100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #1: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele

And now we’ve arrived at the pinnacle of my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s, and the song at #1 is the magnificent “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. It’s fitting that the British singer-songwriter 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 spectacular fucking song!

Released in November 2010, it was the lead single and opening track of her phenomenal second album 21, which is now 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, and as I write this at the end of 2020, 21 has spent 495 non-consecutive weeks (that’s nine and a half years!) and counting on the Billboard 200 Album chart. “Rolling in the Deep” was itself named the #1 song of 2011 on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end list, as well as in Canada, Belgium, Hungary and the Netherlands. Rolling Stone ranked it #8 on its list of “The 100 Greatest Songs of the 21st Century”. It also won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Short Form Video.

It’s been well-documented that Adele conceived of and wrote many of the songs on 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 began restructuring 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)

Essentially a song of revenge, Adele called “Rolling in the Deep” a “dark, bluesy, gospel, disco tune written as a ‘fuck you'” to her ex-lover after his disparaging remarks that she was weak and that her life without him would be “boring and lonely and rubbish.” 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 singing the song while 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, and 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 signify a relationship that’s gone up in flames. In addition to its Grammy for Best Short Form Video, the video also won 2011 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. As of the end of 2020, it’s been viewed more than 1.76 billion times, but in January, Adele abruptly removed the video from YouTube! So, I found this one…

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #3: “Stressed Out” by twenty øne piløts

Song #3 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Stressed Out” by twenty øne piløts. It’s the highest-ranking of their six songs on this list (“Tear in My Heart” was #7, “Ride” #19, “Heathens” #61, “Jumpsuit” #67 and “Chlorine” #87), and is also now one of my favorite songs of all time. Released in November 2015 as the fourth single from their spectacular album Blurryface, the song became a massive hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs, Mainstream Top 40, Adult Top 40 and Alternative charts, where it spent 12 weeks on top. It peaked at #2 on the Hot 100.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, twenty øne piløts is a duo from Columbus, Ohio consisting of the ridiculously talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. Incorporating a wildly eclectic mix of genres – including hip hop, rap, alternative rock, pop, reggae, ska, psychedelia, electronica, new wave, folk and funk – and employing a vast array of instruments and synth sounds too numerous to mention, they create music that’s complex, innovative, exciting and totally original. With their unique sound, not to mention Joseph’s distinctively quirky vocals, they sound like no other act, and their music is immediately recognizable.

Blurryface is a loose concept album named after a fictional character called Blurryface, who Joseph said “represents all the things that I as an individual, but also everyone around, are insecure about”, namely, our doubts, fears and self-loathing. Joseph wore black paint on his hands and neck during their live shows and music videos for the album, almost apologizing: “Very dramatic, I know, but it helps me get into that character.”

“Stressed Out” was written by Joseph and produced by renowned musician and producer Mike Elizondo, who’s worked with such diverse artists as 50 Cent, Eminem, Carrie Underwood, Fiona Apple, Mastodon, and Ry Cooder, among others. Elizondo was a bit perplexed during the song’s production. In an interview with Billboard, he recalled: “At the time I heard the song, I had no idea what Blurryface was, [and I was] kind of scratching my head going, ‘Dude, uh, what’s Blurryface?’” Well, 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, as well as touching on the insecurities of being a musician. I love the droning, deep bass-driven groove, spooky synths, discordant piano keys, Dun’s pounding drums, and Joseph’s monotone vocals that convey the angst and uncertainty expressed in the clever lyrics.

I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard
I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words
I wish I found some chords in an order that is new
I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think

My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think
My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh)
Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good old days (oh)
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

We’re stressed out

Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young
How come I’m never able to identify where it’s coming from
I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it
Try to sell it, never sell out of it, I’d probably only sell one

It’d be to my brother, ’cause we have the same nose
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered
Out of student loans and tree-house homes we all would take the latter

My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think
My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh)
Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good old days (oh)
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Yeah

We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Yeah

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh)
Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good old days (oh)
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Yeah

The delightful video was directed by Mark Eshelman, and filmed primarily at drummer Josh Dun’s childhood home and the surrounding neighborhood in Columbus. It portrays Joseph and Dun as both children at play and young adults grappling with the onset of adulthood, their parents and siblings looking on in bemused disapproval. It’s been streamed more than 2.1 billion times.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #4: “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood

Song #4 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Sweater Weather” by Southern California alternative pop-rock band The Neighbourhood. It’s hard for me to find the right words to fully describe how deeply I love this stunning song. I know I’ve stated this repeatedly in my discussions of several songs on this list, but I fell in love with “Sweater Weather” the instant I first heard it. The song is from their debut album I Love You, and was originally released in March 2012, but, unbelievably, didn’t chart until a year later. It enjoyed huge success on the Billboard Alternative chart during the summer of 2013, spending 11 weeks at #1, and later peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the Mainstream Top 40.

“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. It was co-written by group members Jesse Rutherford, Zach Abels and Jeremy Freedman. Abels commented on the writing of the song in a 2014 interview with Radio: “One day Jesse was at my house and I was playing guitar. And he said, ‘Hey that’s pretty cool, let me record that.’ And it just so happened to be ‘Sweater Weather.’ When we got done writing the song, when it was all said and done we were like ‘Okay this is pretty good we should keep writing songs.‘” Rutherford added, “I think ‘Sweater Weather’ might’ve been the best song we’d ever written, but I didn’t think it was going to be the best song we’d ever write. It was kind of like getting a Platinum record, like a little tap on the butt. ‘Good job, keep going’.” The song did indeed go Platinum five times over in the U.S., with over 5 million sales and downloads.

Starting off with a sharp, rapid drumbeat and throbbing bass line, 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 incredibly sensual plaintive vocals. I love his voice, which so beautifully captures the fervor of a budding romance as he fervently raps 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 a languid tempo, highlighted by an achingly beautiful strummed guitar and bassline. Rutherford coos “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 beginning to end, firmly planting “Sweater Weather” among my favorite songs of all time.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #5: “Love Me Again” by John Newman

The song at #5 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the magnificent “Love Me Again” by British singer-songwriter and musician John Newman. I was literally stunned the first time I heard this electrifying song, and to this day it still has the power to blow me away. The song was first released in May 2013 as a digital download in Europe, but not until June 30 in the UK and the U.S. Written by Newman and Steve Booker, “Love Me Again” was the lead single from Newman’s debut album Tribute. It was a big hit in the UK and across Europe, reaching the top five in many countries and #1 in Britain, Scotland and Greece. But it had only moderate success in the U.S., where it peaked at #13 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 and only #30 on the Hot 100. The song strongly resonated with me, and spent 4 weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30 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 dramatic arrangement and instrumentation are spectacular, with a bold, almost angry piano riff, wailing organ, swirling strings, horns, and some of the fiercest drumbeats I’ve ever heard. After the adrenaline rush induced by the intense instrumentals and vocals, by song’s end I’m completely wiped out. Wow!

The official video produced for the song was directed by Vaughan Arnell, and is based on the classic love story of Romeo and Juliet. Newman is shown performing the song on stage in a club, while a woman, played by French actress Margaux Billard as the Juliet character and carefully watched over by her brother Tibalt, played by Joseph Steyne, flirts with the Romeo figure played by British model Tommy-Lee Winkworth. The video ends in a cliffhanger as they’re hit by a truck while running from the club, their fate unknown until Newman’s follow-up single “Cheating” reveals that they had indeed survived the hit-and-run accident. The violent and abrupt ending nearly ruins the video for me, unfortunately, as I hate violence. I suggest watching/listening to the audio video first – with the volume turned up – to fully appreciate the power and glory of this incredible song. Then watch the official video.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #6: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

The song at #6 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Feel It Still” by alt-rock band Portugal. The Man. The second of their songs on this list (“Live in the Moment” is #66), “Feel It Still” is one of those songs that virtually everyone loves, thanks to an irresistibly catchy retro melody 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.

Originally from Wasilla, Alaska and based in Portland, Oregon since 2004, the band’s quirky name has a simple back story. In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Gourley explained “A country is an individual in the world that represents a group of people, so I decided we would name our band after a country and Portugal happened to be the one that popped up. In hindsight, we should’ve named it something to do with Alaska. But you become so burnt out on beluga whales and huskies, you don’t appreciate it the same way.” 

If listening to “Feel It Still” brings a ring of familiarity, it’s because the melody used in the chorus was inspired by The Marvelettes’ 1961 hit “Please Mr. Postman”. The band respectfully (and tactfully) 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.

Can’t keep my hands to myself
Think I’ll dust ’em off, put ’em back up on the shelf
In case my little baby girl is in need
Am I coming out of left field?

Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it’s 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still

Got another mouth to feed
Leave it with a baby sitter, mama, call the grave digger
Gone with the fallen leaves
Am I coming out of left field?

Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
I been feeling it since 1966, now
Might’ve had your fill, but you feel it still
Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it’s 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still

We could fight a war for peace
(Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now)
Give in to that easy living
Goodbye to my hopes and dreams
Start flipping for my enemies
We could wait until the walls come down
(Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now)
It’s time to give a little to the
Kids in the middle, but, oh until it falls
Won’t bother me

Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming?
Is it coming back?

Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, yeah
Your love is an abyss for my heart to eclipse, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still

Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
I’ve been feeling it since 1966, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now
Let me kick it like it’s 1986, now
Might be over now, but I feel it still
Might’ve had your fill, but I feel it still

The satirical and somewhat humorous video generated a bit of controversy upon its release. Directed by Ian Schwartz, it features Gourley walking through an auto-wrecking yard, along with scenes of a bar fight, a couple having sex in the back of a junked car, and a man setting fire to a newspaper labeled “Info Wars.” InfoWars is the controversial website of the detestable right-wing nut Alex Jones, who rants about bizarre conspiracy theories. Portugal. The Man are unabashed progressive liberals who often speak out publicly about social injustice and politics, and their pointed shot at Jones and his crazy followers predictably got them riled up into a tizzy.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #7: “Tear In My Heart” by twenty øne piløts

The song at #7 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Tear In My Heart” by twenty øne piløts. It’s one of six songs by them on this list, more than any other artist or band, and they’re my current favorite music act. Although the talented duo, consisting of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, had been putting out music since 2009, it was this song that introduced me to them in April 2015. I instantly loved it and became a huge fan, bingeing on their back catalog of music, especially their brilliant album Vessel.

“Tear in my Heart” was the second single from their phenomenal fourth album Blurryface, which I think is one of the greatest albums of the decade, and also ranks among my all-time favorites. The song peaked at only #82 on the Billboard Hot 100, but reached #2 on the Alternative chart, where it also ended up as the #6 song of 2015. It spent four weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30, and was my favorite song of 2015.

The delightful song of love was inspired by Joseph’s marriage to his wife Jenna a month earlier. Not only do I adore the song’s unusual stop-start arrangement, lively melody, colorful instrumentation, and Joseph’s wonderfully quirky 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 humorous video shows Joseph and 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.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #8: “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

The song at #8 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s needs no introduction. From the moment “Uptown Funk!“, by British music producer Mark Ronson and featuring vocals by Bruno Mars, was released in November 2014 with its terrific accompanying video, the feel-good ear worm went viral, becoming an international hit. It reached #1 in 18 countries ranging from Australia, Canada and France to Mexico, Israel and South Africa, and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks, where it was also named both the #1 song of 2015 and of the decade.

Written by Ronson, Mars, Phillip Lawrence and Jeff Bhasker, the exhilarating 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, as well as 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 intense 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. 

The entertaining official video, showing the infinitely cool Bruno Mars singing the song and dancing in the streets along with Ronson and their back-up singers, has been viewed more than four billion times.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #9: “My Name is Human” by Highly Suspect

The song at #9 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “My Name is Human” by by American alternative rock band Highly Suspect. Originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and now based in Brooklyn, New York, the band formed in 2009 as a three-piece consisting of Johnny Stevens (guitar, lead vocals) and twin brothers Rich (bass, backing vocals) and Ryan Meyer (drums, backing vocals). A fourth member Matt Kofos (guitar, synthesizer, backing vocals) joined the band in 2019. “My Name is Human” was released in September 2016 in advance of their superb second album The Boy Who Died Wolf, and peaked on the charts in early 2017. It spent eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and reached #20 on the Alternative chart.

The brilliant song is truly mind-blowing, featuring some of the most unusual instrumentals of any song on this list. The thunderous gravelly bass riff at the opening immediately sends shivers down my spine, then spooky guitars, crunchy percussion and piercing, otherworldly synths ensue along with Johnny Stevens’ intense, breathtaking vocals that go from coldly seductive to passionate wailing, adding goosebumps to the ones already covering my body. The track is perfection from start to finish.

The song’s surreal video was released in February 2017 on the Vanity Fair website, and shows a female robot, portrayed by actress Chloe Bridges, being built by robots and then given finishing touches by Stevens. It’s a little creepy, yet stylish and riveting. Stevens commented to Vanity Fair about the song’s meaning: “A lot of people think the song is about being a human. I believe some of us aren’t human at all. Or at least not completely, but that is still our name. At some point in the last couple hundred years something changed. The androids, the aliens…They aren’t coming. We are here.”

Okay

I’m feeling the way that I’m feeling myself
Fuck everyone else
Gotta remember that nobody is better than anyone else, here
(Do you need some time to think it over?)
Look what they do to you
Look what they do to me
Must be joking if you think that either one is free, here

Get up off your knees, girl
Stand face to face with your God
And find out what you are
(Hello, my name is human)
Hello, my name is human
And I came down from the stars
(Hello, my name is human)

I’m ready for love and I’m ready for war
But I’m ready for more
I know that nobody’s ever been this fucking ready before, hey
(Do you need some time to think it over?)
So figure it out or don’t figure it out
I figured it out
The bigger the river (the bigger the river)
The bigger the drought (the bigger the drought)

Get up off your knees, boy
Stand face to face with your God
And find out what you are
(Hello, my name is human)
Hello, my name is human
And I came down from the stars
(Hello, my name is human)

Fire world, I love you
Fire world

I’m up off my knees, girl
I’m face to face with myself
And I know who I am
(Hello, my name is human)
I stole the power from the sun
I’m more than just a man
(No longer disillusioned)

(I’m not asking questions)
(‘Cause questions have answers)
(And I don’t want answers)
I came down from the stars (so I’ll take my chances)
(And what are the chances)
(That I could advance)
(On my own circumstances)
(Said “what are the chances?”)
Hello, my name is human (and what are the chances?)
(I don’t want your answers)
(I’m not asking questions)
(So you keep your answers)
And I know who I am (so you keep your answers)
(I’m not asking questions)
(I’m taking my chances)

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #10: “I See You” by MISSIO

We’ve finally reached the final ten of my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s, and the song at #10 is “I See You” by MISSIO. It’s not often that 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 the Austin, Texas-based duo. Comprised of singer-songwriter and 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”, both of which received significant play on AltNation radio and made me a big fan of theirs.

“I See You” was the third single from The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man, and my favorite song of 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, a deep bass groove, shimmery synths and crisp percussion create a stunning soundscape for Brue’s stirring falsetto vocals. I love his beautiful and distinctive singing voice that never fails to bring tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat 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.

Brue and Butler are great guys who frequently engage with their fans and followers, sometimes sharing their deeply personal feelings and thoughts on social media. I reviewed The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man a few months after its release, and was blown away when they not only retweeted and thanked me for my review, adding that mine was the best they’d seen of their album, but also followed me on both Twitter and Instagram! Needless to say, it made me love them even more. That review is also the 7th most-viewed post of the more than 1,200 I’ve written.

I see you when you’re down and depressed, just a mess
I see you when you cry, when you’re shy, when you wanna die
I see you when you smile, it takes a while, least you’re here
I see you, yes, I see you

I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me

I see you when you hide, and when you lie it’s no surprise
I see you when you run from the lie within your eyes
I see you when you think that I don’t notice all those scars
I see you, yes, I see you

I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me
What a mess you 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
Yes, I see you
I see you
Yes, I see you
(I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me)

I see you when you chase all the dreams inside your head
I see you when you laugh and when you love to the bitter end
(I see you) In the dark, at the dawn of something new
I see you, yes, I see you

I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me
And I’m hoping that you will see yourself

Like I see you
Yes, I see you
I see you
Yes, I see you

Even when you cry and even when you’re shy
You mean everything to me
Even when you lie and even when you hide
You mean everything to me
I see you
(I see you, I see you, I see you)
Yes, I see you
(I see you, I see you, I see you)
I see you
Even when you cry and even when you shine
Yes, I see you
(I see you, I see you, I see you)

I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me
And I’m hoping that you will see yourself

The poignant video, directed by Ben Fee, filmed by Kai Saul, and produced by Sascha Fix, shows a hairy creature, played by Veda Carmine-Ritchie, hidden by an oversize freaky mask, feeling alone and lost, alternately trying to either hide or be noticed by others, and fit in with a crowd of people who seem to be ignoring them. MISSIO is shown quietly standing in the background.

Here’s a stripped-down live performance that provides further proof of not only what a beautiful song this is, but also how wonderful they are:

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #11: “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

The song at #11 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the poignant “Need You Now” by Nashville-based Country band Lady Antebellum, who changed their name to Lady A this past summer in response to nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd. (That name change subsequently led to further controversy, as there was already another artist, Seattle-based African American activist and blues, soul, funk, and gospel singer Anita White, who’d been using the moniker “Lady A” for over 20 years. She and the band have sued each other over the use of the name; both cases have yet to be resolved.) Formed in 2006, the band is comprised of Hillary Scott on lead vocals, Charles Kelley on guitar and co-lead vocals, and Dave Harwood on guitar, piano, mandolin and backing vocals.  

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. The song contains strong pop elements, so it can be argued it’s more pop than country, which might explain why I like it so much. The stunning and bittersweet song was first released as a single and title track from their second studio album Need You Now in August 2009, and went to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart that December. It became so popular that it crossed over to the pop charts in early 2010, going all the way to #1 on the Adult Top 40 and Adult Contemporary charts, and #2 on the Hot 100. “Need You Now” won four Grammys in 2011, including for Record and Song of the Year.

The song’s arrangement and instrumentation are exquisite, especially the somber 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.” The line “Guess I’d rather hurt than feel nothin’ at all” really sums up the sometimes painful conundrum of love, relationships and life.