Jorge’s Favorites of the 2010s
It's really nearing the end of the decade, huh?
Here we are in the 7th installment of UIC Radio's E-board's Best of the 2010s lists!
It is now finally my turn to share some of my favorite music and artists from the 2010s. I will be showcasing my top 15 songs, top 10 albums, and top 5 artists of the decade.
A little disclaimer before we go any further, there is about a 98.72% chance that I will be forgetting something on here that I really love. Trying to remember everything that has been released this decade is not easy! Also, these are entirely my own personal opinion, but I will do my best to justify and defend everything I am about to show you. It's okay if we disagree, hopefully, we can still be friends?
Two more things before we proceed, first I have a self-imposed rule. I am limiting each artist only 1 submission per category. The next deals with the "Album of The Decade" category. I'll only be counting "official" albums, so no mixtapes. This just makes my life easier and more simple (unfortunately as much I love Lil Uzi's, Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World, it just could not make the list).
Top 15 Songs of the 2010s
15. Highlight Reel – Daren (2019)
As you may start to see, I’m a sucker for a solid opening track. My huge bias aside, “Highlight Reel” opens up Daren’s 2019 EP Lemon Grove. This song touches on the negative and lasting effects social media has had on our lives. The need to share our lives constantly for validation eats away at our happiness. It’s like the saying goes “if you didn’t post about it, did it really happen?” Often people feel like they have to be a certain type of person online and forget who they truly are. I really enjoy Daren’s music and this track perfectly showcases his ability to transform his inner thoughts to an art piece that speaks to others. (Sidenote: When Daren blows up, remember I called it and was here since day 1)
14. Get Lucky – Daft Punk (2013)
The first 30 seconds of this track is all you need to get drawn in, well at least that is all it took for me when I first heard it. Pharrell provides some beautiful vocals and catchy choruses on this track that create an energetic and playful tune backed by Nile Rodger’s guitar riffs that complete the track. Daft Punk really did their thing on this one.
13. Marvin’s Room – Drake (2011)
This one might be a little questionable for a few of you. Let me try to explain, this track to me was a big turning point from the mentality of thinking that expressing your emotions was “corny.” It touches on many emotions we all feel such as sadness, regret, and envy.
12. There, There – The Wonder Years (2013)
“You’re just trying to read, but I’m always standing in your light” these were lyrics that really struck my ~15-year-old self for no good reason at all. This song serves as an awesome opening track to The Wonder Years’s 2013 project, The Greatest Generation. This song really hits hard on the topics of anxiety and being socially awkward that many can relate too. Is it wild to say this is one of my favorite pop-punk songs? It definitely is one of my favorites of this decade!
11. Cigarette Daydreams – Cage The Elephant (2013)
It’s hard not to love an acoustic intro to a song. This song serves as a great closer to Cage The Elephant’s album Melophobia. It’s often hard for me to explain what this song makes me feel. Often it is a sad gloomy feeling that is backed by cheerful instrumentation. This song touches greatly on one’s journey to find their own identity back after losing someone important in your life.
10. Ace – Noname ft. Smino and Saba (2018)
Maybe my bias is showing a little bit on this one, as Noname, Smino, and Saba are currently some of my favorite artists right now. It only makes sense that one of their collabs lands on this list. In my opinion, this tracks demonstrates some of the best verses from all three, with Smino absolutely killing it on the chorus with his unique sound. They really just hopped on this track and showcased all their strengths. Please give us a collab album soon!
9. Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys (2013)
Are you starting to see a trend I have with strong openers/closers? Like most people, this is the first song I ever heard by the English rock band, Arctic Monkeys. The simple guitar riff and drum beat heard throughout the song create a hypnotizing rhythm that is only elevated with vocals from Alex Turner. C’mon, it’s hard not to like this song.
8. PROM/KING – Saba (2018)
This one right here is just for me. I had to restrain myself from putting this all the way at the end (hey that bias is showing again!). I love this song for the amazing storytelling Saba tells throughout this beautifully crafted track. In the first half titled “PROM,” Saba recalls his prom night where he was threatened by his date’s older brother and talks about his early memories with his cousin. In the second half titled “KING,” Saba talks about how everything was starting to look good for him. This track takes a dramatic turn at the end when the series of events that lead to John Walt’s death is revealed. I remember hearing this song for the first time, I was honestly speechless.
7. Danny Glover – Young Thug (2014)
Who else can brag about recording such a hit track in exactly 8 minutes? This song becomes so unique once you hear the background on how it came to be. Long story short, Thug’s audio engineer, Alex Tumay, recalls the story as him taking a beat that was not even finished yet and recording Thug rap over it. All it took was 1 take, and the rest is history! Also, shout out to Alex Tumay.
6. Thinking About You – Frank Ocean (2012)
Nothing I say can do any justice to just how beautiful this song truly is. This is the song that I believe launched Frank Ocean’s popularity through the roof. Ocean’s beautiful vocals give you a strong feeling of pain and nostalgia for a time when things were better. (As much as I love this song that classic Vine always come to my head)
5. Bad and Boujee – Migos ft. Lil Uzi Vert (2016)
Is it bad that this was one of the first songs I thought about when creating this list? Every time this song comes on, it always sounds as fun as the first time. Everything comes together in this track to create such an energetic and catchy anthem on this one, even Uzi’s feature ( I don’t care what anyone says). Also, do we want to start up the conversation on how the Migos popularized the triplet flow that took over rap?
4. XO Tour Llif3 – Lil Uzi Vert (2017)
Alright look, I don’t want to be that guy but…I knew this song was going to be a hit before it “blew up.” This track was originally released on Uzi’s EP Luv Is Rage 1.5 on SoundCloud in 2017. Yeah, that’s right SoundCloud, not even any other major streaming platform. I full-heartedly believe that this track was supposed to be a “throw-away” and no one expected it to be as successful as it became. Here we see Uzi at his finest and I love every second of it.
3. Love Sosa – Chief Keef (2012)
I can’t make a list of the best songs of the decade without including this Chicago classic. Whether you love this track or don’t really care for it, you can’t deny the popularity and lasting impact Cheif Keef left in the rap community, especially in the city of Chicago. This iconic track is a staple at every party/concert/festival. It’s hard to find a single song that is both universally loved and deeply rooted in the culture from where it originates. Also, the intro speech heard on the album version is the hardest manifesto ever recited.
2. Runaway – Kanye West ft. Pusha T (2010)
Can you imagine 1 single piano key becoming such a recognizable tune throughout the decade? Not only is this one of my favorite Kanye songs, but easily one of the best of the decade (that’s why it’s at #2) Not only do we get one of the best verses from Pusha T, but we get Kanye at one of his most introspective moments. It’s honestly hard to say everything that makes this song great; melody, production, lyrics, replay value, this song has it all. Even with all his antics this song somehow seems to bypass it all.
1. Alright – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Undeniably one of the most important songs released this decade, Kendrick Lamar gives us a masterpiece that heavily focuses on the topics of struggle and endurance. There is no way anyone can talk about this song’s significance without talking about how it directly relates to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This song serves as an anthem against police brutality and the injustices faced in modern America. As Youtube music reviewer Shawn Cee states, “… it’s a song that implies that no matter what we have to make things alright, not that things are going to be alright.” At its core this song is being blunt with its message of not promising a better day, just having to somehow get through and survive another one.
Top 10 Albums of the 2010s
10. Stoney – Post Malone (2016)
If I haven’t lost you yet, this might be the one to do it. Honestly, it could have been super easy for me to ignore this project and pick something else that I felt would be generally more “acceptable,” but I don’t care. I’ll take all the hate on this one. Since this project first released I have always said that Post Malone’s music was something of a “guilty pleasure” to me. I really like this album and it’s weird, even for me. To simply put it, this project is filled with so many catchy and fun songs that will forever get stuck in my head. Ignoring how much I have listened to and liked this album would be dishonest. Alright, hopefully, you haven’t lost full respect for me…
Favorite Tracks: No Option, Too Young, and Congratulations
9. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk (2013)
“Oh yeah, Daft Punk did release an album this decade” is something I kept hearing every time I would mention that this album was on my list. This album is special in the case that there is so much mixed into this project. Even if you’re not a big electronic music fan (like myself), there is something for everyone. Daft Punk somehow makes the sounds of the past feel futuristic and fresh.
Favorite Tracks: Instant Crush, Get Lucky, and Doin’ It Right
8. AM – Arctic Monkeys (2013)
What an incredibly fun listen! Arctic Monkeys deliver a project filled with many influences. The guitar riffs, drums, and vocals on here are what make this album so great. Not really much to say other than this was just, overall, such a solid project that has had a lasting impact on me.
Favorite Tracks: R U Mine?, Arabella, and Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
7. Koi No Yokan – Deftones (2012)
Do you feel like this list is going all over the place because I do? By the far the “heaviest” sounding album on my list. This is the album that put me on not only Deftones (I was late I know) but many other bands as well. The change in sounds throughout this project keeps it interesting with a mixture of loud and quiet tracks that somehow seem to fit perfectly with each other. Chino Moreno’s vocals are unmatched to anything I have ever heard before. Also, if you have never heard their song Entombed please change that.
Favorite Tracks: Entombed, Tempest, and Rosemary
6. Rodeo – Travis Scott (2015)
Is this another hot take? I don’t think so. Travis Scott delivers his most polished and best work on this project. The blending of different sounds and styles are executed perfectly to create a beautiful mashup of music. I will forever keep coming back to this album and relisten from front to back.
Favorite Tracks: Oh My Dis Side, Antidote, Maria I’m Drunk
5. Light We Made – Balance and Composure (2016)
If you have never heard of Balance and Composure before, let this be the album that changes that for you. Recently finding out that the band is no more was really upsetting, especially coming back and listening to this masterpiece. The band took a new direction and shifted genres from a harder post-hardcore sound to a more alternative one which was a huge risk that I feel paid off.
Favorite Tracks: Midnight Zone, Afterparty, and Postcard
4. CARE FOR ME – Saba (2018)
If you know me or have even heard me talk about my favorite albums, you’ll continually hear me say how much I love this project. I remember when I heard this album for the first time I was in disbelief. I have touched on Saba’s storytelling abilities on “PROM/KING” in the “Top 15 Songs of the Decade” section but honestly, his skills are top tier. Fueled by the death of his cousin and fellow Pivot Gang member John Walt, Saba constructs an emotionally powerful, vivid, and relatable project. He is at his most vulnerable and honest here and holds nothing back. If you listen to anything off of my list, let it be this.
Favorite Tracks: BUSY/SIRENS, LIFE, and PROM/KING
3. Blonde – Frank Ocean (2016)
Is there anyone out there that can say that they don’t like this album? Frank Ocean released one of the most celebrated albums of the decade where he takes back control of his life. He talks about past relationships and feeling lonely. This album never fails to get you right back into the feels. Frank utilizes his voice to its full potential to create a versatile and experimental body of work. Everyone already knew Frank Ocean was something special but with this project, he has solidified himself as a generational icon.
Favorite Tracks: Nikes, Pink White, and Nights
2. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar (2015)
Kendrick Lamar delivered arguably the most powerful bodies of works this decade. It is hard to even break down and explain what this album meant and did, there is so much to unpack. Production, lyrics, samples, and features are all literally top tier with everything coming together to make an incredible piece of art. Kendrick Lamar takes a deep dive into the very real realities of the African-American community. He talks about deep and sensitive topics from his own perspective.
Favorite Tracks: King Kunta, Alright, and How Much A Dollar Cost
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West (2010)
As much as I love everything mentioned above, it is hard to think of anything topping this one. Kanye West carefully and deliberately crafted one of the best albums of the decade. The only fitting way I can think of describing this project is “grand.” Everything seems so over the top and huge in the best way possible. A huge highlight aside from the beautiful production is Kanye’s ability to bring out the best in all of his guest features. Being released at the beginning of the decade, this album undoubtedly influenced the sound that was yet to come. Kanye dives into the dark side of fame and love while still maintaining that Kanye-like arrogance.
Favorite Tracks: POWER, Devil In A New Dress, Runaway
Top 5 Artists of the 2010s
5. Real Friends
Real Friends are a pop-punk band hailing from outside of Chicago. I have been following these guys since their earlier days. The project that introduced them to me was 2012’s EP Acoustic Songs (which I still love). Its been so cool to see these guys evolve from a somewhat smaller band to now being considered a major player in the genre. After a string of EPs, they released their debut studio album in 2014, Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing. This project is what solidified it for me that these guys were onto something special. After dropping two more studio albums, The Home Inside My Head in 2016 and Composure in 2018, they still continue to make music that holds onto their core themes of being sad and mad. Their lyrics are extremely emotional and often relatable.
4. Young Thug
Who else can claim to have so many “sons” in the game right now? Young Thug’s influence in rap music is undeniable. The first thing you might notice about Thug is that he has a very unique voice, which he utilizes to the fullest extent often as a type of instrument in his music. His music is unique, bringing an eccentric attitude with his own style of rapping on tracks (often including yelling to the top of his lungs). After releasing some solid mixtapes, 2015s Barter 6 and 2016s Slime Season 3 and JEFFERY, we finally got a debut studio album this year with So Much Fun. Even though Thug has received some praise for his heavy influence and lasting imprint in hip-hop, it seems like the rest of the world has finally caught up. (Also, going to throw Alex Tumay’s name in here because he’s been working with Thug since the beginning and deserves a lot of recognition as well. He also has a really adorable dog.)
3. Frank Ocean
There is no way anyone can make a “Top Artist” list and disregard the talent/influence/popularity of Frank Ocean. Frank is an artist who very early on in his career challenged social norms, from coming out as bisexual to the vulnerability in his music. He is someone who keeps reinventing their unique sound. When I think of Frank Ocean, I think of authenticity and honesty. He speaks what is on his mind and does not hold back. His words resonate with those who listen to it and inspire others to be their true selves. Not to mention having two critically acclaimed and widely praised projects under his belt, 2012’s channel ORANGE (amazing) and 2016’s Blonde (amazing x2). There no denying his lasting impact on Hip-Hop and R&B.
2. Kanye West
There has not been a more polarizing artist in the last decade than this man right here. Let’s get this out of the way, Kanye has done/said many very questionable things in recent years. At the end of the day, Kanye West and his ego are inseparable so it is very understandable when people have a certain perception about him. With all of this being said, there is absolutely no denying the amount of creativity and musical influence Kanye has brought to the genre. In the easiest way of saying it, Kanye is a trendsetter. Looking at this decade alone, Kanye boasts his creative/artistic skills in 2010s aforementioned My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 2013s Yeezus. No matter what his recent antics, people are going to put their ears to whatever he is dropping (ex. Jesus Is King). His music has shaped hip-hop forever and he continues to experiment and play with new sounds.
1. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is not just the best rapper of the decade, but the best artist we have seen this decade. I will go as far as to say he’s the best we have seen ever. Kendrick’s discography alone is enough to prove that no one can outdo him. Albums like 2012s good kid, m.A.A.d city, 2015s To Pimp A Butterfly, and 2017s DAMN. prove that Kendrick is at the top of the game. As a master lyricist who tackles tough subject matter that he has experienced, Kendrick continually cultivates compelling stories that resonate with his listeners. This is just one reason why he is one of the best to do it. With that being said, Kendrick isn’t just a great storyteller. His music inspires and motivates his listeners to really be conscious and take action on the injustices around them. He is a “once in a generation” type of artist and he is nowhere near done. His work transcends genres, audiences, and music.
If you remotely liked any of the music I showcased and want to hear the songs/artists I talked about click right here and enjoy my playlist.