bar with the rest of the band. Seeing her made him realize that he still loved her, and a band member remarked that Jollett looked like he’d seen a ghost. The song opens with soaring violin, almost like the beginning of a classical symphony, then shifts to a gentle guitar riff. It gradually builds in intensity as percussion, more forceful guitar and strings are added, eventually reaching a bombastic crescendo, accompanied by Jollett’s heart-wrenching vocals, and ends with him spent, with a repeat of the gentle riff.

92. THE KILL (BURY ME) – 30 Seconds to Mars
“The Kill (Bury Me) is a powerfully compelling song from alternative rock band 30 Seconds to Mars second album A Beautiful Lie.  Lead singer Jared Leto described its meaning as being about a relationship with yourself, about confronting your fear and the truth about who you are. The guitar riffs and music production are first-rate and Leto’s ear-splitting vocals are – no pun intended – killer.

91. ANNA MOLLY – Incubus
“Anna Molly” (pronounced like “anomaly” in the song) is from Incubus’s sixth album, Light Grenades. The song’s title is a play on the word “anomaly”, and obliquely describes a woman who may or may not exist. Musically, the song features the use of a Marxophone, a type of fretless zither, along with rapid-paced guitars and drums, accompanied by Brandon Boyd’s earnest vocals that rise and fall in intensity with the music. It’s a great rock song.

90. YOU FOUND ME – The Fray
The Fray’s lead singer and pianist Isaac Slade wrote the mournful song “You Found Me” during a difficult period in his personal life. He stated that the song is about “the disappointment, the heartache, the let down that comes with life. Sometimes you’re let down, sometimes you’re the one who lets someone else down. It gets hard to know who you can trust, who you can count on.” At another time, he stated “If there is some kind of person in charge of this planet – are they sleeping? Smoking? Where are they? I just imagined running into God standing on a street corner…smoking a cigarette, and I’d have it out with Him.”(Wikipedia)

89. AIN’T NO REST FOR THE WICKED – Cage the Elephant
“Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” is one of those great songs that tell a story, from the alternative rock band Cage the Elephant. Lead singer Matt Shultz stated the song was inspired by an old co-worker who was a drug dealer. When Shultz asked him why he dealt drugs, the co-worker told him that “There’s no rest for the wicked.” Shultz was a plumber at the time, and said that he wrote the lyrics on a piece of drywall he found while working at his co-worker’s house.(Wikipedia)

88. MOVE ALONG – All-American Rejects
“Move Along” is an energetic rock song by the All-American Rejects, and was written by band members Nick Wheeler and Tyson Ritter. Wheeler explained that the song is an “anti-suicide message about believing in oneself and persevering in the face of problems”. He stated that they wrote the song at a time “we were at our wits end wondering if we were ever going to get to make a second record. Our manager…just kept saying, Keep writing, keep writing.”

87. ROCK YOUR BODY – Justin Timberlake
“Rock Your Body” is an uptempo, soulful song by Justin Timberlake from his debut studio album, Justified. It was written by Timberlake along with The Neptunes (consisting of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), who also produced it. The song contains influences from Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and the female lyrics are sung by Vanessa Marquez. Originally intended to be featured on Michael Jackson’s album Invincible, Jackson rejected the song along with several other tracks, which were instead given to Timberlake.(Wikipedia)

86. STOP AND STARE – OneRepublic
The follow-up song to “Apologize,” “Stop and Stare” is a lovely ballad from OneRepublic’s debut album Dreaming Out Loud. OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder has stated that the song describes the frustration of finding yourself stuck in a proverbial rut in life – where you’re left wondering how you got there, to this place where you’d rather not be, and how it is that you’re watching everything you ever wanted in life pass you by.(MusicBanter)

85. CRAZY – Gnarls Barkley
“Crazy” is the debut single by Gnarls Barkley, a musical collaboration between Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green. The song was immensely popular, becoming a worldwide hit and one of the most downloaded songs in the history of the UK music business. “Crazy” won a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance of 2006.

84. I WRITE SINS, NOT TRAGEDIES – Panic! At the Disco
One of the more eccentric tunes on this list, “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” was the first major hit for the alternative punk/baroque rock band Panic! At the Disco. The song begins with a delicate riff played on a cello that continues through the verses, then xylophone, piano, guitar and drum are added to create a lush orchestral sound. The song addresses the discovery that, just before her wedding, the bride has cheated on her fiance. The lyrics are simple but highly entertaining. Brendan Urie sings “Oh, well imagine, as I’m pacing the pews in a church corridor, And I can’t help but to hear. No, I can’t help but to hear an exchanging of words: ‘What a beautiful wedding! What a beautiful wedding!’ says a bridesmaid to a waiter, ‘And, yes, but what a shame, what a shame the poor groom’s bride is a whore.‘” Such fun, and the video is imaginative and stylish.

83. YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL – James Blunt
“You’re Beautiful” is a lovely but melancholy song by British singer/songwriter James Blunt, who was inspired to write it after seeing his ex-girlfriend on the Underground in London with her new man. As Blunt recalled in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her show in 2006, “She and I caught eyes and lived a lifetime in that moment, but didn’t do anything about it and haven’t seen each other since.” The song’s rather dark video shows Blunt undressing on an icy surface, then jumping into a large body of water, presumably to commit suicide.

82. WE BELONG TOGETHER – Mariah Carey
“We Belong Together” was named the #1 song of the decade on the Billboard Hot 100. While I don’t agree with that ranking, it’s still a great, soulful R&B/hip-hop love song and a strong performance from one of the most successful female singers of the past quarter-century.

From the band Train’s second album of the same name, “Drops of Jupiter” is a beautiful, melodically complex rock song with gorgeous strings orchestration arranged by Paul Buckmaster, who won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists.  In an interview for Vh1’s Behind the Music, lead singer Pat Monahan stated that the song was inspired by his late mother, who died of cancer, and that the opening lines came to him after waking up from a dream about a year after she passed away “with the words ‘back in the atmosphere’… It was just her way of saying what it was like – she was swimming through the planets and came to me with drops of Jupiter in her hair.(Wikipedia) The song also won a Grammy for Best Rock Song.

80. FEEL GOOD DRAG – Anberlin
“Feel Good Drag” is a hard-driving rock song from the American alternative rock band Anberlin. The song’s lyrics address themes of infidelity and the loneliness and lack of fulfillment from casual sex: “Everyone in this town is seeing somebody else/ Everybody’s tired of someone, Our eyes wander for help/ Prayers that need no answer now ’cause I’m tired of who I am/ You were my greatest mistake/ I fell in love with your sin/ Your littlest sin.” The blistering guitar riffs are monumental.

79. BACK TO BLACK – Amy Winehouse
In a brilliant career that was sadly cut short far too soon, Amy Winehouse had a soulful powerhouse voice. One of her best songs was the gorgeous torch song “Back to Black.” Written by Winehouse and Mark Ronson, who also produced the song and album of the same name, the song received universal critical acclaim. The song was inspired by Winehouse’s break-up with Blake Fielder-Civil, who had left her for an ex-girlfriend, and the opening lines are explicitly direct: “He left no time to regret, Kept his dick wet, With his same old safe bet, Me and my head high, And my tears dry, Get on without my guy“. In his 2012 book Amy, My Daughter, Mitch Winehouse states that ‘black’ likely refers to heroin, to which she was openly addicted.

78. NUMB – Linkin Park
The third single from their second studio album Meteora, “Numb” is one of Linkin Park’s most well known and critically acclaimed songs. The song’s powerful lyrics address the feeling of not being accepted or measuring up to the expectations of others – whether it be parents, friends, lovers, etc. Musically, the song features Linkin Park’s signature dynamic guitar, piano and drums, along with Chester Bennington’s commanding vocals.

77. I’M YOURS – Jason Mraz
“I’m Yours” by singer/songwriter Jason Mraz is a mellow, incredibly upbeat pop song with a Hawaiian vibe. It was immensely successful in the U.S., reaching #1 on several different Billboard charts, and spent 76 weeks on the Hot 100. It was also a big hit worldwide, selling over 6 million digital downloads in the U.S. and over 12 million worldwide.(Billboard)

76. LOVERS IN JAPAN – Coldplay
“Lovers in Japan” is a stunning anthem by Coldplay, from their album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. The song is built around an introductory tack piano sound, then followed by chiming guitars and soaring choruses. When asked about the development of the song by James Montgomery of MTV News, drummer Will Champion said: “We were in a studio in New York…and it had this thing called a tack piano, which sounds like an old honky-tonk piano, where you put little tacks in the hammers, so it sounds like more of a harpsichord almost. And so we wanted to use that kind of sound, but we didn’t have a tack piano, so rather than sample it, we went and bought an old piano from the shop up the road from our studio, and we bought a load of tacks, and me and Guy and Jon spent a couple of hours pushing tacks into the piano hammers.

75. BEHIND THESE HAZEL EYES – Kelly Clarkson
The second single from Clarkson’s album “Breakaway,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes” is an uptempo pop rock song that incorporates guitars with driving beats and anthemic choruses. The semi-autobiographical song lyrics tell of Clarkson’s broken relationship with her ex-boyfriend.

74. LITTLE WONDERS – Rob Thomas
A really beautiful and highly underrated song, “Little Wonders” was recorded by Rob Thomas for Disney’s animated feature Meet the Robinsons. The song was not a big commercial hit, but with its poetic lyrics, beautiful melody and Thomas’s heartfelt vocals, it’s one of the best songs of 2007.

73. SPEED OF SOUND – Coldplay
“Speed of Sound” was written by all members of Coldplay for their third studio album, X&Y. Built around a piano riff, the song builds into a huge, synthesizer-heavy chorus that’s a signature Coldplay sound. Chris Martin stated that the song was influenced by English art rock singer Kate Bush, as the song’s drum beat is similar to Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill.”

72. PARDON ME – Incubus
“Pardon Me,” from 2000, was the first song from Incubus to receive considerable airplay. Lead singer Brandon Boyd says he was inspired to write the song after making a connection between images of spontaneous combustion in a magazine and “some turmoil in his life, both good and bad”, namely coming back from a tour to find out that his girlfriend of 7 years had been cheating on him, and that both his grandmother and a close friend had died. He came up with the lyric “Pardon me while I burst into flames,” and based the song around that theme.(Wikipedia) Musically, the song combines fast-paced verses with prominent DJ scratching and a hard-rocking mid-tempo chorus.

71. JUST DANCE – Lady Gaga featuring Colby O’Donis
The first single released by Lady Gaga, “Just Dance” was a hugely successful song that made her an instant star. The single is among the best-selling of all time, with over 10 million copies sold. About the song, Lady Gaga has stated “I was very hung-over. I wrote the song in about 10 minutes with [producer] RedOne.” Later, she reflected on the song by saying, “That record saved my life. I was in such a dark space in New York. I was so depressed, always in a bar. I got on a plane to LA to do my music and was given one shot to write the song that would change my life and I did. I never went back. I left behind my boyfriend, my apartment. I still haven’t been back. My mother went in and cleared it for me.”(Wikipedia) The rest, as they say, is history.

70. NO ONE – Alicia Keys
Another sublime, emotionally charged love song, “No One” is Alicia Keys’ biggest hit to date, selling more than 6 million copies worldwide. The song was #1 on multiple Billboard charts and was ranked #6 on the Billboard Top 100 Songs of the 2000s.

The third song from Weezer on this list, “Perfect Situation” is from their fifth album Make Believe. Accompanied by awesome guitar riffs, the song lyrics address the singer’s difficulty with romantic relationships, wondering if he’ll ever find a real and lasting love. I especially love the lines “What’s the deal with my brain? Why am I so obviously insane? In a perfect situation I let love down the drain. There’s the pitch, slow and straight. All I have to do is swing and I’m the hero, but I’m the zero.” It’s a feeling a lot of young guys can certainly identify with.

68.  WELCOME TO THE BLACK PARADE – My Chemical Romance  
The first single from their third studio album The Black Parade, “Welcome to the Black Parade” is monumental in scope, and the biggest and most popular hit for My Chemical Romance. The charismatic lead singer Gerard Way’s impassioned vocals are a perfect match for the power and complexity of the music, making for an exhilarating track. The outstanding and visually captivating video for the single was directed by Samuel Bayer, known for his work with Nirvana and Green Day.

67. FLOAT ON – Modest Mouse
“Float On” by long-time indie rock band Modest Mouse, is a delightfully upbeat song with a terrific bass line and some really outstanding guitar riffs. When asked about the song in an interview with entertainment website The A.V. Club, lead singer Issac Brock said that he consciously intended to write something that felt more positive than some of his previous work: “I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president George W. Bush is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you’ve got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked. I just want to feel good for a day.”

66. BRAND NEW DAY – Sting
“Brand New Day” by Sting is an uplifting, optimistic pop-rock anthem about not giving up on love. The most striking aspect of the song’s music is the beautiful harmonica performance by Stevie Wonder. Sting commented that “‘Brand New Day’ captured the spirit of optimism that is so important to me, and if you can think of a more hopeful manifestation of joy than Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, then be my guest.”

65. DANI CALIFORNIA – Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Dani California,” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ninth album Stadium Arcadium, tells the story of Dani, a poor, young Southern girl who moved to California, became a mother and lived a hard, fast, unsettled life before being killed in the Badlands while en route to Minnesota. Lead singer/songwriter Anthony Kiedis has commented that the character of Dani is a composite of all the women with whom he’s had relationships. The brilliant and hilarious video for the song has the band on-stage performing a chronology of the evolution of rock music, with each of them wearing a variety of outfits representing important characters in the evolution of rock such as Elvis Presley, Prince, John Lennon, Elton John, Kiss and Curt Cobain, among others.

64. SEVEN NATION ARMY – The White Stripes
“Seven Nation Army,” by the alternative rock duo The White Stripes, is best known for its signature underlying guitar riff. Although it sounds like a bass guitar (an instrument the group had never previously used), the sound is actually created by running Jack White’s semi-acoustic, 1950s-style Kay Hollowbody guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave. The song title is what White called the Salvation Army as a child.(Wikipedia) “Seven Nation Army” has become an anthem used widely at sporting events all over the world, as well as political protests.

The amazing “Kids,” from electronic/synthpop band MGMT, certainly has one of the most unique sounds of any song on this list. The lyrics tell of life lessons to a child, set to a driving drumbeat and rich synth orchestration. The audio video is linked here, rather than the extremely dark video made for the song.

62. FEEL GOOD INC. – Gorillaz
“Feel Good Inc.” is a hugely popular and celebratory alternative hip hop song by the English virtual band Gorillaz, with rapping by the rap/hip-hop group De La Soul. Gorillaz was created by former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, and consists of four fictional animated members: 2D (lead vocals, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion).

61. SUDDENLY I SEE – KT Tunstall
“Suddenly I See,” by Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall, is a bouyant tribute to “female power.” Tunstall explained in an interview that she was inspired by the photograph of Patti Smith on the cover of her groundbreaking album Horses, realizing that she wanted a career in music like Smith. Commenting on the song’s later use in The Devil Wears Prada, Tunstall said: “I didn’t realize the lyrics could perfectly fit a chick flick, and it could sound like I was singing about wanting to be a fucking model!” (Wikipedia)

60. WHO KNEW – P!nk
Perhaps the most poignant of all of P!nk’s hit songs, “Who Knew” is based on her personal experience with friends who died of drug overdoses. She’s been honest about her own past drug abuse, and has stated that the song is basically about the loss of friendship.

59. MAKES ME WONDER – Maroon 5
According to Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, “Makes Me Wonder” was originally written as a love song about a failed relationship that went horribly wrong. But when he revisited it years later while recording their second album It Wont Be Soon Before Long, he decided to use the song to express his frustration at the state of politics in the U.S. and its role in the Iraq war. Not wanting to come off as – in his words “a preachy arse” – Levine chose to simply allude to it, adding the line “Give me something to believe in/Because I don’t believe in you anymore,” which became the refrain to the chorus.(Wikipedia) The song has a catchy, funky R&B vibe that propelled it to #1 on several charts.

58. ISLAND IN THE SUN – Weezer
“Island in the Sun,” by the alternative rock band Weezer, is from the band’s 2001 self-titled album Weezer. The song was not originally planned to be on the album, but producer Ric Ocasek (of The Cars) who produced the album fought for its inclusion. It’s mellower than most of Weezer’s others, with less angst, and just a really nice feel-good track about escaping life’s cares with the one you love. It still has some great guitar riffs, and the sweet video, produced by Spike Jonz, has the band members cavorting with animals at an animal sanctuary.

57. HEY THERE DELILAH – Plain White T’s
“Hey There Delilah” is a gentle ballad written and sung by Tom Higgenson, frontman of the band Plain White T’s. The song was recorded acoustically with minimal guitar and strings that makes it feel more raw and sincere. It was a huge hit in the U.S. and Europe in 2007, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Pop Charts, and was nominated for two Grammys. Higgenson took the real Delilah to the Grammy Award show in 2008 (as his guest, as they were not in a relationship).(Wikipedia)

56. EMPIRE STATE OF MIND – Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
“Empire State of Mind” is a magnificent ode to New York City by rapper Jay-Z, with soaring vocals from Alicia Keys that bring chills on top of more chills. The lyrics were originally written by Brooklyn natives Angela Hunte and Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic, who were feeling homesick while on an overseas trip.(Wikipedia) Jay-Z adapted the song for Alicia Keys and himself, sampling the melody from the 1970 song “Love on a Two-Way Street” by the R&B group The Moments.

55. DIG – Incubus
The second song from Incubus’ sixth album Light Grenades, “Dig” is a an outstanding alternative rock song with intricate guitar, percussion and piano, accompanied by Brandon Boyd’s soaring impassioned vocals. The song’s lyrics address the ups and downs of love and friendship, and forgiving the transgressions that result from our weaknesses and remembering the things that drew us together to begin with.

54. EVERYTHING YOU WANT – Vertical Horizon
Vertical Horizon’s “Everything You Want” is a really fine pop-friendly alternative rock song about unrequited love, written by lead vocalist Matt Scannell from personal experience. “I was in love with this girl, but she kept turning to everyone except me for love and acceptance, and I wanted so much to help her. I wanted to be the one to give her everything she wanted, but I couldn’t. She just couldn’t accept it from me, and it was that pain that led me to creating the song.” (Wikipedia) The song reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Top 40 Charts.

53. THE GAME OF LOVE – Santana featuring Michelle Branch
A delightfully catchy song with a Latin beat, “The Game of Love” is a wonderful collaboration by rock guitar legend Carlos Santana and singer Michelle Branch. Nothing deep or terribly meaningful here, just a great song about love that makes you feel happy – and want to dance!

52. MR. BRIGHTSIDE – The Killers
“Mr. Brightside” was the first single released by the Killers, though it did not become a hit until its re-release a year later, in 2004. Written by band members Brandon Flowers and Dave Keuning, the upbeat anthem of keeping a stiff upper lip while feeling jealous and insecure over a cheating girlfriend is a rousing piece of ear candy.

51. BEAUTIFUL – Christina Aguilera
“Beautiful” was written and produced by Linda Perry, who initially wanted to record the song herself, then have it recorded by P!nk. After hearing it sung by Christina Aguilera, however, the decision was made to have her record it (which unfortunately caused a feud between P!nk and Perry/Aguilera).(Wikipedia) The song is an uplifting pop ballad about self-esteem and insecurity, set to gentle instrumentation incorporating piano, bass guitar, violin, cello, keyboards and drum. “Beautiful” has been widely embraced as an anthem by the LGBT community for its message of self-empowerment and inner beauty.

50. FALLIN’ – Alicia Keys
A beautiful R&B song with a gospel feel, “Fallin'” was written by the equally beautiful and talented Alicia Keys for her debut album Songs in A Minor. When asked about the song’s lyrics, Keys told Billboard, [The song] is about the ins and outs of a relationship. Sometimes, you’re completely head-over-heels in love with someone, and sometimes you can’t stand that person.” The song samples the James Brown hit, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

49. HEY YA! – Outkast
“Hey Ya!” is an incredibly entertaining and hugely popular funk rock song written and produced by André 3000 for his 2003 album The Love Below, part of the hip hop duo OutKast’s double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The song received enormous praise from music critics, and won a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

48. BLEEDING LOVE – Leona Lewis
A massive worldwide hit, “Bleeding Love” reached #1 in 35 countries and was the biggest-selling song of 2008. The song was originally co-written by singer/songwriter Jesse McCartney and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder for McCartney’s upcoming album, but his record label didn’t like the song. Tedder believed the song had huge potential and, after hearing Leona Lewis’ powerful vocals in a video, he was convinced the song was perfect for her and rearranged the song and changed the key to suit her voice. He then pitched the song to X Factor co-producer Simon Cowell, and the rest is history.

47. LOVE REMAINS THE SAME – Gavin Rossdale
A beautiful and poignant ballad from Gavin Rossdale, “Love Remains the Same” was a major departure from the heavier alternative rock music he made previously as frontman for the band Bush. The song addresses the oft-covered theme of sadness and regret over a failed relationship.

46. HOW TO SAVE A LIFE – The Fray
Another extremely moving soft rock ballad that also gained popularity after being featured on Grey’s Anatomy is “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. According to lead singer Isaac Slade in an interview with Sauce.com, the song was influenced by his experience while working as a mentor at a camp for troubled teens: “One of the youngsters I was paired up with…was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him.” “How to Save a Life” was a big hit, spending 58 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

45. NO ONE KNOWS – Queens of the Stone Age
According to Queens of the Stone Age lead singer Josh Homme, “No One Knows” was written more than five years prior to it being recorded for their third album Songs for the Deaf. With its outstanding guitar riff and punchy drumbeats played by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, the awesome song is their biggest hit, and one of the most successful of 2003.

44. CHASING CARS – Snow Patrol
“Chasing Cars” is a beautifully moving love ballad by British alternative rock band Snow Patrol. Lead singer Gary Lightbody has said that it was the “purest love song” he’s ever written. He sings a fairly plain melody over sparse guitars, with a dramatic ever-building crescendo. The song was the most widely played song of the decade in the UK, according to UK-based music licensing company Phonographic Performance Limited, and became popular in the US after being featured in the second season finale of the TV series Grey’s Anatomy.

43. AMERICAN IDIOT – Green Day
The fourth single from the album American Idiot on this list, “American Idiot” is another hard-driving protest song inspired by the American public’s patriotic support of the Bush Administration’s war against Iraq. Band frontman Billie Joe Armstrong believed that mass media orchestrated paranoia and idiocy among the public. Citing cable news coverage of the Iraq War, Billie Joe Armstrong recalled, “They had all these Geraldo-like journalists in the tanks with the soldiers, getting the play-by-play.” He wrote the song after hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “That’s How I Like It” on his car radio. “It was like, ‘I’m proud to be a redneck’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that?’ This is exactly what I’m against.“(Wikipedia)

42. LOVE SONG – Sara Bareilles
“Love Song” was the first hit for the very talented Sara Bareilles, who wrote it out of frustration when her label kept turning down her previous songs, wanting safe, “radio-friendly” songs. Well, she exceeded their expectations, as “Long Song” ended up being the #1 Adult Pop and Contemporary Song and the #7 Hot 100 Song for 2008. The song opens with a strong piano melody that continues with added guitar and percussion, accompanied by Bareilles’ commandingly beautiful vocals.

41. WITHOUT ME – Eminem
Eminem’s “Without Me” is a brilliant autobiographical hip hop song from his fourth album The Eminem Show. The lyrics comically refer to his cultural influence on the rap/hip hop music scene, and mocks several of his critics, including then-Vice-President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, the FCC, Chris Kirkpatrick, the band Limp Bizkit and singer Moby, as well as Prince’s changing his name to a symbol. He also mentions the comparisons of him to Elvis Presley as a white man succeeding commercially in a predominantly black art form, and attacks his mother Debbie Mathers for the lawsuit she filed for the lyrics of his debut single “My Name Is”. I think the hilarious video is among the best ever produced for a song.

40. HANGING BY A MOMENT – Lifehouse
“Hanging by a Moment” is a terrific post-grunge/alternative rock song from the hugely successful band Lifehouse. Lead singer and guitarist Jason Wade reportedly composed the song in about five minutes, not thinking it would become a big hit. A huge crossover hit, it reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative and Adult Pop Charts, and was the #1 song of 2001 on the Hot 100 Chart.

Another outstanding single from American Idiot, this powerfully moving song was written by Billie Joe Armstrong to convey feelings of loss for his father, who died of cancer when Armstrong was young. For the video, the song was used to symbolize the loss of soldiers deployed in the Iraq War, and in yet another independently made video, the song was used by a blogger to symbolize the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.(Wikipedia)

38. PARALYZER – Finger Eleven
A rather satirical and hard-driven alternative rock song, “Paralyzer” is about a guy, in a singles bar that he despises, eyeing a girl he finds attractive but who will never be interested in him. The lyrics describe a scenario that many of us have faced: “I hold on so nervously to me and my drink. I wish it was cooling me. But so far has not been good, it’s been shitty, and I feel awkward as I should. This club has got to be the most pretentious thing since I thought you and me. Well, I am imagining a dark lit place, or your place or my place.” I love it!

37. BEVERLY HILLS – Weezer
Weezer is one of most unique and quirky bands in the history of rock music, with a legion of passionate fans who have either loved or hated their various music offerings over the 20-plus years of the band’s existence. Band frontman Rivers Cuomo has penned numerous songs that are often based on a recurring theme of nerdy guys wanting to be cool or trying to get the girl. “Beverly Hills,” about wanting to be rich and famous but knowing it’ll never happen, is Weezer’s most popular song, though not with many die-hard fans who thought it was too commercial – meaning Weezer had “sold out.” Be that as it may, it’s still a pretty great song, with hilarious lyrics and a wildly entertaining video.

“Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” by O.A.R. (short for Of A Revolution) is an emotionally charged rock song about being unable to get out of a dysfunctional relationship that continues to draw you back in. The song features a simple opening piano riff that is repeated throughout the song, with stronger piano, guitar and drum at intervals that coincide with impassioned vocals by lead singer Marc Roberge.

35. THIS LOVE – Maroon 5
The second single from Maroon 5’s critically acclaimed debut album Songs About Jane, “This Love” was inspired by lead singer Adam Levine’s difficult break-up with his girlfriend. Levine has also stated that the lyrics are very erotic. The song opens with a piano-led strut which is followed by synth percussion and repeating guitar.

34. CRAZY IN LOVE – Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
“Crazy in Love” is an exuberant R&B/pop love song which incorporates elements of 1970s-style funk and soul, and 90s hip-hop. The song’s horn-driven hook samples The Chi-Lites’ 1970 song “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So).” The lyrics describe a romantic obsession that causes one to act out of character. “Crazy in Love” has sold more than 2,000,000 copies in the United States and 8,500,000 worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time worldwide.(Wikipedia)

33. SEXYBACK – Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland
The first single from FutureSex/LoveSounds, “SexyBack” was a major departure for Justin Timberlake from his previous music. He wanted to make a totally unique record, and did he ever! In the song, his voice is distorted to the point where it’s unrecognizable, with muffled vocals set to a pounding beat box sound. Timbaland acts as narrator with his backup vocals propelling the song forward. As explained by song mixer Jimmy Douglass, “the first thing you hear is ‘I’m bringing sexy back’, and after that you don’t care or don’t notice that there is no hook.

32. WHAT ABOUT NOW – Daughtry
A beautiful and moving ballad of love and hope, “What About Now” is passionately sung by American Idol season five finalist Chris Daughtry and his band of the same name. The seventh single off the band’s debut album Daughtry, the song was written by Ben Moody, David Hodges (both former members of Evanescence), and Josh Hartzler, who is married to Amy Lee, the lead singer of Evanescence. It is one of only two tracks on the album not at least co-written by Chris Daughtry.

31. I GOTTA FEELING – Black-Eyed Peas
I’m not a big fan of the Black-Eyed Peas, but I can’t help but love “I Gotta Feeling,” as it’s just so much fun and impossible to dislike. It was a massive worldwide hit, reaching #1 in numerous countries, and spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009. It has sold nearly 9 million downloads in the U.S., making it the highest selling digital single ever.(Billboard)

30. THE MIDDLE – Jimmy Eat World
The band Jimmy Eat World wrote “The Middle” after being dropped by Capitol Records when their first few albums failed to sell. Feeling they were going nowhere, they found inspiration to pen the lyrics “Don’t write yourself off yet, it’s only in your head you feel left out, and looked down on. Just try your best, try everything you can, and don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.” Being thought of as a dorky, unpopular kid in middle and high school, the song really hit home with me. It also happens to have an catchy melody and some really fine guitar riffs.

29. WHEREVER YOU WILL GO – The Calling
A gorgeous rock ballad, The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” is about the difficulty of continuing on with one’s life after losing a loved one. Written by band member Aaron Kamin, who was inspired by the death of his cousin, the song is beautifully sung by band front man Alex Band. The song was #1 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 Chart for an amazing 23 weeks, and was named the #1 song of the entire decade on the same chart.

28. HYSTERIA – Muse
According to Muse lead singer Matt Bellamy, “Hysteria” is about wanting something or someone so out of reach that it becomes an obsession that takes over. The song features a dramatic and intricate bass line, which was voted the sixth best bass line of all time by MusicRadar. I love this electrifying live performance at their triumphant 2013 concert at Rome Olympic Stadium, where they literally work everyone into a frenzy of hysteria! It really showcases the mind-blowing guitar playing skills of Bellamy and bassist Chris Wolstenholme.

Beyonce’s massive hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” is an upbeat dance-pop/R&B song from her third album I Am…Sasha Fierce. She stated that although “Single Ladies” is a “playful uptempo song, it addresses an issue that women experience every day” – i.e. the unwillingness of men to propose marriage. In the song, Beyonce channels her more aggressive and sensual alter-ego Sasha Fierce. The hugely popular and often imitated video produced for the song was filmed in black and white against a blank backdrop. Beyonce was inspired by an old video of a Bob Fosse dance number with his then-wife Gwen Verdon and two other dancers. She wanted the video for “Single Ladies” to be minimal, with fairly simple choreography, in order to shine the spotlight on the song itself.(Wikipedia)

26. BLURRY – Puddle of Mudd
“Blurry,” by the post-grunge/alternative rock band Puddle of Mudd, is the band’s best known song and biggest hit, spending nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart and reaching #5 on the Hot 100. The poignant song is about a break-up and the resulting pain and loss, and was primarily written about how lead singer Wes Scantlin missed his real-life son after the break-up, and his heartfelt vocals powerfully convey those feelings. Guitar One magazine named band member Doug Ardito’s guitar harmonic riff as one of its “Top Ten Riffs of the Decade,” and the way Scantlin’s vocals build in emotional intensity makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up straight.

25. USE SOMEBODY – Kings of Leon
“Use Somebody” is a gorgeous rock song, with lusty vocals by lead singer Caleb Followill,  set to blustery guitars and soaring choruses. One cannot listen to this song without having a strong emotional reaction. A big crossover hit for the Kings of Leon, the song reached #1 on several different formats, including the Alternative and Adult Top 40 Charts, and was Awarded a Grammy for 2009 Record of the Year.

24. FAMILY AFFAIR – Mary J. Blige
“Family Affair” is a sexy and funky R&B/hip hop song about setting aside the drama and troubles of everyday life and just letting loose and having a good time. Flawlessly produced by Dr. Dre, it’s Mary J. Blige’s biggest hit.

23. SO WHAT – P!nk
P!nk’s defiant, over the top “bite me” anthem of independence, “So What” is my favorite of her many hits. It’s a totally fun and thrilling ride from start to finish, and the video’s a blast.

22. DRIVE – Incubus
The second of six songs from Incubus on this list, “Drive” is generally considered their biggest commercial hit. Lead singer Brandon Boyd said the song is about allowing fear to rule your life and decision-making, and imagining what it would be like to instead take control and “drive” your life in the direction you want to go.(Wikipedia) The song’s superb arrangement is more relaxed and acoustic than their usual alternative metal/funk style.

21. NEW DIVIDE – Linkin Park
Linkin Park unleash their sonic weaponry for their anthemic rock song “New Divide.” Written for the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it’s one of their most critically acclaimed and successful hits. It spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, and was a huge hit worldwide. The song storms out of the gate and instantly grabs hold and won’t let go. With its thunderous guitar, strong synth arrangement, Rob Bourdon’s speaker-blowing drums and and Chester Bennington’s imploring vocals, “New Divide” is one of the most exhilarating rock songs ever.

20. TALK – Coldplay
According to Contactmusic.com, Chris Martin wrote to the German electronic music band Kraftwerk for permission to use the main riff from their 1981 song “Computer Love” as the basis for “Talk.” It was also one of the most difficult songs that Coldplay ever recorded, taking them many months to get it to the point where they were happy with it. The end result is a gorgeous pop/rock song with soaring melodies and compelling lyrics, not to mention the thunderous guitar riff in the bridge.

19. SAY IT RIGHT – Nelly Furtado
A sultry track with an otherworldly feel, “Say it Right” was written by Nelly Furtado, Timbaland and Nate “Danja” Hills. Furtado said it was inspired by the “spooky, keyboard driven pop sound” of the Eurythmics, who she admired. The brilliant song was produced by Timbaland and is essentially an R&B song with a techno vibe. It was a massive hit in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and deservedly so.

18. KRYPTONITE – 3 Doors Down
Everything about “Kryptonite” is just about perfect – lyrics, melody, music production, and Brad Arnold’s vocals. Arnold stated that he wrote the song in math class when he was only 15, and that the lyrics are basically about being there for someone through the good times and bad. I think they’re pretty powerful when combined with the phenomenal music arrangement.

17. NO SUCH THING – John Mayer
The first in what would be a long string of hits for talented singer-songwriter and guitarist John Mayer, “No Such Thing” was popular in the summer of 2002 when I had a milestone high school reunion and, as a result, this song had special meaning for me.  I so identified with the lyrics “I never lived the dreams of the prom kings and the drama queens. I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.

16. HOLIDAY – Green Day
The third song from the brilliant American Idiot, “Holiday” is a true protest anthem, inspired by the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. To a powerful driving beat, Billie Joe Armstrong emphatically rails against the neo-conservatives who pushed for war and their strategy of pitting one group against another. According to Armstrong, the chorus’s refrain – “This is our lives on holiday”— was intended to reflect the average American’s ambivalence on the issues of the day. Musically and lyrically, it’s undeniably one of the best songs of the decade.

15. BREAKAWAY – Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson’s best song in my opinion, “Breakaway” is about longing to go out in the world and make it on your own, yet feeling bittersweet over the loved ones left behind. Not necessarily deep or original lyrics here, but a well-crafted song, nevertheless, by the most successful and one of the most talented American Idol winners, as proven by her commanding vocals. I fell in love with this song when I heard it featured at the end of an episode of the phenomenal HBO series Six Feet Under.

14. THE REASON – Hoobastank
“The Reason,” by the oddly-named band Hoobastank, is an emotional plea for forgiveness. The song opens with a simple piano movement and drumbeat followed by wobbly, dramatic guitar riffs and percussion that slowly builds in intensity as lead singer Douglas Robb plaintively sings of his shortcomings and failures, promising to be a better person. It’s a theme that’s been covered a hundred times in song, but still feels honest and genuine here.

The third single from Justin Timberlake’s massive hit album FutureSex/LoveSounds, ‘What Goes Around…Comes Around” is a real tour-de-force. Produced by Timbaland, the song begins with a brief harmony line of two bağlamas, an Anatolian folk instrument. The beat then changes to a more uptempo version of the same melody with added percussion, and Timbaland providing backing vocals.  Rolling Stone called the song “a soaring ballad featuring Timberlake’s falsetto, with verses and choruses that pile on top of one another with dizzying effect.” About.com reviewer Bill Lamb said it was “one of the most gorgeous pop melodies of the year,” also complimenting the string-based arrangement of the song. Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly called it “superior.”  I think so too.

12. SOMEBODY TOLD ME – The Killers
I LOVE this song! From the first guitar licks, “Somebody Told Me’ blasts through the speakers with furious guitar, hammering drums, and Brandon Flowers’ soaring, urgent vocals. The song has one of the best lyric phrases ever – “Somebody told me, you had a boyfriend, who looked like a girlfriend, that I had in February of last year.” With its exuberant driving beat, great lyrics, Flowers’ vocals and an  incredible arrangement, you’ve got all the ingredients for a superb tune.

11. THE SCIENTIST – Coldplay
The third of six Coldplay songs on this list, “The Scientist” is also from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head and one of their most beautiful and popular songs. It opens with a simple piano movement, then layers of drum, guitar and violin are gradually added to build emotional depth. Chris Martin sings of the pain and difficulty of maintaining a relationship, and the wish to be able to start all over to make things right.

10. IN THE END – Linkin Park
From their debut album Hybrid Theory, “In the End” is often considered Linkin Park’s signature song. Dealing with betrayal and loss, the magnificent song features incredible contrasting music and vocals that reach epic heights.  Musically, the track contains scratching throughout, and begins with a rather mournful piano movement, then abruptly shifts to strong percussion, guitar and vocals, finishing with a repeat of the piano riff. The juxtaposition of lead singer Chester Bennington’s impassioned vocals and Mike Shinoda’s formidable rapping also creates dramatic tension that makes your heart race and brings chills. The dramatic video is every bit as intense as the song, which is now all the more compelling and heartbreaking after Bennington’s tragic suicide.

9. UPRISING – Muse
From the Brit-Rock band Muse’s epic album The Resistance, “Uprising” spent an astonishing 17 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, from September 2009 through January 2010. A defiant clarion call to rise up against government and corporate mind-control and conspiracy, set to Muse’s signature grandiose orchestration, the song is absolutely brilliant.

8. APOLOGIZE – OneRepublic
I like this original recording of “Apologize” better than the later remix by music producer Timbaland. With his beautiful voice and piano performance, OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder sings of betrayal and disappointment from a relationship gone bad. The gorgeous song is emotionally powerful without being mawkish.

7. THE PRETENDER – Foo Fighters
A friend called “The Pretender” one of the best rock songs ever, and I have to agree. Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters achieve perfection in this anthemic song of feeling “fucked over” by the system (according to comments made by Grohl). The song starts with a simple guitar introduction, then shifts to a dramatic hard rock sound, interrupted by breakdowns and escalations in the bridge, including a repeat of the intro, finally ending with Grohl’s signature impassioned screams that leave you emotionally drained.

6. LOVE HURTS – Incubus
My favorite song from Incubus, arguably one of the greatest bands of the 2000’s, “Love Hurts” is also one of the most powerfully beautiful rock songs ever. Brandon Boyd’s strong, heartfelt vocals express the struggle of “finding love and having it be pure and not tainted by our misperceptions, misconceptions and expectations” (in his words).  I especially love the lyrics: “I only want the truth, so tonight we drink to youth/ Don’t wanna lose what I had as a boy./ Love sings when it transcends the bad things. Have a heart and try me, ‘cause without love I won’t survive.”

5. BENT – matchbox twenty
In “Bent,” Rob Thomas fervently sings of the difficulties of being in a relationship to a complex musical arrangement that makes for an exciting and compelling rock song.  Beginning with a discordant guitar solo with percussion, the music abruptly transitions to a ballad-like interlude with really lovely guitar and violin, then segues to a dramatic guitar flourish, finishing with a reprise of the opening drumbeat.

4. VIVA LA VIDA – Coldplay
From the first violin strokes, “Viva La Vida” (Spanish for “long live life,” taken from a Frida Kahlo painting) gradually builds in intensity with magnificent, sweeping orchestration and vocals. The song is from Coldplay’s fourth album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. Using monarchy, military and religious metaphors, Chris Martin sings of disillusionment with the institutions of government and religion, and the loss of youth, power and fame. This is Coldplay’s biggest hit to date, and was awarded a Grammy for 2008 Song of the Year.

From Green Day’s brilliant opus album American Idiot, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was described by band frontman Billy Joe Armstrong as a kind of morning after hangover to “Holiday.” He wrote it to describe the feelings of loneliness he sometimes felt during his time living in New York. The amazing musical arrangement with scratchy guitars set to a constant beat, combined with Armstrong’s distinctive vocals, create a strong sense of isolation and disillusionment. It was awarded a Grammy for 2005 Record of the Year.

“Lose Yourself,” Eminem’s epic song about giving everything you’ve got and overcoming life’s obstacles in order to escape a dreary existence and make it in the rap music business, is his finest work and quite possibly the greatest rap song of all time.  The lyrics are among the best ever written, and Eminem’s vocals are aggressive yet heartfelt. The song won an Oscar for Best Song from the film “8 Mile.”

1. CLOCKS – Coldplay
My favorite song of the decade, “Clocks” absolutely blew me away the first time I heard it. The magnificent song, from Coldplay’s second album A Rush of Blood to the Head, features a simple but incredibly beautiful repeating piano melody with the perfect amount of percussion and bass guitar. Add Chris Martin’s emphatic vocals and the song gives me chills every time. Jon Wiederhorn of MTV News wrote that in the song’s lyrics, Martin addresses the helplessness of being in a dysfunctional relationship he doesn’t necessarily want to escape. “Clocks” was awarded a Grammy for 2003 Record of the Year.

Top 50 Songs of 2011

2011 saw the release of two incredible albums by two of my favorite artists, Adele’s epic masterpiece “21” and Foster the People’s debut album “Torches.” The best song of the year is without doubt “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele’s triumphant song of betrayal, heartbreak and ultimate survival. Foster the People have three songs in my top 10, beginning with “Pumped Up Kicks,” with it’s dark message sharply contrasting with a peppy upbeat melody.

Here are my Top 50 favorite songs of 2011:


2. PUMPED UP KICKS – Foster the People
3. MOVES LIKE JAGGER – Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera
4. STEREO HEARTS – Gym Class Heroes featuring Adam Levine
5. READY TO GO – Panic! At the Disco
7. HOUDINI – Foster the People
8. HELENA BEAT – Foster the People
10. FIREWORK – Katy Perry
11. PERFECT – P!nk
13. ADOLESCENTS – Incubus
14. PARTY ROCK ANTHEM – LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock
15. CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT – Foster the People
16. HOWLIN’ FOR YOU – The Black Keys
17. GOOD LIFE – OneRepublic
18. SHAKE ME DOWN – Cage the Elephant
19. MONEYGRABBER – Fitz & the Tantrums
21. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE – Bruno Mars
22. JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH – The Black-Eyed Peas
23. FOR THE FIRST TIME – The Script
24. BORN THIS WAY – Lady Gaga
25. MY BODY – Young the Giant
26. THE LAZY SONG – Bruno Mars
27. GIVE ME EVERYTHING – Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afro jack & Nayer
28. GRENADE – Bruno Mars
29. WHAT’S MY NAME? – Rihanna featuring Drake
30. TONIGHT, TONIGHT – Hot Chelle Rae
31. THE CAVE – Mumford & Sons
32. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP – Andy Grammer
33. WALK – Foo Fighters
34. WAITING FOR THE END – Linkin Park
35. RHYTHM OF LOVE – Plain White T’s
36. DON’T YOU WANNA STAY – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson
37. DON’T GOTTA WORK IT OUT – Fitz & the Tantrums
39. DOG DAYS ARE OVER – Florence + the Machine
41. THE EDGE OF GLORY – Lady Gaga
42. YOU AND I – Lady Gaga
43. LAST FRIDAY NIGHT (T.G.I.F.) – Katy Perry
45. YOU ARE A TOURIST – Death Cab for Cutie
46. IF I DIE YOUNG – The Band Perry
47. NOTHING – The Script
48. WITHOUT YOU – David Guetta featuring Usher
49. JUST A KISS – Lady Antebellum